Law & Order: SVU star Ice-T has spent a third of his life playing Odafin Tutuola. As Fin, he’s fearless but pragmatic. He knows and respects life on the streets.
Maybe Ice-T does such a great job as Fin because he’s aware of the flip side. He spent a chunk of his early life as a criminal, back when he went by his given name, Tracy Marrow. He lived in South Central Los Angeles. And his existence feels like an old-school rap video come to life.
Now, he’s writing about said life. But there’s a twist to “Split Decision: Life Stories by Ice-T and Spike.” Ice-T turned his life around. His friend, Spike, spent 26 years in prison. The two described the book as a cautionary tale, one that shows how a single decision can destroy your life.
And the long-time Law & Order: SVU star appeared on The View Wednesday to talk about his book, which was released this week.
“We grew up in South Central Los Angeles, and both of us were what you called street hustlers. And our hustle, we were robbers,” Ice-T said. “We would rob jewelry stores. We did hundreds and hundreds of them. I was good, I never got caught. … “I’m telling you, I never got caught. Every day, we’d get up in the morning and commit felonies all day long. It was an occupation.”
Law & Order: SVU Star Said His Crimes Were Burglaries and ‘Takeovers’
The guy who investigates complex crimes on Law & Order: SVU said he broke the law all kinds of ways. He described his crimes of choice as “burglaries to take-over robberies.” He said that most men who lived in his neighborhood in the mid-to-late 1970s didn’t have many role models.
“Why we did it? You’re in the streets, the people you see are the hustlers and the players,” he said. “The doctors and lawyers had left the neighborhood. Whatever shines and the way to survive, that’s what you did.”
So what changed? How did Tracy Marrow become rapper Ice-T who now is known most as a cop named Fin on Law & Order: SVU? His music helped him turn the corner and also brought too many inquisitive eyes.
“I started to rap, and I started to see fame, I just become too famous,” Ice-T said. “I started to notice people knew me, I couldn’t do the same kind of thing.”
Ice-T Said Crime is Akin to ‘Addiction’
But Ice-T explained why it was so hard to break free from the lifestyle.
“Crime is intoxicating,” he said, “especially when you get away with it. It’s like any other addiction. So we were getting away with it. But I just decided I’m getting a chance to do this rap thing, I don’t want to go to prison. I don’t want to get in trouble. I made a decision and told my friends, ‘I’m done. I’ve gotten away, I’m not going to do it anymore.’ And Spike, on the other hand, was trying to rap with me. He was part of my crew, but he decided to try one more and it went wrong.”
Ironically, Ice-T’s first big movie part was portraying a cop named Scotty Appleton in New Jack City. This was in 1991. Then he began playing criminals. His career changed when he accepted the role as Danny Up, a drug dealer on New York Undercover, which was co-created by Dick Wolf. And when Wolf brought Law & Order, then Law & Order: SVU to NBC, he knew who to call about a guest starring role. But Ice-T was so good at playing Fin that a story arc of four episodes ended up stretching to 494. The season 24 premiere of Law & Order: SVU will be episode 495. That’s Sept. 22.
“I’m just really lucky,” Ice-T said Wednesday. “I’ve played a cop for 25 years. How the hell did that happen?”