“When I wrote ‘Cop Killer,’ people weren’t actually killing cops,” says Ice-T. “But I was saying, ‘If you keep going in this direction, then this potentially could happen.’ And I was proven right. Twenty-five years later, we’re still dealing with the same bullshit. Maybe I’ve been vindicated, but I don’t want to be vindicated. I don’t want it to happen. I don’t want cops to be out there trigger-happy.”
A quarter-century after rapper-actor Ice-T stirred up controversy with his metal band Body Count’s signature song, “Cop Killer,” police brutality is in the public eye more than ever. Over the past five years, numerous young black men, some of whom were unarmed or seemed to pose no threat, have been killed by policemen. Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Keith Scott, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile are just a few of the more publicized cases, but in 2016 alone more than 250 black people were killed by police officers in America, according to the Guardian. And 64 cops have also been killed in the line of duty, 25 of them murdered in “ambush-style shootings,” according to NPR.
“Twenty-five years ago, I wasn’t intelligent enough to really understand why the cops were so quick to shoot,” Ice T explains. “Now I’m older, and I understand that when police officers go in a gated community, they don’t have their hands on their trigger because they’re not being threatened. When they’re in the projects, they’re quick on the trigger because they don’t feel safe. These people have to have a way to retaliate, I understand that, but racism has got a lot to do with it too. And we’ve got to make sure that there aren’t any racist cops on the force. And how do you do that? The cops have to do it. If they see one of their fellow officers doing something racist, they’ve gotta report him. That’s the only way we’re gonna get rid of the bad cops.”
Ice-T still enjoys making message-heavy music with Body Count today, and Bloodlust is the band’s hardest-hitting and most cohesive offering since their 1992 debut, featuring songs about bad cops, capitalism run amok, governmental corruption, gang violence, and revenge. But these days Ice-T is a little less combative, even when writing about the Black Lives Matter movement (“No Lives Matter”) or his unwillingness to forgive anyone who crosses him (“All Love Is Lost”).
“After I did ‘Cop Killer,’ I learned that you don’t have to be so obvious with your attack,” he says. “Because what happens is if you get into a big beef about it, that dilutes what the fuck you’re doing. Now it’s controversy. A lot of people want that, but I’ve learned that doesn’t really get the job done. It slows up the message. It slows down what you’re trying to accomplish.”