What We Learned From Ice-T's Spring Weekend Speech

Our Spring Weekend speaker 2017 opened up with a disclaimer: “We’re all educated people. Curse words aren’t going to send you to hell. They’re exclamation points, they get your point across. If I’ve offended any of you, the exit doors are lit.”

Over the next two hours, Ice-T got real with us about overcoming the impossible. He cited his own life story as evidence: he was born in Newark, New Jersey and orphaned in the 7th grade. From there, he moved to LA and ended up involved with the Crips. He became a teen dad, and joined the army to provide for his family. When he got home from his service, he turned to the life of a career criminal, pulling heists with friends to make money.

In spite of all this, he started a revolution. He started rapping about the things that got him in trouble, and talking about the bad stuff created a new genre. He spearheaded the gangster rap movement and paved the way for rappers that came after him. “I’m always gonna be counter-culture,” he said of his penchant for going against the norm.

He spent some time talking about his acting career and his relationship with SVU executive producer Dick Wolf, who kept offering him roles in cop-style projects. Ice-T always asked for “the bad guy role”, and eventually landed in the one we know him best for, Detective Tutuola on Law & Order: SVU. At first, he said no to the project, but agreed to do four episodes. Four episodes turned into 18 years. “You don’t guide life, you ride life,” he said of his unexpected career move.

He laid down some general rules for success, which are as follows:

  1. Have a work ethic. Show up on time. “Never make anyone you want something from wait on you."

  2. If you’re looking for a mentor, pick someone who’s done it. For example: If you’re looking for a trainer, “pick someone who was out of shape and now is in shape.”

  3. “Never confuse popularity with respect.”

  4. “Always take a meeting.”

  5. Stay away from people that aren’t afraid to go to jail or die. “If you’re out and your homeboy is like “Man, I’m ready to die tonight,” you say “Nope, I’m out.”

After he dropped his wisdom on us, he took the time to answer some questions from the audience. He talked about everything from how to be an actor, which SVU co-star is his favorite (spoiler alert, it’s Mariska Hargitay), to the status of the music business. He even answered a more advice-driven question about how to get out of a toxic relationship. “I hope he’s not in here, that’s not a general question. Buddy, if you’re in here, your relationship is toxic and you gotta fix it. But for real, you need to have the courage to be happy. With my wife, we’re teammates not opponents, assets not liabilities. It should be easier together.”

Ice-T stole the show and spoke to us on his own terms without regard for the University’s effort to censor him or CAB’s time constraints. When told they had time for one more question, he stopped them and said “No no, we don’t do that. Fifteen more minutes, I’m answering ten more questions, count them.” In those last ten questions, he stressed the importance of having a sense of humor, talked more SVU, and laughed with us.

In the grand finale, he brought his wife, Coco, and their daughter, Chanel, to the stage. Ice-T’s eyes lit up when Chanel came to the stage, and they shared a family moment with us. As far as Spring Weekend speakers go, Ice-T knocked it out of the park. He was funny, endearing, and real with us, which is a thing everyone should be.