Ice-T, onetime south-central LA street hood and now the chief practitioner of a searing hip-hop subgenre called gangster rap, is a stolid rapper and a fairly unimaginative writer. He has yet to come up with a classic track, though his work on the title theme from Colors and his contribution to the New Jack City sound track, “New Jack Hustler,” come close. His music–unadorned tales of violent street life over an arid, almost detached rap backing–is the musical equivalent of an LA ghetto’s hazy glare, and quite effective; more important, however, is his symbolic position as the smartest of the west-coast rappers, and the one who’s grown the most as well: he’s been slowly overcoming his penchants for dis-ing gays and women to become a responsible voice of ghetto frustration. But he’s going to have to start dealing with the larger contradictions of mouthing gangsterisms as his sophistication grows. (And it is growing: he’s an articulate black spokesman who’s even started to rap about his real estate investments, and now he’s got a thing for speed metal–his hard-core aggregation, Body Count, is touring with him.) Until then he’s just another fascinating example of the myriad forms of pathology running around the rap world these days. Tuesday, 7 and 11 PM, Cabaret Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Glen Friedman.