Ice-T talks about producing “Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp” and new album with Body Count

Tracey Marrow better known to the world as Ice-T first broke on to the scene in the mid 1980’s as part of a new form of rap labeled “gangster rap” which was just starting to emerge from the west coast of the United States. After releasing several successful/controversial albums Ice would evolve into a modern day renaissance man appearing in several movies and television shows such as “New Jack City” and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”. Ice-T has always noted pimp/author Iceberg Slim as an influence and is a producer on a new documentary about Slim titled “Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp”. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Ice recently about the film as well as about his heavy metal group Body Count’s new album.

Adam Lawton: Other than noting Iceberg Slim as an influence what was it that interested you in producing a film about him?
Ice-T: The film was really Jorge my manager’s idea. He and I have been working with each other for going on 30 years now. He and I wanted to get into the film business and make some films so we decided to start with documentaries. We wanted to do critically acclaimed type work and get our profit out to the film community. I started with “The Art of Rap” and Jorge chose to do one on Iceberg Slim. When he and I first got together Jorge was coming from an entirely different community than mine. He was pretty much a square so I told him that if he was going to manage me then he was going to need to read all of the Iceberg Slim books. I gave him all the books and told him that I would quiz him on them. He pretty much got turned out of course but it’s always been a big part of his life. When he came to me with the idea I thought it was perfect. I executive produced this film but Jorge pretty much did all the ground work.

AL: How much input or direction did you give throughout the filming process?
Ice-T: I would see pieces and cuts throughout the filming/editing portions of the project and give my input. I also was involved in some of the soundtrack side of things as well as some of the editing. Jorge was pretty much bringing me things in pieces and when I finally got to see it all put together I was just blown away. He did a great job.

AL: Was this sort of your first venture into producing?
Ice-T: I have been involve don some things prior to this but what being an executive producer really means is you put up the money. In this case Jorge put up all of his own money. I do this type of thing with records all the time. A lot of times people want to get projects done however they don’t know how to complete them. Having been in the game now for over 25 years I am someone that knows how to get things done. Jorge is very efficient so I didn’t have to do a lot on this project. Jorge knows what he is doing and if it got by me people were going to love because I am such a huge Iceberg Slim fan.

AL: You appear very briefly in the film. Was this something that happened due to editing or was it a conscious decision on yours and Jorges part?
Ice-T: I am just a normal person and the film is not designed to be about me. Due to the fact I am a fan and am a person that was influenced by his work I appear in the film. Before reading Slims book I never thought I could tell my stories and the stories of the street in my music. I am a part of pop culture so they knew I was valid and asked me to speak on what the books did for me. I was interviewed just like Chris Rock and Snoop. That was the intention as I didn’t want to be the narrator or anything. I just wanted to blend in to the movie.

AL: Were you surprised at the people involved who spoke about Slims impact on them?
Ice-T: Henry Rollins and Rick Rubin released the Iceberg Slim soundtrack so that’s how they got involved. As we talked to more and more people they would tell us that we should talk to this person or that person. It started with one person and went from there. As far as it being difficult or people not wanting to share stories you can sometimes run in to that when you are talking to the family especially when the person you are talking about has passed. Everyone in the family wants to make sure that you are not going to be disrespectful. In this case they all knew I was a big fan and that I would handle things appropriately. They actually saw the movie before anyone else and were just blown away. They were very excited with the fact that this film gave people a better understanding of who Slim was and that he wasn’t just this guy that wrote books about pimping.

AL: For you personally what was the most rewarding part of the project and then on the other hand the most difficult part?
Ice-T: The difficult part came from more of a technical stand point more than anything. When you see some of the transitions we used there is a lot of high tech stuff going on there. That was all done in post and though it may look simple there was very little that was simple about that. We had an illustrator come in and do some animation for us as well so to get all those things to click and feel the same was definitely difficult. We had to go through a lot of licensing to get permission to use some of the things we wanted to use so that was pretty hard. Nowadays everyone has gotta get paid. (Laughs) I think the most rewarding thing for me was that I got to find out things about Iceberg Slim that I didn’t know. I mean I learned that his wife wrote the books! Nobody knew that. The quote at the end where she says that “Iceberg Slim was both of us” was great. The beauty of a documentary is that you get to tell a story a lot of times from the horse’s mouth and it goes down in history.

AL: Do you have any other projects that we can be watching for?
Ice-T: My group Body Count is recording as we speak. We are out in Vegas right now writing the new album which is going to be titled “Man Slaughter”. We have a record deal now with Sumerian Records which has artists like Lamb of God and some other big groups so be watching for that to come out soon. Jorge and I are also looking at some treatments for features as well as television shows.

Jorge Hinojosa talks about directing documentary “Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp”

Jorge Hinojosa is the producer/director of a new documentary about the influential writer Iceberg Slim. The film is titled “Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp” and is a gritty in-depth look at the man who was a pimp turned author that would sell over 6 million copies of his works prior to his death in 1992. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with Jorge about the film and what it was like adding the title of director to his already impressive resume.

Adam Lawton: What was it that initially sparked your interest in the project?
Jorge Hinojosa: My regular gig is managing Ice-T and I have been doing that for the last 28 years. When I first met Ice-T I asked where he got his name and he told me that it was because of this guy Iceberg Slim. He gave me all the books to read and over our time together we were always referencing them. A couple years ago when it looked like there was going to be a Screen Actors Guild strike I came up with the idea for the documentary. Ice was all for it and then when the strike ended he told me that I should do the project. That’s really how it all came about.

AL: How did you go about choosing who you were going to interview for the film?
JH: Everyone we talked to was connected to Iceberg Slim in some form or another. Henry Rollins along with Rick Rubin released Slims spoken word album. Quincy Jones at one time was in talks to produce a movie about Iceberg Slim where Snoop Dogg would play Iceberg Slim. All these people had connections and I knew they were all fans. Everyone involved was really amazing and they all told some great stories.

AL: Was it hard in anyway getting the family members involved?
JH: Icebergs kids all loved him but at the same time its history and a legacy that is painful to them. On one hand Slim was a writer that did some incredible things but on the other no one feels as though they were properly compensated for the sales of those books. As a result of that the family lived in poverty. It’s bitter sweet. They wanted Slim to be portrayed in a way that was both honest and true however they knew that it was going to be painful. There were a lot of mixed emotions throughout the process.

AL: When you were putting everything together what was it like going back through all of the footage that was shot?
JH: Everyone we interviewed for the film said some really fascinating things. We had to be really careful in that we didn’t let something go off on a tangent. We wanted to wet people’s appetite but we didn’t want other stories to take away from the main idea of the film. It’s a fine line we had to dance along as there are many stories within this story that could make for their own movies. We had to make sure that our originally story was served first. We really had to be ruthless in what we cut.

AL: For you personally what did you find to be one of the more challenging parts of working on the film?
JH: We had such a tremendous amount of footage that I had to go through. So to figure out what I wanted to include was very difficult. I realized that the documentary should focus on a few major points that tell the emotional side of who Slim was. I definitely focused on that and the literary side of Slims life. I had to make sure that I included what I thought would be the best snap shots of Slims life. The other thing about this film is that I financed it myself. I had started off with an offer from Warner Bros. to finance it completely however as a first time director I felt that they may try and boss me around some. I wanted to be able to make the film the way I thought it should be so I took on the burden of financing the project. I am glad I did that because it made the journey that much more thrilling and at the same time terrifying. There were definitely highs and lows while we knocked this thing in to shape.