Real Name: Tracey Marrow
D.O.B.: February 16th, 1958 Newark, New Jersey
Ice-T has shown to be through all definitions, the sole embodiment of west coast rap. A founding O.G. of the West’s movement, Ice-T’s career continues to be one of the most successful in hip-hop. His work has ran a continual momentum of success parallel to the contemporary styles of the times, without almost any media support, his music has remained on the underground and yet his longevity in the game has left an impression as one of the most established artists in West coast hip-hop. Ice-T is a monster in LA’s gangsta rap scene, his early movements in the underground LA rap scene set the trend for the most powerful force in the global music industry. Ice-T is also instrumental in fathering the crossover of gangsta rap and heavy rock, known as Urban-Rock or Rapcore. As well he paved the way for rap artists to establish careers as actors, marketed through mainstream TV as personalities and movie roles based on the hardcore character their music provides them with. Ice-T is one of those community elders who has been there, and done everything that today’s artists boast of. He is still today one of the most recognizable players in US hip-hop, the Original Gangster, MC Ice-T. Ice-T started his rap career becoming well-versed in the overall west coast scene of the hip-hop movement as it rolled right through California in the early 1980s. At a time when N.W.A. was being credited with the birth of gangsta rap, Ice-T wrote a track called “6 ‘n The Morning” that is now regarded as a seminal influence on the west coast’s upbringing of hip-hop. He became the first west coast artist to be accepted and adopted by the forefathers of hip-hop in the east coast. Before Eazycreated N.W.A.’s stringent gangsterism, Ice-T carried the reality and personification of the LA gang culture breathing heavily from within his early hardcore raps, Ice-T’s music was always respected by the neighbourhood inner-city market who had the power to shut down imitators of the game. A former Crip gangster, pimp, hustler and LA County ex-con there wasn’t a struggle he couldn’t speak on. His recordings were unmistakably direct on Public Enemy-style political awareness, KRS One’s social righteousness with overtones of N.W.A.’s brutal hedonism. He even grew too bad for gangsta rap by bridging over to pander to the animosity of head-banging white audiences with his hardcore urban rock outfit Body Count. However, Ice-T never did and never will lose what he was sent here to provide us with, HARDCORE and he is synonymous with this through any media medium he uses.
Before the Ice Broke
Young Tracey was born on the east coast, Newark New Jersey to be exact. When he was around the age of 12 he lost his parents in a car accident and spent his adolescent years on the west coast being cared for by relatives in South Central LA. He attended Crenshaw High School a heavily Hoover Crip gang populated school. He began dancing with the West Coast Locksmiths. Locking was a break dance-influenced dance created in the neighbouring Watts district in the early ’70s. He later danced with the Radio Crew seen in the 1983 documentary ‘Breakin and Enterin’. However at this stage as an impressionable teenager he was recruited in the street life and gang culture that plagued the inner cities of LA. Naturally as a student at Crenshaw High he ran with the notorious Hoovers and began reading ghetto-pulp literature on Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim the pimp-turned writer. Later this would be the main influence for his stage name as a recording artist. While at Crenshaw High he campaigned for the Crips by writing slogans “Crips don’t die, they multiply.” Using the poetry of Iceberg Slim and his player toastin’ format he would recite long rhymes, before thinking to put them to a beat. Like this one of Ice’s verses popular with his set (gang): “Strollin’ through the city in the middle of the night Niggas on my left and niggas on my right Yo I Cr-cr-cr-cripped every nigga I see If you bad enough come fuck with me.” While living in South Central he impregnated his high school girlfriend, fellow Hoover Criplette, Darlene whom he would later marry and stay with for over fifteen years. (Darlene posed for Ice-T’s two first album covers. On ‘O.G’ she stood in a skimpy white thong beside Ice hiding a 12 gauge shotgun behind her.) After high school, Ice joined the Army and served as a ranger in the 25th Infantry. He did not enjoy the experience explaining “I didn’t like total submission to a leader other than myself.” After four years, (1981) he returned to his streets in LA with intentions of being a dance promoter. He said, “I thought it would be an easy way to make money, but after I carted all that equipment to a couple of jams I said fuck this! I found out I could walk in there with a mic, get some money and walk out, and I didn’t have to carry no shit. So I started pushing toward being an MC versus a DJ.”
In the early ’80s he was discovered at a hair salon rhyming to impress the ladies and was convinced to immortalize his skills on wax. Ice was running with the pioneers of electronic-funk The Unknown DJ, Egyptian Lover and DJ Flash. His first recordings in ‘82 were the club-circuit favourite electro-funk classics “The Coldest Rap” and “Cold Wind Madness” released on Saturn Records. The recordings started a trend of long listed gold records despite receiving little to no air play due to the explicit nature of his lyrics by the rapper who was known becoming known as Ice-T. This controversy was never tamed in fact it became his major marketing tool in the future. Ice teamed up with a Mexican rapper, Arturo ‘Kid Frost’ Molina Jr. and together they performed raps at backyard parties and lowrider car shows throughout LA.
It was at this juncture when Ice-T met the forefather of the hip-hop culture itself, the legendary Afrika Bambaataa who was the spiritual presence behind the almighty Zulu Nation and was indoctrinated into the philosophy of their movement and soon he met Afrika Islam an early groundbreaking DJ and the New York Spinners Evil-E and Hen-G. All of whom he would forge great professional relationships with in the future. The unity he formed with the east coast fused an early symbolic bicoastal sound with the track “Colder Than Ever” with east’s heavier bass and Ice’s Swiss-like lyrics“The East started breakin’ but the West started poppin’ But what does it matter as long as it’s rockin’ A ghetto’s a ghetto, a street’s a street A hip is a hop and a beat is a beat So let’s all get down.” At local LA club called Radio, modelled of the Roxy’s ‘Wheels of Steel’ night resident performers Ice-T who was a renowned kingpin on the mic at the time would collaborate with the DJ Afrika Islam every night making it an infamous hotspot for west coast locking dancers and b-boys, hardcore hip-hoppers and gangsters. Fellow artist Kid Frost and his Chicano homies rolled up to the venue in lowriders sporting Pendleton shirts and khakis and introduce their brand of Latino pride. It was here where Carson Blood gang affiliated Samoans brothers (related by blood) pranced their Strutting dance moves and called themselves the Blue City Strutters, later they would be better known as the hardcore gangsta rap group Boo-Yaa TRIBE. In 1984 two years after recording his first twelve-inch record, Ice-T was invited to star in Breakin’ and Breakin’ II Electric Bugaloo - Hollywood’s depiction of the west coast’s rap scene. Although Ice-T had developed an acting interest he would not resume this facet of his career again until 1991 he was to first establish himself as an accomplished recording artist.
When T was offered a recording contract with Sire Records, a subsidiary company to parent Time Warner, he formed unity with some of L.A.’s finest underground rappers, DJs and associates calling them the Rhyme Syndicate. Original members were Evil E, Hen Gee, DJ Unknown, DJ Aladdin, the Son of Bambaataa (Afrika Islam), Everlast (of House of Pain), Donald D and Toddy Tee. Rhyme Syndicate was soon turned into Ice’s production company hiring some of the original members as sound engineers, DJs and performers. Afrika Islam became the most prominent member of Rhyme Syndicate Productions, mixing and producing Ice-T’s first three highly-acclaimed records. They were Ice’s posse and they all contributed to his albums and they all got paid. The first project under Rhyme Syndicate became Ice-T’s “6’n the Morning” produced by Islam and DJ Unknown a producer of electro-funk who worked alongside Dre and the World Class Wreckin’ Crubefore producing for Compton’s Most Wanted. Ice-T’s hit is considered to be the signal for the ground-breaking reality-rap or Gangsta Rap before N.W.A.’s “Boyz N Tha Hood”. It was a song inspired by Schoolly D’s, “PSK” and was introduced in his début album, Rhyme Pays a gritty, very realistic-rap album with Ice-T delivering a very concise and charismatic performance as renowned throughout his work that blended well with the rolling, distinct beats and accompanying sample tracks from Afrika Islam and DJ Aladdin’s production. ‘Rhyme Pays’ was released in 1987 by Sire Records. It hit the streets and went gold within a year. By 1988 Rhyme Syndicate worked out an entire album demonstrating their persistently social-defiant lyrical assault called, ‘Rhyme Syndicate Comin’ Through’. Executive producers for the album were Rhyme Syndicate’s own Ice-T and Benny Medina and all tracks mixed by Afrika Islam. Many of the Syndicate members evolved into solo, world-stage artists with flourishing careers within the industry. Later that same year, Ice-T was commissioned to record the title track for Dennis Hopper’s new film, Colors depicting gang-life in inner-city Los Angeles. The song showed a new direction for Ice-T. His music and lyrics were both harder than ever, a cold-steel, militant approach to his rap. This became the new South Central gang-anthem, as Ice-T explores further into the limitation of his instinctive reality-rap format. This had earned Ice-T the strong street-rap as the baddest west coast rapper. In 1988 Ice-T released his follow-up record, Power which was a more polished achievement and gave his sophomore strong reviews and would soon become his second gold record.
Freedom of Speech
Ice’s third album, The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech…Just Watch What You Say was released in 1989 and confirmed Ice as a true bi-coastal hip-hop luminary. He managed to blend his politically fuelled, cold-steel-like reality-rap with razor-sharp narration. The album carried an uncharacteristic dark and damp atmosphere with spare beats and bleak backing tracks making this record the darkest score of Ice’s recordings. Freedom of Speech was used as a vehicle for driving out his opinions on social and political topics. The album opens with a distorted guitar’s heavy, deep sound laid down under spoken word narration from Jello Biafra on ‘Shut Up, Be Happy’ in which we envision a destructive society of lawlessness living precariously on the edge of Martial Law where there is no Freedom of Speech rights starting the strong debate of censorship in music, a fight that would pick off Ice-T’s plate for his whole recording career. The second track is ‘The Iceberg’ which shows a dark-humoured personality of Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate posse. The song alternates between clichéd violent allegories and comical sexually-oriented situations involving various Syndicate members. ‘Lethal Weapon’ was another track full of Ice-T’s infamous hardcore violent allegory like this: “If you’re in my way, you’ll lay beneath the ground soon Violence is my business fool, the microphone of doom Mission that’s to cure all punks as I bust caps Peelin ya back, my ammunition hollow-point raps” “The Weapon power has been witnessed upon my page From Martin Luther’s dream to Hitler’s psycho rage.” - These lyrics explain the underlining message behind the song that the mind is the most powerful weapon. “You Played Yourself” became an apparent self-awareness track, an up-beat tempo explaining the do’s and don’ts of entering the recording industry advising us not to get exploited like so many aspiring black artists. “Peel Their Caps Back” takes us right into the depths of hell in the ghetto’s dark reality. Here Ice-T narrates about committing a drive-by shooting to avenge his slain friend in a retaliatory act of senseless gang-violence. In the end of the track the main character is killed off and the media dismiss the whole event as just another gang-related murder. The omnipresence of at least one sexually-explicit rhyme on every album was there in the twisted form of ‘The Girl Tried to Kill Me’ in which he reveals an encounter with an aggressive female. A radio-friendly version of the single was released,) with a guitar riff, different drumbeat and revised lyrics (some say better) and although the lyrics were without the swearing, the message was still quite apparent.
“The Hunted Child” is a high-energetic first-person account of a frightened baby gang-banger on the run. The track gives Ice-T’s point of view on life in the South Central ghettos. The staccato drum beats and scratched sirens make this a multi-layered composition it resembles sounds of Public Enemy as they sampled P.E.’s ‘Bring the Noise (Death Row/What a Brother Know)’ in this song. Here he displays some of the most spine-chilling, fierce lyrics ever written in Gangsta Rap.
“I killed a brother cos this system had me geared to kill Cos what I call home you call hell My ghetto quarters ain’t no better than a jail cell But there’s a message in this story that I’m tryna tell… My life on Earth was hell, you understand? But when I die I’m goin’ to hell again.”
Rhyme Syndicate worked together on a complete all-in 2 round MC onslaught on “What Ya Wanna Do” for nine minutes. This became the ultimate Rhyme Syndicate party song. Prominent members threw down verses viciously on the mic as the track opened and closed with Ice-T. This is a beautiful example of the early west coast legends putting down their dopest rhymes. The album was again produced by Afrika Islam for Rhyme Syndicate Productions. ‘Freedom of Speech’ was one of the pioneer tracks to stand against the attack on rap’s right to put the Fifth Amendment into practice, in particular one contributory source is P.M.R.C.’s Tipper Gore, the First Lady of Vice-President Al Gore for introducing the ‘Parental Advisory’ sticker seen on almost every Gangsta Rap album released in stores. Ice spat premeditated assaults to Gore with: “Hey PMRC, you stupid fuckin’ assholes The sticker on the record is what makes ‘em sell gold. Can’t you see, you alcoholic idiots The more you try to suppress us, the larger we get.” Rhyme Syndicate close the album with exaggerated fishing-tales of their exploits, ironically called “My Word is Bond”. The backing track of Slick Rick’s, “La Di Da Di” used the repeating loop of “Stop Lying.” The album sold for an overestimated 300,000 copies in the US.
Cop to Cop Killer
1991 Ice-T had made two successful crossovers simultaneously all the while releasing another hardcore record of Ice-T branded realty-rap. Such is the talent of this man, with ease of a seasoned veteran branched out his eclectic passion for music and released a hardcore rock album, stepped offstage and walked right onto set in New York to play Scotty Appleton, NYPD officer in a co-starring role for his first movie and yet had time to drop ‘O.G. Original Gangster’ his fourth rap album which arguably is his greatest accomplishment to date. 1991 saw Ice-T play a New York police officer and write ‘Cop Killer’ the most controversial song America has ever heard. His career was threatened by the higher powers who sought to end his professional career. Inevitably this became a very well-calculated season for Ice-T who managed to handle all his affairs in excellent fashion and cash in on his controversy. In 1991 Ice-T re-moulded himself into a Hollywood actor. Rather than playing a hip-hop figure on a low-budget music documentary, Ice gave way to the start of a highly-successful career on film. He landed a starring role on Mario Van Peeble’s revisited Blaxploitation film ‘New Jack City’ in which he ironically played a New York police officer. All be it a very unruly, trigger-happy street-cred detective. Here he worked alongside Chris Rock, Wesley Snipes, Judd Nelson and Mario Van Peebles himself. This movie based a platform for launching Ice-T’s career as both an actor and recording artist. He pulled off the character superbly acting as police officer, Scott Appleton. The film was the highest-grossing independent film of 1991 and Ice-T was nominated for MTV Awards’ ‘Best Breakthrough Performance’ award in 1992. This was soon followed with the film’s main soundtrack single ‘New Jack Hustler’ which bridged over to his fourth recording ‘O.G. Original Gangster’ released May 14th, 1991 by Sire/Warner Records. The album delivered conscious thought and chilling lyrics conveying psychological mind-state of a street soldier and the tolls the system takes out. Disturbing storytelling of a hustler’s life and solutions the manifestation of the ghetto cycle pack the album with a sense of a serious moral compass as told through the opinion of Ice-T. This album displays a higher level of explicit sex-rhymes when compared to its predecessors, indicating to a new freedom of speech by the new Iceberg Slim. All tracks are produced by Afrika Islam and DJ Aladdin and cut up by DJ Evil-E. ‘O.G.’ was a well-orchestrated, classic west coast Gangsta Rap record, and became easily Ice-T’s highest-selling record. The opening to the album, ‘Home Of The Bodybag’ is evocative of Public Enemy’s opening to ‘Apocalypse ‘91: The Enemy Strikes Black’ and set the mood-lighting for the album’s purpose in his typical blatant, cold-steel realism. The track and albums starts up with a winding prison alarm sounding off and slamming of cell doors over a minimal drum beat and Ice-T’s hardcore slogans being thrown down. What follows is ‘First Impression’ on is a higher-educated and snobbish speech delivered by what would sound like Princess Diana or Queen Elizabeth eloquently describing her first impression of Ice-T with the confiding admittance, “To be honest I am totally and irrevocably on his dick!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Ice-T cuts in with his next hard-edged egocentric boasting track called ‘Ziplock’ in which he shows his confident, gangster-swagger in a lyrical throw down of his generated success so far. On ‘New Jack Hustler’ the high-tempo, blood-racing score written to head up the soundtrack for Ice-T’s new film, New Jack City. The movie played the track over a foot chase between crackhead Pookie played by Chris Rock and NYPD’s own Ice-T as officer Scotty Appleton. The weight of the album’s intention falls hard when he starts with the cold rhyme:
“Hustler, word I pull the trigger long Grit my teeth, spray till every brother’s gone. Got my black sewn, armoured dope spots, Last thing I sweat’s a sucka punk cop.”
The next following few tracks state Ice’s opinions on two of the most exploited terms in the hip-hop dictionary, ‘Bitches 2’ explained the word has a non-gender specific derogatory meaning as “Some of you niggas are bitches too” sampling George Clinton and Bootsy Collins’ Parliament funk track ‘Dr. Funkenstein’. On a track co-written by the G.O.A.T. Melle Mel, ‘Straight Up Nigga’ Ice expresses his personal opinion of the term nigga convincingly. This with his verse on ‘Fly By’ is quite possibly the greatest lyrical threats Ice-T has ever issued on record. The latter cut is another MC throw down similar to Rhyme Syndicate’s ‘What Ya Wanna Do’ with Nat the Cat and Donald D. ‘Midnight’ became part two to his early ‘6 ‘n The Morning’ a gritty, nightmarish tale from South Central.
During 1990 Ice-T started to explore the musical direction of the heavy-rock genre, he had established Body Count but had not released any recordings until the explosion of ‘Body Count’ track on O.G.. We are introduced to Body Count by way of interview answering a question of selling out as a hardcore rapper by incorporating rock music into his career. He sternly explains that rock music is originally black music and he likes it. Then the introduction continues with narration of Ice-T pondering a better life under the plucks of a guitar string, before the ascension of an unheard sound in hip-hop. The thunderous jam of rock music and the strong-defiance of Body Count hits hard. Beatmaster V hosts a tremendous drum solo as well. The track would also appear in Body Count’s début album. In ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous’ he showed off a flair in fast-paced conceited rapping as opposed to ‘The Tower’ which had a modest, discerning slow flow inspiring a mood of ethereal gravity. Ice-T has the ability to placate our emotions through the energy of his music, something that has escaped most artists in hip-hop today who seem to default on a serious, criminal tone despite the triviality of some lyrics. The last page of the album closes with ‘Ya Shoulda Killed me Last Year’ Ice-T figuratively pokes his tongue out at P.M.R.C.’s failed attempt to shut him down. The spoken word of Ice-T starts with a peace shout out to the Soldiers serving in Iraq in 1991, soldiers on the streets, convicted felons locked down in the U.S. penal system. Then he curses out every abbreviated police and government body from the F.B.I. to the D.E.A., and rounds off his aim at Tipper Gore, President Bush Sr. and his crippled wife. “Cop Killer” was Body Count’s first album title, delivering an insurgent brand of antidisestablishmentarianism. The highly volatile new genre of fused Gangsta Rap and Hardcore Heavy metal, Urban-Rock outfit Body Count had formed to play the role of America’s most threatening and contentious recording group ever heard. Body Count was Ice-T (on vocals and production), the original line-up consisted of Ernie C (lead guitar and co-production), Mooseman (bass), Beatmaster V (drums) and D-Roc (rhythm guitar). They originally formed in 1991 after débuting on Ice-T’s O.G. Original Gangster album. The metal outfit were a concentrated high-energy band enforcing the subject matter of Ice-T’s rap career in a much more graphic and direct format. They harboured the volatile debates of racism and criminality in his own South Central Los Angeles region focusing in on the LAPD and their destructive pattern of injustices. They recorded the highly-controversial track “Cop Killer” which became a well-sharpened tool of America’s national political debates. It served as a focal point or main exhibit of the constitutional right to freedom of speech. Within a few months of their release, this had escalated into parent groups and advocates protesting the content of this song. They eventually bullied parent corporations who financed the recording, sending death threats to Warner Bros. executives and stockholders threatening to pull out of the company. This caused the reissue of the album, calling it ‘Body Count’ and removing the controversial track. The album’s cover art was consequently changed and Warner Bros. were forced to drop him from the label. He answered this by stating the song was written in character and that,
“If you believe that I’m a cop killer, you believe David Bowie is an astronaut.”
Return of the Real
Priority Records released Body Count’s follow-up, Born Dead which continued on in a similar vein from the debut, the album would also include a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe but sales were low, and Mooseman left the group and was replaced by Griz. Body Count’s third album Violent Demise: Last Days (1997) received better reviews than their previous efforts, but sales remained low. The band soon began to unravel, Griz left the band soon after the release of Violent Demise, Beatmaster V died of Leukemia, Mooseman was shot in a drive-by in winter 2000 while working for Iggy Pop and in late 2004 D-Roc died due to complications from lymphoma, leaving only Ice-T and Ernie-C from the original Body Count line-up. Virgin Records released his next album Home Invasion (1993), a politically-oriented album that featured a new female rapper named Grip and Ice T’s longtime DJ Evil E as a rapper himself. On VI - Return of the Real, Ice returned to his gangsta rap roots. His 7th Deadly Sin (1999), one of the first records to be distributed via mp3 before appearing in record stores, continued in this vein. In 2000, Ice-T teamed up with East Coast rap pioneer Kool Keith from the Ultramagnetic MCs to form the Analog Brothers, widely considered an artistically successful experiment. The same year also brought Ice-T’s Greatest Hits: The Evidence. More recently, Ice-T formed a new group called SMG (Sex Money and Gunz) with East Coast gangster rappers Smoothe Da Hustler and Trigger The Gambler. Ice-T has written and performed songs for many movie soundtracks including “Big Gun” for Tank Girl as well as title tracks for Colors, Dick Tracy, New Jack City, Ricochet, and Trespass (with Ice Cube.) (He starred in all of them, save Dick Tracy and Colors.) He teamed with Kid Frost to perform “Tears of a Mother” for the film No Mothers Crying, No Babies Dying. Ice T, on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He débuted as a rapper in the films Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo in 1984, only two years after his first 12” (“The Coldest Rap,” 1982) appeared. In 1991, he embarked onto a serious acting career, playing a police detective in Mario Van Peebles’ film New Jack City, followed by a notable lead role performance in Surviving the Game in addition to his many supporting roles. He has also appeared in films such as R’Xmas by Abel Ferrara and Tank Girl. He also starred in 3000 Miles to Graceland in 2001. In more current and recent acting engagements, Ice-T plays Det. Odafin “Fin” Tutuola on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, perhaps an ironic role, considering the early controversy surrounding his group Body Count. Another TV series that features Ice-T is “Players.” Ice-T also appears in the movie Leprechaun in the Hood.
- 1987 Rhyme Pays (Chart Position 26) RIAA: Gold
- 1988 Power (Chart Position: 6) RIAA: Platinum
- 1989 The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech (Chart Position 11) RIAA: Gold
- 1991 OG: Original Gangster (Chart Position 9) RIAA: Gold
- 1993 Home Invasion (Chart Position 9) RIAA: Gold
- 1996 VI - Return of the Real (Chart Position 19) RIAA: 93,000
- 1999 The Seventh Deadly Sin (Coroner)with Body Count
- 2006 Gangster Rap
w. Body Count
- 1992 Cop Killer (Body Count)
- 1994 Born Dead
- 1997 Violent Demise: The Last Days
- 2006 Murder 4 hire
- 1984 Breakin’
- 1984 Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo
- 1991 New Jack City
- 1991 Ricochet
- 1992 Trespass
- 1993 Who’s the Man?
- 1993 CB4
- 1994 Surviving the Game
- 1995 Tank Girl
- 1995 Johnny Mnemonic
- 1995 New York Undercover
- 1996 MADtv
- 1997 Players
- 1997 Below Utopia
- 1997 Mean Guns
- 1998 MTV Sports & Music Festival 2
- 1998 Exiled: A Law & Order Movie
- 1999 Pimps Up, Ho’s Down
- 1999 Urban Menace
- 1999 Judgment Day
- 2000 Leprechaun in the Hood
- 2000 Law & Order: S.V.U.
- 2001 The Heist
- 2001 3000 Miles to Graceland
- 2003 Ice T’s Pimping 101
- 2006 Ice-T’s Rap School
- 2007 Comedy Central Roast of Flavor Flav