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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings





I don’t know how many people appreciate how influential Ice-T has been regarding hip hop history. I remember first becoming aware of him in relation to the 1984 film Breakin’, as he rapped during a breakdancing scene.


Although Ice-T is significantly older than me, he and I share a number of background similarities. We’re both biracial, moved to different states in childhood, were aligned with a similar gang (though were never affiliated), once DJ’ed, and we both joined the military.


I recall being in a children’s home and sneaking around listening to the rapper’s 1988 album Power with my buddy “Odessa.” We’d take turns rapping lines and pretending we were performing for a crowd, until a houseparent caught us and confiscated the unauthorized contraband tape.


Had the houseparent taken a moment to actually listen to the track “I’m Your Pusher,” he likely would’ve understood that Ice-T was expressing positivity versus glamorizing drug use. Oh well. Shout out to Darlene “The Syndicate Queen” Ortiz from the “I’m Your Pusher” video!


I also remember how pivotal Ice-T’s track “Colors” was to me. The song was featured on the soundtrack of the 1988 film Colors, a movie highlighting the gangs of Los Angeles, California.


The song and film were impactful to be, because friends I maintained in Aurora, Colorado and Amarillo, Texas were gang-affiliated, and “Colors” accurately illustrated their expressed mentality. Even in early adulthood, I paid homage to the track through graffiti artwork.





My young and impressionable mind didn’t contemplate the lyrics of “Colors” in the same manner as I do currently. In particular, I examine the lyrical content through the lens of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) and see things quite differently than I did as a child.


Although the entire song is worth evaluating, I’ll stick with the fourth verse herein:


I’ll just walk like a giant, police defiant

You’ll say to stop but I’ll say that I can’t

My gang’s my family, it’s all that I have

I’m a star on the walls, is my autograph

You don’t like it, so, you know where you can go

‘Cause the streets are my stage and terror’s my show

It wasn’t your brother that brutally died

But it was mine, so let me define

My territory; don’t cross the line

Don’t try to act crazy, ‘cause that shit don’t faze me

If you ran like a punk, it wouldn’t amaze me

‘Cause my color’s death

Though we all want peace

But our war won’t end

‘Till all wars cease


In my youth, it was as though there was some cosmic rule which required gang stacking (displaying gang signs) when “Colors” played. As Ice-T suggests, I saw myself as a “police defiant” youth and threw up gang signs to communicate my defiance.


The rapper states of gang-related activity, “You’ll say to stop but I’ll say that I can’t.” Back when I predominately hung out with gang members, the song “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” from the Bloods & Crips 1994 album Bangin’ on Wax 2... The Saga Continues conveyed similar sentiment.


The once popular phrase “can’t stop, won’t stop” represented the perception that one is unable to discontinue gang activity and even if one were able to, the individual is willfully committed to the cause. From an REBT perspective, I recognize this belief as a form of demandingness.


The phrase, and Ice-T’s use of it, suggests, “I must be loyal to the gang.” Giving an explanation for why the rapper believes this, Ice-T offered, “My gang’s my family, it’s all that I have.”


If I were seeing a client for behavioral health services and this justification were used, I’d assist with disputing the irrational belief which uses a dichotomous option. Is it true that the character depicted in the song has only an either-or option?


Let’s say I grant the premise that a person has no choice whatsoever than to join a gang. Must this person be one of the most violent members of the collective—bragging that the “streets are my stage and terror’s my show”?


Look, I can appreciate that Ice-T preemptively addressed those of us who may use behavioral health techniques in relation to his content (“Psychoanalyze tried diagnosin’ me, why?”). Nevertheless, I maintain that it’s important to interrogate self-disturbing beliefs.


Ice-T’s character in “Colors” uses the death of his brother as an excuse for poor behavior. Instead of this victimhood narrative, I’d encourage a similar client to understand how the ABC Model of REBT functions.


If the death of a sibling (Activating event) led to the result of one concluding, “My color’s death”—signifying murderous rage (Consequence), how would one explain that not everyone who loses a family member to violence winds up killing in retaliation?


I suggest that the Action-Consequence (A-C) connection isn’t necessarily how life works on an intrapersonal level. Rather, Ice-T’s character in “Colors” Believes something about the Activating event, and this unhelpful assumption causes an unproductive Consequence.


This is the Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection that can result in vengeance. When I used to work with inmates within local jails, the B-C connection accounted for virtually all reasons regarding the incarcerated status of my caseload.


People don’t have to become victims of their circumstances. We are capable of change. This behavioral adjustment begins with altering our unhelpful beliefs.


Ice-T ends his verse by stating, “Though we all want peace, but our war won’t end ‘till all wars cease.” This sentiment removes one’s personal ownership of behavior and instead distributes responsibility and accountability across all nations.


In my youth, I used to think in A-C consequence terms like this. I reasoned, “I wouldn’t have to hang out with gang members if it weren’t for the fact that some people want to hurt me, so I need to associate with gangsters who will protect me.”


In essence, I was saying that because there was a potential for violence, my condonation of violent behavior was justified. Therefore, no street-based violence would end until all global violence first ceased.


Life doesn’t function in this manner. I seriously doubt that any nation state even knew of my existence when I lived in Aurora or Amarillo in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Consequently, using regional conflicts to justify my poor behavior wasn’t rational. Likewise, it doesn’t make sense for Ice-T’s character in “Colors.”




Given his well-documented history, Ice-T is a hip hop legend. Herein, I chose to examine a verse from the rapper’s song “Colors.”


Using the behavioral health approach of REBT, I hope to have effectively demonstrated how self-disturbance can stem from one’s victimhood narrative, a B-C connection, and by shifting personal responsibility and accountability to others.


I was once like the character depicted in “Colors” and I’ve worked with clients who’ve experienced similar backgrounds. Since understanding that my unhelpful beliefs were what drove my unhealthy behavior, I’ve made necessary changes in how I approach life.


Now, I offer these techniques to others in my personal and professional life. If you’d like to change your outcomes, rather than lying to yourself using irrational beliefs, I may be able to help you, too.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




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