Ice-T is a rapper and actor raised in South Los Angeles who was one of the most important figures in gangsta rap in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. In 1986, he crafted one of gangsta rap’s defining songs, “6 in the Mornin'.” He continued to be a pioneer for the genre when his 1987 debut album, Rhyme Pays, became the first hip-hop album to feature an explicit content sticker. In the early ‘90s he formed the heavy metal band Body Count and caused a national controversy with their 1992 single “Cop Killer”—which was accused of promoting violence against police. The song earned the ire of then-President George H.W. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle but also won supporters who defended the song on First Amendment grounds.
Born Tracy Lauren Marrow, Ice-T hails from New Jersey. Both of his parents died from heart attacks, his mother passed when he was 8 and his father passed four years later. Following their deaths, he moved to View Park-Windsor Hills in South Los Angeles to live with an aunt. He began reading books by Iceberg Slim, which is how he earned his moniker—a tribute to the author. He would later join the Army, began pimping, and claims he became a bank robber for a brief period before focusing on music.
Marrow started out as a DJ but soon started rapping instead. In the early ‘80s, he released a series of electro hip-hop songs that were popular in clubs—but only after hearing Schoolly D’s “P.S.K. What Does It Mean?” did he find his niche. Inspired by Schoolly D’s gangsta raps, Marrow was inspired to create his own. With “6 in the Mornin'” he became the first rapper to explicitly rap about Los Angeles gang life. The song helped Marrow sign a deal with Sire Records, who released his debut album, 1987’s Rhyme Pays. His 1988 follow-up, Power, found him continuing to refine his style. Power was also notable for two things: 1) It featured Ice dissing LL Cool J and 2) It’s classic cover became a source of controversy thanks to Darlene Ortiz, Ice-T’s girlfriend at the time, who was scantily clad and holding a shotgun on the cover.
In 1991, Ice-T released what’s arguably his best album, O.G. Original Gangster. He also introduced his heavy metal band, Body Count, on the album.