You have already met Darlene Ortiz. At least you have if you have ever encountered the cover photos for either of Ice T‘s first two album covers; Rhyme Pays and Power. In fact, if you happened to be at an impressionable age when Darlene graced the cover of Power in a dramatically revealing one piece, brandishing a pistol-grip pump shotgun, her likeness is most likely emblazoned on the back of your retina, or perhaps just buried in your subconscious, an archetypal image that flashes in your mind’s eye when you hear the word ‘fierce.’
As with many such mythic images, the story of the real woman behind the iconic visual is even stranger and more compelling than the players-club fantasies conjured up in the minds of Ice T’s young fans. For Darlene Ortiz was not just an anonymous model, dancer or video extra hired as eye-candy for the day. She was Ice T’s common law (and down-by-law) wife. As Ice blazed a trail for a new phenomenon called “West Coast Rap”–his career almost literally embodying a missing link of sorts between the early ’80s breakdance craze ( think his onscreen cameos in Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo and gangster rap (think of his title track for the Sean Penn vehicle Colors)–Ice and Darlene became rap’s very first power couple, decades before Kimye or Jayoncé.
It’s a fascinating story that leads from Hollywood to the halls of Congress and perhaps it was only a matter of time before Ortiz told it in her own memoir. That memoir is now here in the form of her new book Definition of Down, a flygirl on the wall view of hip-hop history you thought you knew; in the DJ booth at L.A.’s legendary Radiotron club, behind the scenes on the set of New Jack City–and inside the feelings and private life of the man who wrote “I’m Your Pusher”; “Original Gangster” and “Cop Killer.” Hanging tough through some pretty unimaginable plot twists long the way, Ortiz almost certainly earned herself another ‘first’ title: the culture’s first certified ride-or-die chick.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Miss Ortiz (now on her own, as you already guessed if you know much about Ice T’s reality TV relationships in the last few years) in the Okayplayer office when she passed through NYC recently and got our very own ‘DVD Extras’ to Definition Of Down direct from the source. We now share those the highlights of that incredible and wide-ranging convo with you…