Tracy Lauren Marrow (born February 16, 1958), better known by his stage name Ice-T, is an American rapper, songwriter, actor, and producer. He began his career as an underground rapper in the 1980s and was signed to Sire Records in 1987, when he released his debut album Rhyme Pays. The following year, he founded the record label Rhyme $yndicate Records (named after his collective of fellow hip-hop artists called the "Rhyme $yndicate") and released another album, Power, which would go platinum. He also released several other albums that went gold.
Tracy Lauren Marrow, the son of Solomon and Alice Marrow, was born in Newark, New Jersey on February 16, 1958. Solomon was African-American and his mother Alice was from a Louisiana Creole background. For decades, Solomon worked as a conveyor belt mechanic at the Rapistan Conveyor Company. When Marrow was a child, his family moved to upscale Summit, New Jersey. The first time race played a major part in Marrow's life was at the age of seven, when he became aware of the racism leveled by his white friends towards black children. Marrow surmised that he escaped similar treatment because they thought that he was white due to his lighter skin. Relaying this incident to his mother, she told him, "Honey, people are stupid"; her advice and this incident taught Marrow to control the way the negativity of others affected him.
In 1975, at the age of seventeen, Marrow began receiving Social Security benefits resulting from the death of his father and used the money to rent an apartment for $90 a month. He sold cannabis and stole car stereos to earn extra cash, but he was not making enough to support his pregnant girlfriend. After his daughter was born, Marrow enlisted in the United States Army in October 1977. Following basic training, Marrow was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division. During his time in the army Marrow was involved with a group of soldiers charged with the theft of a rug. While awaiting trial, he received a $2,500 bonus check and went absent without leave (AWOL), returning a month later, after the rug had been returned. Marrow received a non-judicial punishment as a consequence of his dereliction of duty.
On March 20, 1976, Marrow's high school girlfriend Adrienne gave birth to their daughter LeTesha Marrow, and they continued attending high school while raising her. While filming Breakin' in 1984, he met his second girlfriend Darlene Ortiz, who was at the club where the film was shot. They began a relationship and Ortiz was featured on the covers of Rhyme Pays and Power. Ice-T and Ortiz had a son, Ice Tracy Marrow Jr., on November 23, 1991.
Marrow learned from his commanding officer that he could receive an early honorable discharge because he was a single father. Taking advantage of this, Marrow was discharged as a Private First Class (PFC - E3) in December 1979 after serving for two years and two months.
Ice-T's friends Al P. and Sean E. Sean went to prison. Al P. was caught in 1982 and sent to prison for robbing a high-end jewelry store in Laguna Niguel for $2.5 million in jewelry. Sean was arrested for possession of not only cannabis, which Sean sold, but also material stolen by Ice-T. Sean took the blame and served two years in prison. Ice-T stated that he owed a debt of gratitude to Sean because his prison time allowed him to pursue a career as a rapper. Concurrently, he wound up in a car accident and was hospitalized as a John Doe because he did not carry any form of identification due to his criminal activities. After being discharged from the hospital, he decided to abandon the criminal lifestyle and pursue a professional career rapping. Two weeks after being released from the hospital, he won an open mic competition judged by Kurtis Blow.
In 1982, Ice-T met producer Willie Strong from Saturn Records. In 1983, Strong recorded Ice-T's first single, "Cold Wind Madness", also known as "The Coldest Rap", an electro hip-hop record that became an underground success, becoming popular even though radio stations did not play it due to the song's hardcore lyrics. That same year, Ice-T released "Body Rock", another electro hip-hop single that found popularity in clubs. In 1984, Ice-T released the single "Killers", the first of his political raps, and then was a featured rapper on "Reckless", a single by DJ Chris "The Glove" Taylor and (co-producer) David Storrs. This song was almost immediately followed up with a sequel entitled "Reckless Rivalry (Combat)", which was featured in the Breakin' sequel, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, however it was never featured on the soundtrack album and, to this day, has never been released. Ice later recorded the songs "Ya Don't Quit" and "Dog'n the Wax (Ya Don't Quit-Part II)" with Unknown DJ, who provided a Run–D.M.C.-like sound for the songs.
Ice-T decided to adopt Schoolly D's style, and wrote the lyrics to his first gangsta rap song, "6 in the Mornin'", in his Hollywood apartment, and created a minimal beat with a Roland TR-808. He compared the sound of the song, which was recorded as a B-side on the single "Dog'n The Wax", to that of the Beastie Boys. The single was released in 1986, and he learned that "6 in the Mornin'" was more popular in clubs than its A-side, leading Ice-T to rap about Los Angeles gang life, which he described more explicitly than any previous rapper. He intentionally did not represent any particular gang, and wore a mixture of red and blue clothing and shoes to avoid antagonizing gang-affiliated listeners, who debated his true affiliation.
Ice-T finally landed a deal with a major label Sire Records. When label founder and president Seymour Stein heard his demo, he said Ice-T sounded 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 Recording Industry Association of America. That same year, he recorded the title theme song for Dennis Hopper's Colors, a film about inner-city gang 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 the same year, he appeared on Hugh Harris' single "Alice".
On LL's response, "To da Break of Dawn" in 1990, he dissed Kool Moe Dee (whose feud with LL was far more publicized) as well as MC Hammer. He then devoted the third verse of the song to dissing Ice-T, mocking his rap ability ("take your rhymes around the corner to rap rehab"), his background ("before you rapped, you was a downtown car thief"), and his style ("a brother with a perm deserves to get burned"). He also suggested that the success of Power was due to the appearance of Ice-T's girlfriend Darlene on the album cover. Ice-T appeared to have ignored the insults and he had also defended LL Cool J after his arrest in the song "Freedom of Speech".
In 1991, he embarked on a serious acting career, portraying police detective Scotty Appleton in Mario Van Peebles' action thriller New Jack City, gang leader Odessa (alongside Denzel Washington and John Lithgow) in Ricochet (1991), gang leader King James in Trespass (1992), followed by a notable lead role performance in Surviving the Game (1994), in addition to many supporting roles, such as J-Bone in Johnny Mnemonic (1995), and the marsupial mutant T-Saint in Tank Girl (1995). He was also interviewed in the Brent Owens documentary Pimps Up, Ho's Down, in which he claims to have had an extensive pimping background before getting into rap. He is quoted as saying "once you max something out, it ain't no fun no more. I couldn't really get no farther." He goes on to explain his pimping experience gave him the ability to get into new businesses. "I can't act, I really can't act, I ain't no rapper, it's all game. I'm just working these niggas." Later he raps at the Players Ball.
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 heavy metal band Body Count 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 album Body Count was released in March 1992. For his appearance on the heavily collaborative track "Back on the Block", a composition by jazz musician Quincy Jones that "attempt[ed] to bring together black musical styles from jazz to soul to funk to rap", Ice-T won a Grammy Award for the Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, an award shared by others who worked on the track including Jones and fellow jazz musician Ray Charles.
Ice-T co-founded the heavy metal band Body Count, which he introduced on his 1991 rap album O.G. Original Gangster, on the track titled "Body Count". The band released its self-titled debut album in 1992. Ice-T encountered controversy over his track "Cop Killer", the lyrics of which discussed killing police officers. He asked to be released from his contract with Warner Bros. Records, and his next solo album, Home Invasion, was released later in February 1993 through Priority Records. Body Count's next album, Born Dead, was released in 1994, and Ice-T released two more albums in the late 1990s.
In 1993, Ice-T, along with other rappers and the three Yo! MTV Raps hosts Ed Lover, Doctor Dré, and Fab 5 Freddy starred in the comedy Who's the Man?, directed by Ted Demme. In the movie, he is a drug dealer who gets really frustrated when someone calls him by his real name, "Chauncey", rather than his street name, "Nighttrain".
Ice-T had also collaborated with certain other heavy metal bands during this time period. For the film Judgment Night, he did a duet with Slayer on the track "Disorder". In 1995, Ice-T made a guest performance on Forbidden by Black Sabbath. Another album of his, VI – Return of the Real, was released in 1996, followed by The Seventh Deadly Sin in 1999.
In 1995, Ice-T had a recurring role as vengeful drug dealer Danny Cort on the television series New York Undercover, co-created by Dick Wolf. His work on the series earned him the 1996 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. In 1997, he co-created the short-lived series Players, produced by Wolf. This was followed by a role as pimp Seymour "Kingston" Stockton in Exiled: A Law & Order Movie (1998). These collaborations led Wolf to add Ice-T to the cast of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Since 2000 he has portrayed Odafin "Fin" Tutuola, a former undercover narcotics officer transferred to the Special Victims Unit. In 2002, the NAACP awarded Ice-T with a second Image Award, again for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, for his work on Law & Order: SVU.
In 1997, Ice-T had a pay-per-view special titled Ice-T's Extreme Babes which appeared on Action PPV, formerly owned by BET Networks.
In 1999, Ice-T starred in the HBO movie Stealth Fighter as a United States Naval Aviator who fakes his own death, steals an F-117 stealth fighter, and threatens to destroy United States military bases. He also acted in the movie Sonic Impact, released the same year.
Ice-T married swimsuit model Nicole "Coco" Austin in January 2002. In celebration of their impending ninth wedding anniversary, the couple renewed their wedding vows on June 4, 2011. As of 2006, they owned a penthouse apartment in North Bergen, New Jersey. In 2012, they were building a five-bedroom house in Edgewater, New Jersey, that was expected to be completed by the end of the year. In 2015, the couple had their first child together, a daughter.
Ice-T split amicably with Sire/Warner Bros. Records after a dispute over the artwork of the album Home Invasion. He then reactivated Rhyme Syndicate and formed a deal with Priority Records for distribution. Priority released Home Invasion in the spring of 1993. The album peaked at No. 9 on Billboard magazine's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and at No. 14 on the Billboard 200, spawning several singles including "Gotta Lotta Love", "I Ain't New Ta This" and "99 Problems" – which would later inspire Jay-Z to record a version with new lyrics in 2003. In 2003 he released the single "Beat of Life" with Sandra Nasić, Trigga tha Gambler and DJ Tomekk and placed in the German charts.
On October 20, 2006, Ice-T's Rap School aired and was a reality television show on VH1. It was a spin-off of the British reality show Gene Simmons' Rock School, which also aired on VH1. In Rap School, rapper/actor Ice-T teaches eight teens from York Preparatory School in New York called the "York Prep Crew" ("Y.P. Crew" for short). Each week, Ice-T gives them assignments and they compete for an imitation gold chain with a microphone on it. On the season finale on November 17, 2006, the group performed as an opening act for Public Enemy.
His first rap album since 1999, Gangsta Rap, was released on October 31, 2006. The album's cover, which "shows [Ice-T] lying on his back in bed with his ravishing wife's ample posterior in full view and one of her legs coyly draped over his private parts", was considered to be too suggestive for most retailers, many of which were reluctant to stock the album. Some reviews of the album were unenthusiastic, as many had hoped for a return to the political raps of Ice-T's most successful albums.
In 2007, Ice-T appeared as a celebrity guest star on the MTV sketch comedy show Short Circuitz. Also in late 2007, he appeared in the short-music film Hands of Hatred, which can be found online.
In June 2008, on DJ Cisco's Urban Legend mixtape, Ice-T criticized Soulja Boy (whose name is DeAndre Way) for "killing hip hop" and called his song "Crank That" "garbage" compared to the works of other hip-hop artists such as Rakim, Das EFX, Big Daddy Kane and Ice Cube. One of the comments exchanged was Ice-T telling Way to "eat a dick". The two then traded numerous videos back and forth over the Internet. These videos included a cartoon and video of Ice-T dancing on Way's behalf and an apology, but reiteration of his feelings that Way's music "sucks", on Ice-T's behalf. Musician Kanye West defended Way saying, "He came from the 'hood, made his own beats, made up a new saying, new sound and a new dance with one song".
On June 5, 2008, Ice-T joked that he would be voting for John McCain in the 2008 American elections, speculating that his past affiliation with Body Count could hurt Barack Obama's chances if he endorsed him, so he would choose instead to ruin McCain's campaign by saying he supported him.
In July 2010, Marrow was mistakenly arrested. A month later when Marrow attended court, the charges were dropped and the prosecution stated "there had been a clerical error when the rapper was arrested". Marrow gave some advice to young people who think going to jail is a mark of integrity, saying, "Street credibility has nothing to do with going to jail, it has everything to do with staying out."
On June 12, 2011, E! reality show Ice Loves Coco debuted. The show is mostly about his relationship with his wife, Nicole "Coco" Austin.
In November 2011, Ice-T announced via Twitter that he was in the process of collecting beats for his next LP which was expected sometime during 2012, but as of October 2014 , the album has not been released. A new Body Count album, Bloodlust, was released in 2017. After the release of the album, responding to an interview question asking if he's "done with rap", he answered "I don't know" and noted that he's "really leaning more toward EDM right now". Body Count received their second Grammy nomination and later won the award at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards in 2021 for "Best Metal Performance" with their song "Bum-Rush" from the album Carnivore.
During an episode of The Adam Carolla Podcast that aired on June 6, 2012, Marrow claimed that after being discharged from the Army, he began a career as a bank robber. Marrow claimed he and some associates began conducting take-over bank robberies "like [in the film] Heat". Marrow then elaborated, explaining, "Only punks go for the drawer, we gotta go for the safe." Marrow also stated he was glad the United States justice system has statutes of limitations, which had likely expired when Marrow admitted to his involvement in multiple Class 1 Felonies in the early-to-mid 1980s.
In August 2012, Ice-T said that the rivalry was "never serious" and that he needed a nemesis to create "an exciting dispute".
On December 27, 2013, Ice-T announced that he was entering podcasting in a deal with the Paragon Collective. Ice-T co-hosts the Ice-T: Final Level podcast with his longtime friend, Mick Benzo (known as Zulu Beatz on Sirius XM). They discuss relevant issues, movies, video games, and do a behind the scenes of Law & Order: SVU segment with featured guests from the entertainment world. The show will release new episodes bi-weekly. Guests have included Jim Norton. Ice-T released his first episode on January 7 to many accolades.
As an actor, Ice-T played small parts in the films Breakin' and its sequels, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo and Rappin', during the 1980s, before his major role debut, starring as police detective Scotty Appleton in New Jack City (1991). He received top billing for his role in Surviving the Game (1994) and continued to appear in small roles in TV series and other films throughout the 1990s. Since 2000, he has portrayed NYPD Detective/Sergeant Odafin Tutuola on the NBC police drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. A reality television show titled Ice Loves Coco ran for three seasons (2011–2013) on E!, featuring the home life of Ice-T and his wife Coco Austin. In 2018, he began hosting the true crime documentary In Ice Cold Blood on the Oxygen cable channel, which as of 2020 is in its third season.
In July 2019, Ice-T released his first solo hip hop track in 10 years, titled "Feds in My Rearview". The track is the first in a trilogy, with the second track, "Too Old for the Dumb Shit", described as a prequel to "Feds in My Rearview", and released in September 2019. Ice-T was also featured on the 2020 hip hop posse cut "The Slayers Club" alongside R.A. the Rugged Man, Brand Nubian and others.
In 2020, Ice-T competed on The Masked Singer spin-off The Masked Dancer where he portrayed "Disco Ball" and was the first to be eliminated.