Just-Ice (b. Joseph Williams) a former bouncer at punk clubs, was the first of the New York MCs to embrace gangsta rap (although he hardly ever used foul language), and when he burst out of Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, as Just-Ice, he gained instant notoriety. Muscle-bound, tattooed, aggressive?he resembled Mike Tyson in more than just looks?and with a mouthful of gold teeth, he certainly stood out. His debut album Back to the Old School proved he was more than just a pretty face.
It came out on the independent New York label Fresh/Sleeping Bag label in 1986, and sounded like no other hip-hop album, thanks to his fast, forceful rhymes, Cool DMX's human beatbox, and the distinctive production of Mantronix's Kurtis Mantronik. Ice was also one of the first MCs to embrace the teachings of the Nation of Gods and Earths on a recording, as well as being a pioneer in incorporating dancehall reggae-style toasting into hip-hop rhymes.
When he was held by Washington, D.C., police regarding the murder of a drug dealer in 1987 ("Murder, Drugs, and the Rap Star" read a Washington Post headline), it gave him an even greater notoriety (he was never charged with the murder). Declaring war on D.C.'s go-go scene and loudly criticizing Run-D.M.C. (then the ruling New York hip-hop outfit), Just-Ice set a pattern for many a future hip-hop feud. Little could halt Just-Ice's ascension to hip hop stardom, though the departure of Mantronik from Sleeping Bag was a bad omen. KRS-One stepped in to produce 1987's Kool & Deadly, an album that swapped Mantronik's hi-tech skills for raw, elemental beats and rhymes. The British and New York public that had so enthusiastically embraced Back to the Old School were indifferent about this one, and 1989's The Desolate One (with KRS-One back in the producer's seat) was no great improvement. By 1990, both Just-Ice and Sleeping Bag appeared to be quickly fading as a new generation of MCs and labels overtook them. He continued to release albums at intervals across the 1990s, but they were on tiny independent labels, although one, 1993's Gun Talk, had major-label distribution and had five of the album's 10 cuts produced by Kurtis Mantronik; and were rarely noticed. Just-Ice was a member of hip-hop super session, the Stop The Violence Movement, which released one single ("Self Destruction") in 1990.