Legendary rapper, singer, songwriter, and producer, Ice-T has built an iconic career as a hip-hop pioneer and celebrity artist. Yet, there’s a lot more to the New Jersey-born star that meets the eye and many of his fans are always interested in knowing more about the man behind the music – one question that is frequently asked concerns the artist’s alleged history in the military.
Ice-T served in the US military for around four years. Signing up after high school in order to support his girlfriend and daughter, Ice-T served in the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii.
An unlikely recruit, it’s widely documented that the star only signed up for the financial benefits, and while Ice-T’s tenure in the military was shortlived, it is a fascinating aspect of the artist’s background. And there are plenty of twists and turns in this tale of sacrifice, attempted desertion, and disciplinarian head honchos.
Early Days in the Military
Something Ice-T once said later in life perfectly defined his experience in the military: “[The] Military is a great place for a jock. That’s the first thing they test you, they test you physically. If you can run, if you can do the pushups, it’s not as hard a transition. If you can’t do that, you’re going to have a problem because they’re going to really work it out of you or work it into you.”
It’s fair to say that the young man had a lot of trouble settling into life in the military early on in his four-year stint. In fact, at one point, Ice-T is believed to have been part of a group that stole an infantry rug and then attempted to desert the military altogether.
The story goes that, after the rug had been recovered, the young man received a non-judicial punishment that allowed him to complete Advanced Infantry Training.
Reflecting on his decision to join the military in the first place, Ice-T once stated: “When I had my daughter I was like, man, I’m going to go to jail, I got to do something, and I went to an enlistment office. Next thing you know, I’m in the military, four years infantry.”
Squad Leader and Honorable Discharge
It was during his time in the US Army that Ice-T – then known as Tracy Marrow – began to become interested in hip hop, and was particularly inspired by the music being released by The Sugar Hill Gang.
In light of his burgeoning interests in hip hop, Ice-T purchased a lot of equipment such as turntables, a mixer, and speakers while he was serving as a squad leader at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.
In his book, ‘Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption – from South Central to Hollywood’, the artist mentions that during his time stationed in Hawaii, he met and befriended a pimp called Mac who subsequently taught Ice-T how to be a pimp himself.
As Ice-T’s time in the military neared an end, he was also told by a sergeant that he was in the army because he couldn’t survive on his own in the civilian world.
As a result of a number of different factors, most significant being his interest in hip hop stardom, Ice-T sought honorable discharge on the grounds that he was a single father.
In 1979, Tracy Marrow left the military and went to LA. Ice-T was born.
Life After the Military
Following the artist’s four year stint in the US Army, life wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, and in LA, Ice-T faced a number of different challenges. On his time in LA, Ice-T once said: “I’m an orphan. I don’t have any living relatives, so I was kind of thrown into South Central Los Angeles to try to figure it out.
“You got the gangs over here. You got the hustlers. You got the girls. You gotta figure it out. I don’t got no back-up, I don’t have family or brothers, so I gotta connect to the right cats that got my back. I’m light-skinned. I got light eyes. My name’s Tracy. You trying to make it in this city, these mother*****s will eat you alive, you dig?
“I was always reaching to be a little bit smarter, a little bit more intelligent. You don’t have to be in the gang. You just gotta get the gang on your side. If you’re a likable person, you can move around, so I figure in LA that no one’s afraid of anybody, but if they love you, you good, so love is more important than fear.”
Ultimately, it was this guiding philosophy and positive outlook that enabled Ice-T to harness his talents and build a groundbreaking career in the music industry. And the rest is, as they say, history.