“There’s a basic street law: talk shit, get punched in the face.” So says Ice-T in his fully armed, disarmingly honest new memoir, ICE: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption—from South Central to Hollywood. Ice, as his friends call him, has been telling us how it is for decades, since his first record, Rhyme Pays, came out nearly 25 years ago and helped fire off the gangsta-rap craze.

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Since moving to South Central in the middle of a full-on gang war, Ice has remained in the game in more ways than one—hustlin’, big pimpin’, a stint in the Army, running a record label, fronting a metal band, acting in movies and television—all while rapping in what the player calls “street-level journalism.” Known as a brother who’s never gonna front, he still obviously has a lot to say, as these excerpts from ICE suggest:

Ice-T on character building: “When both of your parents die when you're a kid, when most of your friends die before you're twenty-one—getting killed in the gang wars, OD’ing on drugs—and the rest end up in prison, there's a part of your personality that goes numb. It actually atrophies. For the most of my adult life, deep emotions were foreign to me. They were nothing but a liability."

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On holidays: “Fuck Thanksgiving—that shit's stupid. Fuck Christmas, too. Fuck family. Matter of fact—fuck the world. That was my attitude for years and years. And I can't lie: I still have mixed emotions."

On women: “In general, I don't like being introduced to girls. I feel like, Dude, let me do the fishing."

On love: "We all get into romantic dreams; we all think it's going to be forever. That's one of the first things that comes out of young people's mouths when they're in love. Forever. And that's cool, it's all good—until you get old enough to realize what forever is."

On relationships: "Monogamy is the bomb."

On rapping: "Maybe I was naive about this shit, but I didn't know you could lie. I didn't know you could fake. I really didn't believe it was okay—especially with rap…Why would you have girls in your video that you don't even know? That's fake, brother. Everybody in my videos was my friend. When we shot the ‘High Rollers’ video, I said, ‘The gats in the promo shots ain't props.’ And they damn sure weren't."

On race relations: "I learned real quickly to adjust my racial perspective, especially when I toured out of the country and saw lots of white kids who idolized me and dug my words. I'd see them dressed all in the Raiders gear that they saw in my videos. That made me step back as an artist and say, ‘Maybe I don't know everything.’ ”  

On career development: "[This] might sound crazy, but I honestly don't think I could have developed and sustained a successful career on a network drama if I didn't understand the world of pimpin' and hoin’.”

On acting: "Judd Nelson was a life saver."

On life: "I've got news for you: If you feel that you can't find happiness unless you're 100% carefree and blissful, then I'm sorry, man, but you're going to be a miserable, depressed person forever."

(Ed note: All excerpts from an advance galley. Finished copy may slightly differ.)