A lot of people don't know this, but Ice T basically invented the gangsta rap genre.
Oh sure, NWA gets most of the credit. Largely due to the Straight Outta Compton album and its most famous single, "Fuck Tha Police." But back in the day, when Dre, Cube, Eazy and company were still sporting the jeri curls and satin outfits they wore as The World Class Wreckin Cru, Ice T was earning his stripes as a hip hop soldier with the Zulu Kings alongside guys like Afrika Bambaataa and Afrika Islam.
By the time he released his first album as a full fledged rap artist in his own right, (the classic Rhyme Pays), Ice T made his claim on history with what is arguably the first bonafide gangsta rap track, "Six In The Mornin," which details an unwelcome visit to the rapper's front door by L.A.'s finest at that ungodly hour.
"Six In The Mornin," for all you hip hop historians out there, is widely credited as being the first West Coast gangsta rap single (though some will argue it was predated by the mid-West's Schooly D single "P.S.K. (What Does It Mean?).”
The bottom line is Ice T's track came at least a year before NWA popularized the gangsta rap genre and turned thousands of suburban white boys into wannabes.
The other significant thing Ice T did was create one of the earliest examples of rap-metal fusion with another track from Rhyme Pays, "Our Most Requested Record."
Originally released as a single B-side (though now included on the CD version of Rhyme Pays), Ice T trades lyrical daggers on "Our Most Requested Record" with a gloriously scratched and otherwise dissected sample of Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker."
"Our Most Requested Record" was a sign of things to come.
Ice T next took the rap-metal fusion — combined with the gangsta politics — he had mined as a rapper to its fullest conclusion with the creation of the very first rap/metal band Body Count.
Body Count stirred up some significant shit with their very first single, the infamous "Cop Killer."
Released during an election year, the single made a star out of the otherwise mentally feeble Dan Quayle for one thing. Serving as the hit man for the first George Bush's re-election campaign, Quayle took his "family values" tirade to the national stage with a message that somehow wedded Ice T with Candice Bergen's popularity at the time with her Murphy Brown TV character.
What can I say other than that you had to be there?
I can remember to this day seeing Ice T and Body Count on the very first Lollapalozza tour at the height of the "Cop Killer" controversy. It was in Seattle, and I was a part of Sir Mix-A-Lot's organization at the time.
So we got to hang out at the side of the stage during Body Count's set. We also really pissed off this British guy who was with Siouxsie And The Banshees (and which I will also swear may have been American Idol's Simon Cowell), for hanging out near their trailer.
About midset, I decided to venture out into the crowd. My single most ingrained memory of that is standing to the side of the stage during Body Count's set and observing the very aggressive way the King County Cops dealt with anyone who so much as flinched.
Clearly, these guys were not amused at working security for the guy who popularized a song called "Cop Killer."
But what I also remember was that Body Count stole the show on a bill that also included the likes of Siouxsie and Jane's Addiction. Guitarist Ernie C in particular ripped ass.
Ice T has of course long since gone on to respectability as an actor, most notably on the Law And Order: Special Victims Unit show. The former "Cop Killer" makes a pretty convincing detective actually. Who'd have thunk it?
Which is exactly why it's so nice to see Ice T come back to his roots with the release of a brand new Body Count album, their first in what seems like about a hundred years.
Murder 4 Hire reunites Ice T with the only other existing original member of Body Count, guitarist Ernie C.
And ya know what? They haven't lost a step. Murder 4 Hire shreds ferociously despite the loss of original band members Beatmaster V (drummer), Mooseman (bassist), and D-Roc (guitarist).
Never one to shy away from the hot button issues of the day, Ice T also kicks some pretty serious lyrical science here. The subjects here range from the political ("The End Game"), to the religious ("The Passion Of the Christ"), to the downright terrorist inspired apocalyptical scenario we all secretly dread ("Dirty Bomb").
Dispatching all of the lyrical glass shards he is best known for, Ice T nonetheless never outshines his great band Body Count. On this album, they shred as though their very lives depended upon it.
Just ask Rage Against The Machine, Korn, Limp Bizkit, or any of the other numerous "aggro-metal" bands that owe their very existences to this pioneering rap/metal band.
For the rap/metal enthusiast, this is required listening.
Absolutely and without a doubt.