The legendary gangsta hip-hop emcee Ice-T was born Tracy Marrow on February 16, 1958, in Newark, New Jersey. He moved to Los Angeles, California, to live with his paternal aunt after the death of his father while he was in the sixth grade; his mother had died earlier when he was in the third grade. His aunt lived in the South Los Angeles district of Crenshaw, colloquially referred to as South Central. He became immersed in the street life of the inner-city and eventually became a member of the West Side Rollin 30s Original Harlem Crips.
In 1979, Marrow joined the Army after leaving Crenshaw High School, but his 4-year hitch was enough for him, as he was a leader, not a follower. “I didn’t like total submission to a leader other than myself,” he said. After ETSing from the Army in 1983, he returned to South Central with the intention of becoming a hip-hop musician. More than music, his life got caught up in street life as as a jewel thief and as a pimp. (His nomme de guerre, Ice T, is an homage to the fabled pimp and raconteur Iceberg Slim (Robert Beck). He committed himself totally to his music after a 1985 car crash.
As a musician, Ice-T played a major role in the creation of the gangsta incarnation of hip-hop music and was a colossus of the West Coast hip-hop scene, despite his East Coast, greater New York, origins. Though his music displays a political consciousness, like the indictments of racism that were a hallmark of seminal hip-hop group Public Enemy, it also is nihilistic as befits a chronicler of street life. His most infamous song, the heavy metal “Cop Killer,” was one of the major battle in the cultural wars of the 1990s, in which cultural conservatives enlisted the Moses of the right wing, Charlton Heston, to get Ice-T dropped from his then-label, Sire/Warner Bros.
The charismatic Ice-T has also achieved success as an actor in movies and on TV. He plays Detective Odafin Tutuola on the TV series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999), which is ironic for someone famous for “Cop Killer” and his feud with the L.A.P.D. Ice-T currently resides in North Bergen, New Jersey, with his wife, the model Niccole “Coco” Marie Austin.