Hip-hop star’s ‘Art of Rap’ reveals secrets of a successful speech
- Last Updated: 4:48 AM, June 10, 2012
- Posted: 9:52 PM, June 9, 2012
Check your coat, bling and beef at the door — Ice T’s public speaking seminar is about to begin. Based on his personal knowledge as the “Original Gangster” and interviews with hip-hop royalty, Ice T’s lessons will work for anyone giving a talk — from keynote speeches to wedding toasts.
If anybody knows how to rock a Toastmasters meeting, it’s a legendary emcee. After consulting with hip-hop pioneers such as Melle Mel, Afrika Bambaataa, Chuck D, KRS One and Dr. Dre, Ice T offers these 10 Rap Rules of Public Speaking.
For further study, see his directorial debut, “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap,” out now, which traces hip-hop’s rise from the streets to the top of the Billboard charts.
1. Know your material.
Don’t flap your gums about partying with hot girls in the Hamptons if you’ve never even driven through Long Island. You can’t lie about real-life experiences, especially if you’re giving a speech. “A crowd can smell a fake from a mile away,” explains Ice T. “People relate to personal stories — it pulls them in and makes them feel special.”
2. Practice. Then, practice some more.
“Before concerts I would put on instrumental versions of songs and push the melodies to the front of my mind,” says Ice T. “Rehearsing out loud is key.”
Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian found a perfect tool for rehearsing on the B-side of Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks.” The instrumental track, “Do It Yourself,” was a wide-open sonic canvas on which emerging emcee’s could practice wordplay, delivery and working with a deejay.
3. Know the audience.
“Identify who you’re going to be addressing and tailor your words accordingly. You can’t address the Hells Angels the same way you would fans at a Garth Brooks concert,” says Ice T, laughing. “Greet the audience. Use humor. Do whatever you can to make a connection.”
4. Know the room.
Get familiar with the acoustics, just as rappers do in the studio. “This is where mike skills come in,” Ice T. says. “A great emcee knows how to command the crowd with their voice — get them to applaud, speak, stand up and sit down on cue.”
Sadly, your speaking gig probably won’t include Cristal, weed and groupies. “Man, that’s what I need to get going,” Snoop Dogg says.
5. Be descriptive.
“When you talk, paint vivid pictures with your words,” Ice T says. “When I rhyme about the hood, I want a white kid who lives in Omaha to feel like he’s living there.”
The legendary Rakim agrees: “When Slick Rick raps about running through the park, you can actually smell the grass,” he says.
6. Be confident.
There’s a fine line between confidence and boasting — and only the best emcees can toe it. “Kanye [West] and Jay-Z are perfect examples. They know people are hanging on their words, but they never come across as arrogant,” says Ice T. “Whether you’re running a seminar or a meeting, you need to grab people’s attention by showing confidence — even if you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. People will believe almost anything that comes out of your mouth once they detect confidence.”
7. Never apologize.
“State your opinion and roll with it no matter what,” says Ice T. “Once you win over a room, they won’t turn their back on you. Saying I’m sorry over and over again makes you look nervous and weak.”
8. Put in the hours — and learn to love them.
“You have to live in your work environment,” says veteran Nas. Adds the iconic Dr. Dre, “I’ve been in the game for 27 years and only been out of the studio two weeks — that’s how much I love my business.”
9. If two of you are presenting, pick the right partner.
“Make sure people have character, instincts and a real interest in what you’re about,” says Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest. “It’s the same when rappers choose partners to collaborate with. Big names don’t always mean it will work. The right person must have a solid grasp of who you are and your style. It’s no different in the business world.”
10. Pump up the volume.
Avoid boring people to tears during the next big boardroom meeting. “If you’re planning to discuss a hostile takeover of a company put on ‘Fight the Power’ by Public Enemy and get everyone fired up,” says Ice T. “Then, celebrate the acquisition that will make the company a lot wealthier by blasting Ice Cube’s ‘It Was a Good Day.’ ”