Rapper Ice-T pops up in three different spots on TV tonight: as host of VH1's Hip Hop Honors (9 pm/ET), in his regular gig as Detective "Fin" Tutuola on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC, 10 pm) and as teacher on Ice-T's Rap School (VH1, 11 pm). But while casual fans may know him best as an actor, there's a whole lot more to Ice. "A lot of people who watch me on TV don't have the slightest idea who I am," he says. "If they go to my website, it'd probably scare the s--t out of them." We spoke with the dynamic Ice-T about what else he's mixing up.
TV Guide: What do you bring to VH1 Hip Hop Honors as host?
Ice-T: I personally know all the people being honored. I was in the first Hip Hop Honors, inducting Kool Herc, and last year, [they] inducted me. This time I'm inducting Ice Cube. [It] turned out to be kind of a cool show, you know? When VH1 first decided to do it, hip-hop raised its eyebrows. "Isn't VH1 Chris Isaak videos?" But they have some people who really know what's up.
TV Guide: Are you performing?
Ice-T: I don't think I'm going to perform, but I get to do little comedy skits between the shows.
TV Guide: Your new series, Ice-T's Rap School, debuts afterward.
Ice-T: Yeah, they had this show with Gene Simmons called Rock School [filmed in England], and it was cool, but they wanted to do it in the States, and the kids here really weren't excited about rock. They were more into hip-hop. So [VH1 asked], "Who's the most odd person to teach your kids?" And they said, "Let's leave 'em alone with a gangster rapper!" It sounds odd, but it came out alright.
TV Guide: You taught them the basics of rap?
Ice-T: I learned really early in the show that I wasn't going to have super rappers. A lot of them couldn't even snap their fingers. I was terrified when I saw that. I really conceded early to the fact that they're going to rap to the best of their ability and... we're just going to have them enjoy it.
TV Guide: Seems like you taught them some life lessons, too. Like when you chastised a girl for using the word "ghetto."
Ice-T: Well, the thing is these are kids. If they don't have somebody to teach them, they're not going to know. She could say that around the wrong person and be in a fight, so I had to break it down to her: "You know, you just can't say these things." But you know, you go to the 'hood and you tell a kid to put on some Dockers, he'll say, "That's what white people wear." So you're gonna get that reverse s--t. My job with these kids was to give them a little street sensibilities about how you have to be sensitive about different things.
TV Guide: What did you learn from the kids?
Ice-T: I learned that there are some kids out there that'll break their necks to win, learning-wise. They're achievers. And I grew up around kids that really wouldn't put in the effort a lot of the time. These prep-school kids are really honed in on winning.
TV Guide: Would you ever consider teaching?
Ice-T: It's hard to teach [with] one person in the class who's disruptive. I apologize to all my teachers [for] my years of being the class clown. It's definitely a very admirable job raising the youth.
TV Guide: You released the controversial song "Cop Killer" with your metal band Body Count back in 1992, and now you play a cop on TV in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Does that strike you as odd?
Ice-T: Nah. It doesn't strike me as odd. It strikes me as odd that I'm an honest citizen in America! [Laughs] Coming from the path where I was out to break the law and wasn't planning on ever being a "real" person, to be sitting around here and be on television... what a difference a day makes. [But] "Cop Killer" was a protest record about brutal police, and I still don't have love for brutal police. When I made "Cop Killer" we were dealing with the Rodney King [beating]. It was '92. It's a different day. When I went on Law & Order, Dick Wolf told me straight up, "We know you ain't that fond of the cops. We want you to play the kind of cop we need." So that's the sensibility Fin has.
TV Guide: With Hip Hop Honors, Rap School and Law & Order, you have a lot going on.
Ice-T: When you come from the hood, you have so little opportunities. I feel you're jinxing yourself if you don't take advantage of them. An old hustler told me, "Turn down nothing but your collar. And keep that up." So they ask me to host, why the hell not? All I could do is fail.
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