Ice-T, Body Count & The Home Invasion of America

Ice-T may be known first today as an actor. But in the late 80‘s he was a dangerous emcee who almost single-handily took down the vast Warner Bros. empire with his tongue.

A key figure in Hip-Hop culture, Ice-T recorded and released his first single, The Coldest Rap, in 1982. In 1984, he appeared in the cult classic film Breakin’ as Rap Talker with his song Tibetan Jam featured on its soundtrack. Reprising his role in its sequel, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo in 1986.   

The same year, he dropped the seminal game changing gangster rap classic, “6 in the Mornin’”. Signing with Sire, a highly respected visionary Warner Bros. distributed label and releasing his full-length debut, Rhyme Pays, in the Winter of 1987. It was the first album to ever receive the Parental Advisory explicit content sticker.

In 1988, Ice-T hit hard and furious with his ultra descriptive tale of life inside Los Angeles notorious Bloods and Crips gangs, Colors. The song announced the major motion picture starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall and overnight Ice-T went international to the hoods of the world. Following up in the Fall with the edgy Power, complete with the most gangster album cover, ever, and a remake of the Curtis Mayfield classic, I’m Your Pusher.

1989 saw The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech… Just Watch What You Say!

In 1991, Ice-T blessed the world with his most acclaimed and eagerly anticipated album, O.G. Original Gangster. Predated two months by hood essential major motion picture, New Jack City, and its explosive Ice-T title track song. The eponymous song Body Count an introduction to the no frills hard rock punk band, fronted by Ice-T. Collectively touring stadiums together on Lollapalooza in the Summer.

“I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple,” says Ernie C, lead guitarist, songwriter and co-founder of Body Count. “Everyone says our music is more Punk like. That’s the way it came out. I wasn’t purposely trying to make it sound any kind of way. When we put the band together it wasn’t like, well, we need to sound like this. We started playing and that’s what happened. Then people started labeling what we do.”

This interview with Ernie C. took place April 21, 1992 in Redondo Beach, Ca. One week before the Rodney King verdict and Los Angeles riots. F.B.I. surveillance in effect.

In March of 1992, Body Count released their full-length debut. The single was There Goes the Neighborhood.  Ice-T and Body Count performed on the same bill all over the United States and Canada. By the time the tour came to a close, in their home State of California, dates were being cancelled by fearful venues and Promoters, and the real United States of America was exposed. The intense heat a result of the final song on the album, a live show feature for over one year, Cop Killer.

“People, they get really nervous. People, they knew Ice-T and the controversy he stirred up over the last albums. Body Count was even more hardcore.

Right now, when we book an Ice-T/Body Count show together, Promoters get really nervous. They promote it too much to the Blacks they’ll get all the Black kids. They promote Body Count they’ll get all the White kids, and then they get nervous. They’ll get the pit going and then you’ll get a riot and all this kind of stuff.

We did eighty shows all across the U.S. and Canada with no problems. Both Body Count and the Ice-T show together, so it can work. In the future we’ll probably separate the two shows. We’ll do an Ice-T show. Ice will go out with the Geto Boys and Ice Cube, or whatever. Then we’ll do Body Count with Megadeth, or whoever it might be. Until society can accept it.

We ran into a lot of problems. Salt Lake City had twelve carloads of Cops. And the place was no more than five hundred people. We had twelve carloads of Cops. They had guys on motorcycles, Horses, and a bike patrol and the gang unit.”   

Cop Killer reached the ears of Republican President George H.W. Bush and his party, who disparaged it in public. Great American actor, civil rights activist, and President of the National Riffle Association, Charlton Heston, recited lyrics from it and album companion piece, KKK Bitch, at a Time-Warner shareholders meeting. The album too controversial for a domestic release in Canada. Its status challenged the First Amendment and freedom of speech in America with Warner Bros. holding the line until key shareholders and revenues began to drop exponentially and the song was pulled in the late Summer.

This interview with Ice-T took place between October 1-3 1992 in Los Angeles, Ca. The scars were fresh, the eyes of the world upon him, and there was work to be done. He was in the studio working on the fifth Ice-T album, Home Invasion album. Production on the second Body Count album, Born Dead, had begun. The major motion picture release Trespass, his co-star turn with Ice Cube, scheduled to be in theaters Christmas Day. 

“The ejection of Black into the White youth of America is the last stage of preparation for the revolution,” he says. “All everybody wants to know is why is there all the drama, what’s all the controversy about, and I truly believe its the injection of Black rage. White kids are all of a sudden feeling the anger the Black kids have and they’re going home and telling their parents about it, and now that’s why they want to shut rap down. Really, they’re gonna shut all this music down because never in America have White kids been so mad about Black problems. It’s a very important issue. The homes have been invaded.”

The question is did he give in to pressures of the powers that be and pull the song?

“Nah. That was a move of calling the Cops. What they said was it was all about the money and I said it isn’t about money. I’ll give the fucking record away.

My record can sell with or without that particular song. I was very concerned with people feeling we did that record trying to grandstand the issue, and people saying at the end of the end of the day the only reason Body Count is around is because of that song, Cop Killer. The album is more than that, and all the true Body Count fans already had the record, and that the only people who were getting it at this point were people buying it to criticize it or curious assholes.

I said, we’ll pull the record. It was a move that I threw it back at the Cops. Now It’s gone. Now, either leave us alone or tell the truth. The truth is you just don’t like me. There’ll be no more pulling of records. At the time they had managed to stagnate the entire industry with this one issue. Also, it was a good way to show people that censorship is possible. People always (said) they can’t censor. Okay, that record is gone. You’ll never hear it again. How do you like it? This is where it could be. It could have been mandatory. People got to wake up. I’m always going to do that move that nobody expects.”

Intelligent Hoodlum AKA,Tragedy Khadafi, had his song, Bullet, with the same sentiment pulled prior to release. Legendary Samoan rap/rock pioneers with deep gang affiliations, Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. (Too Rough International Boo-Yaa Empire), had a song pulled too.

“That’s what’s going on but it had nothing to do with me. Me pulling a record has nothing to do with it. The censors are armed. When they put an embargo against Warner Bros. and pull 150 million dollars out of the company that’s what makes people get censored. It had nothing to do with what Ice-T did. It had to do with the fact these record companies are in it for money and their political views are not parallel to the views of the artist. And they’re not into making waves. They’re into making dollars. You turn into a liability they’re gonna look out for their interest.

I considered taking Body Count to an indie, my shit to an indie, but at this moment, as it stands, I have yet to be censored by my label. They have not stepped to me and said this is something you can’t do. When that day comes I have to make a decision.”

Would it make a difference if Cop Killer was a straight rap song?

“It has nothing to do with rap or rock. it has to do with Black anger. If I had did Cop Killer and it was Country record they would have shot it down. But, N.W.A. did “Fuck The Police” and I did kill the Police. And I managed to touch the nerve in America, which they have a law called sedition, which is Anarchy. Let’s go head up with the government, even if its violent. It’s against the law. They move with all the forces. The N.R.A. and everybody.  I challenge any rock group, white, black, to make another record about killing Cops at this moment in the history in America. They’re not allowing that shit. I hate to think it was totally racist but it has a lot to do with me sending a Black attitude home with the white kids, like i said, again, it’s Home Invasion.”