The Original Gangster​

Purpose of this Post

The information from this post was compiled from numerous resources as listed at the bottom of the page. The purpose of this post is to inform the audience about the life and career of of rap artist Ice-T. In this post you will find information about this artist’s Early Life, Music Career, Acting Career, Personal Life, Popular Songs,  & Discography.

Short Bio

Ice-T is an American rapper, songwriter, record producer, actor, & author. After serving in the army, he turned to a life of crime when he struggled to find work as a young Black army vet. After a close encounter with jail-time, Ice-T turned to music to make ends meet.

He began booking gigs as a DJ for clubs and parties, but he was praised more for his raps. This led to the start of his rap career. He is most known for his music relating to street life and violence.

Over the course of his professional career, Ice-T has released 8 studio albums, been in over 100 films, documentaries, and TV shows, and currently stars in the hit American drama series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Early Life

Ice-T was born Tracy Lauren Marrow in Newark, New Jersey in 1958. He was the only child of his African American father and Creole mother. He grew up in a middle-class neighborhood…

When he was only in the third-grade, his mother died of a heart attack. He recalls his family watching TV when his mother leaned her head back and began breathing hard. 5 years later his father died of the same cause, and at 13 years-old he was an orphan.

Death makes you harder and more real.” — Ice-T

After his father’s death, Ice-T lived with his aunt for a while in New Jersey, then she shipped him to Los Angeles, California to live with another aunt who received child support for taking care of him. Although the money welcome, he was not, and he recalls his aunt “always [being] a b*tch to [him].”

For his sophomore year of high school, Ice-T attended Crenshaw High School, where he met Sean “Sean-E-Sean” Butler, who introduced him to the culture of gangsters and hustlers. This inspired Ice-T to form and lead his own group of high school hustlers. Eventually, Ice-T would became fascinated with pimping, drawing inspiration from street poet and author Iceberg Slim. He would read his books and quote Slim in school. His friends enjoyed his recitals and would tell him, “Yo, kick some more of that by Ice, T”, which established Marrow’s famous nickname.

At age 17, Ice-T moved out of his aunt’s house and moved into his own own apartment not far from his high school for $100 a month. A year later, in his senior year of high school, he got his two-year younger girlfriend pregnant and decided that the only way he could provide for his family was enlisting in the army.

During this time, he became interested in rap. At the time, he had already been writing his own raps, and he recalls hearing “Rapper’s Delight” and thinking, “I can do that.” Ice-T was granted honorable discharge in 1981 due to him being a single father. He planned to return home to begin his career as a rapper and support his family, but his friends found fast money in crime, so he left his family to do the same.

By 1983, Ice-T found a less risky was to earn money: pimping. He changed the way he dressed, talked, and wore his hair, and was finally living the lifestyle he had always aspired to. One day while in a beauty parlor getting his hair done, he started reciting rhymes to some women, when someone told him that he had a studio and asked him if he wanted to make money with his rhymes. He took him up on his offer, and this was the start of Ice-T’s rap career.

Music Career

Ice-T worked with the studio owner to record some tracks. By the summer of 1983, Ice-T was becoming popular in clubs with his first single “The Coldest Rap”. However, he still engaged in his pimping lifestyle.

After being hospitalized for three months after a car accident, Ice-T wanted to change his life around. He met his then-girlfriend Darlene Ortiz, and they rented a small apartment in Hollywood.

In 1986, Ice-T recorded the song “6 ‘N the Mornin'”, a song that depicted the life of a street hustler and would help birth a new genre: gangsta rap.

Eventually, Ice-T would sign to Sire Records and in 1987 release his debut album Rhyme Pays. The album depicted the hardcore life of the L.A. streets, and would become the first album to ever hold an explicit content sticker. Even with no videos and little radio play, Rhyme Pays went on to sell half of a million copies. By the late 80s, Ice-T found astonishing success in rapping about his old lifestyles.

With his second album Power, Ice-T began including more politics into his music, rapping about the perks and pitfalls of the street life. Ice-T wanted to depict the consequences of following a life of crime and violence.

Ice-T preferred his beats to be as simple as possible, so that the focus would be on lyrics and his audience could understand and relate to his messages.

His music began to reach American mainstream after he recorded the title track “Colors” for the film of the same name. He began making political statements with his music that his street audience could understand.

After a short break from music to film his role in the popular film New Jack City, Ice-T was back in the studio, this time with his newly formed heavy metal band Body Count, one of the first African American heavy metal bands.

Ice-T wrote and rapped most of the lyrics for the band’s music. His lyrics were violent, profane, and politically charged, and made statements about issues like racism and police brutality. After the chaos and riots after the Rodney King murder trial, many people looked for Ice-T to bring some perspective to the situation. However, many people, mainly the government and police force, blamed Ice-T’s music for inciting the violence against police, particularly his Body Count song “Cop Killer.” Attacks against Time Warner and Ice-T began to get heavier and heavier over the controversial song, and after a long fight, Ice-T decided to pull the song off the record. Eventually, Time Warner stopped supporting Ice-T’s music in fear of another “Cop Killer” fiasco, and they parted ways.

“Your authority does not allow you to kill me. I’m a human being and f*ck your law.” — Ice-T

Ice-T released his fifth studio album Home Invasion on his own, determined to keep his music and career out of the hands of major record companies. With the decline of his record sales, Ice-T turned to acting to support his girlfriend Darlene and their son.

Acting Career

Ice-T’s film debut was in the 1984 motion pictue Breakin’, and his second role was in its sequel Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984).

After his split with Warner Bros., Ice-T began taking every acting role he could get. In 1991, he had an unusual encounter with Mario Van Peebles, which led to his role in the popular action thriller New Jack City as an undercover detective.

By the mid 90s, he co-created and starred in the network TV show Players, which would help get him back into mainstream success.

In 2000, Dick Wolf would add Ice-T to the cast of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and since 2000, he has played detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola.

Personal Life

Ice-T’s first child, LaTesha, was born in 1976.

While filming Breakin’ he met his second girlfriend Darlene Ortiz. She was featured on the covers of Rhyme Pays  and Power  and in 1992 they had their son Ice Tracy Marrow.

In January 2002, Ice-T married his girlfriend, swimsuit model Nicole “Coco Marie” Austin. In 2015 their daughter Chanel Nicole Marrow was born. Also in 2015, they starred together in the syndicated entertainment talk show “Ice & Coco”.

Popular Songs

"6 'N The Mornin'"

“6 ‘N the Mornin'” was released in 1986 on Ice-T’s album Rhyme Pays. This song is considered to be one of the tracks that defined the gangsta rap genre. N.W.A./Eazy E’s “Boyz-n-the Hood” is sometimes considered to be patterned by “6 ‘N the Mornin'”.

According to Ice-T in the documentary Hip-Hop Evolution, the song was inspired by Schoolly D’s song “P.S.K.”

"I'm Your Pusher"

“I’m Your Pusher” was released in 1988 on Ice-T’s album Power. While the title seems to have a negative connotation, implying that the song is about drugs, it is actually about Ice-T’s “addictive” music. This song set the tone for Ice-T’s political rap career, and established him as a “streetwise hustler”.

The song sample’s Curtis Mayfield’s song “Pusherman” in the hook.

"Cop Killer"

“Cop Killer” was released in 1992 by Ice-T’s heavy-metal band Body Count on their debut album Body Count. This song is considered to be the most controversial song of Ice-T’s music career. While the song was condemned for inciting violence against police, the artists claimed that the song was meant to express the feelings of the black community towards police brutality.


Author's Personal Statement

“6 ‘N the Mornin'” was the first song of Ice-T’s I had ever heard.  A documentary about him was playing on a television in Wayne State University’s student center, where I had been working during the summer as a TA.

I chose to write this post on Ice-T because like “6 ‘N the Mornin'”, I do not believe Ice-T receives the credit and accolades he deserves for his presence and role in Rap/Hip-Hop.

Ice-T turned from a lifestyle of crime to a successful career in music. Like many of the African American youth today, specifically African American males, Ice-T was a good kid engaging in bad things, and I believe that his story can be used to uplift Black youth.

I enjoyed conducting the research to write this post and learning more about Ice-T’s eventful life.

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