On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN had the pleasure of chatting with the legendary Ice-T about his influence on hip hop and acting, and his thoughts on the current state of the music industry.
Born Tracy Lauren Marrow in Newark, New Jersey in 1958, Ice-T began his career as a rapper in the 1980s with his debut album Rhyme Pays released in 1987. It was the first hip hop album to carry an explicit content sticker. His second album, Power, further cemented his position in the genre. The project went platinum with its iconic cover art featuring his then-girlfriend Darlene Ortiz in a swimsuit.
Ice-T’s music, particularly the 1992 track “Cop Killer,” sparked controversy for its explicit lyrics and themes, especially during later years of his life. However, he’s perhaps now best known for his acting career thanks to his long-running role as Detective Odafin Tutuola on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” He joined the show in its second season in 2000 and has become one of its most beloved characters.
Ice-T has also appeared in various films including New Jack City and Ricochet. The musician has even provided voice-over work for video games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Even with a successful acting career, Ice-T has remained connected to his musical roots.
REVOLT compiled a list of nine facts we learned from Ice-T’s “Drink Champs” interview. Check them out below, and watch the full episode here.
1. On getting into rap at an older age
In comparison to today’s contemporaries, Ice-T kicked off his music career at a much later time when he was in his late 20s. The rapper acknowledged that he experienced life, including the military and streets, before he ever graced the mic. “When I started rapping, I was about 26. I didn’t start early. I actually had been in the streets, so I had some experience. My wife will listen to rappers that are 19. She’s like, ‘So how could they have done all that?’ I said, ‘They haven’t.’ I was 27, I had been in the military. I had lived, I had been out there. I tried my luck in the streets, so by the time I started rapping, my s**t was loaded with information.”
2. On writing JAY-Z’s “99 Problems”
Later on, the legend spoke about JAY-Z approaching him to discuss their presumed feud over the song “99 Problems” at the 2023 Grammys. The interaction between the two artists occurred as a result of an old resurfaced interview where the New Jersey native seemingly felt he wasn’t properly credited. Although the pair recognized it was all love during the award show, Ice explained how the track got into Hov’s hands to begin with.
“There’s no beef between me and JAY-Z [over] ‘99 Problems,’ but a lot of people didn’t know that, that was originally my song. So when they asked me about it, I said, ‘That was originally my song,’” he stated. “During the time I did the ‘99 Problems,’ I was in a publishing deal. I didn’t get paid, it went off to the deal. That’s how it happened. JAY-Z didn’t steal it.”
3. On his beef with LL Cool J
Ice-T and LL Cool J put their decades-long feud to rest at the same awards show during the hip hop 50 tribute. The duo’s animosity was sparked by LL’s claim to be “the baddest rapper in history.” Ice told N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN that it was never really anything serious and opened up about them burying the hatchet. “I had to go at him — that’s just the culture. I took off on LL, ‘F**k this n**ga.’ Not like I want to shoot him, just, ‘F**k you, you ain’t the best rapper,’” he said. “I started it.”
He continued, “We were just at the Grammys together. Real beef never dies. Real beef is murder… death. I don’t give a f**k. If somebody killed someone you loved, that’s not going nowhere… Rap s**t is not nowhere near real beef.”
4. On playing a cop in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”
Ice-T made TV history with his 23-year career on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” as Odafin “Fin” Tutuola. Starting as a temporary role in 2000, his on-screen chemistry with the cast turned four episodes into over 500. He shares that record with co-star Mariska Hargitay, who holds the longest-running female title. Ice-T mentioned that he was “terrified” to act because it could’ve ruined his music career.
“When I started acting, no one had acted yet. No one. Will Smith, Pac, nobody. I was the first rapper to take on a dramatic role,” Ice noted. “I had to play a cop, and that was a trip too because that was the year I dropped the [O.G.] Original Gangsta album. I was terrified. I thought I was committing career suicide.”
5. On the 2023 Writers Guild of America strike
The Writers Guild of America went on strike over concerns about streaming residuals and gained support from prominent figures such as Barack Obama, Robin Thede, and Quinta Brunson, among many others. Highlighting the shift in content consumption from traditional TV to platforms like Netflix and Peacock, Ice-T talked about why he supports writers’ demands for a reevaluation of their compensation structure in the streaming era.
“I stand with the writers. It’s streaming, man… Right now, you see me on NBC, so you get residuals. But then they got you on Peacock and they ain’t talking about what’s happening. So the writers is like, ‘Hold up everything.’ Because they’ll just keep going and taking the money until you… So they had to stop the boat for a minute like, ‘We need to address this.’”
6. On creating his song “Colors”
Ice-T’s 1988 track “Colors” served as the title song for the film of the same name and marked his first entry in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Despite initial requests to use his pre-existing track “Squeeze The Trigger” in the movie, the rapper drew inspiration from the film screening to create the record in a spontaneous studio session.
“They wanted to use ‘Squeeze The Trigger’ for the movie because it was a hardcore record at the time to be in a gangbanger movie. I knew that if someone wants to use your record in a movie, you can ask to see the movie,” Ice explained. “[Colors] was fake to me because the Mexicans don’t fight the Blacks. If that ever happened, that would be the apocalypse.”
Regarding how the movie’s title track came about, he shared, “We literally went right from the screening to the studio… I turned it in and they flipped. That record is not on any Ice-T albums and it went platinum, triple platinum, some bulls**t. Most of my big hits were soundtracks.”
7. On playing a cop vs. playing a gangster
Later in the conversation, Ice-T drew parallels between his roles as a police officer on TV and a gangster in his music. The legend noted that both wield authority and consequences, and offered an interesting perspective on his transition from hardcore rapper to a long-standing role as a law enforcement officer in movies like 2001’s Gangland and 2005’s Tracks.
Ice-T explained, “Playing a cop and playing a gangster is the exact same thing. We both got a gun, we both got an attitude, we both want answers or there will be consequences. The police talk down to you like, ‘Motherf**ker, you finna answer my motherf**king question. I am the law.’ The gangster is like, ‘F**k you.’ It’s the same exact energy.”
8. On letting Ne-Yo grab his wife’s butt
In a previous interview with N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN, “Drink Champs” alum Ne-Yo brought up a story about touching Ice-T’s wife’s, Coco, butt at a Halloween party. While the west coast MC confirmed that it happened, he shared that the “Because Of You” singer didn’t ask the same way he presented it. “That was maybe something he should’ve kept to himself,” Ice-T joked.
“It’s Halloween, so all the girls are extra h**-ish. Coco had on some booty shorts with the fishnets and s**t. So he’s in the booth with us. He didn’t just walk up, he was hanging and stuff. Rihanna was there too. Coco and them was dancing, and I know that n**ga was just gazing like yo,” Ice explained.
He added, “See, he changed the word. He didn’t say grab her a**. He said, ‘I want to touch Coco’s booty, can I do that?’ I was like that was kind of player that he asked. He didn’t ask to finger bang her, he didn’t ask to f**k her, he didn’t ask to suck her titty. He asked to touch her butt, right? So I’m like, ‘You know what player? I can make that happen.’”
9. On his eldest daughter being stalked
Pivoting from the topic of paparazzi following him and his wife, Ice-T shared a story about his oldest daughter, LeTesha Marrow, experiencing a stalking incident in Atlanta. After being alerted about the issue, the rapper advised her to seek help from local friends, who swiftly intervened. The “Cop Killer” musician opened up about the group of guys prevented her from being hurt.
According to Ice-T, “My daughter, she lives in Atlanta. My daughter is grown so she calls me and says, ‘Daddy, this dude is following me.’ I said, ‘Okay, this is what you do: I know you know n**gas down there. Talk to some of your goons and tell them your father would like them to help. Because they all gotta go help for me, they know who she is… They want do a favor for Ice-T ‘cause that could pay back off.
“Sure enough, the dude pull up in the parking lot. She told them, and they walked over to him and let him understand that this is not a good career decision. Fall back, she got cousins, brothers, and people that love her and we don’t love you. So pull out. That was the last she saw the dude.”
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