Album Review: Ice Cream Tee-Can’t Hold Back (1989)


Ice Cream Tee is a talented and over-looked lyricist from Philly. Some of the reasoning behind her limited notoriety might be attributed to a few factors. First off, her name is not only a bit, “silly”, but also likely to give people the vision of a more playful rap artist. In all honesty, that vibe is exactly how she entered the game. Her debut was with an answer record, “Guys Ain’t Nothing But Trouble” that was featured on Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince debut album. Those two things lead to the next issue. Being labeled that way would more than likely steer away the exact fanbase who should hear this record. On the other hand, if she potentially snared in some fans thinking that was her vibe, they may have been disappointed to find an album filled with some of Jazzy Jay’s best production, with rough drums and a endless supply of classic breaks, along with DJ Miz (in his debut) flexing a vast array of complex, but funky rhythm scratches, and plenty of hardcore lyrics ranging from politics to clobbering mcs.

That’s not to say the album didn’t have “those” types of moments because it certainly did, which causes one to wonder if there was label pressure to try to capture a broader fanbase. Whether it was her choice or the label, it’s that decision that leads to a lopsided album. Of course, there are plenty of albums with similar problems, which still come out winning, but the biggest problem here is the sequencing.

For the most part, all the albums weakest tracks are on first side, or “1 Scoop” as they went with here… The album comes in strong with “Can’t Hold Back”, also the first single, and is one of the albums finer moments. DJ Miz very well could be the shining star on this track with a rugged transformed bassline scratch, a theme executed perfectly through out the album. The lyrical peak takes place at the third verse where she drops knowledge on the record business. First she launches an attack on a rap rival and then hits ‘em with this, “Ya know what forget it, don’t need another fairy tale/enough drama, the record won’t sell/Artist get jerked cause he wanna be jerked, scared, afraid to know how the business work I’m living to learn something you don’t know yet, like before you press this hand me a check”. Following that she goes on a freestyle rant about everything from drug addiction, crime, to freedom of speech. I suppose that’s the purpose of the song, she can no longer hold back all the things inside of her that have been bothering her for too long.

With the exception of “My Duty”, the remaining five tracks from the “1 Scoop” side come off as target market attempts. “Let’s Work” is a Hip House track, sporting the obligatory Roland TR-909 snares and was the oddly chosen second single (on a 12” with no b-sides). “College Blues” finds her revisiting her same playful delivery from “Guys Ain’t Nuthing But Trouble”. This was probably the song most likely to “blow up”, but far as I know, they didn’t even release it as a single. There was some decent potential for a College marketing plan for this. On the track, she details her first days of College and the differences, troubles, and benefits of Post High School Education. “All Wrong” is delivered as the love song, but in actuality it goes a bit deeper than that. Honestly I never gave it a chance back in the day, I had an un-regretted habit of skipping these types of songs. However, at a closer look her verses deal with inner family cheating, STDS, and Spousal abuse, providing some powerful messages, although admittedly it’s better in concept. “My Pockets Are Fat” is pretty explanatory and perfectly average. While the previously mentioned “My Duty” is basically a battle rhyme and a solid track, but it’s not her at her best.

However, moving past that is where things get kicked up several notches. Every song on the “2 Scoops” side is quality, with about half of them being excellent.

On “Come On”, DJ Miz is freaking some various bits and pieces from the Car Wash Soundtrack (including the “Right On” from Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” and various pieces of “Zig Zag”). Her voice and delivery is just teeming with confidence and I imagine that’s what masks the fact that’s she’s not really rhyming about anything particular...she’s just going for hers and doing it well. Once she’s got that out of the system she comes in on the next track, “National Speaker”, with the opening dialog, “Well I got something for the world, but I know you aren’t ready to hear it from a female”. I suppose that line alone could sum up the response to this album. Could it really be that simple? Is it just that the general public weren’t (and I suppose still aren’t) ready for there to be women counterparts to Big Daddy Kane, Chill Rob G, KRS One, Chuck D and other like minded MCs? I’m not suggesting Ice Cream Tee is worthy of the same praise as them but she was conveying similar messages and definitely is well deserving of more attention then she got. For example, I think it would advantageous for people to hear, “I must speak cause if I don’t rap will never change/People reciting the last letters of nickname/but, there’s no meaning?, conclusion is the wackest/Ice Cream Tee means Intelligent Communicating Tactics/Without any burn out lines that was caught up in the midst of a very hard dis/Speaking of a diss it must be the season/females dissing another female for no apparent reason/I just observe, tell the world what’s real and not real/they need to chill, we all clock the same bills/this industry is now an Architectural plot/the growth is unlimited, our mission is not the top/because the top is the present, within the present there’s time/I use my time to educate a Childs mind/I’m not at war with anyone on this particular song/the war is the public eye learning right from wrong/Race, it doesn’t matter we all breathe the same air/and when we die, we take the same road out of here/Where you will end up I guess is up to your religion,/but as far as I’m concerned it’s God’s decision/Ignorance cause a scandal from a leader/that’s why Betinna has arrived as your national speaker”.

“Ice Cream Tee Thing” is another solid battle battle rhyme over a laid back track. “To Be Continued” is an up-tempo braggadocio joint where she flexes her style nicely, but the song suffers from one of the lesser interesting beats on this album and one of the few songs without DJ Mizripping the wax, possibly the true missing element.

“New Revolution” is a one of the funkiest tracks on the album, which sounds like a pre-cursor to the Cypress Hill production sound. Ice Cream Tee shows her ability to be lyrical and stylish while simultaneously dropping knowledge.

The album comes to a close with “I Am The Epodess” for those not able to decipher the meaning, she states it in the beginning, “I just wanna tell you how I kick DOPE backwards”. As you may have guessed from that, this is just a testament to her skills and for her to expose the ego a little. She does just that with lines like, “Let’s face reality this girl is dope and every copy-written statement of rhyme I wrote” or “It doesn’t take a genius to do what I do, the only problem is it can’t be you”.

All in all, you have a twelve-track album with; five great tracks, three solid tracks, and four filler and/or easily replaceable tracks. Honestly, that’s a better track average than a lot of other albums from the same time that got more props.

The only other track I know from Ice Cream Tee is “Keep Hushing”, Produced by Tony Depula [R.I.P], from Jazzy Jay’s “Cold Chillin In The Studio” Compilation. Here she uses her “inner voice” to convey the songs title, but the content is still aggressive and the flow is swift and crisp.

Oh, and if anyone knows how to find Ice Cream Tee (a.k.a Bettina Clark) I’m all ears, I would love to interview her...

Can't Hold Back
[audio:|titles=01 Can't Hold Back]

Come On
[audio:|titles=08 Come On]

National Speaker
[audio:|titles=09 National Speaker]

The Epodess
[audio:|titles=12 I Am The Epodess]

D/L Album with Full 12 Panel Artwork (Lyrics Included)

Written By Kevin Beacham

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