Ice-T on His Role Models, Breaking the Rules, and What it Means to Be Fly

Ice-T portrait
Victoria Will/Shutterstock / Shutterstock

Tracy Lauren Marrow, better known as Ice-T, is now starring in his 20th (!) season of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. The hip-hop pioneer spoke to Men’s Journal about what it means to be fly, breaking the rules, and proving his drill instructor wrong—all for the latest column of Life Advice.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

Only take advice from people you admire.

Who told you that?

Probably some player on the street, one of my pimp buddies. It was more like he was telling me, “If you’ve got a friend that doesn’t have a girl, don’t take relationship advice from him. You got a broke friend, don’t take business advice from him.” It’s pretty simple.

Who were your heroes growing up?

The cats in the street, the hustlers and gangsters who had the cars and the women. There were no black professionals in my neighborhood for me to admire. So my heroes were cats that seemed to have made it monetarily.

How should a person handle getting older?

You have to embrace your evolution. They say age is a number. I believe we’re all the same age—either you’re alive or you’re dead.

How should a man handle criticism?

I let it roll off me. The only criticism that really bothers me is if it comes from one of my friends, someone that I care about and I admire. Then I’d have to address that. Maybe it could be helpful. Or maybe it could be hate, and I just have to remove them from my playlist, you dig?

What is the secret to a happy marriage?

Make the right draft pick.

What role should vanity play in a man’s life?

I think a touch of vanity is important. As a player, we call it being fly. You want to be well-dressed. You want to be well-groomed. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

What human quality do you most admire?

Integrity.

What human quality do you most deplore?

People who will do anything to get ahead.

What living person do you most admire?

Barack Obama.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life?

I’m just into the people that made it from nothing. Like, why go to the gym and work out with a guy who’s been in shape for his whole life? I want to work out with somebody who used to be fat and fucked up and now they got it. That’s the guy that can teach me something.

What adventure most changed your life?

I was in the Army, the 25th Infantry. There was a point where one of my sergeants told me, “You can’t make it in civilian life. That’s why you’re here.” My whole life I have been proving him wrong.

Who would you invite to a dream dinner party?

Prince, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown. George Clinton. Prodigy from Mobb Deep, 2Pac, Biggie. Ozzy. Lemmy. All the OG’s, man.

How do you want to be remembered when you’re gone?

As somebody who broke the rules, who was trying to do what hadn’t been done. Chuck D. once said Ice-T is the only person he knows who does things that totally jeopardize his career to stay awake. Put that on my tombstone.

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