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The incredible thing about Split Decision is it is many things all at once. It is a memoir, a cautionary tale, a story of redemption, an insight into the criminal justice system, and a way for two long-time friends to be honest with themselves in front of all who choose to hear their stories in this fantastic book.

Told from the perspectives of Tracy “Ice-T” Marrow and Alton “Spike” Pierce, Split Decision is about how two criminal partners made different decisions that ultimately changed their lives and forever affected themselves and everyone around them.

On the one hand, in addition to being a music legend, Ice-T is also a household name for his role on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.  And besides numerous other film credits, Ice is often remembered for his character Scotty Appleton in New Jack City and for his critically-acclaimed documentary, Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap, which spawned an entire brand and concert series of the same name. Then, on the other hand, Spike is someone who was a member of Ice’s Rhyme Syndicate but then served decades in prison and now works as an orderly at a hospital in California.  

Many would surmise that Split Decision reads like a real-life example of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” And while there are parallels, the text does so much more than that, making it truly memorable. Not only is the level of description superb with two people providing input, but the insight into their bond and how Ice and Spike established a level of trust and friendship as jewel thieves is quite compelling. There are parts of the book where Ice and Spike recall the same event, and it’s interesting seeing them go back-and-forth about things.  Then there are pages when the two couldn’t seem further apart because of their respective paths. However, even in opposite worlds, the ties that bind them are as tight as ever. Therefore, minimizing the book as just one about good and bad choices undermines its many other thoughts about friendship, guilt, loyalty, karma, faith, gratitude, and luck.

There are bad people and good people who make bad decisions. This book is about the latter. And no one is perfect. So while most readers are neither world-famous entertainers nor criminals, it still begs two questions of every single one. One is “What if?” What if someone cheats on a significant test or exam? What if someone doesn’t pull out during sex when they’re not ready to be a parent? What if someone gets behind the wheel after one too many beers? Fuck. A single decision has the potential to change everything. The other question is, “Why?” Why does one do what they do?  Why do they do it if they know it is wrong or not in their best interest? And why does this person get caught, when that person gets away?  Everyone has asked those questions of others and themselves.  Split Decision forces readers to see two different outcomes, knowing that all people have been on both sides of that situation at one time or another. And therein lies the brilliance in it because it takes the breakdown of two very personal journeys and makes them relatable to every reader (or listener) from every walk of life.

One person that Ice-T has often cited as a significant influence on him is the late pimp and author, Iceberg Slim. Upon reading Split Decision, it reminded me of a famous quote from Slim that encapsulates the depth of these stories, particularly in the aftermath of a life in crime. Slim once wrote, “An emotional debt is hard to square.” And in the book, Ice defines and beautifully illustrates what Slim called “street poisoning” and how the allure of the player life he and Spike were consumed by warped their perspectives of reality. Ultimately, both men, at different points, do what they can in various ways to change their ways of thinking and settle what they owe for how their exploits in the streets touched others. These parts of the book are fascinating because of the different positions Ice and Spike are in and the respective challenges they each face going about doing so.  

Another component that this book deserves credit for is that, while the bleak surroundings of the inner-city get addressed (i.e., racism, police brutality, drugs), they are never cited as the reason for wrong-doing. Some people would take the easy road and say the proverbial system is to blame for their activities. They don’t. Both Ice and Spike hold themselves entirely accountable for their actions. It is a courageous thing to do, and I commend them immensely for it. And with assistance from writer Douglas Century, they provide original voices and views on their lives and the many lessons they’ve learned along the way. Everyone can get something from this book, so reading it is essential for all! 

Split Decision is available everywhere on July 19.

Ice-T & Spike’s ‘Split Decision’ is a Must-Read