Sunday, July 15, 2012

Did Ice-T Really Rob Banks?

The rapper/entertainer Ice-T was, improbably, the guest of the week for "Not My Job" on the brilliant NPR show "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" a couple of years ago. I heard the segment the first time, and then I heard it yesterday in a re-broadcast. It was quite funny, and he came off as reasonably likeable (a feat in istelf, since certainly anything about "gangsta rappa" is about 10 strikes in my book of taste, temperament and sensibility).

In keeping with how that segment of the show is set up, he talked about his personal biography. No surprise, this included a troubled youth and young adulthood: "You know, I was out on the streets doing everything. I mean, I robbed banks. I did all kinds of things." The part about "robbed banks" seriously set off my BS detector. It's just not that easy to rob banks--plural--and not get caught. Does not happen very often. I don't believe it is true, at most I think he might have considered a bank robbery. Maybe.

So anyway I decided to see what I could find on the internet. I didn't put a whole lot of time into it, but I didn't readily find any authoritative sources. I did, however, find this article from The Guardian, where he goes into more detail about  his criminal youth. And I find it even more unconvincing.

He talks about robbing jewelry stores and getting away with it as easily as pick-pocketing might be (and I'm not sure how easy that is). And then the topper: "I never been to prison. I never been caught". Just. Too. Improbable.

I see this as just another variation on the human weakness for a story. In this case, Ice-T needs (or needed) a story to establish his "street cred"[1]. The fact that he has never been to prison is actually a problem. So he invents a back-story that gives him the cred and explains away the fact that he lacks the "badge of cred" of doing prison time. Yech.

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[1] I loathe this term, but I'll use it here because it seems to fit.

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