NORTH BERGEN, New Jersey (Reuters) - Rapper Ice-T once gained fame talking about killing cops. Now the controversy over his latest album has led him to compare himself to a peace-loving John Lennon.
Surrounded by leopard-print cushions in his penthouse apartment outside New York, the 48-year-old rapper defended a racy new album cover showing him lying naked in bed, his groin area covered by his wife’s bare legs.
She wears only a flesh-colored G-string with her buttocks in center frame, and a silver gun lies on the nightstand.
“It’s not pornography, it’s sexy,” he told Reuters of the cover of “Gangsta Rap,” his first album in seven years, released in the United States on Tuesday.
Some music stores will carry a sticker concealing the cover images of the rapper, whose real name is Tracy Marrow, and his wife Nicole “Coco” Marrow, 27, an exotic swimsuit model.
“It’s part John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It was art when they did it and it’s where everybody wants to be — laid up in bed,” he said, referring to the couple who held “bed-ins” for peace and appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone with a naked Lennon wrapped around his spouse.
Dressed in a black baseball cap, silver jewelry and white sneakers and facing framed photos of Coco posing in string bikinis on motorbikes and flashy cars, Ice-T said he would never have posed “with my butt laying there naked by myself.”
“I’m not going to flatter myself. But this is my wife, it’s not a model and it’s not fabricated,” he said. “If you snuck into our bedroom tomorrow morning you could get a picture just like that.”
Coco said she loved the photo shoot because “it’s not just some other guy I am posing with.”
Ice-T is used to controversy. Born in New Jersey and raised in Los Angeles, he joined a gang before releasing his debut album more than 20 years ago and gaining a reputation for politically charged lyrics.
His single “Cop Killer,” which included the lyrics “I’m about to bust some shots off, I’m about to dust some cops off,” was cut from an album that was re-released without it.
Ice-T said the song dealt with “the vibe at the time” of backlashes against police brutality in Los Angeles.
“The old Ice-T was like, ‘I will kill everybody,’ but the new Ice-T is kinda like, ‘by the way, I’m not gonna kill you guys,’” he said. “Now it’s a different type of anger and aggression.”
His latest lyrics comment on the gangsta rap genre he helped create, including the line: “It’s about guns and drugs and bitches and ho’s,” from the album’s title song.
“I’m not saying it’s good or bad, I’m just saying that is what gangsta rap is about,” he said.
The new album is still politically charged but concentrates on sex more than before. “Girls that are into hip hop (like) to hear their man talk dirty,” he said.
He has spent the past several years playing a detective in the television series “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and also stars in his own reality television series teaching prep school kids how to be real rappers.