Before he became a television and movie star, Ice-T was already considered one of the pioneers of the hip-hop genre that would come to be known as gangsta rap in the 1980s.
While the former New York gang member grew up on the East Coast, the budding MC and dancer was eventually introduced to Los Angeles gang culture after his parents died and he moved west to Los Angeles.
It was those street experiences, as he often referred to his young ambition, that would help shape his vision as a rapper of a harder version of hip-hop in the mid-to-late 1980s, initially called reality rap. which was eventually nicknamed gangster rap.
After eight solo records, beginning with Rhyme Pays (1987), Ice-T (born Tracy Lauren Marrow), 65, has shifted all of his musical prowess to his heavy metal band Body Count, who have released seven studio albums, beginning with their self-titled debut in 1992 with, among other things, the controversial song Cop Killer.
When asked why he hadn’t made a solo album since 2006 during an interview with Varietythe Law & Order: special unit for victims star revealed that he just has no connection to the modern day rappers and hip-hop.
Not playing the game: Legendary rapper-actor Ice-T, 65, called modern hip-hop and rapper “goofy” and “soft,” as he explained why he hasn’t released a solo rap album on Variety since 2006
“The music went crazy for me. The kids started to look funny. It all turned into something I wasn’t comfortable with,” he said of his aversion to making another solo rap record.
‘There was a moment when I sold tons of records, then it cooled off. I felt a certain way. Then I realized Public Enemy, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and Wu-Tang Clan weren’t selling records either. A paradigm shift took place.’
He went on to confess, “These kids got softer, and soft I can’t give the audience. The first word in hip-hop is ‘hip’, so how something stays hip for more than 10 years is difficult.’
Wanting to take advantage of the opportunities presented to him at the time, Ice-T stepped into the acting game at the height of his reign as a rapper.
‘I never wanted to act. I was ready to turn it down because they wanted me to play a cop, while at the same time putting out an album called ‘OG’. Are you joking? Play cop? But my friends were like “Motherf***er, if you turn this down, you’re a real dork.” So I did. I didn’t know I was going to be successful at it,” he admitted.
After his acting debut in the famous television series in 1983, the two-time Grammy Award winner has since starred in more than 70 shows, including his role as Sergeant Odafin ‘Fin’ Tutuola in NBC’s Law and Order: Special Victims Unit – a role he has played since 2000.
He also starred in dozens of films over the years, such as the critically acclaimed action-crime film New Jack City (1991), as well as Ricochet (1991), Surviving The Game (1994) and 3000 Miles To Graceland (2001).
“Acting wasn’t something I wanted to do, but now I realized it was something I had to do,” he explained during the interview.
OG: Ice-T is considered one of the pioneers of hard-hitting reality rap, which was eventually dubbed gangsta rap in the mid to late 1980s
Rocker: The rapper, who became the frontman of Body Count in 1992, has to this day transferred all his musical skills to the metal band; they are pictured after the release of their debut record in 1992, which featured the controversial song Cop Killer
While his solo rap career has been dormant for 17 years, Ice-T has continued with Body Count, releasing four studio albums with the band in that same 17-year span.
The most recent release, Carnivore (2020), featured the song Bum-Rush, which won the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance.
Among his other accolades, the actor, rapper and rocker was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the 2,747th ever awarded, on Feb. 17, a day after celebrating his 65th birthday.
Acting Game: Wanting to take advantage of “the opportunities presented to him at the time,” Ice-T got into the acting game at the height of his reign as a rapper; he has starred on NBC’s Law and Order: Special Victims Unit since 2000