Long before he was nabbing sex offenders as a detective on NBC's popular crime drama series, 'Law & Order: SVU,' Ice-T was one of the original gangsta rap stars. Born Tracy Morrow in New Jersey in 1958, the rap icon grew up mainly in South Central Los Angeles during the area's notorious gang heyday.
Affiliating himself with the Crips, young Tracy did petty thefts and sold weed as a student at Crenshaw High School. He also became interested in reading Iceberg Slim novels and would recite passages from the books to his friends so much that they named him Ice-T. He had an obvious charisma that led him to landing a bit part in the 1984 hip-hop film, 'Breakin.'
But it wasn't until after serving four years in the Army that Ice-T decide on pursuing a rap career. Inspired by Sugar Hill Gang's 'Rapper's Delight,' he recorded 'The Coldest Rap,' a song that was popular on underground rap circles. Still, it took a drug bust in which a friend wound up doing 25 years in prison, and a near-fatal car accident that Ice-T suffered for him make a career shift.
His next single, '6 in the Mornin',' recalled the slow cadence and menacing sound of Schooly D's 'P.S.K. What Does It Mean,' and eventually led to Ice getting a record deal with Sire Records. Subsequently, he released the title track to the Dennis Hopper film 'Colors' and a series of solid albums - 'Rhymes Pays' (1987), 'Power' (1988) and 'Freedom of Speech...Just Watch What You Say' (1989). However, he hit his creative high point with 1991's 'O.G.: Original Gangster' and a starring role in urban drama, 'New Jack City.'
Energized by his rising profile, Ice-T took a break from rap to form the hard rock band, Body Count. The group released the controversial 'Cop Killer,' a revenge fantasy song about a criminal exacting revenge on a brutal police officer. The tune created huge problems for the rapper. His following solo rap album, 'Home Invasion,' was shelved initially. Political groups such as the NRA denounced it and even the president got involved.
He described the situation to Fab 5 Freddy in an interview for 2005 VH1 Hip-Hop Honors site: "I'm sitting at home playing Tecmo Super Bowl - that's a timeline right there if you know about video games. Somebody say, 'Yo, Ice-T turn on Channel 4. The president is on talking about you,'" Ice-T recalled. "We put the TV on, and I'm like, Oh sh*t! The president does not yell normal people's names in anger. When they do that, that's war, y'dig? I'm like, Why are they after me? It was just a record. It was no call to arms. It was a protest record which said cops is out of check and people are mad. It wasn't like me telling people to go out in the streets and kill some cops."
Though Ice-T's music career sputtered after the controversy, his acting career took off. He landed plum gigs on shows including 'New York Undercover' and 'Law & Order: SVU'. By 2006, he starred in his own reality show called 'Ice-T's Rap School' and now fans can catch him with his voluptuous wife, Coco, in 'Ice Loves Coco.'
Influenced...Snoop Dogg, Scarface, 50 Cent, Jay-Z, T.I., Young Jeezy, among others.