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Rap Biographies: Ice-T

Ice-T
Tracy Marrow (born February 16, 1958 in Newark, New Jersey), better known as Ice-T, is an American rapper, author and actor. He is one of the pioneers of gangsta rap and was also instrumental in creating rapcore. Ice-T was born in Newark, but grew up in Los Angeles. After high school, he 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."

Ice-T was influenced by and takes his name from Iceberg Slim, an African American pimp-turned-author (and the same inspiration for the stage name of rapper Ice Cube) who wrote an autobiography and many other books. Ice-T wrote an introduction to Iceberg Slim's last book, Doom Fox.

Although one of West Coast rap's leading figures, Tracy Morrow (commonly known as Ice-T) was actually born in Newark, New Jersey. He moved from Newark, when his parents died in a motor vehicle accident. Still a young child he went to live with relatives in Los Angeles.

Ice-T started out with other West Coast rap pioneers. Ice-T was raised in the gang-infested, pimp-heavy streets of South Central, Los Angeles. He became immersed in both cultures, and began rapping about his daily activities while still a teenager in high school. In fact, his current nickname was borrowed from the infamous pimp-turned-writer, Iceberg Slim. Friends urged him to take his talents into a recording studio, where he recorded several rap singles.

He attended Crenshaw High School, where he would become obsessed with rap, often reciting rhymes for classmates. After leaving high school he would join the US Army Rangers until 1981. Then would begin his extremely long career of recording raps for various studios before finally landing a deal with a major label, Sire Records, and shortly after releasing his debut album "Rhyme Pays".

Ice-T is believed to be the first rapper to have ever performed the notorious Crip Walk (or C-Walk) up on stage, in front of cameras sometime in the 80's. This added to his already controversial fame and gave rise to the C-Walks mainstream in other video's via WC (pronounced Dub C, or just simply Dub), Snoop Dogg, Warren G, and other Crip-turned-rapper artists.

Later on, he changed his style and was the first West Coast rapper to be accepted by the East Coast. His song "6'n The Morning" is sometimes seen as the track that triggered the whole gangster rap movement. It was produced by The Unknown DJ, who produced electro funk tracks before and went on to produce Compton's Most Wanted. The song was inspired by Schoolly D's "PSK" and became itself the inspiration for Eazy E and N.W.A.'s "Boyz N The Hood." Ice-T went on to work with Afrika Islam, the man behind the beats on 1987's Rhyme Pays, 1988's Power and 1989's The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech... Just watch what you say.

Ice-T has proven to be one of hip-hop's most articulate and intelligent stars, as well as one of its most frustrating. At his best, the rapper has written some of the best portraits of ghetto life and gangsters, as well as some of the best social commentary hip-hop has produced. Just as often, he can slip into sexism and gratuitous violence, and even then his rhymes are clever and biting. Ice-T's best recordings have always been made in conjunction with strong collaborators, whether it's the Bomb Squad or Jello Biafra. With his music, Ice-T has made a conscious effort to win the vast audience of white male adolescents, as his frequent excursions with his heavy metal band Body Count show. All the while, he has withstood a constant barrage of criticism and controversy to become a respected figure not only in the music press, but the mainstream media as well.

In 1989, Ice-T wrote the book, The Iceberg / Freedom of Speech...Just Watch What You Say, a literary protest against music censorship. In 1992, Ice-T fronted a heavy metal group called Body Count. Its self-titled debut album became mired in controversy due to its final track, "Cop Killer," written from the perspective of an angry African-American man who shoots Los Angeles police officers in retaliation for their beating of Rodney King. Conservatives and police groups protested Sire's parent company, Time-Warner, prompting the label to censor new pressings of the album. The following year, Ice-T toured several universities, including Harvard, Stanford and NYU, lecturing on the state of first amendment rights and civil liberties in this country. As his politics were grabbing headlines, Ice-T's film and television career were taking off. The controversial personality secured roles in New Jack City, Ricochet, Trespass and Johnny Mnemonic, all while building a flourishing television career.

As the title of this third album suggests, Ice-T was from the start not merely a gangster rapper-although he was one of the driving forces behind the new style-but also used rap music as a platform for social and political activism; Seymour Stein called him "the Bob Dylan of rap." On "Freedom of Speech," Ice-T attacked Tipper Gore for introducing the Parental Advisory sticker. In 1991, Ice T's fourth album, Original Gangster, came out; including raps about child abuse and drunk driving as well as the theme song from the movie New Jack City by Mario Van Peebles, the movie that re-launched Ice's career as an actor.

Ice-T began an acting career, starring in the updated blaxploitation film New Jack City; he also recorded "New Jack Hustler" for the film. "New Jack Hustler" became one of the centerpieces of 1991's O.G.: Original Gangster, which became his most successful album to date. O.G. also featured a metal track called "Body Count" recorded with Ice-T's band of the same name.

In 1991, Ice formed the rapcore/crossover band Body Count. Their debut self-titled album contained a song called "Cop Killer", which led to the "Cop Killer controversy". This escalated to the point where death threats were sent to Warner Bros executives and stockholders threatened to pull out of the company. This eventually caused the album to be re-issued with "Cop Killer" removed, and Warner Brothers Records to drop him from the label. He answered the controversy by saying the song was written in character, and that "if you believe that I'm a cop killer, you believe David Bowie is an astronaut." Indeed, Ice-T has portrayed police officers many times in his acting career.

Body Count proved to be a major turning point in Ice-T's career. On the basis of the track "Cop Killer" - where he sang from the point-of-view of a police murderer - the record ignited a national controversy; it was protested by the NRA and police activist groups. Time Warner Records initially supported Ice-T, yet they refused to release his new rap album, Home Invasion, on the basis of the record cover. Ice-T and the label parted ways by the end of the year. Home Invasion was released on Priority Records in the spring of 1993 to lukewarm reviews and sales. Somewhere along the way, Ice-T had begun to lose most of his original hip-hop audience; now he appealed primarily to suburban white teens. In 1994, he wrote a book and released the second Body Count album, Born Dead, which failed to stir up the same controversy as the first record - indeed, it failed to gain much attention of any sort. Nevertheless, Body Count was successful in clubs and Ice-T continued to tour with the band.

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.

His first break occurred in 1984 when the producers of "Breakin'" asked him to rap in the film. He went on to become a Grammy Award-winning performer, whose outspoken hip-hop music has earned him international acclaim. He formed Rhyme Syndicate Records in 1989, released a string of groundbreaking rap records and was voted Best Male Rapper in Rolling Stone's 1992 Readers' Poll. He is also the author of the book, "The Ice Opinion". Ice-T has continued with his feature-film career as well, having appeared in "New Jack City" (opposite Wesley Snipes), "Ricochet" (with Denzel Washington), "Johnny Mnemonic" (with Keanu Reeves), "Tank Girl" and Walter Hill's "Trespass."

Often cited as the founding father of gangsta rap, Ice-T has also crafted a successful film career from his hardened street persona. Despite the fact that his early roles stuck closely to his public image as a thuggish West Coast pimp, T has since proved both his versatility and his sense of humor by appearing as everything from a mutant kangaroo (Tank Girl [1995]) to, in a surprisingly effective about-face, a police officer (New Jack City [1991]).

He debuted 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. Ice-T also voiced Madd Dogg in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and appears as himself in Def Jam: Fight for NY.

From musical gangsta to acclaimed author to apparel entrepreneur to movie star to TV cop, Ice-T has proven himself to be a cultural icon. He continues to reinvent himself by applying his considerable talent to almost every imaginable entertainment medium. Always ahead of the curve, Ice-T is largely credited with inventing "gangsta rap" and he has created some of the best portraits of ghetto life and gangsters as well as some of the best social commentary hip-hop has ever produced. Outspoken, intelligent and controversial, Ice-T has seen both sides of the "Law" and he brings an authentic voice to his current role on "Law & Order: SVU."

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