Ice-T and Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi.
By the time Black Sabbath took ten days to record their eighteenth record Forbidden, they had parted ways twice with vocalist Ronnie James Dio, as well as another Sabbath vocalist, Tony Martin. Dio would go back to his solo work, and Martin would return to Sabbath for Forbidden. Dio really dodged a bullet as Forbidden would go down in history as one one of the Black Sabbath’s biggest blunders, kind of like Metallica’s Lulu. This is not meant to knock Iommi’s superior riffs or the thunder brought by Bill Ward’s replacement, Cozy Powell, or to be dismissive of the multi-talented Tony Martin who, among other things, can play the fuck out of the bagpipes. Alas the combination of star power and talent does not always result in righteous ear candy.
For many fans, Forbidden falls below the categorization of “For Fans Only” to a spot lower on the rock and roll ruler somewhere around, as Blender magazine called it, “the band’s worst album.” Of course, not everyone hates Forbidden, including Tony Iommi who began the process of remastering the album in early 2018 saying he hoped to release it sometime this year. In all honesty, I do not hate this record and if you think you do, or should, maybe give it another listen. So how was Ice-T enlisted to provide some vocal assistance for the song “Illusion of Power,” which was written by Ice and Tony Martin?
For Forbidden, Sabbath brought in Detroit-born guitarist Ernie C (Ernie Cunnigan) to produce the album. Ernie and Ice-T go way back to high school, where they first met in 1975, and has been playing with Ice in Body Count for nearly three decades. Ernie headed to Par Street Studios in Liverpool to record with Sabbath completing it in just ten days. Here’s more from an interview with Tony Martin and Cozy Powell talking about when they heard Ice-T was going to “rap” on the album:
Tony Martin: We had a phone call basically. He wanted to work with us. Tony went to meet him, they got on well, and from Ice-T, Ernie C was recommended to us as a producer for some of the tracks on the album, so it all started to develop, step by step. And in the end, Ernie ended up producing the whole album, which is quite good. His input really was a “feel”-thing, all the songs were already written by the time he got there. Well, you see, we didn’t know what he was gonna sing…In fact, he didn’t know what we were gonna write, and we didn’t know what he was gonna rap! So it was kind of rap by post if you like. We did the songs in the UK, sent one of them over to him, he rapped on it and sent it back. It turned out quite good.
Cozy Powell: I mean, if it had been a typical rap-thing with us it would have been ridiculous, but what he’s done on the track is actually really good.
Tony Martin: It is different, but that’s the point, it was supposed to be.
Cozy Powell: It was meant to be a guest appearance on one track, nothing more. It’s just a little bit different.
Tony Martin: We had to ask a lot of questions… It’s not something that sort of came up, like, “oh yeah, let’s do that,” we all looked at each other and went: “Are you sure ??” Do we really wanna do this? But it turned out good.
Cozy Powell: I think Ice and Ernie were a lot influenced by Sabbath anyway, so…That was where the connection originally came from, not that we absolutely wanted some rappers on a Sabbath-album..!
Cozy Powell: Goodness only knows…! We’ll probably have Madonna on the next!
Tony Martin: (laughs) NOT!!”
Martin has also been quoted saying that during the process of recording Forbidden, the band seemed to be okay with making what he called a “rap Sabbath” record. Which really makes no sense as Ice’s lyrical contribution to the song is a whopping sixteen seconds long. And he phoned it in from Los Angeles, so there’s that. The song is posted below. You have been warned.
“Illusion of Power” featuring vocals by Ice-T.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The curious case of Black Sabbath guitar god Tony Iommi and his very 70s sweater collection
‘Kiss My Baadasssss: Ice-T’s Guide To Blaxploitation’
Black & Blue: The infamous riot at a Black Sabbath & Blue Öyster Cult gig in Milwaukee, 1980
Black Sabbath’s 1972 cocaine budget: $75,000
Did Black Sabbath lift the opening riff from ‘Paranoid’?
Metal Gods: Rob Halford of Judas Priest fronts Black Sabbath in 1992