Ice-T has done it all at this point in his career. He went from a pioneering gangster rapper to a proficient actor with roles in powerful movies like “New Jack City” and television shows like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
None of these achievements, including not being killed during his time on the street as a criminal and a pimp, would have been able to happen had he not made the choice to join the Army when he was in high school.
Ice-T, born Tracy Marrow, became a teenaged father back in 1976. After struggling with his then girlfriend Adrienne, the future rapper took to a life of frivolous crime on the streets.
Ice resolved to enlist in the Armed Services, thanks to his time as a “jock” at Crenshaw High School. He joined as a Paratrooper and was supposed to be stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.
But first, he was shipped off to basic training at Fort Leonardwood, in Missouri.
“We called it Fort Lost-in-the-Woods in the State of Misery,” recounted Ice-T in his memoir “Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption--from South Central to Hollywood.”
Ice-T was then sent to Advanced Infantry Training in Fort Benning, Georgia.
This is where the youngster actually began a life of crime that would drive him to his days pimping and hustling on the streets of Los Angeles, prior to his fame as a rapper.
“One of the commanding officers singled out a bunch of us guys who seemed to have some streets smarts about us,” Ice-T stated. “I was basically the leader, and at night we would go out onto the post and boost the s**t he wanted."
But the group of military bandits did eventually get caught stealing an infantry-blue rug for an officer.
“They rounded all of us up, they cracked us, and they put us in the jail on the post.
“But the insane part was - just to show you how f**ked-up the military can be - while I was in jail, they gave me my $2,500 bonus. I mean, the bureaucracy of the military is so retarded, nobody checks with anybody else, so they ended up giving $2,500 to a dude in jail awaiting a military trial for burglary,” Ice-T remembered.
That’s when Ice-T had an epiphany to escape from the barracks where he and the other members of the crime ring were confined. Because the security was minimum, Ice-T simply booked a civilian flight from Columbus Airport back to his hometown of Los Angeles.
“I figured out a way to make the top window come down a few inches. Just enough for a skinny dude to squeeze through,” Ice-T wrote. “I went up to the top bunk and managed to wriggle my ass out of the top window. I had to time my escape so that the guards at the gates wouldn’t see me. It was just like breaking out of prison.”
After spending a few weeks AWOL, Ice-T said he knew he needed to “squash s**t” ahead of the Army before they really came down on his ass with prison time for fleeing.
Fortunately for Ice-T, the commanding officer who ordered him to steal had been in the Army for over 20 years and had just as much reason to keep the young thieves out of trouble.
Ice received an “Article 15” - a military reprimand - and got back to serving his time in the Army.
After making it through Advanced Infantry Training, where he jumped from planes at 3,000-foot heights, Ice-T made it all the way up to a Squad Leader at Schofield Barracks.
It was here, in Hawaii, where Ice-T became acquainted with a real pimp named “Mac.”
“Mac used to pull me aside and talk to me. ‘Ice,’ he’d say. ‘Dig, you cut out for this here. You cut out for this pimpin’ game. You Got them light eyes. You don’t seem to care about these girls,” revealed Ice-T.
Concurrently, while he was on base, a confrontation happened that would set the entire direction of Ice’s life in motion.
A Sergeant Donavan decided to go extra hard on Ice-T one day over the ongoing issue over the length of his hair.
“‘Marrow!” he screamed. “You f**king loser! You’re only here because you can’t make it in civilian life.’ More than anything else, that’s the one statement that propelled me to where I’m at today. I give Sergeant Donavan all the credit,” Ice-T declared.
“I’m not gonna front: those words cut me deep. I’m standing there in formation, in the blazing tropical sun, and I’m looking at myself like some outsider would see me,” Ice-T wrote. “And I said ‘Damn, maybe it’s the truth. What kind of future do I really have in the outside world?’”
Over the span of several months, Mac taught Ice-T the “whole code.”
After grasping the game from Mac and the disrespect from Sergeant Donavan, a young Tracy Marrow heard “Rapper’s Delight” which he melded with his own “Crip Rhymes.”
Then Ice-T discovered Philadelphia rapper Schoolly D’s “PSK” - recognized as the first gangster rap record - and was inspired to write his own legendary song “6 in The Morning,” which is hailed as the birth of the West Coast’s version of the genre.
He ultimately received an Honorable Discharge and hit the streets of South Central, Los Angeles as pimp/DJ/promoter/rapper, named Ice-T.
“But that’s the beautiful thing: Sometimes in life, someone will say something to you that either crushes you, breaks your spirit, or it drives you to the next level,” Ice-T explained.