Reviews: 6 in the Mornin by Ice-T

6 in the Mornin is a first-person account of a story that includes, but is not limited to, physical confrontations (perpetrated against both male and female), the drug trade, police chases, and murder. Because nobody had ever been as criminally explicit in a rap song before. “6 in the Mornin’” is, in the estimation of many, ground zero for true gangsta rap.

Background

“6 in the Mornin'” is a song by Ice-T. It is recognized as one of the defining tracks of the gangsta rap genre because it was released as the B-side of “Dog ‘N the Wax (Ya Don’t Quit-Part II)” in 1986. Ice T included the song on his debut album, Rhyme Pays, released in 1987. The song was produced by Unknown DJ, a member of Compton’s Most Wanted.

The prequel to this song is “Midnight” from Ice T’s 1991 album OG Original Gangster. “Midnight” ends with the lyric “Looked at my watch, six in the morning,” while “6 in the Mornin'” begins, “Six in the mornin’, police at my door.”

The song was later recorded by Tennessee horrorcore group Three 6 Mafia for their Chapter 2: World Domination album. It was aptly titled “3-6 in the Mornin'” and has occasional samples from the original. It was re-recorded by Ice T for the 2020 Body Count album Carnivore.

P.S.K. vs. 6 in the Mornin

“People often say I created the gangsta rap genre with that record, but let me give proper credit. It was Schoolly D who inspired me to write the rhyme.” —Ice-T, talking about “6 in the Mornin’” in his autobiography, Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption—from South Central to Hollywood.

Schoolly D is a rapper from Philadelphia. In 1985, he recorded and released a song called “P.S.K. What Does It Mean?” It’s the song Ice-T is referencing in the preceding quote and has referenced before in other interviews.

In “P.S.K.,” Schoolly talks about drugs and having sex, which hadn’t really happened before in a rap song, so that was large, and those are definitely two pieces of what gangsta rap eventually grew to be. But when it came to criminality, another major branch, he either only alluded to it or stopped just short of being properly offensive. The easiest example: The acronym “P.S.K.” means “Park Side Killers,” a gang Schoolly was affiliated with in the early ’80s. In the song, he never actually says that, though. Instead, he offers up a different assignment for the letters. Ice-T was not interested in allusions.

Three comparisons: 

(1) In the last verse of “P.S.K.,” Schoolly pulls a gun on a man but decides against shooting him because he doesn’t want to go to jail. In the last verse of “6,” nine people are killed in a shootout Ice-T is involved in. 

(2) In “P.S.K.,” Schoolly’s first encounter with a girl ends with him having sex with her and then underpaying her (turns out, she’s a prostitute—Schoolly D offers her $10 after they have sex, and so this girl is either not that great of a prostitute or Schoolly D is a ruthless negotiator). In “6,” Ice-T’s first encounter with a woman ends with her getting beaten up in the street for calling him and his friends “punk pussies.” 

(3) In “P.S.K.,” Schoolly goes to a fancy bar. In “6,” Ice-T goes to jail for seven years for being caught with an Uzi, a .44, and a hand grenade in his car. A HAND GRENADE, like he’s goddamn Commando Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“P.S.K.” inspired the first gangsta rap song. That’s not the same as being the first gangsta rap song itself. It’s close, but it’s not the same.

A fast note about Ice-T’s autobiography: There’s a section where he tells a story about hanging out with Flavor Flav that involves going to Red Lobster in a Ferrari. I suspect the phrase “going to Red Lobster in a Ferrari” is the most accurate description of Flavor Flav anyone will ever come up with.

“6 in the Mornin” Verses

“6 IN THE MORNIN’” IS A MONSTROUS TEN VERSES LONG

  • Verse One: This one is about running away from the police. Ice-T hears them knocking at his door at six A.M. He escapes out a window, bringing with him his pistol and his money. He does not grab his cassette tape, which he regrets.
  • Verse Two: This one is about playing dice (he doesn’t say if he won or lost, though I suspect he won because nobody dies afterward) and then beating up a woman who becomes a tad too mouthy—though this is evidence he possibly lost at dice.
  • Verse Three: This one is about getting arrested for having weapons in the car and then getting into a fight in jail.
  • Verse Four: This one is about getting out of jail. (The ease with which the third verse is delivered might lead you to believe that his weapons charge was a small infraction. It was not. He reveals here he was locked up for seven years.) He finds out that everyone he knew before going in is now in the drug trade. He joins up.
  • Verse Five: This one is about becoming a pimp and then getting into a gunfight in a strip club because that’s what pimps do, probably. Six people are wounded, two of whom are fatally injured.
  • Verse Six: This one is about running away from the police again, this time in a stolen car.
  • Verse Seven: This one is about how he successfully evaded the police, and so then he goes to a girl’s house and takes a bath. I imagine this is also a pimp activity, though I suppose it could be he just chose a bath over a shower so he wouldn’t get his hair wet.8
  • Verse Eight: This one is about having sex with a skilled lover.
  • Verse Nine: This one is about helping his friend jump bail.
  • Verse Ten: This one is about going to a party in New York, then getting into a shootout. Nine people die this time.

It’s like a season of Sons of Anarchy, basically.

How Did Ice-T Become an Influential Rapper?

Ice-T is very charming and insightful, particularly when it comes to discussions of race as it relates to the economics and mechanics of gang culture and its net force. That’s why he became such an influential rapper, same as Ice Cube and Tupac Shakur, two other captivating speakers. He’s also very self-aware.

He spoke about the moment he realized the world was broader than the ghetto in 1989 on The Arsenio Hall Show. This is the exchange. It took place after he talked about how he’d been offered a bit part in a movie called Breakin’ and initially turned it down:

Ice-T: My homeboys came at me and they were like, “Ice, man. You need to cool out, man. You need to cool out, man. You need to go on and get that money, man. White people like you, man.”

Arsenio: Someone came and told me that same thing years ago. [audience laughs]

Ice-T: It’s sad, though. It’s sad, though, you know. So they told me, they said that I could make it. And I’m, like, looking at them like, “Man, I thought I got it made, man.” And they’re like, “Nah, you got a chance.” And right then, that’s when my whole life kind of flipped ’cause I realized what we were doing really wasn’t what the guys I looked up to [gangsters] wanted to be doing.

The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, the lot of them, those guys figured out how to be the most financially successful with gangsta rap music. N.W.A, the guys in that group, they figured out how to make gangsta music the most popular (basically, just let Dr. Dre produce for you and Ice Cube write for you, as it were). And Schoolly D leaned toward becoming the first gangsta rapper.

But Ice-T fully figured out what it was supposed to represent: frontline reporting from a figurative (and sometimes literal) war being fought by communities America didn’t seem all that interested in protecting, and presented in a way that advanced the idea of bucking authority.

Ice-T Trivia

Ice-T was asked to star in the film New Jack City by Mario Van Peebles after Van Peebles heard him talking shit in a bathroom in a nightclub. Ice-T was paid $28,000. The movie grossed over $60 million. Ice-T was also in a movie about a leprechaun who murdered people for gold coins, which is a real, actual thing. 

The guy who signed Ice-T to Sire Records, an arm of WB, had also signed the Ramones, the Pretenders, Madonna, Depeche Mode, the Smiths, the Cure, and more. Ice-T went to a Tupperware party once because he thought Denzel Washington was going to be there. Denzel Washington was not there. Ice-T is interesting.

Final Thoughts

Ice-T doesn’t get enough credit for pioneering West Coast hip-hop and gangsta rap, but while “6 in the Mornin’” was an important record, it wasn’t the most important one from 1986. I’d argue that Run-DMC’s cover of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” (which was produced by Rick Rubin) was hip-hop’s first real crossover record and showed the world the genre’s limitless potential. 

Really, from there you could draw any number of lines because it’s the song that first fused rock and rap, a thing that’s happened countless times since. Incidentally, Run-DMC’s 1986 version of “Walk This Way” also helped revitalize Aerosmith’s career as they were getting set to release their now seven-times- platinum 1987 album Permanent Vacation. 

So the next time you listen to Kanye West and Paul McCartney’s “Only One” or watch Eminem and Elton John perform “Stan” together on YouTube, put one in the air for Run-DMC.

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