The Slauson Super Mall, home of Icee Fresh Jewelers, isn’t Rick Caruso’s latest Westside yuppie shopper’s paradise. You know what I’m sayin’? It’s a muthafuckin’ indoor swap meet in the heart of L.A.’s inner city—the ghetto Grove, goddamn it. But by virtue of Ben Baller’s personality and determination, Icee Fresh is the most profound bottom-up cultural phenomenon to spring out of the L.A. ‘hood since… well, since gangsta life itself. You don’t even know!
The Icee Fresh phenomenon—it’s hard to explain. You know what I’m sayin’? It’s not really about jewel-encrusted gold grills or the humongous chains and pendants that the rappers and black ballers wear. It’s more than that. It’s an attitude, a philosophy, a style. With Ben Baller aka K-Town Hu$tler as its MC, Icee Fresh is on the verge of becoming something those marketing MBAs call a brand.
Dig it. This how Ben Baller do. Although he talks in the epithet-riddled tongue and cadence of the inner city, this 34-year old, a Beverly Hills High alumnus, is UC Berkeley educated and the son of a UCLA history professor. He grew up in L.A.’s largely Latino Koreatown, muthafucka, and don’t forget it. Baller, along with cousins Jeff Hong and Steve Her, calls the shots at Icee Fresh. But Hong and Her seem content to stay in the background while BB, a onetime DJ and film student, works his magic with the media.
The past year has seen Icee Fresh receive unprecedented press. Remember, now, it’s based out of a swap meet. Still, their phones ring all day. Asian journals, fashion magazines, car magazines, white bread culture rags slumming, some cable network fool pitching a reality show. BB used to turn ‘em all down, but now he realizes the value of PR and even spends time talking with a sorry-ass Asian American news blogger.
Sometimes working the press pays off. Icee Fresh, this time with Jeff Hong out front, is featured in the anniversary issue of the acclaimed Good. Next month’s DUB magazine will feature a six-page spread on the Icee Fresh syndicate—thug life’s equivalent of knighthood beatification. Featured will be Her’s Bentley Continenal GT coupe, Hong’s Porsche 997 and the crew’s Lamborghini Gallardo and Rolls-Royce Phantom. “This is for special occasions—weddings—and when I’m stuntin’ crazy,” explains Baller. Pointing to a Suzuki crotch rocket, “We got the GSX R-1000 for when I feel like doin’ over 200 miles per hour like it’s nothin’.” Image is the message this Baller preaches.
If you haven’t already clicked on Paris Hilton’s mug, here’s just a taste of Ben Baller’s gift from YouTube. Watch tha boy slang that Icee Fresh.
Partner in fashion crime, Jonas Bevacqua, CEO of the L-R-G urban style house, sums up Baller’s game this way: “Ben Baller could sell ice to an eskimo and make him smile while he’s doin’ it.”
Baller’s six-word credo: “Living well is the best revenge.”