Ice-T on lemonade and life, at FDU’s WAMFest

Ice-T speaks at FDU. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Ice-T speaks at FDU. Photo by Jeff Sovelove

Video: Ice-T on lemonade and life, by Jeff Sovelove

By Jeff Sovelove

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade commercials.

At least, you do if you’re Ice-T.

Ice-T speaks at FDU. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Ice-T speaks at FDU. Photo by Jeff Sovelove

Otherwise, “you’re a full-blown sucker,” the actor and rapper told fans at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s WAMFest on Friday.

Ice-T’s free-wheeling closing talk at the annual Words and Music Festival proved so popular that it was moved outdoors to the garden of the Madison school, to accommodate more people.

Fielding questions from April Patrick, director of FDU’s honors program, and from the audience, Ice-T, 58, reflected on his origins in Newark and Summit, his careers in hip-hop and heavy metal, his TV role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit  and…his Geico ad:

Video: Ice-T at a lemonade stand

“If it was stupid, I wouldn’t have done it,” Ice-T said. “They said, ‘The last place people expect to see you is in suburbia watching some kids sell [lemonade],’ I was like, yo, that’s dope, let’s do that! And it worked.”

In other words, when life hands you lemons…

“Coming from a background with no opportunities, and then you get opportunities, if you don’t take them, you’re a full-blown sucker. You are a real live sucker, ’cause all you really want to do is complain, and here comes the opportunity but you don’t take it,” he said. “I’m going to do whatever I think will be fun.”

Born Tracy Lauren Marrow in Newark,  Ice-T said he remains an East Coast sort of guy, despite living on the West Coast these days.

Ice-T at FDU's WAMFest. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Ice-T at FDU’s WAMFest. Photo by Jeff Sovelove

Raised in Summit and Los Angeles, he said hip-hop was his chance to get out of trouble and grab attention, especially from the ladies.

Later, he said, he realized he wanted to leave a lasting legacy and decided to use rap to document the street life he’d experienced in his youth. He spent 10 months in the hospital after a serious car accident. None of his street friends visited. It was then, he said, that he understood he wanted to be something, not have something.

His 1992 song Cop Killer, with his heavy metal band Body Count, stirred controversy. He told the audience he never hated the police. There always was an element of mutual respect, and trying to outwit each other, said Ice-T, describing what he writes as “faction”–fictional renditions of events that happen to friends and family.

Still, he acknowledged, he wasn’t sure how friends would react to him playing a cop — Odafin “Fin” Tutuola– on Law & Order: SVU.

Their overwhelming reaction?  “Can I be in it?” he said.

Fin Tutulo, he said, is him…if he were a police officer.

(Spoiler alert: He said his character gets promoted to sergeant next season.)

Ice-T, who in 1987 received the first parental advisory label for a rap album, hits the road next summer with Body Count, which will tour with the heavy metal band Megadeth. Body Count’s upcoming album, Bloodlust, will contain a lot of dark humor, he said.

His philosophy: “You don’t guide life, you ride life.”  –Kevin Coughlin contributed to this report.



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