It’s not every day you get to engage a person in civil discourse over President Trump, racism, police brutality and, well, music. Try to imagine that person is from South Central Los Angeles, a graduate of Crenshaw High School in Compton — before you could buy it on a shirt at Zumiez’s in the mall. Further, imagine you’re speaking to Ernie C., guitar player for Body Count.
“You know, I think a Trump presidency was the best thing that could’ve happened.” Ernie C. elaborates over the phone from his L.A. home. “Because it made a lot of people wake up. Like, what could happen here? We were all playing cards at the table and he stormed in and flipped the table over.” He continues, “We’re all scrambling around trying to pick up the good hand of cards we had off the floor.”
Body Count’s new album, Bloodlust, is the music accompanying Trump’s table-flip. “Seems like every 25 years we manage to write a record with impeccable timing.” Ernie C. laughs. “You know, people listen to 'No Lives Matter' and they get a reaction, they get upset. They know something should be done. The music inspires them; they don’t know what to do yet, but the music reminds them something needs to be done.”
The entire album echoes the widespread anger in our current political climate. Opening track “Civil War” breaks open with a panic and brings on a death-metal darkness. Tracks like “Black Hoodie” and “Walk With Me” are some of Body Count's strongest songs ever. The powerful spoken-word over “Bloodlust” and “No Lives Matter” will certainly whet fans' appetites even further.
The song they choose to cover this time, as Body Count always does, is none other than the Slayer classic “Raining Blood.” Surely inspired by the shaky iPhone video shot in their recording studio on a whim, this track not only pays homage to the thrash kings but proves again that Body Count rules not only rap but every sphere of metal they touch as well. The spoken intro to their “Raining Blood” may become a fan favorite for years.
Yet, not all of their albums have been so political of late. In 2014, Ice-T told SPIN magazine that Body Count was not to be taken literally. It was an altogether odd statement from the front man, or perhaps just a mea culpa or disclaimer — either way, his statement felt unnecessary.
Let’s face it: Up until that point, who really took Ice-T’s fusion of heavy metal, rap and gore seriously? Certainly not Body Count themselves. With tracks like “Evil Dick” and “Bitch In the Pit,” the band made a point of mocking music culture through hyperbole…and we loved them for it.
Ernie C. agrees. “A lot of our songs you can’t take literally," he says. "I mean, look at [our songs like] 'KKK Bitch' and 'Cop Killer.' You can’t go out and kill a bunch of cops. You might want to [laughs], but you can’t. Our music is a release of tension, you know?”
However, the exaggerated lyrics and gore of Body Count's previous work did allow them a different perspective on some serious issues. While Body Count’s content seemed pulpish, even juvenile when dealing with topics such as racism, the band’s bloody imagery and content itself were just a reflection of those issues. This made them famous — using the violent fantasy imagery of video games and setting it to rap and heavy metal songs, allowing listeners to role-play a first-person shooter role in an album full of violent reckoning.
Ice-T elaborated in the same interview with SPIN. "We’re doing what people wish they could do…Body Count is very grindhouse, over-the-top, hyper-violent, hyper-sexual to the point where there’s humor, but you get the point,” he said. Yet songs like “Cop Killer” and “KKK Bitch” were released under a powder keg of racial tension in 1992. They didn’t carry the satirical, caricature feel of “Institutionalized.”
Body Count released some of their most lurid and lampooning material yet on 2014's Manslaughter, which mocked first-world problems like annoying Internet bloggers, self-righteous vegans and vapid pop-star culture.
The shift from introspective racism to petty predicaments while adulting was subtle but can’t be ignored. Don’t dismiss the fact there was also an African-American in our nation’s highest office. Body Count could afford to rest easy on racism and set their lyrical crosshairs on buffoonery…at least for a while.
Enter 2015 and 2016, when weekly headlines displayed the latest African-American lynching by police with a hashtagged victim's name alongside the largely bifurcated reaction of white America: complete apathy or “Blue Lives Matter.” For a band whose brand was once infamous for its song “Cop Killer,” hashtags and the rise of Donald Trump were too much for it not to return to the studio and shift the band's focus back to the original intent: protesting bigotry in authority.
While Trump can’t repeal Obamacare, get a Muslim travel ban or even force Mexico to pay for a border wall, he can apparently disrupt racial tension enough to get Body Count back in the studio. If that’s not a silver lining to our current political situation, we’re not sure what it is.
“I can’t believe we’re still protesting this shit,” Ernie C. laughs incredulously at the notion. Surprisingly, his voice is chipper, even happy, and he cracks jokes with ease. While he chuckles at the idea that Body Count was founded years ago on a protest platform against racism and police violence, and is still utilizing that platform, the fact remains that “Cop Killer” is still relevant. That's hardly funny to anyone, including him.
“If you would’ve told us 25 years ago we’d still be doing this now, I mean, I don’t know what to think,” Ernie C. says. Daunted that police brutality against black youth seems an incurable cancer in our society, the guitarist elaborates, “Listen to [our new song] ‘No Lives Matter.’ It’s really a song about economics. It says, ‘Don’t be fooled by the bait and switch/ Racism is real, but not it.’ That’s my favorite lyric in that song.”
“We wrote the record during the summer and a lot of our inspiration came from CNN,” he adds. And the anger in the record is palpable and intense. “Listen to the whole thing through," says Ernie C. "It’s sequenced and we did that on purpose.”
Ernie C. sums up this way: “Racism is not just against black people. It’s everybody. Women, Mexicans, Muslims…I mean, I’m more worried about being shot by the LAPD than a Muslim immigrant.”
Body Count will release Bloodlust on Century Media Records Friday, March 31.
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