Why Ice-T Was Hesitant to Perform During the GRAMMYs' Hip-Hop Tribute (Exclusive)

The 'Law & Order' star went back to his rapping roots for Sunday night's star-studded hip-hop showcase.

Ice-T took a break from his reign as the longest-running male actor in a TV series to celebrate hip-hop's 50th anniversary at the 65th Annual GRAMMY Awards! The West Coast rapper, who began his career as an underground rapper in the '80s, joined Sunday night's star-studded showcase celebrating the genre's rich history and continued global influence. 

LL Cool J introduced the magnificent tribute before The Roots' Black Thought offered powerful words. Then, the performances kicked off, with musical legends from Run-D.M.C., Rakim and Public Enemy's Chuck D and Flavor Flav to Ice T, Queen Latifah, Wu-Tang Clan's Method Man and Too $hort all taking part in a hip-hop medley showcasing their best hits.

"Multi-generational. Fifty years. From the Bronx to TikTok, to the whole world. We love you, baby," LL Cool J said to wrap the incredible tribute to hip-hop. "We started in the Bronx and ever since then it's gone everywhere -- to the five boroughs, to the West Coast, to the heartland, overseas, to Europe, to Africa, to Asia, TikTok. What else is next?!"

While an unforgettable feature in the segment, the Law & Order star admitted to ET that he was initially hesitant to join. But thanks to showcase producer Questlove, he eventually made the trip out.

"Questlove calls me up and he says, 'All right, you gotta come to L.A. this weekend... It's a big performance, I got you in the lineup,'" he recalled. "And I was still hesitant 'cause it's a long travel, But then he says, 'You don't want to be sitting at home watching this show, saying you should've been there. I was invited but I didn't show up.' And [so] I got my Black a** on a plane."

The actor reflected on the momentous celebration that brought all the genre's icons together onstage, expanding on a previously stated note that it made him feel good "to see all these legends together and you're not here for a funeral."

"Real talk, unfortunately, that's usually the only time we all get together and see each other," Ice-T shared. "So the GRAMMYs brought us together and it’s so crazy that for a while, rap wasn't even represented at the GRAMMYs. I got one of the early GRAMMYs with Quincy Jones, you know, but I felt Quincy kinda snuck us in the backdoor."

He added, "And now, tonight, you're gonna be amazed at the performance. They got everybody, they got all the hoodlums in here. We don't get invited to this type of party! The people that were raised by us are now the people making the decisions, and so what a difference a day makes. You see Dr. Dre doing the Super Bowl with 50 Cent, Eminem, all the outlaws. That means that the culture has really broadened to where the people in power are our children."

Sunday night's showcase is just the beginning when it comes to celebrations for the genre's big anniversary.

"For five decades, hip-hop has not only been a defining force in music, but a major influence on our culture," Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, previously said in a statement. "Its contributions to art, fashion, sport, politics, and society cannot be overstated. I'm so proud that we are honoring it in such a spectacular way on the GRAMMY stage. It is just the beginning of our year-long celebration of this essential genre of music."

The 65th Annual GRAMMY Awards was broadcast and streamed live on CBS and Paramount+. Follow along at ETonline.com for full coverage from music's biggest night, including performancesGRAMMY winners and more.