Surviving on the Inside | Ice T | TEDxSingSing

Surviving on the Inside | Ice T | TEDxSingSing


Translator: Thierry de Carvalho Banhete
Reviewer: Denise RQ People always ask me, they say:
“Ice, why you’re always up at Sing-Sing, why do you go to prisons all the time?” This is really, like, their beef with me. Some of you all might have just seen me
show up on SVU in your life recently. I’m far from a cop. (Laughter) There’s a term they call
“victim of circumstances.” A lot of people won’t understand
the circumstances. They get people in trouble,
or where you start. I always think about it,
what started me down that road? And I think what happens is,
at some point, you lose hope. Like a kid or somebody with no hope,
they got nothing to lose, so it’s so easy to make bad decisions,
your brain just says: “So what? I have no dad at home,
I have no mom at home, I have no money,
I’m not going to make it, so let me take this chance.” Now, as I’ve actually moved up in my life, I have a lot more to lose,
so you start to weigh out these things. But when you’re dealing
with most of these gentlemen – and they’re in this institution –
I ask them every time I get here, I say, “When?” “17, 18, 19,” that’s when they go in,
that’s how old they are. This is even before your brain
is capable of making great decisions. Anybody in this audience, if I ask you, compare what you thought
about at 18 to how you feel now, you’ll say: “I was out
of my fucking mind at 18.” (Laughter) “Everything I thought at 18 was wrong. Everything.” So now, you take a kid
and let’s put him into a situation. he doesn’t have a lot. He’s stuck. His decision-making process
is going to be terrible. Add a gun, add the pressure of the hood… When you come from the hood… I come from the ghetto,
I come from South Central Los Angeles, and manhood is at a premium. Everyone is pushing on you, you know? I’m a light-skin dude, I got green eyes,
hazel eyes, my name is fucking Tracy. (Laughter) You ever heard that song
“A boy named Sue”? I was under pressure; I’m an orphan,
I have no brothers, no mother. I’m either going to be
predator or prey. There’s pressure,
you don’t understand… There’s predators,
you have to be tough. You have to start lifting weights, you have to get ready
for every day, going to school. I mean, I don’t know if a lot of you all
ever had to deal with that, but sometimes, it’s terrifying
just leaving the house. So what am I going to do?
Am I going to be prey? No, I’m going to be the bad guy. I’m going to be crazier
than everybody else. 50 Cent said in one of his records: “This ain’t how my momma raised me,
this how the hood made me.” So, you get caught up into this mental, and then you turn into
this weird kind of monster, but it’s a security device. You’re trying to just stay alive.
You want to keep people off your back. People look at me today, they say: “Why is your face like that?
You seem angry.” I say, my face is fucked up
and stuck like this from growing up. (Laughter) This look you see, is:
“Nigga’, do not fuck with me right now.” (Laughter) But I don’t really want
you messing with me, because I’m the nicest guy
you’ll ever meet, I’m nice, I don’t want any problem,
but this is a defense mechanism. So, I didn’t know I was coming
to a musical event; I didn’t know, they just said: “They want you to come up
to Sing Sing and talk,” I’m like: “Hell yeah,
I have the day off, I’ll come.” But, you know, in my music,
what I did was I tried to give you the mindset of the street kid. You know, I did a song,
“New Jack Hustler,” for the movie New Jack City, where, in some of the lyrics I say: “Well, here I come,
so you better break North. As I stride, my gold chain
slides back and forth. I care nothing ’bout you,
and that’s evident, all I love is my dope and dead presidents. Sound crazy? Well, it isn’t, the end justifies the means,
that’s the system. I learned that in school,
then I dropped out, hit the streets, checked a grip
and now I’ve got clout. I had nothing, and I wanted it.
You had everything, and you flaunted it. Turned the needy into the greedy.
With cocaine, my success came speedy. Got me twisted, jammed into a paradox.
Every dollar I get, another brother drops. Maybe that’s the plan,
and I don’t understand. Goddamn, you got me sinking in quicksand. But since I don’t know, and I never learn,
I gotta get paid, I got money to earn. With my posse, out in the ave, bumping my sounds,
crack a forty and laugh. Cool out and watch my new Benz gleam, is this a nightmare,
or the American Dream? So think twice if you’re coming
down my block. You want a journey through hell?
Well, shit gets hot. Pregnant teens, children’s screams, life is weighed on the scales
of a triple beam. You don’t come here much,
and you better not, wrong move, ambulance cot. I gotta get more money than you got,
so what if some motherfucker gets shot? That’s how the game is played,
another brother slayed, the wound is deep, but y’all giving us a Band-Aid. The education’s low, but I got long dough, I am raised like a pitbull,
my heart pumps nitro. I sleep on silk, lie like a politician, my Uzi’s my best friend,
cold as a mortician. Lock me up, that’s genocidal catastrophe, there’ll be another one
after me, a hustler.” Now, when you lock these people up,
and you don’t deal with the problem, it’s never going to stop,
so now you have to think, what puts kids into this mental mindset? That’s the issue. What puts people in this mindset,
where they don’t have any hope? And they go, “Maybe this is an option.” You don’t find kids that are going
to Harvard robbing liquor stores. Not racial. It’s because they have hope. They see a future. But when I don’t see a future, and, like they say,
I’m touchy and I’m hungry, anything can happen at any moment. So I try to tell the brothers
when I come in here: “Look, man, there’s no reason
you can’t make that change, there’s no reason you can’t change
your way of thinking,” I was worse or just as bad
as anybody in here, now, I’m a cop. I’ve been on TV…
(Laughter) …16 years, playing a cop,
and there’s people: “Oh, Ice-T, he’s such
a great and wonderful person, he’s such a great, wonderful person.” And their daughters are like:
“You really know who Ice-T is? Ice-T is crazy, right?
You don’t know that?” But I’m a cop. It was funny
when I got the job for Law & Order. Dick Wolf, great man, he said to me: “Ice, you’re not too fond
of the police, are you?” I said: “Well, I was a criminal, so… when I was a criminal,
I never hated the cops, because I knew I was breaking the law. A real criminal never hates the cops,
the cops are the opponent.” I don’t hate you.
You told me I can’t do it, but I’m going to do it anyway,
so if you catch me, I cuff up, I’m busted, you did it,
but I never hate them. I just thought I was smarter than them. So he said: “But you agree
we need police, right?” (Laughter) I’m like: “Yeah, I got some friends
they need to find right now.” And he says, “Well, play the cop we need.” So when you watch me on SVU, you’re dealing with a character
I’m playing with my sensibility. If I, somehow, magically, had a badge,
and I had to go out and go after the, you know… The cats that we chase on my show
are rapists and child molesters, and they’re not even respected
in these facilities, so there’s no gray area in SVU,
you know, we just go after them. But, me, on a daily basis,
I deal with the same dilemmas these brothers deal with on a daily basis. Just because I’m on TV,
don’t think people don’t pressure me, threaten me. You know, I go out,
people want to test me. I’ve got a beautiful wife,
they want to test that. Don’t think those old triggers
aren’t still there. Like, you cross me? People don’t cross me. But, fortunately, I have
a support group of friends that say, “Ice, calm down. That’s nothing.” I don’t think anybody in here
has ever hit a point where they had not thought
that payback was valid. These guys in here were 18 and 17
trying to make these decisions; when you’re an adult,
hopefully somebody’ll grab you and say, “Man, listen,
forget about that right now.” I’m talking about being ready
to go do some really bad things. Because my manhood is a certain way, I’ve been bred this way, you know,
so I had to learn that every bit of disrespect
does not deserve reprimand from me. God will deal with that.
I found that a sucker is a sucker, and eventually, he’ll see somebody,
doesn’t have to be me. (Applause) But I had to learn that. And I learned that by coming here
and talking to these inmates, and, like I said,
this is their beef with me. Because, I’m not like you,
I’m more like them. And people have this sole theory:
“Oh, you’re on TV now, you got some money” and it gets worse,
it gets worse, you know. You got people saying: “or else?”
and this, that, and third, and you’re like, who? what? to what? Crazy. I mean, we don’t use lawyers,
I don’t use the police, I’m from another era,
where if we got a problem, we’d go talk to you personally
and it’s different. (Laughter) I never use police,
if I feel there’s a problem, I go knock on your door,
I come see you, we’ll go talk, you’ll say,
“I’m going to do something.” That all can end up terrible,
so I just had to learn to calm down, but I got nothing but love for what,
especially, this institution, the warden and everybody
is doing here, it’s unique. I’m from California. They believe
in crime and punishment. There’s no rehabilitation.
They warehouse people out there. My boys who are in Pelican’s Bay,
CMC, my friends, the crew I grew up with,
most got what the call LWOPP. You know what LWOPP is?
It’s Life WithOut Possibility of Parole. That’s the level of characters
I hung out with. When they all went to prison,
they said, “Ice, do not come to jail. You got action, do not come,
this is not where you belong.” So, no square kept me out of jail. My friends in prison
kept me out of jail, the guys I admired,
that I thought was cooler than me, they said: “Ice, fool,
you better be on TV, man. They told me:
“Ice, you’re the only the police that they’d cheer for up
in the penitentiary.” (Laughter) So the truth for the matter is,
why I’m here is not so much for you, it’s for me, to say, when I come up
and I see those gates, I just know one split decision,
prior or tomorrow, could put me here. I’m cut like that, and thank God
for all my close friends, and everybody to keep me grounded, but, you know, I just want
to give a round of applause to this particular facility,
for even letting me in, because, like (Laughter) “Ice-T? Who is he? He’s a problem.” But this warden sees past that, and like what I think the man
was saying with TED, could the problem become the solution? Well, I got news for you. When you talk to the kids,
they don’t want to hear from no squares, they want to hear it from somebody
who’s been through it, they only respect the cat
that carried a gun. I carried a gun so long, I had
a bruise in my leg for, like, a year. You know what I’m saying? I know what that is, to sleep like that. I was talking to some of the guys
over there a minute ago, and I was like: “The better thing
when you get to the other side, you’re legit, this is gone;”
they know what that is. It’s like, who’s going be the next person
to come get me or something. So thank God for Sing Sing,
and all the inmates, and the fact you can get a… You all have master’s degrees in here,
I had no fucking master degree, man. (Laughter) What the fuck?
(Applause) There’s some Sing-Sing
Shakespeares in here… Do I need to come here
to get educated? No! (Laughter) There’s another way.
You can get it online. (Laughter) Let me end it with a song,
with some lyrics and stuff, because a lot of people
don’t like rap music, but if it’s done correctly, it’s poetry. I don’t know what they’re doing right now,
you know, “Shake your booty” music. That’s OK, but I did something different. This one starts like this… If I mess up… I can’t
because this ain’t a concert. Because I didn’t know!
I didn’t come up here to rap! So let’s see… “I spent my life between
the light, blue lines of loose leaf, I split my time between
impressionable minds and true beef. I spend my days up, nights up.
It’s too hard to sleep. Look at my face.
It’s not the one of someone in peace. I carry guns when I don’t need to, but my mind’s so fucked,
I see assassins jumping out of the rough. I keep my doors shut, windows shut,
shades down, fo’ pound, waiting on some Satans
who may think of invading me. When I do sleep, I dream
about pain and unrest, about gunfights and dum-dums
exploding my chest. I see my boys who had died
sitting with me again. But when I wake, I realize
I lost most of my friends. When my past come back to get me, when the niggas that we shot
come back to wet me, I’m paranoid. It ain’t easy when your lifestyle
was grimy and greasy. I’m trying to make peace
with the karma or drama. God, please believe me. Sometimes, I even think
I’d be better off dead, I went to doctors, they stuck probes
on the sides of my head. They said “you’re fine,”
they said “you’re well,” they said “you’re on TV.” I said: “I know, but I think
somebody is coming for me.” But if they’d seen what they’ve seen,
and been where I’ve been, they’d know I’ve committed
the evilest sins. If they knew what I knew,
and they’ve done what I done, they’d lay awake at night,
they would trust no one. I got the cars, girls,
crib, jewels, cash to the max, but my brain’s playing
war games, I can’t relax. It ain’t easy when your lifestyle
was grimy and greasy. I’m trying to make peace
with the karma and drama. God, please believe me. So I tried to get my life right
and teach the youth, I did my days at gangbanging,
so I worked on the truce. I spit game to the little niggas
all that I can, ‘cuz they admire my style,
they like the way that I am. They like the cars,
the gold, the big rock rings, I try to teach them about the pain
that the fast cash brings. But no matter what I say,
they see the game every day, and the richest are the ones
they have the courage to play. “Get rich or die trying,”
that’s what all of them say. What can I do?
I lived my fucking life that way. I’m not your role model,
my road’s too dirty to follow. Every phone call’s another case
of death and life. I’m trying to struggle
with the paradox of wrong and right. And since I lived by the gun,
well, I die by the knife.” Thank you. (Applause)

85 thoughts on “Surviving on the Inside | Ice T | TEDxSingSing

  1. I don't think i've ever heard a better description of why kids do what they do growing up in these rough paces.

  2. this was really good. He makes you think about how life is for others and to help you understand things in a different way.

  3. I still can't get through a week at work without listening to Ice-T. The Home Invasion album is as relevant today as it was in 1993.

  4. I love it how the audience Laughs when he is serious. "i dont call the police, i'm from a different era. we're gonna pay you a visit if you cross us" insert laugh here

    They don't understand that he is serious, and that he Is in fact a true criminal.
    Just because he plays a puerco on tv doesnt mean he's all that home-y, yknow? He's Still Ice-T, the jewelery robbing thug (said with respect!) that he was when he started his career, only his MO has changed.

    (That is my 2 cents, i'm wrong tho. Still love how they actually laugh at the things he say :P)

  5. I Really Respect This Man And The Honesty He Has .. He Is Real Talented Smart And So Kind I Have Such Respect For What He Does He Truly Is The OG

  6. all yall young cats and mumble rappers' you need to respect the OG's of Hip Hop take notes and respect the craft

  7. Ice is smarter than anybody gives him credit for. You don't get to be an OG in the hip hop world being a dumbass. Dude is sharper than a razor blade.

  8. He is one of the few who actual gave back. I have personally seen him at Boys and Girls Clubs, neighborhood unity schemes and so many other things. He really is from it and tries to give back to it.

  9. People that go to Harvard don't rob liqueur stores but they learn to rob companies. The difference between blue and white collor crimes.

  10. Ice always knew how to tell a good story. I remember him in Arsenio Hall interviews. Always articulated, and detailed every word that came out his mouth. A true wordsmith.

  11. IceT is a wealthy businessman and successfull actor.He has a beautifull white wife.I applaud his service work but his very brief criminal life is the dead past.Its a new day bro ,forget that chapter of the past and move on.

  12. This was way more interesting than i first thought, alwways knew Ice-T as a rapper and from his metal band Body Count.
    He's quite eloquent for a guy from the hood, could listen to him for an entire hour if not more.

  13. Ice T I must say your tedtalk made me reevaluate a decision I thought was written in stone. It saved my life and theirs.

  14. I've been a huge fan of Ice since Power dropped. The narration, stories, rhymes beats, quick cuts, all brilliant.
    Power, Iceberg, Home Invasion, O.G. still my go to albums when I'm in the mood.
    Introduced a few of my younger collegues to his albums, they only knew him from SVU….

  15. I agree that at 18-19 it's so hard to make rational decisions. I got pregnant by mistake, miscarried sadly and after that I was like "I'm gonna get pregnant again as soon as possible". Not really any money, living with the in-laws, still in school. Thank God I soon realised that even though it was my hearts dream, it was not smart. I'm now 25 and still not a parent, sadly I got too sick to get pregnant. But now I do have a house, an income, stable relationship (same person I got pregnant with at 19), still want the baby, but now at 25 I am able to make more rational decisions. I want that baby badly, but I need to be free of medications, and capable of fully taking care of me. I'm still too sick. So that dream has got to wait for now. But if I get pregnant by mistake again, I would be so happy..

  16. This is the first time I’ve seen Ice-T do this kind of lecture, never heard his music and watched Law And Order maybe 2-3 times. Now, I’m a super fan. Well done Ice, love ya man.

  17. His name is Tracy. That's amazing, he even referenced boy named Sue. I have a similar ambiguous title. What an inspiration

  18. I met ice years ago in the middle of a festival and I said hi, and he was so nice I must of talked to him for bout half hour, what a nice dude

  19. When he says "This is really like therapy for me" the closed captions read "This is really like THEIR beef with me" LMAO

  20. He's just a completely enchanting figure. I've been to a few Body Count gigs, and was blown away not just by the music or atmosphere, but by the way Ice would just stop everything in the middle of a song and go off on a talk/rant, both humorous and inspirational. He can do something to an audience – every single person in those gigs came out turned into some kind of little Ice T.

  21. I coach sports schools in Az. How can I get ice t to show. Intercity schools. I need help for theses kids. I know this hood grew up here. But if I get someone like ice. They will listen. I need help for the kids. That’s all I care about. This is our future

  22. The rappers today need to watch this and take note, hip hop came from this man, he truly representing the hood I don't see anyone doing anything for the kids in the hood!

  23. I have been on a body count kick the last week or2 so my feed has been alot of Ice T. Every video I watch I come away with more respect for the person. The message in this video is pretty relatable to me. I know how things go inside the walls. A positive message can go a long way with someone who just needs to see that it doesn't have to always end up in failure.

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