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Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Actor and Rapper Ice-T Is Helping To Change Our World

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

… Protect your peace. You work hard to get your bills paid and everything right so you can have peace. Don’t keep sacrificing that. Here’s the best advice I’ll ever give you. Don’t pick up the phone because there’s somebody miserable on the other end of that phone that is ready to take you down. So sometimes when you go on vacation, just go off the grid, turn off social media, turn off your phone and enjoy that time. Teach yourself how to do that.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series Ice! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My career path started out in the streets. I was hustling. I was breaking the law and out of nowhere came hip hop. I came out of the army and hip hop caught me. It was intoxicating and I tried my hand and was successful at it. I was able to tell some of the stories of the street things I went through in my music, which created a genre. I was offered to be in a film, New Jack City. The only reason I got the offer was because at the time there weren’t many young black actors.

Wesley Snipes had only done a couple of films and they snatched me from music. By then I had sold millions of records and they snatched Chris Rock right off the street because he was the youngest hippest comedian and we made New Jack City that was successful and basically if you do things and you are successful, you’re just going to do more things. So from that point I continued making music. I decided to try my hand in heavy metal because I had friends that were musicians. One of my best friends, Ernie C, is a guitarist. So we created Body Count that was successful. I was doing all kinds of different things and then one day Fab 5 Freddy was over at my house and he’s on the phone with Andre Harrell and they asked me to do New York Undercover.

Now this time I was doing films. I’d done Johnny Mnemonic. I had done Surviving the Game. I didn’t want to do TV. They go, ah, you’re too big to do television now and so I told ’em, give me a bad guy role and I’ll do television and I did New York Undercover which led to my relationship with Dick Wolf. I did five different shows for Dick Wolf. I did Swift Justice, actually had my own show called Players and then I got the call to be on Law and Order to do four episodes, which then turned into 24 years. Now the difference is all of these careers are still going. I’m firing on all cylinders and just happy to be still alive.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

It’s hard to really emulate my success because everything kind of happened, it wasn’t the plan. You know, one of my mottos is “you don’t guide life, you ride life.” Like, nobody can tell you where you’re going to be 20 years from now and if they can, that’s pretty boring. You have to be willing to take opportunities and then you have to really apply yourself to the fullest. If you know how to win at anything, you can win at everything. Those people that have a problem winning are going to have a problem in this game because it requires a certain work ethic. You have got to be willing to push harder. People used to tell me, if you want an ordinary life, you do ordinary things. If you want an extraordinary life, you gotta do extraordinary things. The first thing I say is leave the bullshit alone.

If you really want to emulate my life right now, you are probably trying to hustle. You’re probably out here trying to move a little subtle drugs or hustle. Let that go. It’s hard because probably that’s where you’re making your money, but you have to make a decision. My dad taught me whatever you’re going to be, you have to be a professional. So you can’t do that and do this. You’re seeing a lot of artists that are doing well, but they still have their foot on the other side and you’re going to get caught now because now you’re famous and now everybody is looking at you. When you’re in the streets, you’re in the underworld. No one really knows your name. You got nicknames. You’re hidden. Once you come out and become public, they go up in your ass with a microscope.

They want to know everything about you and that’s why a lot of people say, well, you are promoting it and I’m like, no, I’m going to say it before you can find out about it. I’m not going to promote myself as squeaky clean. You know, I did my dirt. So I’m not promoting it. I’m just saying, hey, this is who I am. Take it or leave it. But now I’m doing something different. I’ve changed my life. I’ve gone on a different road. Everything I’m going to say is going to sound cliché and the reason it sounds cliché is because it’s being echoed by everyone else who has been successful.

First is, you can’t quit. Secondly, pay little or no attention to the haters. You’re going to definitely lose if you pay attention to someone who’s never won because they’re professionals at losing. So they know how to lose. Pay attention to people that have won and only take advice from people you admire. So if you get a chance to be with somebody you admire, sit with them and suck their brains clean. Learn everything you can. Be humble, but you have to have a certain amount of talent. And that’s the hard part for everybody. Well, what can you do? Are you clever? Are you entertaining? Can you sing? Can you dance? Can you play? What talent do you have? Even if you’re in the tech world, you have to have talent. So if you lack talent in anything, it’s going to be rough. I’m just being honest. Maybe you could be a blogger. Maybe you can just go out and comment on other people’s lives and talk shit. Get a job at TMZ where you just sit up there and talk about other people but if you want to do something constructive, you have to find your talent. You probably are talented, but the trick is to find out what it is. I didn’t know I was going to be a talented rapper. So don’t be afraid to test yourself in different things until you find what you do and then whatever you do, hopefully there’s a value to it and then just be the best.

Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you’re working on right now?

Right now I’m promoting VoCapsule and My Legacy Voice, which is a whole new genre of intelligence where they’re cloning people’s voices. Now everybody has seen the Tupac video where they did the hologram. My partner Mickey Bentson has hundreds and hundreds of things people bring to him with Ice-T in mind and most of them really suck. I’m just like, no in this business. You have to be willing to say no more than yes. Because the things you say yes to, you’re going to have to devote your time to, you’re going to connect yourself to. If they fail, it makes you look like you failed. So it’s difficult to get a yes. Anybody who is well-established, yeses don’t just roll out of their mouth. They’re like, I don’t think so.

I tell people no all the time too but they brought this VoCapsule vocal clone thing to me and at first I was a nonbeliever. I’m like, that’s bullshit. It’s going to sound like a computer. It’s going to sound fake. So I’m throwing all the negatives at it and they’re like, no, they’ve really got this locked and to get me, they sent me a clone of my voice. I’m talking my ass off. They were able to do this from just snatching interviews, like not even having me in the studio. So now they got my attention. So they said, for us to truly capture your voice, we need a recording session. So we went to Arizona where I have a place. I was on break, and we recorded for about two hours. Let’s get this straight. I don’t know how this works. It’s like magic to me but they got all the inflections of my voice and all this different stuff. They said, say this whole script happy, say this script sincere, say this script, etc.

I played it to my son and he called me a liar. He said, that’s you. I played it to Coco Austin. She’s like, nah. I played it to a lot of people and only when I told them it wasn’t me, they were trying hard to find something but it’s really impossible because if it sounds like me I’m like, yo. So now I’m in, and like, where’s this going? And they say, well, we like you to be part of it. You know, it’s the grassroots company and we know since your brand is integrity and honesty, if people see you’re involved with it, more people will want to come along. You have a distinctive voice and we know that people will trust what you trust.

I’m not out here promoting everything in the world. I met the people and I liked them and right now there’s hundreds and hundreds of applications for this stuff. You know, you’ve got people that are sick and are losing their voice. You’ve got the ability to capture your kid’s voice and play it back to them. Have it forever. You basically type in the text and this thing starts speaking for you in your voice. It’s pretty amazing. So that’s what we’re pushing right now. The technology is incredible.

Male Awareness Foundation is something Mickey Bentson came up with, which was a great idea. He started it as a nonprofit but we’re just trying to get guys to go check themselves out. As men, we tend not to go to the doctor until it’s broken. It’s like we don’t do any pre-checks on our health. Your wife, she knows her gynecologist. She’s got them on speed dial. Men, maybe it’s part of our machismo or whatever, but we just don’t go and by then it’s too late and you could catch stage 1 cancer and be cured, but if it makes it to stage 3 or 4, then we are used to walking around with aches and pains and problems.

Male Awareness Foundation is something that’s not only set up to get men to doctors, but to change the stigma. Going to check our bodies on a regular basis — getting that colonoscopy, checking your prostate, all these things that kill us before they need to. I’m 64 years old, still thin in the waist, handsome in the face. I take care of myself. It’s like I heard somebody say, if I told you today that you are only going to get one car for the rest of your life, one car, you can pick any car you want but that’s the only car you’re ever going to get you would take care of that car, you’d wash that car, you’d wax that car, that car would be in prime condition because that’s the only car you’re ever going to get. Well, we only get one body, but we don’t take care of it. So that’s what the Male Awareness Foundation is. First, be aware of our health and then take action. Don’t wait till the last minute.

Are there three things or are there things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?

VoCapsule and My Legacy Voice, that company is going to find a lot of different applications for it. One thing I was very concerned with was the security over my voice. Once they have it, can someone else get a hold of it? Now, I’m sure there’s going to be applications that’ll probably pop up on your phone that can make you sound like different people but this is the real deal. This is locked in. The only persons that’ll have it will be the people that you administer a key to. Maybe my wife, maybe my daughter, but it’s highly secure technology.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

It’s harder to make money come in than it is to make it go out. The one thing about being a celebrity is that you can make a lot of money quickly, but it doesn’t mean it’ll happen again and again. It might have seemed easy when it came in one check, but you have to pay attention. Secondly, nobody told me about taxes. When you start off, you’ve been working a job where they take taxes out. If you had a job, they took taxes out. So everybody’s waiting on tax day to get that refund but when you become an LLC or a business, you have to write checks to the IRS. The first time I got hit with the IRS check was when I was young and rich. I had $150,000 in the bank. I was like, I’m rich. I got a call from my manager and he said you got to pay the IRS and I’m like, pay the IRS and he’s like, are you driving? He said, “Stop the car” and then told me how much I owed. I owed like $135,000. It wiped me out and I was like, I’ll go to jail. They got to kill me. Come get me. He said, I’ll talk to you tomorrow. The next day I went from $150,000 to $15,000 in one fatal blow.

Everybody that you have with you is not going to make the full journey, you’re coming from a different place. You’re coming from a bunch of friends, you’re coming from a lot of people but you’re about to take this trip in this spaceship and this spaceship only holds a certain number of people and it doesn’t mean you got to get rid of your friends, but you can’t slow down for them. They have to either catch the speed you’re moving or you’ll just come back from outer space and visit them occasionally. Even when I married my wife, I was like, look I’ll never leave you at home, but I have to hit these numbers. I got to be at these places. I can’t come in and say Coco was doing her hair. They don’t care. So you’re going to have to move at a speed that only a few people will be able to keep up with you.

And if they’ve never been in the entertainment business, get ready for people to cross you. People will build up animosity against you. You think you have people that want to see you win, but they really don’t. They would prefer for you to be stuck like them and this could even be your family. It could be someone very close to you. My son just finished dealing with a girl and I’m like that girl does not want you to be successful. He’s on Twitch. She didn’t want him to be on the internet because she’s so worried about other girls. I’m like, dude, this chick does not want you to win. She thinks if you win, you’re gonna leave her. She doesn’t understand that you’re going to leave her because she won’t let you win. You’re going to find out that business things are easy. It’s the personal stuff that’s hard.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is, “you may know how much money you have, but nobody knows how much time they have.” We’re always concerned with material things. I just lost a buddy that was 36. When it comes, it comes. So basically, just appreciate every second of life because there’s no putting it off. It’slike, oh I’m gonna have fun this summer or when Christmas comes. I’m like no. How about today? The way I’ve done that is by just removing negative people. I mean, Mickey will tell you, if you come around me for a pity party, I’m going to throw you out of my house.

I don’t want it. We’re going to be happy. If you’re having problems, I understand that, but not all the time. I don’t want to, because then I write you as a negative person.

Here’s another one. Protect your peace. You work hard to get your bills paid and everything right so you can have peace. Don’t keep sacrificing that. Here’s the best advice I’ll ever give you. Don’t pick up the phone because there’s somebody miserable on the other end of that phone that is ready to take you down. So sometimes when you go on vacation, just go off the grid, turn off social media, turn off your phone and enjoy that time. Teach yourself how to do that.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights, Ice-T. This was so inspiring.

Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Actor and Rapper Ice-T Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.