Released in 1988, Colors, by Ice T, gained popularity as it was a soundtrack to the film “colors” and was named the 19th greatest hip-hop song of all time by VH1. Ice T contributed greatly to the creation of gangster hip hop rap.
“Colors” represents more than just music but the daily life experiences about political and social structures that have failed them. It also illustrates the “struggles, ghetto hardship, financial obligation, materialism, and hedonism” (Sanchez, 10). “Colors” contributes to the three step process of the blues and allows the audience to connect and understand the way an African American man lives in south Los Angeles. The song “Colors” has a strong message that gives essential insight into the mind of a gangster rapper.For us to understand the song “colors” and Craig Werner’s first point of “fingering the jagged grain of your brutal experience” (Sanchez, 5), we must know where Ice T comes from. At a young age, he lost both his parents which forced him to move from New Jersey to South Los Angeles, Crenshaw with his aunt and sister who were addicted to crack cocaine and heroin. During this time, he joined the hood life and then became a member of the West Side Rollin 30s Original Harlem Crips.
Ice T was thrown into this ghetto life because of the tragic experiences he endured. Watkins says, “rap music has become the voice of young black urban America” (Watkins, 48). This is valid as Ice T preaches through his song “Colors” by saying, “I had a chance like you I would never be in a gang man But I didn’t have a chance You know I wish I did” (colors). Ice T hopes that younger generations will make the right choice and take a successful path.
Also, he wants to connect with his audience that can relate to similar experiences. Craig Werner’s second point in his three-step process was “reaffirming your existence” (Sanchez, 5). Ice T does this through “I’m a star, on the walls is my autograph” (colors- Ice T). By using graffiti, he shows his presence and how famous he is. The Hip-Hop enthusiast and author of, representing: Social Conservatism and the Culture Wars in Hip-Hop Culture and the Production of Black Cinema, S. Craig Watkins describes the birth of hip hop. Watkins says, “What began in basements, on street corners, in public parks, and throughout the still of the night would furnish young people fertile spaces for crafting new identities, explosive art forms, and later, whole industries” (Watkins, 9).
By remembering how hip hop came about it reminds artist to stay original and send meaningful messages. Hip hop rap is a tool for artist like Ice T to create content that represents themselves.Craig Werner’s last point of the process “finding a near tragic, near comic voice to express that brutal experience” (Sanchez, 5). Ice T expresses this through his song “Colors”, he says “any problem I got I just put my fist in my life is violent but violent is life peace is my dream, reality is a knife” (Colors- Ice T).
This figure of speech illustrates the violent life he lives and that there will never be peace and always violence. Watkins states “As the economic vise tightens, despair turns to anger. But partly because we have so little concept of class resentment and conflict in America, this anger isn’t directed so much at those above as at those below.
And when whites at or near the bottom of the ladder look down in this nation, they generally see blacks and other minorities” (Watkins, 18). The Hip hop genre of music and artist like Ice T had a rough start due to socio economic disadvantages. This shows how far the culture of hip hop rap can factor into someone’s life and how they express themselves.The genre of hip hop rap has inspired and influenced society in various ways.
Watkins quotes an executive “Thank god for rap, every morning when they play that stuff, people come running to us” Hip Hop Rap has become very popular and important to society. It gives insight into people’s life’s we would not normally have access to. Although Craig Werner’s points are for blues music it relates to hip hop rap music directly. Ice T lives the gangster lifestyle and is proud to be representing his “sets” colors. An artist’s experiences can be illustrated directly to his/hers audience which makes this genre very meaningful and inspiring.