Tracey Lauren Marrow, better known by his stage name Ice-T, took the stage as Fordham’s Spring Weekend speaker on Thursday, April 27 to deliver a lecture he called, “Overcoming the Impossible.” Marrow’s speech ranged in topic from his own life story to commentary on the current social climate, while also providing insight from Marrow’s wealth of entertainment experience as an accomplished musician, television star, filmmaker and writer.
Marrow opened his lecture with a disclaimer on his use of profanity. He argued that profanity had value as a way of emphasis to better get across the meaning behind words. “If by mistake I use one of these words, it’s just an exclamation point,” he said.
Marrow transitioned to discuss how one does the impossible. “Get someone who’s done it to teach you,” said Marrow. He also stressed the importance of believing in one’s own importance while trying to achieve a goal. He advised that everyone remind themselves, “but I’m a winner,” when facing adversity. Marrow often applies this in his own life. “Every once in awhile, I have to say, but I’m Ice-T,” said Marrow.
Marrow grew up in Newark before being orphaned and sent to live with his aunt in Los Angeles, California. Though his years at Palm City Junior High School were peaceful, Marrow recounted his more tumultuous high school years at Crenshaw High School in South Central Los Angeles. There, he became connected with a Crypt gang. Marrow cited his lack of family as a reason for his involvement. He referred to it as a “weird kind of family.”
“Gangs are for when you don’t have anything else going in your life,” he said.
In his senior year of high school, Marrow’s girlfriend became pregnant, prompting him to join the army and attend Ranger school to support them. Upon his return home, he fell into criminal activities with friends. After the death of a friend resulting from illicit activities, Marrow turned a corner and transitioned out of a criminal lifestyle. He began to make music about his experiences. “Unknowingly I created a genre called gangster rap,” said Marrow, which he defined as rapping from the perspective of someone in trouble. “All my music had a b-side to show the negative side of that life,” he said.
Marrow also discussed the response to the release of the song “Cop Killer,” which included unfavorable comments from President Clinton. “When the president says your name in anger, your life changes,” said Marrow discussing the background checks he went through after the release. Marrow explained that “Cop Killer” is a protest song and the importance of awareness of police brutality. “It was happening 25 years ago, and it’s still happening today,” said Marrow. He also discussed the recent rise in awareness of police brutality. “Anything you say, if it’s true, will be vindicated eventually,” he said.
Marrow discussed his work with producer Dick Wolf before and during his time on the show “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” which Wolf executive produces. What started as a trial four episodes turned into 18 years of Marrow playing Detective Odafin Tutuola. “You don’t guide life, you ride life,” said Marrow on the opportunities and previous jobs that led him to SVU.
Campus Activities Board (CAB), which organizes the Spring Weekend lineup, moved the event from McGinley Ballroom to the Lombardi Fieldhouse in order to accommodate a greater number of people. “I’m really impressed and surprised how many people came out. He was a great speaker,” said Emily Oliver, FCRH ’17, American Age Lecture Series co-chair.
Oliver spoke of the qualities that made Marrow CAB’s choice for the Spring Weekend speaker. “We were trying to find a big name speaker who students could really connect to, who was relevant, and we felt like Ice-T really fit it all. It was a long process but it was totally worth it, and it definitely pays off to see all these people here,” said Oliver.
Marrow took questions from the crowd covering relationship advice, career advice for those pursuing the entertainment industry and his personal views on rap music and the political climate. In terms of his greatest accomplishment, Marrow said he was proudest of his ability to transition from a street mentality to daily life. Colette Nolan, FCRH ’20, enjoyed the question and answer portion. “I think he had a lot of good points, he was really funny. He was well-spoken and really got his point across, some of the things he said really made you think.”
Before exiting, Marrow’s wife, Coco, and daughter, Chanel, joined him onstage to applause.