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Hot! Ice-T Brings Hip-Hop Legends Together On ‘The Art of Rap Tour’

It wasn’t Ice-T’s intention, when he produced the 2012 documentary “Something for Nothing: The Art of Rap,” to return hip-hop’s most important old-school acts to the stage. But he couldn’t help noticing today’s biggest stars aren’t inviting Eric B and Rakim, EPMD and KRS-ONE to open for them at stadiums. So he put them together on the road.

“As much as I love the new artists, like Drake and everything, if EPMD has got to wait for Drake to call them, they’re not going to go on tour,” says the gangster-rap pioneer, who founded the Art of Rap tour and has performed on several dates, although he won’t be on the upcoming one at the Chicago Theatre. “We send these concerts out, and they’re always packed, and always so much fun. It’s needed.”

Ice-T has had a busy year: His thrash-metal band, Body Count, recently released its first album in three years, “Bloodlust,” and he’s preparing to star in his 19th season (the record is 21) on “Law & Order: Criminal Victims Unit.” The Art of Rap tours, which he created with East Coast manager Mickey Bentson, were unexpectedly successful. “Everybody comes back and says, ‘Man, you know, it was a great show,'” says the rapper born Tracy Marrow, by phone from his New Jersey home. “I’m kind of like (hard-rock singer and festival promoter) Perry Farrell to Lollapalooza — that was Perry’s idea, he launched it. Jane’s Addiction wasn’t on every tour, but they’re there in spirit.”

The Chicago date contains no gigantic stars, but its lineup of respected stars (including DMX and Chicago-based Crucial Conflict) is built on respect, competence and a bit of funk. For Parrish Smith, the PMD in EPMD, the tour is a continuation of the 30-year-old Long Island, N.Y., duo’s longtime philosophy, expressed in classic album titles such as 1988’s “Strictly Business,” 1989’s “Unfinished Business” and so on. Smith and partner Erick Sermon met on the school bus in eighth grade, scored hits such as “You Gots to Chill,” and briefly became perhaps the most influential group in rap, copied and sampled over time by Geto Boys, Jay-Z and Digital Underground, among others.

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