“Monogamy is the bomb” may be the most unexpected sentence in a memoir by the rapper who gave the world the chorus “Ladies, let’s get buck-naked and fuck tonight,” but it isn’t the only surprising thing in Ice: A Memoir Of Gangster Life And Redemption—From South Central To Hollywood. This isn’t Ice-T’s first book—his 1994 The Ice Opinion was a series of socially conscious rants—but the new volume opens up on areas he’s tended to stay quiet about, such as his four years in the army, or the difficulties of raising kids who have to deal with a famous gangsta-rapper father, and the additional peer pressure their parentage brings.
Born in New Jersey in 1958, Tracy Marrow lost his mother to heart failure when he was 8, and his father died four years later. “I didn’t have an ounce of self-pity in my bones,” he explains in response. “It didn’t hit me, Damn, I’m an orphan. Even as a twelve-year-old kid, I knew I was going to have to make it on my own, and my survival instincts were kicking in.” Sent to live with an aunt and uncle in South Central Los Angeles, Marrow arrived just as the city’s gang culture was picking up, and he became a petty thief and weed dealer (though he never imbibed himself: “taking something to my mouth and sucking the smoke in… just seemed nasty”). After getting his teenage girlfriend pregnant, he joined the service. In the army, he stole supplies for a CO during basic training, learned how to pimp while stationed in Hawaii, and learned the precision tactics he took back home for a successful career of stealing high-end goods (jewels, furs) from mall outlet stores.
He also began rapping in earnest, and after being immobilized for weeks following a near-fatal car accident, decided to pursue it in lieu of the street hustle. Ice is only disappointing in that it reveals very little about the records that made his name—any fan would want a peek into the sessions of 1991’s O.G. Original Gangster. Needless to say, the track Ice-T spends the most time discussing is “Cop Killer,” an over-the-top metal song he sang with his band Body Count on the self-titled 1992 debut that turned Ice-T into cultural enemy No. 1 for conservatives (not least then-president George H.W. Bush) and led to his departure from his Warner Bros. Records contract. But even as Ice-T’s music career wound down (“I actually hate recording,” he notes at one point), his film and TV careers began picking up—he was the first rapper-turned-actor, in 1991’s New Jack City, and he’s spent 11 years on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, playing a cop. “One thing I’ve learned from straddling two worlds: Hollywood is way more gangster than the streets,” Ice-T writes as his big takeaway. “Hollywood is way colder. Way more vicious.”