Through his many ups and downs — and with a decade-long gig as Detective Fin on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit — Ice-T has managed to somehow stay relevant.
Countless hip-hop pioneers struggle for the attention and props they (rightly) deserve in the digital age. Ice-T, however, is said to be worth $30 million according to several reports, and has finagled his dramatic portrayals of OG’s, drug dealers and passionate officers, into a cementing of his status as a legend and visionary within hip-hop culture — all while acknowledging that his wife, Coco Austin, keeps all of his business endeavors intact. It’s no wonder E! Entertainment pursued the couple to appear in a reality series for the network.
The early days
Before beginning his rap career in the early 1980s, Ice-T, born Tracy Marrow, was known generally as a self-styled hustler and pimp with a violent streak. He spent a few years honing his craft, ultimately signing with Sire Records in 1987. Later that year, he released Rhyme Pays, his debut album, which eventually went gold.
His song for Dennis Hopper’s movie Colors garnered him some attention. But it wasn’t until Ice-T encountered controversy from President and Vice President George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle over his now infamous track Cop Killer, which glamorized violence against law enforcement, that Ice-T’s popularity began to spread. He was forced to drop the song from his Body Count album because of the uproar.
Using that momentum, Ice-T embarked on a serious acting career when Mario Van Peebles casted him in New Jack City, against a crew of drug dealers mirroring the struggle between hardcore rap and the emergence of New Jack Swing into the development of hip-hop. His own career mirrored that of his character, Scotty, who fought hard to climb out of a hustlers’ background.