Ice-T Uses His ‘Freedom of Speech': October 10 in Hip-Hop History
On this day, Ice-T battles the censorship police, Biz Markie is a scientist with his second album and Ja Rule gets spiritual on Rule 3:36. In addition, two multi-hyphenated entertainers Ben Vereen and Mýa celebrate birthdays. Check it out below.
1989: Ice-T Battles Censorship and the PMRC on The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech... Just Watch What You Say!
On his third album, Ice-T tackled the First Amendment and the ongoing debate to censor rap music, which was a hot-button topic back in 1989. During this time, moralist groups like Tipper Gore's Parents Music Resource Center were targeting rap, and suggesting that the music would lead to depravity among the youth.
On Just Watch What You Say!, Ice-T addressed the censorship debate head-on with songs like "Freedom of Speech" and "This One's for Me." According to Ice-T, rap music is the only genre that allows artists to speak freely without any guidelines.
"There's freedom of speech, but you can't speak out against the government," he told Rolling Stone in 1992. "I listen to all the people's gripes and their complaints, they're like 'Well, I'm down with freedom of speech, but he shouldn't have said that.' That's all bullshit I have the right to say how I feel."
"I just look at it as, if there wasn't rap, where would the voice of the 18-year-old black male be?" he continued. "He would never be on TV, he ain't writing no book. He is not in the movies. So he's hidden, he's not heard. And with rap, you gave people the option of 'Here's the beat, and say whatever the fuck you want.' It's like the true vehicle of free speech because you're not bound by a melody or anything."
1989: Biz Markie Experiments on Biz Never Sleeps
Following the success of his 1988 debut album Goin’ Off, Biz returned with his second album that was just as comical and free-spirited as his first project. Studio legend Marley Marl produced the majority of the tracks on the album except for the lead single, “Just A Friend,” which was produced by the Biz himself.
Over an infectious piano melody (based on a Freddie Scott sample), the song featured Biz detailing his relationship with a girl who has a “friend” only to catch her tongue-kissing her so-called friend in a college dormitory. In a 2014 interview with HuffPost (Canada), Biz revealed that he initially wasn’t going to sing the memorable chorus ("You got what I need") on the song.
“Yeah, I was tryin' to get my man Swan (Juice Crew singer TJ Swan) but he said he was doing his album,” he recalled. “I tried to get Al B. Sure! and I tried to get Keith Sweat... to sing it, but they were busy doing their stuff, so I said I'll do it.”
In the end, Biz garnered a mainstream hit with "Just a Friend," which reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and eventually went platinum in 1990.
1995: KRS-One Drops His Eponymous Second Album
On this day, KRS-One released his second album as a solo artist. Among the standout tracks on the eponymous project included “Rappaz R. N. Dainja” and “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know.” On the latter song, KRS-One berated rappers who have hit songs but don’t know how to rock the mic in front of a live audience.
The song was produced by the great DJ Premier. In a 2011 interview with Complex, Premo said he had fun recording the track with the Blastmaster.
"That’s just another dope record," he told the outlet. "[KRS] and I were working on some stuff, and he said, ‘I need a single from you.’ So he brought his thing, and I remember playing that intro with the thump. He already liked it when it just had the bells, but when I added that additional sound he just went, ‘Ohh, yo, this is going to be big.’ I definitely enjoyed that record. Kris is just bugged out, man."
1995: Mystikal Delivers Battle Raps on Debut Album Mind of Mystikal
In 1995, Mystikal made his major-label rap debut with Mind of Mystikal, a re-release of his 1994 self-titled independent album. On the collection, the New Orleans native delivers the retaliatory track “Beware" where he aimed lyrical shots at local rap rivals UNLV who had released a diss track against him.
“That was my battle song, since I was a battle rapper at that time," he recalled to Complex in 2012. "It was a rebuttal to [early Cash Money artists UNLV's diss] 'Drag 'Em From the River,' which was a fuckng street anthem. I used to jam to it all the time and sing my own part too, [sings] 'Mystikal...you a hoe.' That [song] was jamming that hard!"
“I started that [battle]. They were bounce rappers and I started this feud against them," he continued. "'A real rapper against bounce what the hell y'all want? Vote for me!' that was my campaign. And in one my lines I said, 'Three things I'mma do/One—never gonna change my style /Never gon' bounce, never gon' bow,' and that was their song 'Do the Eddie Bow.' So they took that as disrespect, as well they should have."
1995: Insane Clown Posse Think Outside of the Box With Third Album Riddle Box
After years of releasing albums locally in Detroit, Riddle Box became Insane Clown Posse's first major-label project to reach a national audience. When the album was released in 1995, it didn't receive a lot of fanfare, but now it's considered a cult classic among their devoted Juggalos (aka fans).
"Riddle Box is special to a lot of Juggalos. It depends on the person," explained ICP member Shaggy 2 Dope in 2016 (via Vandala) "It depends upon when people started listening to us. If people started listening to [us] when that specific record came out, they’re going to hang on to that record the hardest."
"Riddle Box was our first national record that we put out on Jive Records, even though they didn’t really put it out nationally, they just put it out in Detroit," he continued. "But we took it and bought promotional vans and just started going across the country and promoted it ourselves. And where we promoted it, it became a hit. So a lot of people were exposed to the Riddle Box first outside of the Michigan area. That's may be why it holds such a big place to some people, because that was the first time people on the West Coast/South/Canada or whatever had heard Insane Clown Posse, because that was the first record that we actually put out nationally that wasn’t just locally in Michigan."
2000: Flesh-n-Bone Releases 5th Dog Let Loose
On this day, Flesh-n-Bone released his second album on the Mo Thugs Records/Koch Entertainment imprint. Unfortunately, the collection arrived at the worst time for the former Bone Thugs-n-Harmony member.
At that time, the veteran rapper was sentenced to 12 years in a California state prison in connection with a June 2000 assault with a semiautomatic firearm. Flesh, whose real name is Stanley House, also had a two-year sentence added for a September arrest of illegal possession of a sawed-off shotgun. So Flesh’s album never received any promotion because he was incarcerated.
In 2008, Flesh was released from prison and re-joined BTNH to record their reunion album, Uni5: The World's Enemy. However, his relationship with the group has since been estranged. In a 2011 interview with HipHopDX, Flesh accused BTNH of not supporting his solo career.
"People love Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. I love Bone Thugs-n-Harmony too. Don’t nobody love ‘em as much as I love ‘em, or else I wouldn’t have sacrificed for ‘em," he said. Them dudes ain’t supporting me on my solo effort. It’s stunning. I had everybody else in the world helping me on my solo effort except them. So what I’m supposed to do about that? I’m cool. I’m on fire, bruh."
"I’m solo for the rest of my life. My creator gonna open up doors for me. And I’m gonna keep making hits," he continued. "I’m gonna keep making that stuff that people like to hear. It’s motivational, it’s inspirational; I’m speaking the truth. I’m a motivational speaker. I been through it all. My experiences speak that."
2000: Ja Rule Gets Spiritual on Rule 3:36
Ja Rule took his rap career to another level with Rule 3:36, his follow-up to his 1999 debut effort Venni Vetti Vecci. The LP yielded two chart-topping singles “Put It on Me” and “Between Me and You,” which revealed the softer side of the gruff rhymer. But the the Queens, N.Y. native showed his spiritual side on “One of Us,” which was inspired by Joan Osborne’s 1995 song of the same name.
"Yeah, that’s how I came up with the idea," Rule told Rolling Stone in 2001. "I wanted to make it in a hip-hop form where we could understand it, where we could see in our eyes if God was in our shoes."
"Joan Osborne’s is a great song, but it’s in her view," he continued. "Even though she was speaking on a different point of view, I seen it through my eyes. And I made mine so that people who couldn’t see it through her record could now see it through mine."
Ben Vereen and Mya Are Born
Ben Vereen was born Benjamin Augustus Middleton on Oct. 10, 1946, in Miami, Fla. He’s been an entertainer for over 50 years and has appeared in numerous Broadway plays, television shows and movies. Another multi-hyphenated entertainer Mýa Marie Harrison, better known as Mýa, was also born on this day in 1979 in Washington, D.C. Much like Vereen, she's a veteran of Broadway, television and film. But she’s mostly known as an R&B singer with chart-topping hits like “Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are)" and "Case of the Ex.”