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[SmokeOut Presents Body Count] 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
source: www.RapReviews.com

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