Often cited as the founding father of gangsta rap, Ice-T has also crafted a successful film career from his hardened street persona. Despite the fact that his early roles stuck closely to his public image as a thuggish West Coast pimp, T has since proved both his versatility and his sense of humor by appearing as everything from a mutant kangaroo (Tank Girl ) to, in a surprisingly effective about-face, a police officer (New Jack City ). Born Tracy Marrow in Newark, NJ, in 1958 and later adapting his better-known persona as a tribute to pimp-turned-author Iceberg Slim, T was sent at age 12 to live in Califorina with an aunt after his father died of a heart attack (his mother had died four year earlier, also of a heart attack). Ice-T soon began to develop an obsession with rap music, and after serving a two-year stint in the Army, he began recording and appeared in the films Breakin' and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo (both 1984). Following a near death auto accident in 1986, T devoted his life to music and released his debut album, Rhyme Pays, the following year.
T gained positive accolades for his first major film role in 1991's New Jack City, in which he played a dedicated police officer, and the irony was not lost on fans the following year when he caused a stir with a song entitled "Cop Killer." After sticking close to the streets in Ricochet (1991), Trespass (1992), and Surviving the Game (1994), T took a sci-fi detour with Tank Girl and Johnny Mnemonic (both 1995). Generally appearing in straight-to-video schlock from the mid-'90s on, Ice-T could be seen as a naval pilot in Stealth Fighter (1999) and stealing a magic flute from a vengeful green meanie in Leprechaun in the Hood (2000). Though his appearances in such films grew nearly too frequent to count, T occasionally appeared in such theatrical releases as 3000 Miles to Graceland and Abel Ferrara's 'R Xmas (both 2001). After offering curious insight into the life of a pimp in the documentary Pimps Up, Ho's Down, T continued to expound on the life of a hustler in Pimpin' 101 (2003). He also took on a recurring role on the Law & Order spin-off Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and later joined the cast as a regular in the show's second season, soon becoming a popular fixture on prime time TV. T would also enjoy success on the reality circuit, starring in the candid reality show Ice Loves Coco with his wife, Nicole "Coco" Austin.