Body Count Biography

The Ice-T (Tracy Marrow, 16 February 1958, Newark, New Jersey, USA) spin-off metal/hardcore band, who achieved notoriety with the inclusion of the track ‘Cop Killer’ on their 1992 debut for Warner Brothers Records. Other songs included titles such as ‘KKK Bitch’ and ‘Bowels Of The Devil’, but it was ‘Cop Killer’ that effectively ended Ice-T’s tenure with his record company, and made him public enemy number one within the American establishment. Body Count made their debut during the inaugural Lollapalooza US festival tour in 1991, preceding the release of the album. The line-up was completed by Ernie-C (guitar), D-Roc (b. Dennis Miles, 1959, USA, d. 17 August 2004, USA; guitar), Mooseman (b. USA, d. 2000, USA; bass) and Beatmaster V (b. USA, d. 1996, USA; drums), whom Ice-T knew from Crenshaw High School in South Central Los Angeles. Although occasionally suffering from the misogynistic street language common to much US west coast rap, their material contained forceful anti-drug and anti-racism themes, particularly ‘Momma’s Gotta Die Tonight’, which addressed the issue of institutionalized bigotry being passed down through successive generations. The band continued touring, and were offered the opening slot on the Guns N’Roses / Metallica North American trek, exposing them to a more mainstream audience.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles Police Department were taking extreme exception to ‘Cop Killer’, a song they viewed as dangerous and inflammatory (‘I got my twelve gauge sawed off/I got my headlights turned off/I’m ’bout to bust some shots off/I’m ’bout to dust some cops off’). The fury aimed at Ice-T, now officially number 2 in the FBI National Threat list, came thick and fast. Actor Charlton Heston read out the lyrics to ‘KKK Bitch’ to astonished shareholders at Time Warner’s AGM. ‘Cop Killer’ also appeared in Warners’ blockbuster movie Batman Returns, which consequently faced calls for boycotts. Among the other opponents were Oliver North, President George Bush, and the Texas police force, who called for a nationwide boycott of Time Warner, including their Disneyland complex, thereby threatening to wipe millions off Warners’ share value. The pivotal moment came when death threats were received by record company employees, and the U-turn was made. The track was eventually replaced with a spoken word message from former Dead Kennedys frontman and noted anti-censorship lobbyist, Jello Biafra.

Undeterred, Ice-T resolved to continue in authority-tackling mode, and Body Count persisted as an ongoing musical concern into the new millennium. Further albums (Born Dead and Violent Demise: The Last Days) for new label Virgin Records offered greater musical depth but diminishing returns. The deaths of original members Beatmaster V, Mooseman and D-Roc, meanwhile, helped cement the image of Body Count as a ‘cursed’ band.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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