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"I've been dogged out by cops, shackled and socked. Paid my dues to the streets, took my hard knocks"
—Ice T, "Squeeze The Trigger"
Tracy Marrow (born February 16, 1958), better known by his stage name Ice-T, is a Grammy Award and NAACP Image Award-winning American rapper, actor and author. He is credited with helping in pioneering gangsta rap in the late 1980s. As an actor, he is best known for his portrayal of NYPD Detective Odafin "Fin" Tutuola on the NBC police drama Law and Order Special Victims Unit. Although one of West Coast hip hop's leading figures, Marrow, was actually born in urban Newark, New Jersey, and christened Tracy by his father. When he was a child, he moved from his native Newark to the upscale community of Summit, New Jersey. His mother died of a heart attack when he was in third grade and his father died of a heart attack four years later.
After his father died, he went to live with his paternal aunt in California and later attended Crenshaw High School in South Central Los Angeles; his time there included the beginnings of the Crip/Blood gang wars, and it was there that he became obsessed with rap. After high school, he entered the United States Army and served for four years as a ranger in the Schofield Barracks 25th Infantry, home of the legendary "Tropic Lightning" unit. Ice has stated that while for the first half of his tour, he took pride in being the best he could at whatever he was assigned to, by the end of his four years he was simply wanting to get back to civilian life.
Upon returning to his old neigborhood, Ice found that the gang violence between Crips and Bloods had escalated, and many of his old high school friends were now either professional thieves or in jail. After several months of being kept on the outside, Ice was brought into the group, and he quickly found that his military career had inadvertently given him the tools to plan efficient, effective and non-violent crimes. His 'crew' subsequently went on a crime spree(mostly jewelery store robberies) that ran up and down the west coast, and in some cases even the Midwest. Ice also experimented with being a pimp, and dabbled in pushing cocaine before deciding he didn't have the temperment to be a drug dealer.
After staying out all night clubbing, Ice was returning to his home when he fell asleep at the wheel and his car rolled into an intersection, where he was broadsided. Recuperating from his life-threatening injuries(a broken pelvis, left shoulder, arm, and both upper and lower legs) took months, and a further long period of physical rehabilitation rendered him unable to return to his life of crime. While recovering from the accident, Ice decided that his life of crime had run its course, and began to focus on his DJing and rapping full-time.
After recording several "party" style records, Ice cut the track that made him famous: "6 In The Mornin'", and along with a cameo in Breakin!), landed a deal with major label Sire Records. When label founder and president Seymour Stein heard his demo, he said, "He sounds like Bob Dylan." Shortly after, he released his debut album Rhyme Pays in 1987 supported by DJ Evil E, DJ Aladdin and producer Afrika Islam, who helped create the mainly party-oriented sound. The record wound up being certified gold by the RIAA. That same year, he recorded the title theme song for Dennis Hopper's Colors, a film about inner-city life in Los Angeles. His next album Power was released in 1988, under his own label Rhyme Syndicate, and it was a more assured and impressive record, earning him strong reviews and his second gold record. Released in 1989, The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech... Just Watch What You Say established his popularity by matching excellent abrasive music with narrative and commentative lyrics.
In 1991 he released his album O.G. Original Gangster, which is regarded as one of the albums that defined gangsta rap. On OG, he introduced his Hardcore Punk and Thrash Metal band Bodycount in a track of the same name. Ice-T toured with Body Count on the first annual Lollapalooza concert tour in 1991, gaining him appeal among middle-class teenagers and fans of alternative music genres. The self-titled debut album by Body Count followed.
- 6 In The Mornin
- Squeeze the Trigger
- I'm Your Pusher
- High Rollers
- Girls L.G.B.N.A.F
- Lethal Weapon
- You Played Yourself
- The Tower
- Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous
- O.G. Original Gangster
- New Jack Hustler
- I Must Stand
- Rhyme Pays 1987
- Power 1988
- The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech...Just Watch What You Say 1989
- O.G. Original Gangster 1991
- Home Invasion 1993
- VI – Return of the Real 1996
- The Seventh Deadly Sin 1999
- Gangsta Rap 2006
His music provide examples of
- Adorkable: Sometimes. On meeting his wife, he has mentioned that one line he used in response to her only liking nice boys was "You should date me. Because if you add an n to Ice, you get nice."
- Badass Bookworm: Both in real life and as the character Danny Up/Danny Cort from New York Undercover, who was a tech-savvy nerd gangster.
- Banned in China: One of his songs was the first target of the new Hungarian media law.
- Child Soldier: The Hunted Child is a first-person account of a scared young gang-banger on the run.
- Cool Old Guy
- Darker and Edgier: The Iceberg album is his darkest album to date even by today's standards, and probably one of the first dark and edgy rap albums. Consisting of very dark samples and synthesizers. One track had a sample that was lifted from the Terminator movie. Not the theme but the song that's played during the last chase sequence.
- Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: Not all the time, as Ice narrates the feelings of paranoia, isolation, and fear. So this is mostly subverted.
- Gangsta Rap
- Justified Criminal: His music contains heavy doses of this trope.
- One of Us: He's a pretty big gamer, as evident from his Twitter.
- Sampling: Put to good use by combining Black Sabbath and Jello Biafra on the Iceberg album intro, "Pusherman" on "I'm Your Pusher", Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath on "Midnight" (a Prequel to his "6 In The Mornin'") and John Carpenter's Halloween theme on "The Tower".
- Prison: He talks about the prison industrial complex, and in the song called The Tower he talks about what it takes to survive in said institution to bone chilling effect.
- Three Chords and the Truth: Ice wanted the production to be strong but simple. As he wanted listeners to pay attention to what he was saying.
- Prison: Metaphorically, Ice sees the inner cities as an economic prison.
- Shrouded in Myth: He addresses a few in his autobiography. For example, his parents were not killed in a car crash, and in fact died of heart attacks two years apart from each other.
- Voice of the Resistance
- X Meets Y: The Iceberg album is essentially Hip Hop/Gangsta Rap meets Nineteen Eighty-Four.