Music Interview: Ice-T on man-pussies in America, his hardcore band Body Count and today’s worthless artistry
In the late 1980s, hip-hop and rap pioneers the likes of 2 Live Crew, Too $hort and Ice-T gave voice to a domestic warzone.
The artists were waging an offensive against failed social structures with their controversial lyrics and sought to reveal the awful truth about inner city existence. Their misogynistic, violent and profane language fell hard on the ears of the uninformed masses and caused a media shit storm of storied proportions.
Then in 1992, lead singer Ice-T and his hardcore outfit Body Count released the single “Cop Killer,” much to the dismay of blind-eyed conservatives during the height of the cultural conflict. Said to be a protest against the murderous nature of those in power, the song quickly rose to popular infamy. The White House, local police forces, protective parents and even entire state governments called for its dismissal. It triggered pre-virility dialogue over the rights of artists and their ability to taunt the First Amendment. Ice-T says he knew then the corruption had to be disrupted, and his lyrics could be the impetus.
“Music is all about the time,” says Ice. “When ‘Cop Killer’ came out that’s when the cops were fucking crazy right then. Those records mean things because at the point in time that’s what was going on.“
But the world and its art have dramatically transformed since the mid-‘90s. Ice-T admits that today’s music is full of aggrandizing distortion and shouldn’t be taken at face value; it’s no longer a call to action.
“Now flash-forward to 2014,” Ice says. “The world is living in a bubble full of bullshit. If you listen to this music right now you’ll think everyone is driving around in a fucking Rolls drinking Cristal. It bothers me. America is losing their cribs and you’re talking about the shit you did, or the shit you buy? Most of it is lies. Yeah I know - and you know I know - and the reason they know I know is because they’re calling me borrowing money!”
He isn’t just 56 years old, musing about “when-I-was-your-age” visions, either. He says he knows full well that the proverbial censorship wool sits over everyone’s eyes, and new artists aren’t as forthright with cultural problems. Mentioning the controversial issues in music now – things like Miley Cyrus and the Biebs – he says they all lack social importance.
“Who gives a fuck about Miley Cyrus?” asks Ice. “Today a guy asked me on Twitter, ‘How do you feel about what Justin Bieber said?’ I don’t really give a fuck about what Justin Bieber said. I don’t know what Justin Bieber said. Then somebody tells me, ‘Oh he said the N word.’ Alright, oh shit, the world is going to come to a fucking end because Justin Bieber said nigger. Come on man, really?”
In 1991 when his fourth rap album “O.G. Original Gangster” released it was a listener’s first introduction to a four-track sampler of the heavier act Body Count. It was far and above what genre enthusiasts expected out of the West Coast gangster rapper. With the band built more so around the creative process than the anticipated successes at the end, Ice-T claims that he never knew how far it would go without diving into it as seriously as he did with rap.
“The band was just invented just to gig around LA and play at pizza joints,” says Ice. “Then we ended up on the Lollapalooza tour and the first record just took off. Then we got blindsided by the cops and was like ‘Oh shit. The fuck!’ We didn’t know that was gonna happen.”
Before much could get going for Body Count, it went through a series of unfortunate deaths and opened up the reality that the gig might be seeing the finality of its performances.
“We ended up with some serious internal problems,” says Ice. “We lost our drummer (Beatmaster V). Then we lost our bass player (Mooseman). We had three people die, you know. Now though, we got new members; Body Count just wouldn’t die.”
The band only released one album - “Murder 4 Hire” - within a 17-year period after its members passed. Most fans moved on and expected the act was gone for good after Ice-T took a prolific position in 2000 on the still-running “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” as Detective Odafin Tutuola. The new album “Manslaughter” and his return to the stage with Body Count, Ice says, is more for himself and to vent his frustrations.
“The whole album is based on what I call pussification of the male sex,” says Ice. “I just think guys have gotten real soft and real politically correct and nobody has nuts anymore. This has nothing to do with gay men; I’m for gay marriage. I’m just talking about straight guys that are pussies. I need something to ride to, to lift weights to, to be the man to. So, this is the music that’s in my head. I hope I can start a trend again and get it going.
This is what I think is gonna happen. I think the old school, hard core, mosh pit, raw mother fuckers who are parents now are gonna get this record and they’re gonna take their kid and say, ‘This is the shit, right here listen to the words.’ What I try to do with my rock is make the words as important as the musicianship.“
The hardcore act is part of the Rockstar Mayhem Festival that has split dates between the Fillmore Auditorium and Red Rocks Amphitheater on July 13 and 14. Body Count will be at the Red Rocks showing and will be in support of headliners Korn, Avenged Sevenfold and Asking Alexandria.
“Pop music to me doesn’t have any importance,” says Ice. “Important, that’s my word. Everything I do has to have a degree of importance. Body Count is important.”
by Brian Frederick