With this one song, these guys pretty much crystallize exactly what I've been saying for the last week and a half about the Electric Purgatory that Black Artist who Play Rock are thrown into. It doesn't just come from Whites, a lot of the resistance to Black people "Straying too far, and Acting Too WHite" comes from Black's themselves.
Actually a ton of it comes from Black's people own - long and deeply injected - fear and paranoia. (Sorry guys, I call it like I see it. It takes Courage to reject doing what you're TOLD you should be doing and try something different. It takes guts to break out of the norm and risk potentially failing, but still trying anyway because you believe in a cause - not just want to GET RICH with a Cheesy Rap Minstrel Act so you can pile on more BLING BLING to go with your badass RIMZZ! Yeah BOYEE! Look, they SPINNING - They SPINNING!
Uh huh, Stepin Fetchin was a real Rich Mo Fo too. How you like him now?)
But I digress..
This version of the video doesn't include the infamous "N-Word", which was frankly all over the original version of the song with a ton of F-Words too. I would've used that version if I could have found it, but I didn't. When this came out I was a member of the BRC (Black Rock Coalition) and the "N-word" issue actually became quite a big deal with us. Vernon Reid while on tour with Living Colour visited us and we got into a discussion of it after they were ask on KROQ radio about the Gun's N Roses song "One In a Million" which features the line - Police and Niggers - yeah, that's right - get outta my way - don't need to buy none of your gold chains today, or have my hands claps in front of my back - why can't you give me some slack.
Vernon's attitude was that it's Never Ok. That word has historical weight and significance that simply can't be wished away or ignored. In his view Black people calling themselves that are simply expressing self-hatred, and frankly giving bigots an excuse to use it too.
I think he does have a point, particularly when people use it as an attack in anger.
But the main attitude of some of the rest of us, myself included, is that words are a tool to communicate a thought, feeling and emotion - they don't have magical powers of their own outside of the context of how their used. If you want to take a negative word and use it in a positive/ironic context in order to redefine it and modify it's power from a weapon of attack to one of defense - YOU CAN. The entire breath of Black-Vernacular is built on exactly that kind of ironic reconstruction.
But then Michael Richard's had to lose his mind on stage and fuck it up for everybody.
Even if we do ban the word, it doesn't change how people feel and their ability to use other words to say and express the exact same thing. Stuff like "Mud Duck" or "Macaca" get to the same place. Mission Not Accomplished.
Anyway, I bring this up because it was a source of tension between the Living Colour guys and the Body Count guys who from what I could tell never really bonded even though they Toured together on the very first year of Lollapalooza in the early 90's. Just another one of those East Coast/West Coast rifts I guess.
Naturally I can't let a discussion of Body Count go by without address the REAL controversy they got going ... and that was over a little song called "Cop Killer".
When this song came out Bodycount front man Ice T had already played a Cop in the film New Jack City. He's since spent years playing a detective on Law and Order:SVU - it's like - JUST A SONG PEOPLE!
But man oh man did it start an uproar. About two years after the song came out, and even after they'd performed it dozens of times in front of tens of thousands of fans at Lollapalooza, the Fraternal Order of Police in Texas issued a complaint saying that the song was a call to violence against Peace Officers.
On the album version Ice actually has an intro that explains the song.
This song goes out to the L.A.P.D. For everyone of those fucking police that every beat somebody down and hurts them because they got long hair - wrong skin color - whatever their reason was to do it. I'd like to take a Pig out in this Parking Lot and Shot 'em in the Mutha Fucking Face!
Unless you're an idiot, it's pretty obvious that this song isn't about totally random violence - it's about how angry people can become in response to rampant Police Brutality. The Chorus goes like this.
COP KILLER, better you than me.
I'm a COP KILLER, fuck police brutality!
COP KILLER, I know your family's grieving,
COP KILLER, but tonight we get even, ha ha ha ha, yeah!
It's about self defense from a corrupt government. Yes, LOCAL Government is still Government, and Cops are Government employees - they work FOR US. The real irony in this is that the people who came after BodyCount in solidarity with the Fraternal Order of Police - were Charleton Heston and the NRA, "the Champions" of the 2nd Amendment.
This issue proved these guys don't know what the FRACK the 2nd Amendment is all about.
In Federalist #46 Madison wrote:
The only refuge left for those who prophesy the downfall of the State governments is the visionary supposition that the federal government may previously accumulate a military force for the projects of ambition. The reasonings contained in these papers must have been employed to little purpose indeed, if it could be necessary now to disprove the reality of this danger. That the people and the States should, for a sufficient period of time, elect an uninterupted succession of men ready to betray both; that the traitors should, throughout this period, uniformly and systematically pursue some fixed plan for the extension of the military establishment; that the governments and the people of the States should silently and patiently behold the gathering storm, and continue to supply the materials, until it should be prepared to burst on their own heads, must appear to every one more like the incoherent dreams of a delirious jealousy, or the misjudged exaggerations of a counterfeit zeal, than like the sober apprehensions of genuine patriotism. Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made.
Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.
The right of individual citizens to bear arms is based primarily in the idea that only an armed citizenry can wrest back their liberty from an out of control government. Madison was considering the idea that an out-of-wack Federal Government - with a Standing Federal Army - would be the primary danger, but what of a local government that has become a Military Threat to the people?
LAPD was the first police force to deploy Para-Military tactics against it's citizens. it's inventor, then Lieutenant Darryl Gates called it - S.W.A.T.. It's Special Forces being used against the U.S. The first of many S.W.A.T. Fuckups was obviously the complete destruction and burning of members of the S.L.A. during the 70's. We all saw this exact same scenario repeated by the FBI's version of SWAT, known as H.R.T. (Hostage Rescue Team) at Ruby Ridge and at Waco.
SWAT burned the SLA to death with tear gas canisters that ignited the carpet. The more things change...
LAPD was the first police force to deploy a Military personnel carrier against it's citizens with their "Battering Ram". Their first use of it against a supposed "Crack House" actually wound up breaking down the wall of a family trying to have breakfast. Again, we later saw H.R.T. deploy similar devices against the Branch Davidians at again - you guessed it Waco. (This of course, inspired Gun-Nut/Ex-Iraq War Vet Tim McVeigh to retaliate against - mistakenly - the ATF Offices in Oklahoma City!)
About two years after Body Count released "Cop Killer" the Rodney King Verdict of "Not Guity" was announced against four officer who beat a man to a bloody pulp including fracturing his skull while he crawled and writhed on the ground.
The City Blew the FUCK UP!
That ANGER was what Body Count was talking about - after the Shooting of Eula Love, the strangling of Ron Settles and so many others by LAPD - people had had it up to HERE with years their intimidation, brutality, murder and bullshit. They were ready to LOSE IT, and they did. If anything "Cop Killer" was a warning - but sadly people didn't listen.
Just a couple days ago, the Consent Decree that had given Federal Control over the LAPD in the wake of the Rampart Scandal (Which alleged multiple officers stealing and selling drug evidence, beating and shooting unarmed and innocent suspects) was finally lifted. LAPD today is much better than it was when Body Count originally sang "Cop Killer". Now most of our problems are with the Sherriff's Dept who had three incidents of Shooting Unarmed Suspects "in the Back" in the last month.
But that's isn't the thing that really gets me about all this. Beside the point that this song was essentially a Fantasy response to a real problem. ("I wish I could take a Cop out and Shot him..." is wishful thinking.) He wasn't literally saying he would, or that anyone should. The real thing that got me is how this thing became a controversy about VIOLENT RAP LYRICS.
Yes, Ice T is better known as a rapper - but this wasn't a Rap Song. It's Hardcore Punk. It's like getting Sting's Jazz/Pop Solo work completely confused with his band the Police and their Ska/Punk influences. Only a complete idiot would do that - but it seemed to me at the time Every Media Outlet made this an issue about Rap Music and it's violent Content, not an issue about responding to police corruption and brutality.
It turned into a Debate about "RAP" not about what it was - Rock!. It's like the reporters saw a bunch of "BLACK GUYS" on stage and their mind automatically Flipped to "IT MUST BE RAP!" mode, even though the music absolutely, certainly IS. Not. RAP. Their blindness, deafness and ignorance was just plain pathetic. I used to watch reporters play part of the track on the news and then go off for five minutes about "Dangerous RAP Music". What the fuck, weren't you LISTENING to what you just played?
How do you otherwise get from Body Count to Tupac - except by going through Race? Musically it's like confusing Anthrax with LL Cool J or Slayer mixed up with Will Smith (The Formerly Fresh Prince with or without Jazzy Jeff!)
Still, the most RACIST aspect of the Cop Killer Outrage was that they turned it specifically against the Black Community and RAP Music, when frankly most Black people had never even heard of Body Count or "Cop Killer" (They often admitted 90% of their audience was White) until after Ice T decided to pull the song off his album and stopped the Bomb and Death Threats that were being phoned in to Time Warner Headquarters. Love how those "Law and Order" types aren't above a little Terrorism when they get pissy. Not that pulling the song put a stop to it all.
Look at this report from back then which attempted to link "Violent Lyrics in a Rap Song" to a Cop Shooting.
Six weeks after Time Warner Inc. and Ice-T pulled the controversial "Cop Killer" song off the market, an unprecedented legal battle over another album released by a Time Warner subsidiary promises to reopen the bitter national debate over artistic expression, free speech and corporate responsibility.
The case involves Ronald Ray Howard, a 19-year-old Texan who has been charged with murder following the shooting death last April of 43-year-old state Trooper Bill Davidson on a highway near Victoria, about 100 miles outside Houston.
Howard has told authorities that he was listening to a tape of rapper Tupac Amuru Shakur's violence-laced "2PACALYPSE NOW" as he loaded his weapon, aimed it at the officer and pulled the trigger, sources close to the case said. Investigators recovered a copy of the "2PACALYPSE NOW" cassette from the tape deck of the stolen vehicle after the shooting.
Ultimately they decided not to bring Tupac or his song into the case, because doing so would have actually helped the defense by giving him a better "excuse/alibi" for what he choose to do and could have reduced his sentence. Unfortunately Judas Priest and Ozzy weren't so lucky when they were accused of incite teens to suicide with their songs. (Why any musician would want to kill his own audience, still escapes me - that was just some crazy witch-craft believing Bible-belters going after the Evil Heavy Metal Devil Worshippers I guess!)
Black people aren't the only one who get stereotyped, not hardly - but the fact that injustice abounds doesn't make it any less unjust. IMO It's simply far more obvious when it happens to Black people.
It's like when Bob Marley wrote and released "I Shot the Sherrif" it was a big deal - not so much when Eric Clapton re-recorded it. "Cop Killer" isn't all that different from songs Megadeth had previously done like "Peace Sells..." Yet, somehow the idea of a BLACK GUY with a gun is far more frightening than a white guy who might shoot at cops.
Check out this poster from Tupac's first film "Juice" - which is about how the relationship between a bunch of friends deteriorates when one of them gets hold of a gun and starts using it to control and terrorize the others. See that dark spot to the right of his face just above his hands? That's where he was holding a pistol, but the movie Studio BLACKED IT OUT on the posters because it was too "frightening". The Gun - and the havoc is creates - is the God Damn POINT of the entire film, but it's just too SCARY for people to see it. Ugh!
More recently there was this poster for 50 Cent's first film "Get Rich or Die Trying" in L.A. which had to be taken down because it was "Disturbing".
But I rarely hear or see anyone squawk about this:
Which is a film about two Murderers For HIRE! - who happened to me married. isn't that sweet?
Or just it pick on Angelina for No Good Reason This:
Yet again, movie about Murderers. Anybody Scared Yet?
Speaking of Hitmen.
Anybody having a problem telling this from reality, just curious?
Notice whose got the gun and who doesn't? Could it be the guy with the tendency to go off on crazy Anti-Semetic Rants? (Yeah, I know they both had them on Lethal Weapon One - but c'mon, is Old Ass Danny Glover really that threatening? He played a Serial Killer in "Switchback" with Jared Leto and nobody believed that one either!)
Not convinced this is a very recognizable pattern? Ok, how about we take a look at what was probably THE most violent Gang Inspired Movie from the 90's, the flicks of the Hughes Brothers, both staring Larenz Tate. First Up - Menace II Society?
This movie starts out with a convenience store robbery/murder. The perpatrators grab the store video tape and keep playing it throughout the film, because to them It's Funny. Like Fear Factor without the Net. See any of the guns they use in this picture? Didn't think so.
It's not until the second Hughes Bros Movie Dead President's about a gang of Ex-Vietnam Vet Bank Robbers in the 70's that the Gun Taboo is broken - kinda.
Ok, so this character clearly has a pistol. But is it male or female? Is she Black or White? Can you tell easily? No? Then I guess she's not that scary is she? Black People literally have to do an AL JOLSEN just to be openly armed? Seriously? Yeah, it' s like that.
How about one more movie with a bunch of Bank Robbers like Set it Off Staring Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Vivica A. Fox?
Not so much with the firepower eh? Well watch the movie, trust me these gals do a ton of shooting things up.
Ok, how about this one where Wesley Snipes plays a DC Cop investigating a Murder at the White House.
Can you find his Service Revolver or does this look more like a remake of his other movie Jungle Fever? Maybe it's in his pants. Is that a 9mm in his pocket or is he really happy to see Diane Lane?
Ok, I'm not saying this is absolute - there are examples going the other way like say Wesley Snipes in Passenger 57 where he plays Hero Security Expert who saves a plane from Hijackers. Look closely now -- can you see his gun?
Blink and you might miss it. Kinda looks like he's about to shoot himself in the face, doesn't it - some Security expert that doesn't know basic gun safety? I'm impresse0d. Not.
But this is just Hollywood right, it's not like anyone might think some actual Hollywood Celebrity would really SHOOT Somebody - not counting Robert Blake who co-starred with Wesley in Money Train, along with Woody Harrelson - whose dad did time for Murdering a Federal Judge as a Mob Hitman - a life experience that made him a great choice for this movie....
So what we learned class? White People with Guns=Good (Even when they're playing cold blooded killers, they don't really MEAN it and are still loveable) - But Black People with GUNS is BAD and EVIL!! Ptui!!
White Guys who write a song about "Shooting a Man just to watch Him Die" like say Johnny Cash, are not so big a deal - not even with Johnny's own personal history of violence, drug use and jail time. But five Black Guys with Guitars start talking about "COP KILLER" and shit hits the FAN!
Here's another point, just last month somebody DID go out and Kill Two Cops. But he wasn't Black - he was (apparently) a White Supremacist Gun Nut named Poplowski who was terrified that Obama's going to take our Guns Away!!
Problem is, he's not. This isn't a response to actual police violence or overreach - he was responding to a Phantom Inside his own head, which had not been stoked or fed by people like Body Count -- it came from people like Glenn Beck and Alex Jones of Prisonplanet.com - but of course, they deny it.
Poplawski is alleged to have shot the officers Saturday morning after they arrived at his mother's home in response to her 911 call. When the officers entered the home, Polawski allegedly shot them in the head from close range.
The Post-Gazette reported that an affadavit from eyewitnesses, including the mother, says Poplawski had been stockpiling weapons and ammunition after he was kicked out of the Marine Corps for assaulting a drill sergeant.
Edward Perkovic, a lifelong friend of Poplawski's, spoke to the Post-Gazette, which reported that Poplawski frequented fringe websites and was concerned about a secret government cabal that is supposedly taking away the second amendment and forming a domestic military to enforce its agenda. [Perkovic now says he was misquoted]
"He was really into politics and really into the First and Second amendment," Perkovic said. "One thing he feared was he feared the gun ban because he thought that was going to take away peoples' right to defend themselves. He never spoke of going out to murder or to kill," he said, according to the Pittsburgh paper. Perkovic said Poplawski was a believer in conspiracy theories about Obama and the federal government espoused by the filmmaker Alex Jones, whose website Prisonplanet.com pushes Jones's documentary films and radio show along with his fringe ideology about a New World Order and Obama's role in a quest for world government, according to the Post-Gazette.
I'm really not seeing a ton of outrage across the media (discounting one obvious source: Olbermann) at the lies perpetrated and violence advocated by people like Beck, or Prisonplanet or the nutball Birther's who think Obama was really born in Bali or Kenya or something - although I do hear Beck "whining" about being blamed for this stuff.
So what are the limits of Free Speech? Is Glenn Beck an "Entertainer", is he a "News Commentator" or just a Rabid MadDog "Propagandist"? "What's just a Song or a Movie and what is a real incitement to violence? What's a real legitimate issue that needs to be addressed (with possible Government/Court Intervention) and what's nothing more than a pile of paranoid BullShit?
Either way it seems - a whole lotta people lose their mind when a Black Guy's Got the Gun.
Or the Guitar.
After the "Cop Killer" Controversy, both Ice T and Body Count were effectively pushed off their label. They got a new deal and have recorded three follow-ups including "Born Dead" which had it's ups and downs, the truly awesome "Last Days: Violent Demise" and their most recent CD "Murder 4 Hire" - which has had some mixed reviews.