Ice-T is a Producer of The Art of Rap and one of the creators of Gangsta Rap, building a hard-edged West Coast sound rooted in his own experiences hustling on the streets of L.A. But he became hip-hop's most controversial figure in 1992 after coming under fire for "Cop Killer," a song by his thrash-metal side band, Body Count. The lyrics painted a brutal picture of the strife between inner-city police and ghetto youth, and even drew criticism from then-President Bush. At nearly ever turn, Ice-T has been martyred or chastised, managing to offend both the left and right with his provocative words. In the minds of his supporters, Ice-T's violent, often misogynistic tales of mayhem are more sarcastic and even humorous than cynical or gratuitous. With his blunt vocal delivery, narrative-style writing, and mesmerizing B-movie images, Ice-T was one of the earliest West Coast rappers to gain respect among the New York hip-hop set. As an artist, he set the stage for N.W.A, Snoop Dogg, and the Notorious B.I.G. and mingled easily with underground rockers on the first Lollapalooza Tour in 1991. He founded his own Rhyme Syndicate label (distributed by Sire/Warner Bros.) and introduced the likes of Everlast.
Body Count's self-titled debut album came out to little fanfare in 1992. Then a Texas police group noticed a track called "Cop Killer" and threatened to boycott Sire's parent company, Time Warner. Within a year, Ice-T became a household name, appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone in a police uniform. After initially supporting the artist, Time Warner quickly accepted when the rapper offered to remove "Cop Killer" from the album; the label soon began asking other artists under its umbrella to remove similarly objectionable material. When the company rejected the artwork for Ice-T's next solo album, Home Invasion, the rapper elected to be released from his seven-album contract; he left the company in January 1993 with five gold albums. (In 1993 he released Home Invasion [#14 pop, #19 R&B], artwork and all, on the independent label Priority.) Warner's decision to let go of Ice-T provided a chilling symbol of how intense corporate fear of rap had become in the wake of "Cop Killer." Body Count (including high school friend Ernie C. on guitar) reemerged with a third album, Violent Demise: The Last Days, in 1997 on Virgin Records.
In 1994 Ice-T's autobiography, The Ice Opinion, was published by St. Martin's Press. By then, he had begun a successful acting career, appearing in several films, including New Jack City (1991), Ricochet (1991), Trespass (1992), and Surviving the Game (1994). He also played an ex-con-turned-crimefighter on the short-lived network TV drama Players in 1997. But Ice-T continued to rap, even as his sales noticeably diminished, releasing VI: Return of the Real (#89 pop, #19 R&B, 19966) and Seventh Deadly Sin (1999).