How did you and Malik come to work together on The Peacemaker?
Well, Malik and I have been friends for years. At one point in time we were out in the streets of L.A. hustling and we know each other from that…And then Malik changed his life and decided he was going to get into this gang intervention. And he got at me during the first truce in ‘92 between the Imperial Courts or PJ Watts and the Bounty Hunters. It was the major truce in L.A. that made a lot of press, right after the riots and all that. And Malik came to get me ‘cause he’s like, “Man, we need some high profile people, Ice. You know, these kid’ll listen to you, you don’t think so, but they will.”…So he took me into Watts and I was embraced over there.
So years passed and I had an idea for a show. Now, I’m the voice on Gangland. So I was like, wouldn’t it be cool if you do a show where you could actually go in and get the gang bangers to meet up, the enemies. I knew Malik was the guy…So, I presented the idea to Malik and I told him, you know, you’re the only person that can do this show. And we took it to the production company and like anything else that I’ve ever done that’s ever been successful we went through “It can’t be done” for about six months. And I’m like, “Well if it can be done, would it be a good show?” And they’re like, “oh, it would be incredible, if it can be done.”
Malik is the one man that has the credibility and the connections [to do it]. What you see on The Peacemaker, you can’t get from just regular phone calls from a Hollywood office. No way.
How do you face the challenges of shooting in a dangerous neighborhood with potentially dangerous people?
Well, you go in there with the blessing of the individuals. It’s not like you can walk out of a car into these neighborhoods and shoot a show that they don’t want shot. You have to first do your due diligence. I call this show War Correspondence. You have to go and you have to talk to the people who are in charge of every particular block and you have to go in with their blessing. If they want it shot, they’ll control the area and they’ll make it safe. If they don’t want it shot, no one will talk to you on camera and that’s the end of it.
The problem with shooting a show like this is that you have this thing called the Rico Act, which says you can’t be involved in a criminal activity. You got a thing on the street about snitching which is how much do you say without telling. You got all these different rules and you gotta think about anonymity. In gang warfare not being known is one of the ways you stay alive. Putting yourself on television and letting everyone see who this particular guy is – if people are looking for you, you just let ‘em know what you look like.
So you have to really pick the right people. The gangs have to pick the right spokespeople. And it’s real…
The only thing that could be a drawback is because we shot it it takes away from the gravity of it. People might think, “Well it can’t be that serious if you can shoot it.” I think that’s it. But it is.
How do you and Malik help gang members see that their connection to each other can expand outside the gang, even ones who they feel have wronged them in the past?
I think from watching the show you’ll realize that most of what they call the OGs [original gangsters] want peace. Now OG, for the laymen, is the originals, the ones who started the gangs, the guys in their 30s, 40s and 50s, the older cats. They found it out cause they’ve gone to prisons, they’ve come home, now they’re looking at their kids gang banging. It’s kinda like – “Alright, if I was in a gang that’s great. I’m a fool. But now my son’s 19. To watch him go through that cycle might not be what I want to see.”
In other words, if I’m 50-years-old, I don’t have any power over a 19-year-old kid. But I got power over a 45-year-old guy. That’s the guy I looked out for. He has power over a 30-year-old. And it’s like a chain of events. So, if this is what I want and you got love for me ‘cause I did things for you, you pass that on and it’s from your heart. ‘Cause that’s somebody you love asking you. You have to challenge the OGs, use your power. You’re claiming you’re an OG, let’s see it. Let’s see it work.
It’s difficult because the kids, they want the reputation that the G [gangster] has. They want to get out there and do it. And everyone knows when you’re young, you’re dumb and you’re reckless. As a male you’re trying to become a man and being tough is part of that, especially in the hood.
Also in gangs, it’s extremely difficult because it’s murder. These aren’t clubs, these people have killed someone, you know. I had to get on the phone with a lot of the guys during shooting. Like I got phone calls from guys like, “Yo Ice, man, they got me sitting over here in this other neighborhood, you know this is not my neighborhood…I’m not safe.” And I’m like, “You know dude, hold down. You know this is for the good of the hood. You know what we trying to do. You’ll be okay.”
It seems like you and Malik are trying to give gang members a new way to look at justice, that it doesn’t have to mean violence or revenge. Can you talk about that a little bit?
I mean the only thing we can give them is the ability to get to the next part of their life when maybe they’ll see it a little more clear. There are two problems with gang banging. One is the actual violent situation they’re in. The second thing is unemployment and it’s something else to do…So it’s kinda like if the kids are in the streets and they’re dealing in crime, gangs are a perfect place for them because it gives you an organized unit.
Our first level with gang truce intervention is let’s just stop the fighting. You guys can still represent your neighborhood, you can still have pride, you can still be a Crip, you can still be a Blood. Okay, there’s pride in that. But the war –
So what you’re doing is saying, “Look, we know you all want to protect your neighborhood. Why don’t you aim that on the families? Why don’t you aim that on the kids? Why don’t you aim that on your community?” And just deal with the knuckleheads that don’t understand that that’s what this is about. It’s like reformatting the gang.
It’s a big task... And I think the Peacemaker shows the person that doesn’t know how fragile and how segmented gang warfare is. People just think, “Oh, it’s a Crip and a Blood. Can’t you just tell them to stop?” I’m like, “In most of our shows, its Crips fighting Crips. It’s a block fighting a block. And over here it’s a block fighting another block.” And it’s happening all over the city.
Tell me a little bit about your gang experience. For you, was there one big event, moment or revelation that made you realize you were finished with the gang life?
Well see, I never was in a gang. I went to Crenshaw High School which was gang infested. The school was full of Crips. So basically if you go to a Crip school, you’re gonna wear blue…It’s just to stop the drama. Now, I did not live in the avenues. I lived in View Park. So there wasn’t a Crips’ set in my area. You can’t join a gang unless you’re from that neighborhood. So the kids I grew up with and rolled with would be considered Harlem Crips, Rolling 30s, or the Rolling 60s.
So, by being in all these elements, I was what would be considered a gang affiliate. I knew all the gang bangers. But, I had friends that were Bloods. I had friends that were Van Ness Boyz, I had friends from all over the city. I think you have to join the gang if you live on that street. And sometimes it’s easier just to be part of [it] than to try and be that lone kid.
I was involved to that extent, but when I got out of high school I started hanging out with cats who thought they were players and hustlers, ‘cause we wanted to be more about money and stuff…but a lot of people are on the outside of the gangs and still have a lot of power within the gangs.
How to do give hope for something better to people who have never experienced what it feels like to have that hope?
I’ve always felt that every victory that I was able to accomplish, whether it’s you know, making records, music or my success, is kinda like a light for everyone that comes from my same background. I think until it’s proven that it can be done, people think it can’t be done…‘Cause I’m one of those guys [on The Peacemaker] that people will look at and say “Hey, this throwaway kid.” And that’s not true. You just have to have a different set of circumstances and you need to be coached through it too.
It’s hard to see hope – people talk about money, I say first you need to have a place to live and you have to have food and you have to have shelter and clothes. Then you can become creative. If you’re dealing with just day to day survival, it’s really hard to get into that next level of life. A lot of these people that we’re dealing with on Peacemaker are in that kinda dire straights and they don’t really see any future and they don’t see any hope. All I can do is say, “Hey man, I was in the same situation as you.” I mean, I pulled myself up. I was homeless, I was living in the hood. I don’t have any family, I’m an orphan.
This show isn’t really about saving the hood. This is basically trying to eliminate ground zero…once you get the peace, then you can figure out, okay what are you gonna do, what do you want to do with your life. And if you don’t have a realistic idea, then you can’t expect a realistic life. My son’s 19-years-old right now and he comes from a good background, but just to get him to answer that question. “What do you want to do?” “Well, I wanna be a star.” Well that doesn’t count. What if that doesn’t happen, what would you like to do? And I think everybody needs to ask themselves that.
There are a lot of issues that can’t be solved simply. I know that it really roots from public school education and giving people a chance to go to a public school and continue on for higher learning. And if you’re coming out of the ghetto and the only image of success you see is that drug dealer, then that’s what you’re gonna go after. There’s no lawyers, there’s no doctors, there’s nobody around to say, “Hey, I’m a winner.” I think having a realistic goal is first. But first you gotta stop the violence.
What do you want the gang members to take away from their experience on The Peacemaker and what do you hope viewers will take away from watching The Peacemaker?
I want the gang members to see that most of the other gang members kinda want peace. I want them to see that cats from the other side of town are kinda on the same wavelength, the G’s… I think they’re gonna all ID with people in the group. And they’re gonna see that the guys that are talking more about peace are the more attractive characters in the show. And they’re gonna be like, “Yeah, I like him.”
The viewer – I just want the viewers to understand the magnitude of the issue. I want them to understand that this is a true real problem. And I used to say when I rapped you know, you can’t just keep sweeping sh** under the carpet. That eventually is gonna come to dirty up another room and another room and another room…
Have there been any follow-ups with the gang members since the show? Any changes to the situations you and Malik were initially confronted with in these neighborhoods?
We don’t claim to create any type of peace or any type of forever…But, I know that gangs will watch the show and say, “Hey man, can you come to us.” I believe that they’ll call us.
When we made the show, I didn’t want it to be corny, I didn’t want it to be “This is fake.” You know, Malik is so driven and so honest and his heart is so in it. You see how he grabs these guys. And I think, you know, we’ll have to wait and see. I think some of the gangs will stay at peace, some will continue to war because it’s bigger than a television show. But who knows, you know, maybe they can start to see themselves and maybe adjust themselves. That wasn’t really the mission of the show. The mission of the show for me is…to put a face and a voice to these guys versus, “I’m in a bandana, I’m tough, some gangster monster that you don’t know.”
By: Samantha Charlip