Should Metal Be Politi­cised?

Body count front­man, ac­tivist, ac­tor and hip hop leg­end Ice-T weighs in on why metal can take a stand

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Body Count - WORDS: DOM LAW­SON • PICTURES: JEREMY SAFFER

In 1992, Body count courted the wrath of the me­dia and the gov­ern­ment with Cop Killer, a song writ­ten in protest at the es­ca­lat­ing lev­els of police bru­tal­ity to­wards young black men. Twenty five years later, we ask Ice-T whether politi­cised metal will take cen­tre stage again.

DO YOU THINK THE STATE OF THE WORLD IN 2017 WILL LEAD TO MORE PO­LIT­I­CAL STATE­MENTS IN METAL?

“It hap­pened in the 60s, man. It hap­pened in the 80s. It hap­pens when pol­i­tics is so real that you can’t get around it. When the Viet­nam War was go­ing on, it was kinda hard to sing, ‘Don’t worry, be happy!’ Shit was too real. When shit gets real, I have to ad­dress it. my opin­ion about po­lit­i­cal shit is that ev­ery­body should be po­lit­i­cal.”

HOW IM­POR­TANT IS IT FOR YOU TO MAKE PO­LIT­I­CAL STATE­MENTS IN YOUR MUSIC?

“I think I would get bored if ev­ery­thing was po­lit­i­cal. ev­ery­thing I do is very some­thing, you know? ha ha ha! If it’s sex­ual, it’s very sex­ual. If it’s vi­o­lent, it’s graphic and ex­treme. So if I get po­lit­i­cal, I’m gonna get ex­tremely po­lit­i­cal. The way I re­main sane is that I try to chan­nel all the things I’m deal­ing with, whether that’s per­sonal shit or my love of hor­ror and ac­tion movies, and I talk about pol­i­tics, too. But I’ve never been as po­lit­i­cal as, say, Public en­emy, be­cause then I’m not al­lowed to do a stupid record or a fun record, be­cause I would get pi­geon­holed.”

DO YOU HAVE TO BRACE YOUR­SELF FOR CRIT­I­CISM WHEN YOU GET PO­LIT­I­CAL?

“ev­ery once in a while you’re gonna get some­one on Twit­ter that says, ‘Just stick to act­ing and stay out of pol­i­tics!’ There’s an over­all view that celebrities shouldn’t be mak­ing po­lit­i­cal state­ments. I’m like, ‘oK, and plumbers should?’ ha ha ha! at the end of the day, when celebrities make state­ments they’re tak­ing a risk with their ca­reers and I think they should be ap­plauded. If I come out and say

‘Fuck Trump!’ I’m po­lar­is­ing my­self. If I re­ally cared about the money, I wouldn’t say any­thing. It doesn’t mat­ter what the fuck you do,

some­one’s gonna ar­gue with you, so you might as well say what you feel.”

Does metal feel a more nat­u­ral home for your po­lit­i­cal songs than hip hop?

“hip hop has ba­si­cally turned into dance music. It turned back into disco. radio doesn’t want us say­ing any­thing. They won’t play the big po­lit­i­cal records. But I think ev­ery­thing moves like a pen­du­lum. You can only make fun party music for so long before it has to claim back that po­lit­i­cal el­e­ment. What we need is a young, 19-year-old Public en­emy. We need metal bands that are in their 20s and talk­ing shit. It can’t be us any­more be­cause I’m as old as your dad! We need that new blood of ac­tivism in music and we need it badly.”

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO PEO­PLE THAT AR­GUE THAT YOU’RE A RICH MAN, SO YOU SHOULDN’T BE SPEAK­ING OUT ON SO­CIAL IS­SUES…

“The ques­tion is: where is your heart? rich is a state of mind. You lack com­pas­sion and you don’t care about shit. So if some­one says ‘Fuck Ice-T! he’s no longer one of us!’ ha ha ha! man, I’m black! The cops will snap me out of the car and shoot me dead in the street. If I was rich, why would I make Body count records? Why would I ruf­fle feathers if I didn’t give a fuck?

Why not just kick it on the golf course and chill?”

DO YOU THINK PEO­PLE UN­DER­ES­TI­MATE THE POWER OF LYRICS IN HEAVY MUSIC?

“You should al­ways take ad­van­tage of power when you have it, be­cause a lot of peo­ple don’t have it. When I first started rap­ping and mak­ing music, I didn’t know I had power. I didn’t re­alise that my words mat­tered. Then I sold a mil­lion records and my next al­bum was called Power! ha ha ha! I’m now aware that what I say mat­ters so I al­ways put the lyrics with the record so peo­ple can see what we’re say­ing. If you’re do­ing death metal growls, at least give me a lyric sheet so I can growl along with you.”

WHAT’S THE SE­CRET TO WRIT­ING PO­LIT­I­CAL SONGS THAT HAVE CRED­I­BIL­ITY?

“You know what it is? I can see life from two dif­fer­ent sides. I saw it from the broke side and I lived my life with a lot of broke peo­ple. There’s a lot of anger and there’s a lot of aggression against the wealthy. Then you get some dol­lars in the bank and you find your­self around peo­ple with money and they make you even more an­gry, like, ‘No! That’s what you think, for real?’ So I’ve seen it from both sides and that’s why you get a more ed­u­cated view from me than just say­ing ‘the cops hate black peo­ple’. They’ll beat up a poor white kid in some trailer park, too, be­cause they know there’s no reper­cus­sions. That’s deeper than racism.”

we’re guess­ing that you’re not a fan of Don­alD trump. fair?

“You know what he is? When peo­ple say they don’t like rich peo­ple, that is who they’re talk­ing about. Peo­ple who think they’re bet­ter than ev­ery­body else.

The fucked-up thing about Trump is that he wouldn’t let any of the peo­ple that voted for him into one of his ho­tels. he wouldn’t even make eye con­tact with ’em. he’s just a piece of shit! ha ha ha! he’s not a nice per­son. he wants to be king, you know? like I say, the pen­du­lum swings. Bush was a re­ac­tion to clin­ton, obama was a re­ac­tion to Bush. Give it three years and he’ll be out of there. his fans will turn on him, trust me.”

WHAT AD­VICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG BANDS THAT WANT TO TAKE A PO­LIT­I­CAL STAND?

“You’ve got to be hon­est. The key is to sing about some­thing you re­ally be­lieve in, be­cause you’ll be chal­lenged. Don’t come out and sing about some­thing you know noth­ing about, just be­cause you read a dumb news­pa­per head­line some­where. Sing from your heart.”

BODY COUNT’S LAT­EST AL­BUM, Blood­lust, IS OUT NOW VIA CEN­TURY ME­DIA

“YOU SHOULD AL­WAYS TAKE AD­VAN­TAGE OF POWER” NEVER TAKE IT FOR GRANTED, SAYS ICE

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