An original concert poster for Body Count’s headlining performance at the Melody Ballroom in Portland, Oregon on April 6, 1992 – less than a month after the release of the band’s self-titled debut album. Printed on an 11” x 17” sheet of yellow cardstock, it features a photographic image of vocalist Ice-T in his signature “O.G.” hat and Rhyme $yndicate shirt. The poster is especially bright, with some light creasing along the extremities.
Formed in Los Angeles in 1990, Body Count is fronted by Ice-T (or Tracy Lauren Marrow, b.1958), who had already established himself as a pioneering West Coast gangsta rapper when he co-founded the group with lead guitarist Ernie C, with whom he shared a passion for Black Sabbath and other heavy metal music. Ice-T introduced the band at Lollapalooza in 1991, devoting half of his set to his hip hop material and the other half to Body Count songs, increasing his appeal with both alternative rock fans and middle class teenagers and paving the way for the mainstream success of the rap metal genre. A year later, Body Count was the focus of national debate over the lyric content of its self-titled debut album, which focuses on various social and political issues ranging from police brutality to drug abuse. In particular, the song “Cop Killer” elicited controversy and anticipated the 21st century culture wars. In a February 28, 2020 feature for Kerrang!, rock journalist Mörat wrote:
“Written in 1991 and released in ’92, Cop Killer by Ice-T’s metal band Body Count didn’t so much cause a storm as a category five hurricane. Words were spoken on the highest level: among those condemning the song none other than then-president George H.W. Bush, vice president Dan Quayle, and PMRC co-founder Tipper Gore. Within weeks of its release, police organizations across the United States called for a boycott of the band’s record label, Time Warner, and the removal of the song (and the self-titled debut album from whence it came) from record stores. Indeed, one store in North Carolina was forced to remove the record from its shelves after local police said they would no longer respond to emergency calls. It goes without saying that the band themselves were threatened with arrest if they played the song live, and at one memorable show opening for Guns N’ Roses and Metallica in San Diego, Ice-T read a letter from the chief of police, wiped his ass with it, and played the song anyway! Nearly 20 years later, the song is no less contentious.”
Ice-T described “Cop Killer” as a “protest record” and years later, recalled that the song was inspired in part by the beating of Rodney King by LAPD officers and comments made by drummer Beatmaster V: “Cops are out there killing people, doing their bullshit, and getting away with it. Motherfuckers need to start taking off on the cops.” Despite the outcry, many defended Body Count on the basis of the band’s First Amendment rights, including the National Black Police Association, which identified police brutality as the cause of much anti-police sentiment, and proposed the creation of independent civilian review boards “to scrutinize the actions of our law enforcement officers” as a means of ending the provocations that caused artists such as Body Count “to respond to actions of police brutality and abuse through their music … Many individuals of the law enforcement profession do not want anyone to scrutinize their actions, but want to scrutinize the actions of others.” Nevertheless, the furor escalated to the point where death threats were sent to Time Warner executives, and stockholders threatened to pull out of the company. Finally, Ice-T decided to remove “Cop Killer” from the album and replace it with a new version of “Freedom of Speech” from his solo album “The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech…Just Watch What You Say” (1989). To date, the studio version of “Cop Killer” has not been re-released, and is unavailable on Spotify and other music streaming services. Item #74370