Interview With the Original Gangster of Hip-Hop, Just Ice

From the outset of our 90 minute discussion, hip hop legend Just Ice was unabashed with his views. Time has not dulled his sword or softened his stance on the industry. In fact I got just what I expected; a cool and deadly journey from the inception of the culture up to the present.

This truly was an honor because he doesn’t care to talk to many people, nor does he want his location disclosed.

I guarantee this interview will raise a few eyebrows, so let’s get into it:

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INTERVIEW

Peace Just. It’s an honor to do this interview.

Peace Twan. You’re welcome my brother.

Let’s start with your intro into Hip Hop. How did that occur?

I got influenced by the culture as youth in Hunts Point (The Bronx) around 1974. At first I was an observer of legendary DJ’s like Disco King Mario, Kool Herc, and Afrika Bambaataa. By 1977 I was DJ’ing with the Sound Masters.

So you weren’t an emcee right away, but instead a D.J.?

True indeed. Emceeing wasn’t at the forefront and my initial love was the records. Collecting and spinning. I was taught by older cats because from my youth, that’s who I hung around with. In fact, I was the youngest in my crew.

So when did you become an Emcee?

I would say around 1978. My mans Glenn wrote me a rhyme and charged me $3 and after that I never looked back. I was called Kid TEEO at that time.

Yo that’s crazy. So when did you become JUST ICE?

I gave myself that name in 1979 while I was locked up as youth. Shameek was one of the Gods who helped me to learn and become righteous while I was upstate. By the time I came home, I was still in my 1-40 lessons, but I eventually mastered 120.

The God La Mel aka Raheim was also a big influence on me becoming righteous.

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Revisiting your youth quickly, the blackout of 77 occurred, putting NYC in a frenzy. How did you deal with that?

I was in Castle Hill Park when the blackout jumped off. We were on the basketball court and a guy went up for a dunk. We thought he put the lights out with his slam, finding out later that wasn’t the case. My older cousin sent me upstairs to my apartment to get me out of the way. I was 11.

So you plied your trade as an emcee with knowledge of self. How and when did you meet Mantronik and become affiliated with him?

I met Mantronik at the world famous Dancentaria. I killed the mic that night and he asked me if I would be into making some joints. I invested my own funds to record “Put That Record Back On”, but Sleeping Bag Records wanted something else more appealing and with the times. So I spent a few more dollars and recorded “Latoya”. The rest is history.

So once your initial 12” caught fire, when did you get your first taste of overseas?

That would be 85-86 and the reception was CRAZY.

The ‘Back To The Old School’ album is an all time classic and usually artists run into the fabled sophomore jinx. But in 1987 you returned with ‘Kool & Deadly’, which contains several timeless gems. Tell me how you and KRS-One combined.

I met KRS at the Broadway Disco International, which was owned by Miss Cathy. My crew at the time was the A-Team, which consisted of myself, Willie Fudge, Mr. T and B.I. Self Allah. I was in a rap contest with Tray Dee. The house DJ for B.I.D. was none other than the late great Scott La Rock and KRS happened to be one of the house emcees. He and I struck up a friendship and I was in need of a place to stay. KRS told me he had a spot for me and we ended up staying at the Men’s Shelter on E. 166th and Franklin Ave (The Bronx). We sharpened our swords as emcees there because it had good acoustics. Scott was also our counselor at the shelter, so a natural bond formed between the three of us.

From the outset your name rang in the industry as someone not to be played with. Your record “The Original Gangster of Hip Hop” gave the world a glimpse into everything from your prowess with women to putting emcees in their place.

Twan, my shit don’t come from stories. Anybody who knows me can verify that.

You have not stopped dropping albums with your latest coming in 2017. Can you tell me what is next on your agenda?

I am back working with Mantronik and once this corona clears up, we will be dropping bombs once again.

Oh shit, I’ll remember to duck! What are your feelings on the current state of Hip Hop music?

The music will never die. Right now it’s drill and trap. Eventually people will want something else, something new.

What do you love the most and the least about being an artist?

I love the stage, tearing it down for the people. I don’t like being in the studio. I like to get my job done and bounce.

So I saw that in the ‘Wu-Tang: An American Saga’ you allegedly confronted RZA about his knowledge of the supreme mathematics. What caused that to occur?

I don’t know where they got that from Twan. It never happened.

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Screenshot of Just Ice confronting RZA in ‘Wu-Tang: An American Saga’ series

No doubt. They say all publicity is good publicity. Keeping your name out there.

Indeed.

During this pandemic, what are you doing to stay safe?

I’m at home with my wife and kids. Immediate family is most important to me. Oh and these two expensive ass cats I have!

I’m exercising and eating right. MF’s don’t want my fucking attention.

As we near the end of this interview, if you could change anything what would it be?

I would do everything the same. My legacy is solidified and I’m not done.

Are there any plans to collaborate with up and coming artists?

Twan, my own sons want to get on a joint with me; I’m like FUCK NO. Nobody can fuck with Just Ice.

Well I’ll still be coming to you do a joint (laughs). Can you give me your top emcees, male and female and top D.J.’s?

Male emcees are Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz, Kool Moe Dee, Tito (of the Fearless Four) and T La Rock. Female emcees are Sha Rock, Lisa Lee, Pebbly Poo, Queen Latifah and Monie Love. D.J.’s are Disco King Mario, Kool Herc, Bambaataa, Theodore and Breakout.

Well Just, I again am honored and privileged to catch up with you. I wish you health and success Lord.

Peace Twan. And the same to you.

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MUSIC

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