Colors

Album: Colors Soundtrack (1988)
Charted: 70

Songfacts®:

  • This is the theme song to the 1988 movie Colors, about two white cops (Sean Penn and Robert Duvall) working in the gang-infested streets of Los Angeles. The "colors" are the gang colors, representing affiliation.

    In the song, Ice-T portrays a gang-banger full of menace and defiance. In Ice-T's rendering, he's not evil, but misunderstood and a victim of circumstance.
  • Ice-T was more of a street hustler than a gang-banger, and he didn't drink or do drugs. This combination of authenticity and sobriety made him a great choice for this song, as he kept it real but made it accessible to those looking in from the outside.

    "If you listen to Ice-T records I'm not so much a gangsta as I am a victim of gangsta-ism," he explained in Blues & Soul. In "Colors" I'm trying to figure it out."
  • Ice-T considers this the most important track of his career. "Before 'Colors' came out, people thought the West Coast was David Lee Roth, and no one knew about the gang culture," he said in a 2018 Songfacts interview. "Now, the gang culture is to the point where the president is talking about MS-13 and things of that nature.

    If you listen to 'Colors' closely, it breaks down the mentality of the gang member. I still close my rap shows with 'Colors.' I think that's the biggest, most powerful record I ever did."
  • He wasn't in the movie, but in 1991 Ice-T had a lead role in another film set in a seedy crime culture, New Jack City, where he played a cop. In 1992, his hardcore group Body Count released a song called "Cop Killer" that earned him the ire of law enforcement and got him dropped from his label, but it also established him as a fearless voice in the face of authority. A few years later, his acting career took off, and in 2000 he landed a role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, again as a cop.
  • Ice-T's 1987 debut album Rhyme Pays led to his work on Colors. That album was one of the first to get a parental advisory label, which earned him credibility and notoriety. "Colors" was his first charting hit and his first song to get attention outside of the hip-hop community. His only other charting entry on the Hot 100 is his theme to New Jack City, which made #67.
  • Ice-T wrote and produced this with his collaborator Afrika Islam, who was also on the scene as hip-hop was getting started.
  • By our count, the word "colors" appears 134 times in this song.
  • The Colors title track was going to be a song written for the film by Rick James, who grew up in Buffalo, New York and was far removed from gang culture. James delivered a keyboard-driven cut with none of the menace evoked in the movie.

    Colors producers initially contacted Ice-T asking to use "Squeeze The Trigger," a song from his first album, in the film. When he saw a screening and heard the Rick James title track, Ice knew he could beat it. He and Afrika Islam came up with "Colors," submitted it as the title track, and the producers loved it. James' song was re-titled "Everywhere I Go (Colors)" and included as the last song on the soundtrack.

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