SmokeOut Presents Body Count featuring Ice-T
Label: Eagle Vision/Eagle Rock Entertainment
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
Today they are a footnote in musical history, largely forgotten and not
often mentioned. In 1992 though the self-titled debut of Body Count was
considered a must-own album among my childhood peers. Unfortunately by the
time we learned just how violent and controversial the album was supposed
to be, it was already way too late to purchase the album. Having a limited
amount of retail choices to begin with (Wal*Mart and Target were the two
biggest chains with stores less than a half hour's drive away) and coming
before a time when anybody had even conceived of "eCommerce" let alone
internet in public schools, we were all fucked, stuck, and shit out of luck.
When one person managed to finally get a legitimte copy of the real thing,
man we copied the HELL out of it. Bootlegging? Copyright violations?
No such thing to a kid who's not even legally old enough to drink beer. We
blasted "Cop Killer" out of tape decks and boomboxes and felt like rebels.
It might be pathetic, but back then nothing seemed as cool as playing it in
your car, driving really fast and screaming "COP KILLER, FUCK POLICE
BRUTALITY" at the top of your lungs. In retrospect there really wasn't
anything that outrageous about it. The media blew the whole thing way out
of proportion, as they so often do, and if the heavy metal outfit had been
fronted by anybody other than gangster rapper Ice-T nobody would have noticed.
Watching the "SmokeOut Presents Body Count featuring Ice-T" DVD is therefore
by default something of a trip down nostalgia lane. Nostalgia? For a group
whose best songs were "KKK Bitch" and "There Goes the Neighborhood?" Absolutely.
I'd feel the same way if somebody handed me a copy of 2 Live Crew's "As Nasty
as They Wanna Be." That doesn't necessarily mean it's good music, but that
doesn't necessarily mean "A Nightmre on Elm Street" was a good movie either.
Any kid will tell you that it's the things you aren't supposed to listen to,
the magazines you're not supposed to be reading, and the movies you're not
supposed to be watching that you want the most; and it's the heightened expectations
you have about them that will make them so memorable years later whether they
were any good or not. And I must confess, Body Count was a lot more memorable
the first time around. At the time I was listening to hip-hop almost exclusively
so to hear Ice-T fronting a heavy metal band, a genre I was not the least bit
familiar with, was a pretty novel experience. These days I have to perfectly
honest - even a group like Metallica whose members I loathe (Hetfield and Ulrich
have to be two of the biggest pricks on the planet) kick their ass musically.
Body Count does have two things going for it though - Ernie C is a decent
guitarist and Ice-T's heavy handed hardcore rap style lends itself well to
crunchy beats and high octane drumming. He's clearly rapping more than singing,
but that just makes him a pioneer in a "nu metal" style copied and evolved
years later by the likes of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park.
There are a few problems with this DVD though. Recording a live performance
for DVD can and should be a "warts and all" type of deal if it intends to be
audience with the viewer later on, but this is definitely a performance covered
with big nasty ugly warts. Technical problems prevent Ice-T and Body Count
from finishing several of their songs, and nagging festival organizers who keep
trying to make Ice-T wrap what's already a way-too-short set to begin with
result in a DVD you can finish watching in under an hour's time. That's really
not satisfying, but unfortunately it can't be helped. There's probably a
bootleg Body Count concert video that's longer and better though, especially if
it features original bass player Mooseman (who left the group in 1994) or
original drummer Beastmaster V (who sadly died of leukemia in 1997). It's solely
due to the desire of Ice-T to carry the set through with charisma and energy
all the way to it's logical "Cop Killer" conclusion that this live SmokeOut
performance can overcome these obstacles.
The quality of the DVD itself is excellent - good menu transitions, camera footage
is very clean with plenty of different angles to showcase the band and good
reaction shots from the crowd, and someone clearly considered that the audio
would end up on DVD or CD later on since it's incredibly crisp and clear.
In the end I would have preferred that this just be one chapter in a fuller
"SmokeOut" festival presentation, a festival organized by Cypress Hill that
features the best acts from around the country, but this is still decent for
what it is if you can find it for $10 or less. There's really not much to the
bonus features other than "Making of the Festival" and a photo gallery though,
which is a bit dissapointing. I don't know if there are really any hardcore
fans of Body Count in 2005, but they would appreciate the quality if not the
quantity of the performance. Ice-T fans should be a little more wary, and
hip-hop fans who don't have the fond memories of Body Count's controversial
debut that I do may want to avoid it altogether.
Content: 5 of 10
Layout: 8 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: December 13, 2005