Yet Ice, as he frequently calls himself, decided that now was the time to again awaken the beast. He thought this as well in 2005, when Body Count went to work on Murder 4 Hire. Still reeling over the recent death of guitarist D-Roc the Executioner from leukemia (two other original band members previously passed away), founding guitarist Ernie C. fused together a band and wrote a dozen songs. Ice-T, in turn, was primarily focused on his acting career. The album lacked focus and true conviction. Ice freely admits as much.
"Body Count suffered tremendous tragedies. We lost three members, one at a time . . . I kind of mailed it in," he says with some regret in his voice. "They sent me tracks; I did vocals. We weren't even in the same room. I wasn't happy with it."
What Murder 4 Hire lacked, Manslaughter, the group's latest, more than makes up for. Sonically and lyrically, the album frequently channels the power and enraged energy of the band's 1992 eponymous debut. With songs glorifying crime, violence, and freaky sex, along with tracks fighting the establishment or slamming societal issues, Ice-T sounds as pissed off as ever 22 years later.
"Ain't that funny?" he says with a laugh. "One of the keys in doing this record is that I had to sing from a real place. I had to sing about things that bother me right now. I couldn't have anybody say, 'Ice, this isn't real to you anymore.' I had a long time to think about things that pissed me off and what I wanted to address. Every song on the record is either about something that bothers me or ticks me off. Or it's something I feel should be respected and honored, like 'Bitch in the Pit' or 'I Will Always Love You.'"
These tracks offer shout-outs to women braving the mosh pit and servicemen suffering the traumas of war to keep America safe. The latter track's gritty details are drawn from Ice-T's personal military experience, back when he was Tracy Marrow.
"I think the best music can come from somebody who's been there," he says. "I wrote this story from the eyes of the soldier. I've played that to servicemen and they broke into tears because what I'm saying and the way I'm saying it. They know I know . . . My allegiance is to the servicemen, not the politics."
Manslaughter also features "Institutionalized 2014," a full-on rage machine (based on the famous Suicidal Tendencies song) of venom denouncing phone bank outsourcing, vegetarianism, and senseless violence. And "Back to Rehab" is a searing metal send-up for a "homey . . . fazed on liquor" that Ice kicks off tour until he's clean. "Talk Shit, Get Shot" burns with ferocity at Internet bloggers and the bullshit they spew.
"I fuckin' hate Internet bloggers. I hate people who use the Internet to talk shit and disappear into anonymity. I wish I could reach through the fuckin' screen and snatch some of them," he says, his voice rising slightly.
"These songs come from real places, some more angry than others," he adds, calmer again. "I think we'll always have shit we're pissed off at in life. Music is a good release valve for some of us to let us just vent it, you know?"
Clearly, but what of the crazed funk-metal odyssey of "Black Voodoo Sex"?