Black Music Month: Body Count

"You'd know what to do, if your kid got killed on the way to school, or a cop shot your kid in the back yard, shit would hit the fan motherfucker and it will hit real hard"

The original name for this album was Cop Killer but due to censorship it was renamed Body Count after the band. The band Body Count managed to come together out of a high school in Crenshaw. Needless to say it's an album that a lot of people didn't want to see hit shelves. Not just because of the song Cop Killer but because of the whole album. The whole album is full of tracks tackle racism and oppression. It doesn't just call for the death of cops but politicians by name like Al and Tipper Gore.

The first thing is hearing about Ice T in a rock band you may think it's just him rapping over some guitars. No, not at all. This is a heavy metal album filled with Ice T going all in at the top of his lungs of screaming guitars and pounding drums. By all definitions, this is a metal album. Despite that reviews for the album were mixed. Some people praised it for the metal album it was, others actually refused to accept it as a metal album by black guys. The Rolling Stone were displeased stating Ice T didn't know if he wanted to rap or sing. In the end they had to accept it.

Ernie C does all the composition on tracks for the album and Ice T handles all the lyrics except for the song "The Winner Loses," which is handled by Ernie C. The Australian version has a track called "Freedom Of Speech," which is a rock remix of an old Ice T song sampling an old Jimi Hendrix song to give it a rock sound. The album is also broken up with various interludes taking aim at the media and some specific people. The first one is called "Now Sports," where a news reporter mentions the deaths of black teenagers and quickly moves on to sports. Showing how the media refuses to give any humanity to black youth, simply moving on from their stories after a passing glance to something they see more important, like sports.

"Body Count," takes aim at people who try to justify blackness on some imaginary scale. People who told Ice T he was a sellout and acting white for doing a rock album. He mentions how black people invented rock music and it shouldn't be about genre but the music you're making. Then he takes aim at politicians who don't care about the black community. Black kids die in shootouts or as he mentioned get shot in the back by police officers and politicians just don't care. However the moment a white child that looks like them is hurt it's time for change and quickly. He states that shit would hit the fan, and it does. They sit around enjoying wealth while ignoring the black community as if we aren't part of America. It's followed by the interlude "A Statistic," where Ice T simply states "At this moment, there are more black males in prison, than in college." That can be attributed to the school to prison pipeline that's so prominent in black school systems.

"The problem isn't the lyrics on the records, it's the fear of the white kids liking a black artist, but the real problem is the fear of the white girl, falling in love with the black man," are the words on the next interlude called "The Real Problem," which precedes the track "KKK Bitch." It's a song that tells the story of a black man falling in love with the daughter of the KKKs Grand Wizard. It's a song about people who hate interracial relationships and it's pretty funny but that doesn't distract from the point. If you hate interracial relationships you might as well be in the KKK because you're racist.

"The Winner Loses," is the only track penned by Ernie C. It's a strong anti-drug message. When the album dropped in 92 the crack epidemic was still going strong and there were plenty of people who lost friends to drug addiction and more often than not, it's still true. It's covers how drugs may make you feel like a winner but in the end, you lose.

The track "There Goes The Neighborhood," takes aim at people who simply do not want black people around. You can't deny there are people who don't want black people around when this summer alone there have been countless news stories of black people being beaten and removed from pools in their own neighborhoods. Police officers combat roll into the area and start laying the smack down on teenage girls like it's a pro wrestling championship match, and I'm talking about 2015, so it must have been even worse in 1992. Ice T sings "Don't they know rock's just for whites, don't they know the rules, those niggers are too hard core, this shit ain't cool, those blacks want everything, in the fucking world."It highlights the racist thinking that if black people are treated fairly it will somehow take away from them. If schools in black neighborhoods get up to date text books, how will the white children learn to read?

Then there is the (in)famous track "Cop Killer," in which Ice T sings about killing police officers. The song was so serious that stores in North Carolina didn't sell the album because Police told them they would not respond to calls from those shops. The song was banned in Australia because they have no freedom of speech in Australia. Tipper Gore had nerve to compare Ice T to Hitler and compare the song "Cop Killer," to slavery. Other critics stated the song would make people want to go out and commit crimes. Did I mention, Ice T was compared to Hitler for a fictional song? Genocide, was compared to criticizing the police. Then, President George H. Bush called a press conference to condemn any outlet that sold the album, causing many stores to remove it from their shelves. For the Australian version of the album the track "Freedom of Speech," where Ice T made sure to call out Tipper Gore by name. Eventually Warner Bros. refused to sell the album if Cop Killer wasn't removed so the track was removed and Ice T left the label after his next album never to sign with another major label.

The thing is, the song wasn't just about going out and killing police officers. It was a track about defending yourself and shooting back when police shoot for no reason. Think about the pure number of unarmed minorities killed by police. Ice hypothesizes that if we shoot back, they will stop shooting first and never asking questions. There's also the fact that he never says to kill cops in the song. The entire song is about someone who is fed up with police brutality and would rather kill a cop than be killed himself which is why the line "fuck police brutality," and "better you than me," are repeated so often.

People blame shooting police officers as the reason so many people hate the song, but that's not it. "Cop Killer," is hardly the first song to play with the idea of killing police. Nobody questioned Eric Clapton for his version of "I Shot The Sheriff," or Tommy Jarrell for his song "Policeman," only Body Count. The real issue they had a problem with black people questioning police authority. We see it every day in the news now. The moment black people question police the media starts trying to discredit them. They ask about black on black violence, the time you got a D on a test in school and everything else. Here's the problem, no matter how you try to discredit the person, you can't discredit the question. The question becomes no less important because of the person. That's the problem with not only the song "Cop Killer," but the album Body Count. You had a group of black men questioning the police, politicians and bringing attention to systematic racism.

Feel free to follow along with our Black Music Month Series

You can hear Darrell on the CP Time and Powerbomb Jutsu podcasts. He also plays classic arcade games on The Cabinet
Black Music Month: Body Count Black Music Month: Body Count Reviewed by Darrell S. on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 Rating: 5

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