Tuesday, July 6, 2021

"Colors" by Ice-T

Song#:  3544
Date:  06/11/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  70
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Gangsta Rap, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Tracy Marrow certainly had a colorful past. He had been affiliated with (though not a member) of a gang, did petty crime, served in the military, and even at one point robbed banks. Along the way he developed an interest in rap music, thanks in part to the 1979 hit "Rapper's Delight" by Sugarhill Gang. He soon developed his own style and by 1982, Marrow made the decision to get his life cleaned up in order to focus on a career in music. Over the next few years Marrow would record and release indie singles under his nickname Ice-T. As his skills and reputation grew, Ice-T attracted the attention of Sire Records. He would sign with the label and in '86 he would put out a debut LP titled Rhyme Pays, which included one of the first gangsta rap tracks "6 in the Mornin'." While no singles from the album charted, it sold well enough to reach #26 R&B/#93 Pop. Ice-T was then tapped to write and record this theme song to the upcoming action/crime film Colors. His track of the same name would be included on the soundtrack and would be released as a single. It would get to #77 at R&B while crossing over to the Pop chart where is stayed for a few weeks. The soundtrack was a success reaching #31 and going gold. Ice-T's solo career took off in a bigger way afterwards and he would eventually accumulate one platinum and four gold albums. His only other solo single to reach the Pop chart was another soundtrack song, "New Jack Hustler (Nino's Theme)," from New Jack City, which reached #67 Pop/#49 R&B/#3 Rap. He would later form the rap metal band Body Count. They would court controversy with the track "Cop Killer," a track from their 1992 self-titled debut album.
ReduxReview:  In the late 80s, rap music was quickly evolving and Ice-T would be one of the forerunners of the sub-genre called gangsta rap, which had a tougher sound with lyrics that focused on gang culture and urban crime; sometimes true, sometimes exaggerated. N.W.A.'s 1988 album Straight Outta Compton (#4 Pop/#9 R&B) would truly break the genre in a bigger way. The rise of gangsta rap came at a time when old school rap from artists like DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince was still hitting the charts, so it was an odd thing to have Ice-T's grittier "Colors" getting airplay alongside the jovial "Parents Just Don't Understand."  I remember when this song came out. I liked it (as well as the movie) because it sounded fresh and different. It seemed real and I liked the edgier quality. While I wouldn't necessarily become a fan of gangsta rap, I did appreciate tracks like this and the fact that artists like Ice-T were exploring new territories on the rap map.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Ice-T would also move into acting and appear in many films and TV shows. His early credits include appearances in 1984's Breakin' along with its 1985 sequel, but it was his co-starring role in 1991's New Jack City that got him praised for his acting ability.  In 2000, he would join the cast of the hit drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in its second season. The role earned him an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor. As of 2021, he was still on the show. He has also won two Grammy awards.


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