ICECOLDBISHOP’s headphones fall out of his ears and there’s static on the line as he fumbles with the cord. Five seconds later, he continues his thought as if nothing’s happened: crisp, poignant, with just a hint of melody behind his words. The 26-year-old rapper from Los Angeles is opening up about who he is for the first time in-depth, waving away the fog that has kept his fans wondering who exists outside of the lightning-strike raps, jittery ad-libs, and thick dreads that often cloud his face. And in the midst of this reveal, his headphones have flipped out of his hand and smacked the ground with a thud.
“It’s a lot going on out here in my little complex,” he observes, by way of explanation. There’s a lot going on in his world, too. He burst onto the scene last year with songs like “IRATE” and “CREEP,” with Mick Jenkins, and, since then, he’s come storming into 2020 with even bigger sounding songs, including the recently released “DICKIES SUIT” with Kenny Beats.
Armed with a lucrative distribution deal and his own imprint, ICE COLD RECORDS, it’s clear that ICECOLDBISHOP is going to have everyone’s headphones tuned into what he’s saying very soon. We spoke to the rising rapper about the ups and downs of his journey so far, educating other artists about the industry, his upcoming album, and more.
What are you doing to pass the time right now during quarantine?
To pass the time right now? Honestly, bro, it's really not too much to do outside of, I guess, perfecting my craft. I’m touching up on records and working to keep my mental health correct because right now there’s a lot of shit going on—not even just this pandemic, but also personal shit in life in general. I’m working out and getting into healthier eating habits and stuff like that. I’ve been keeping it kind of low key because I’m not trying to get sick out here.
What's the first thing you plan on doing once we can get back outside?
I’m not even going to hold you, when everybody goes back to going outside, I'm not... I don't want to get mixed up with people and end up getting sick. Outside of that, the first thing that I will be doing for sure is putting a project together. I’m not trying to let this quarantine knock me off of my grind too much. When this shit is over, I'm going to already be in my program and get out the songs and videos to keep the ball rolling. I want to show the people that I can be very resilient. A lot of people are kind of sitting back and letting the chips fall where they need to fall. But for me, this is my time to go crazy.
Shifting gears, what was the inspiration behind your name, and did you always go by that?
Bishop is part of my middle name, so it goes all the way back. I’m a cold n***a. Put the Ice Cold on the Bishop and you got ICECOLDBISHOP. But if you want to go a little bit deeper than that, it's really just me telling you everything that I've been through, which is a lot of shit. So it's like I'm explaining to you the things that would make a person ice cold. If you listen to the music, you’ll understand why I am ICECOLDBISHOP.
What made you want to start rapping? And who were you listening to at the time, if you remember?
The first time that I ever rapped I was eight years old. I was at a birthday party on 52nd and Western. In LA, there was a clown that used to pull up to all the parties and he used to have contests and competitions for people to dance and rap. I did a f**king freestyle on a mic.
I rapped in front of everybody, and everybody ran in the house and told my mom, "Oh, your son out here rapping and cussing. But it's hard though." Ever since then I kind of knew I wanted to do music, but the crazy thing is I didn't even take anything serious until I was an adult.
But as far as inspiration, growing up, I listened to everything. If you know me, anybody knows, they can tell you my top three favorite rappers of all time: Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, and Kendrick Lamar. I’m also big fans of both The Game and Snoop Dogg.
Would you say that these artists influenced your unique style of rap?
Yeah. And I also get a lot of inspiration from female vocalists like Macy Gray, Erykah Badu, and Jill Scott. I love those black female voices because they have unique textures. With me having texture in my voice, I’ve listened to them a lot because it helps me to make my sh*t.
I also get a lot of inspiration from female vocalists like Macy Gray, Erykah Badu, and Jill Scott. I love those black female voices because they have unique textures.
When would you say that things fell into place for you in your rap career?
I think when I was homeless everything started to make sense. When I talk about being homeless, I think people get misconstrued like I left the house and I wasn't in the house. A lot of artists coming up or just being young in general are homeless not because they don't have anywhere to go, but because they don't want to abide by their parents' rules or don't want to live the way they want us to live. But my situation was different.
I was actually homeless and not only was I homeless, my mom was homeless too. It was one of those situations where it was just like, damn, it's almost impossible to fail because there's really nowhere else to go but up. I was homeless for six months in 2018. Sometimes I would stay at the studio until the next morning after being there from two in the afternoon the previous day just because I couldn't get a place to lay my head down for the night.
But, at the time, I'm entertaining deals for over $1 million. And you got to understand that for artists, you know how this sh*t can go with the paperwork. People can understand your potential, but people don't understand your worth. There's a difference, and that's what I started to understand.
How did that realization impact the way you made business decisions?
I had to make sure motherf**kers understood my worth. So with me having $7 in my account, but turning down deals that could change my life, it sounds stupid now, but it makes sense. Because in the grand scheme of things, I didn't take any of those deals. I’m still financially stable and I'm able to make this music. I'm blessed. It's a lot of people that have gone through a lot of shit in this time right now. And fortunately for myself, I don't have to deal with the same rules as everybody else as an artist because I made sure my program was set up a little bit better than everybody else’s.
What did that entire situation do for your creative process?
It made me hungry. During that time, I created my album, and it’s the best music that I have ever made in my life. When you have your back to the wall like that, you ain't really got nothing to lose. It made me go a little crazy.
What's the story behind your label, ICE COLD RECORDS?
It was made during that period of time where I was entertaining deals, just trying to see where my market value was and trying to see my worth. While I was doing all of that, I felt like I needed something to call my own while I was coming to these labels. I wanted to have a hub for myself, something to call my own alongside whatever entity I decide to put myself with.
Because of that, I’m in a great situation and ICE COLD RECORDS is being supported. Anything you see, you’re going to see “Property of ICE COLD RECORDS.” The inspiration behind that was as being a creator, you want to have and see your own sh*t. When 50 Cent came out, he had G-Unit, you feel me?
What's your dream vision for ICE COLD RECORDS down the line?
I like what J. Cole is doing a lot with Dreamville Records. Also, as my career progresses, I want to make sure that one of ICE COLD RECORDS’ priorities is that its artists understand how the industry works and have empowerment in their situations. Ensuring that artists and producers have percentages and that producers are getting the right respect, that everybody's getting the pay that they deserve.
I think these should be standard practices because as an artist you understand how the industry can be. So when you do experience sh*t like that it just kind of makes me want to approach everything in a much more respectable and honorable manner.
When my artists leave ICE COLD RECORDS, I want them to be able to say “They did me amazing. They got me to where I need to go and I’m doing better now.” As for right now though, the only thing that I'm really focused on is Ice Cold Bishop. If ICECOLDBISHOP dies, ICE COLD RECORDS dies.
I want to make sure that one of ICE COLD RECORDS’ priorities is that its artists understand how the industry works and have empowerment in their situations.
When I hear you say this, it reminds me a lot of what both Russ and NLE Choppa have talked about in regards to contract situations and making sure you understand how the game works.
It’s a lot of sh*t that people are not going to tell you, and it's a lot of questions that if I didn't ask them, I would have never had the answers to this. When you get in the industry, there's no big homie. There's stuff that you should have, but if you're not at a certain level, you're not going to get that information from none of these bigger artists because you're not even in their radar. And by the time you're on their radar, nine times out of ten, you're already in a situation that's f**ked up, and you’ll probably find out some sh*t that's going to make your stomach hurt. You’ll think, “Damn, if they would've told me this six months ago, I wouldn't be in this situation.”
There is nobody really telling you what to do or how to move. A lot of n***as will tell you everything they want you to know, but they're not going to tell you everything you need to know. Especially if they're trying to sign you. So I felt like it was my duty to make sure I understood how a lot of this shit operated, and it definitely affects how I move in the industry now. And it just makes you a little bit smarter.
All right, I'm switching gears real quick.
We got time, I'm chilling right now. Feels like I’m on the phone with the homie.
How did your Kenny Beats collaboration “DICKIES SUIT” come about?
It's crazy. I met Kenny in 2018 at my manager's birthday party and he said something crazy. That n***a like 6'6". Kenny is a huge person. He was just looking down at me like, "Yo man, you a legend." I'm like, "Me? N***a, you're a legend." And we had been trying to get in for like months and we didn't get to get in until “DICKIES SUIT.” That was the first one we ever made.
We kept small communication in between then and it’s been a blessing ever since I met him. Kenny is one of those good dudes in the industry that is going to tell it like it is. He is going to give you knowledge and he’s a motivator too. That was one of the best things about working with Kenny, because it's easy for artists to get discouraged with ideas when they are being creative. I feel like it’s a running joke, but Kenny talks a lot.
Everything you hear on “DICKIES SUIT,” we did for the day. And everything you hear on the next record, we did it that day, too. Kenny doesn't really have time to waste either, so it makes you work fast too. He just might be the hardest working producer in the game, I can't lie.
Earlier in our conversation, you mentioned your forthcoming album. What was the creative process for it like?
Honestly my album is done, and it has been done. And you know how sometimes when something’s finished and it isn’t out yet so you start working on it? That's what's going on right now. Since it's done and it's not out sometimes, you get new ideas. I have a date in mind to where I'm going to stop actually officially working on it and then start getting it ready. But I feel like right now, there's a lot of shit going on.
There are songs on there from 2018 and concepts from 2017. A couple of important ideas also came from last year. Fans ask me about my album all day on Instagram and Twitter And it's like, “I ain't even big enough for y'all to be tripping like this!” I appreciate it though because sh*t, I mean I rather the n***as be harassing me than not saying anything.
But yeah, working on this album has been amazing, I can't lie. Right now though, I think my goal is to just get the ball rolling so when it finally comes out, ain't nobody taken by surprise about who I am. They’ll be taken by surprise by how good the music is. And I mean that shouldn't even be a surprise. But you know, let me talk my sh*t for a minute.