Maybe Ice-T knew all along.
But it would have been hard for us to predict that the streetwise rap pioneer, who was the mouthpiece of dissent and dissolver of musical boundaries would, at 60, be one of the busiest men in showbiz.
In a May phone call with (614), he joked that he has “14 jobs outside of being in Body Count.” Between his numerous acting gigs, his reality show, his commercials, and his ever-evolving music career, it’s a wonder he still has time pack up and tour with guitarist Ernie C. and his long-time Body Count confidants. But, Ice finds a way.
Now more than ever, Body Count’s rebellious, anti-racist, anti-authoritarian screed is extremely relevant. Last year’s Bloodlust, the hardcore band’s sixth record, deals in the same vicious rhetoric, on songs like “No Lives Matter” and “Black Hoodie,” that informed “Cop Killer” two decades ago. Ice feels so strongly about Body Count’s place in this new world order that it’s become priority and he’ll bring that rage to the Rock on the Range festival this month. And despite his glowing celebrity, Ice is never one to mince words or worry too much about political correctness, as I found out in a rare conversation with hip-hop’s original gangster and renaissance man.
How do you balance that fury and that voice with your celebrity? Does it still cause controversy? I always just continue to do what I’ve always done. I wear a lot of jackets and the song remains the same, I’m still standing out against what’s wrong in the world.
In your opinion, does today’s hip-hop (or punk or metal for that matter) still have the same vitality? Does it still have the same social influence or rebellion that it did when Slayer and Public Enemy were fighting “fake news?” It’s hard to speak about it because it’s a different era. This new
age of people deals with things differently. We didn’t have the Internet. We didn’t have the same ways to address issues. I’ve gotten away from making comments about music, because the kids will address things in their way.
That said, have we reached a new low with Trump? And how do we combat that? I’m curious as to what Ice-T thinks? People are spending too much time complaining about Trump and not doing anything about it. The midterms are coming up and we don’t have anyone who will step up to the plate. We can complain about him all we want but we need a candidate, right? The problem is nobody wants to be President. Everyone understands he’s insane, but who’s going to take his place is the question.
“Cop Killer” was a watershed moment in 1992. Now more than 25 years later, do you think that message is still vital, maybe even more so considering the advent of social media and the spotlight on police brutality? “Cop Killer” was a protest song. I think it’s sad that I can sing a song from 25 years ago and it’s still going on. Twenty-five years ago, you didn’t have camera [phones]; you didn’t have the evidence to prove what I was saying. It was easy to call me crazy and someone to call it confusion, but now I’ve been vindicated. What I was talking about 25 years ago was going on and it’s still going on. That’s what’s sad.
In the greatest irony, you ended up playing a cop on TV. Do you ever get flak for this career move? People from my background are always happy when someone becomes successful and stays out of trouble. I’ve never gotten any flak from anyone who I have respected.
I recently read an interview where you said about the current … millennial generation that, “they grew up on Obama. They’re soft today.” Can you expand on that sentiment? Obama made it feel like everything was going to be alright. He was a very mellow, calming, guy. Now we have a new president who makes everyone feel like the world is coming to an end. That’s a wake-up call and in a way, that’s needed. That’s why people say “woke” now. We need to stay woke and keep up with the politics and stay on top of things. That’s the only thing that’s going to change the world we live in.
I’m a high school English teacher—and I always impart a nugget of wisdom you introduced in 1989: “Freedom of speech/just watch what you say.” I feel it’s just as potent as it was on the Iceberg album. Where does the first amendment stand these days? The first amendment is just a concept. You can say all you want, but the question is applying it. We all have the right to say whatever we want, but you have to be prepared to fight for the ramifications of what you say. It doesn’t mean free speech without penalty. It just means it’s legal to say anything; it’s not illegal, but that doesn’t mean someone can’t address you outside the law.
There’s a whole new generation of Body Count fans now who don’t know about 1992 and what that band represented then. What message are you trying to send to that new generation? Courage … have courage to say what you feel about whatever. It’s the same thing that happened when punk rock started—just speak your mind. Don’t be afraid. If you speak your mind, you’ll find out that a lot of people agree with you. A lot of people don’t know that Body Count is very much anti-racism and we are all probably angry at the same shit. Divide and conquer has always been the tactic and it works. Don’t let anyone turn us against each other.
If you were to run for president—which you have to be honest, with Trump, is completely possible—what would the pillar of your campaign be? Anyone with any intelligence would never want to be President of the United States. That’s just the worst job you could have. But if I was magically in control of the country? The pillar of my campaign would be education. Teachers would be the highest paid. They would all make over $100,000 a year easily. They have to be admired. I would make it that, if you wanted to go to college, it would be free. It wouldn’t matter if you wanted to learn a trade or academics, if you want to learn, you need to be able to learn for free. It would affect the way our economy works. It would lower the amount of people in prison because there would be more hope. And it would drastically change the way the United States is set up right now because there wouldn’t be so many dumb f**ks walking around.
Body Count plays Rock on the Range Friday May 18. For more information and daily lineups visit rockontherange.com.