February 16 – Ice-T was born Tracy Marrow in Newark, New Jersey, on this day in 1958.
After the tragic early passing of both his parents just four years apart, Ice-T moved from the affluent neighborhood of Summit, New Jersey to the equally affluent Los Angeles, California area of View Park to live with his aunt and cousins just before starting Junior High.
By the time he began attending Crenshaw High School, Ice-T began memorizing the writings of Iceberg Slim, which he would recite in front of his schoolmates thus prompting his new nickname Ice-T.
After serving in The United States Army for four years, Ice-T took an interest in hip-hop music and began experimenting with DJ equipment he purchased in Hawaii where he was stationed during his time in the service.
After winning an open mic competition hosted by Kurtis Blow in the early 1980’s, Ice-T released his first single called “The Coldest Rap” on Saturn Records. “The Coldest Rap” was produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis of The Time and became somewhat of an underground sensation in the L.A. area.
After collaborating on a couple of singles with DJ Chris “The Glove” Taylor and Unknown DJ, Ice-T released the single “Dog ‘N The Wax” on Techno Hop Records in 1986. What Ice-T discovered however was that the B-side, “6 N The Mornin’,” was getting a lot more play in the clubs than the A-side. “6 N The Mornin’,” a gritty tale of urban crime and street life, was heavily influenced by Philly’s Schooly D. and his single “P.S.K. (What Does It Mean?).” Ice-T felt more at home with this subject matter which he was no stranger to, growing up in South Central Los Angeles.
In 1987, Ice-T inked a deal with Sire Records and released his gold selling debut album “Rhyme Pays” which was produced by Afrika Islam with assistance by DJ Evil E. and DJ Aladdin.
That same year Ice-T released the theme song to the Orion Pictures crime flick “Colors”, starring Robert Duvall and Sean Penn, which was directed by Dennis Hopper. The single became an instant classic and placed Ice-T’s name at the top of the West Coast hip-hop movement.
He released his sophomore set “Power” in 1988 which produced the hits “High Rollers” and the classic “I’m Your Pusher” which was heavily influenced by the late great Curtis Mayfield classic “Pusherman” from the “Superfly” soundtrack.
The “Superfly” character Priest from the classic 1972 Warner Bros. film, played by the late Ron O’Neal had a profound effect on Ice-T, with the rapper emulating his look and basing his album covers on the film’s soundtrack cover as well. Ice-T would even collaborate with Mayfield on the theme song to the 1990 third film installment called “The Return Of Superfly” on the track called “Supefly 1990.”
In 1989, Ice-T put out his third album “The Iceberg/Freedom Of Speech – Just Watch What You Say”, whose album title would be prophetic of things to come in the now popular rapper’s career. The album contained two more hits; “Lethal Weapon” and “You Played Yourself.”
In 1991, Ice-T released what many called his finest album ever “O.G. – Original Gangster”. The album contained the explosive hit title track as well as “New Jack Hustler (Nino’s Theme)”, which was also featured in the Warner Bros. film “New Jack City” released the same year. “New Jack City” was directed by Mario Van Peebles and starred Wesley Snipes and Ice-T himself as an undercover police officer. Ice-T had appeared briefly in smaller roles in the films “Breakin’”, “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo” and “Rappin’.”
“O.G.” also featured a track called “Body Count” which Ice-T used to introduce his new heavy metal band of the same name.
That same year, Body Count would perform at the first annual Lollapalooza Tour.
The following year Body Count released their Self-Entitled debut album on Sire Records. The album would be immediately overshadowed by the controversy over the song “Cop Killer.”
Debates over free speech and censorship would abound, with even then President Of The United States George H.W. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle repudiating the song. Even Parents Music Resource Center co-founder Tipper Gore called for the removal of the song from retail. Several law agencies from around the world called for the banning of the song and the boycott of Ice-T’s music and Time/Warner products, the parent company that owned Sire Records.
At a Time/Warner shareholders meeting even legendary actor Charlton Heston demanded the banning of the album.
The song, which was a protest record about the recent brutal beating of motorist Rodney King by L.A. police officers, was taken out of context by most and unfortunately distracted from the actual music of Body Count’s debut.
Eventually Ice-T of his own volition had a second edition of the album pressed without “Cop Killer” on it just so to not distract from the band’s overall artistic vision.
Eventually, Ice-T and Sire went their separate ways with the rapper releasing his next album, 1993’s “Home Invasion” on his own reactivated label Rhyme Syndicate Records which he started in the late 1980’s.
Rhyme Syndicate had a roster of several artists and was responsible for helping to launch the career of Everlast in the early 1990’s , who went on to fame with House Of Pain as well as being a successful solo artist.
Ice-T would release three more albums to date; 1996’s “VI – Return Of The Real”, 1999’s “The Seventh Seal” and 2006’s “Gangsta Rap” as well as three more albums with Body Count.
Three members of Body Count are now deceased with D-Roc and Beatmaster V passing away from cancer and Mooseman, the victim of a drive-by shooting.
Ice-T has toured the world over as a solo act as well as with Body Count and continues to do so with a reportedly new Body Count album in the works.
Over the years Ice-T has collaborated with the likes of Quincy Jones, Big Daddy Kane, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee and with Yours Truly on the anti-censorship joint “Sticka” on Terminator X’s 1994 sophomore album “Super Bad” which also featured Ice Cube and MC Lyte on the track.
Ice-T also was featured as a part of The West Coast Rap All-Stars on the anti violence posse single “We’re All In The Same Gang” which also featured N.W.A., Michel’le, Above The Law, Oaktown’s 3.5.7, Def Jef, MC Hammer, J.J. Fad, Digital Underground, King Tee, Body & Soul, Tone-Loc and Young MC.
Ice-T’s acting career has been just as prolific as his music career if not more, appearing in countless films like “Ricochet”, “Judgment Day”, “Trespass”, “The Heist”, “Gangland”, “Who’s The Man” and “Good Hair” just to name a mere few.
Ice-T has appeared extensively on television as well with cameos on “Fame”, “New York Undercover”, “L.A. Heat” and currently plays Detective Odafin Tutuola on NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” , a role he’s had since 2000.
In 2006, Ice-T starred in the VH1’s reality show “Ice-T’s Rap School”, based on the similar Gene Simmons rock version of the show, in which the winning contestants from a New York prep school would open for Yours Truly and Public Enemy in the season finale.
In 2011, he starred with his wife Nicole “Coco” Austin on the E! Channel reality show “Ice Loves Coco.”
Ice-T has written several books, most notably “Ice – A Memoir Of Gangster Life And Redemption – From South Central To Hollywood”, “The Ice Opinion” and “Kings Of Vice.”
Ice-T won a Grammy Award in 1990 for his participation on Quincy Jones’s “Back On The Block” album.
Ice-T has been one of the most popular and recognizable figures in hip-hop history and along with Oakland’s Too $hort basically put West Coast hip-hop on the map. He’s influenced an array of hip-hop artists including Ice Cube, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G. Rap, The Game, 50 Cent, N.W.A. and Jay-Z.