Black Ice – Cold As …
by Mahogany L. Browne
Metropolitan Museum of Art is the last place Lamar Manson wants to have a photo shoot. Instead, Black Ice, the first Spoken Word Artist signed to Def Jam Records, opts to have his mug taken on the corner of 138th and Lenox, in Harlem. The building shadowing his stocky frame is covered with Graffiti writing, street monikers and boarded up windows. The old brick foundation has crumbled with time, but is oddly enough, the only background this North Philly native is comfortable with. “I’m hoping I don’t become an opportunist. I should never say never, but – I will never sell out my art form”. And since his introduction to the spoken sounds scene at Philadelphia’s Buttermilk in 1998, Black Ice has remained true to his word.
Teenagers watching the scene from the sideline find themselves engrossed in a conversation with the 29-year-old wordsmith featured on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. “Hip-Hop is the exact same thing as Spoken Word,” says Black Ice on the relativity of the two genres. “Spoken Word is about people writing what they feel, getting up on stage and performing. Emcees do the same thing,” he leans in slowly tugging at the cigarette and exhaling. “Think about it. From James Baldwin and Amiri Baraka to Sonia Sanchez, they were the writers and lecturers. They were the prolific, profound, gritty cats who got on the corner talking about what’s going on – they were the emcees of their time. Now, our writers are Jay Z, Common, Posodnous, & Ja Rule.” He leans back, before adding, “You may not want to acknowledge it, but they are.”
This father of two wears the same paternal pride when listening to his soon-to-be-born debut CD. His eyes search the faces of his listeners. Scouring for any of sign of: surprise, disappointment or excitement. He is familiar with this process.
– a trait that caught and kept the attention of entertainment mogul Russell Simmons. “Russell and I have developed a teacher-student relationship and he’s always worried about Spoken Word losing its integrity to the machine of the mainstream.” Black Ice coughs quickly before tossing his cigarette to the concrete along with those doubting his foundation. “But I will continue to represent Spoken Word because this is my nucleus.”