Every Body Count Album Ranked

Author Ben Apatoff assesses the catalog of Ice-T’s controversial metal band

Body Count poster (Image: eBay)

With Body Count in the mixing stages of Merciless, their upcoming album that was first announced two years ago, the most incendiary band to ever step into a studio are poised to continue an improbable comeback streak over 30 years after the United States federal government and law enforcement tried to force Body Count’s debut album out of existence.

They’ve since overcome numerous label and lineup changes, including the passing of three of the band’s five original musicians, storming back with a modernized, heavier sound on 2014’s still-stunning Manslaughter. But as Ice barks on 2017’s “Black Hoodie,” he’s been writing about the same things for decades. It’s only recently that the rest of the world has started to catch on.

Here’s a celebration of Body Count, and their legacy of inconsistent but never dull records. 


You can order the author’s 33 1/3 book chronicling Body Count’s eponymous 1992 debut here


7. Murder 4 Hire (2006)

“The worst record is—don’t you say it, let me say it,” Ice laughed in our interview. He said it, and who are we to disagree? America in the second Bush Administration was ripe for a Body Count record, but Murder 4 Hire went right above the plate, not living up to its Uncle Sam “Will Kill for Money” album cover. “The End Game” and the drone strikes-themed “Dirty Bombs” are generic stabs at commentary, with messages going only as far as Ice’s still-strong voice can take them. Songs like “Relationships” and the stalker-themed “In My Head” are as conventional as their titles. At their best, “Down in the Bayou” or “Invincible Gangster” will remind you how much better “Voodoo” and “O.G. Original Gangster” are. Closing instrumental “Mr. C’s Theme” is the clear highlight, but for the most Murder 4 Hire, along with video game tie-in single “The Gears of War” made the case that Body Count were running out of ideas. “I kinda mailed it in. They wrote the music in L.A. and sent me the tracks, I wrote the lyrics, and I just kinda walked away. I didn’t mix it, I didn’t do anything to it, and the record suffered. And I didn’t want to do another one unless we had a real shot at making a good record together.” Ice stated years later, during press for Manslaughter. Thankfully, he wouldn’t make that mistake again.



6. Violent Demise: The Last Days (1997)

Body Count’s unofficial farewell record, dedicated to late drummer Beatmaster V and featuring “B.C.” initials depicted by the Bloods and Crips gang hand signs in the cover art, mostly sounds like outtakes from their game-changing debut. The OJ-inspired first single “I Used to Love Her” nods to previous songs by Guns N’ Roses and Common in the the title and retells a media-exhausted murder case that was already two years old in 1997. “You’re Fuckin’ with BC” is the Rocky V of Body Count anthems. The Bronx’s one-album rap wonders Raw Breed show up to give “My Way” a conventional nu metal taste, and X-rated songs like “Strippers” and “Bring It to Pain” aren’t as funny or catchy as “Evil Dick” or “KKK Bitch.” The album closes with its best songs, Ernie C’s Motörhead-worthy Jack Kevorkian story “Dr. K,” and the towering “Last Days,” an slam poetry epic that shows Body Count going out with a bang. Despite its release near the birth of the nu metal era and the record industry’s peak years, when rapper-fronted-rock bands were all the (ahem) Rage, Violent Demise went mostly unnoticed. “I just think that black people accept the fact that in America, whatever you do, somebody white will do it and be bigger,″ Ice stated. “That’s just part of being Black.But listening to Violent Demise today, Body Count’s comeback 20 years later sounds all the more remarkable.



5. Born Dead (1994)

Looking to fulfill Ice’s promise to be even harder than their debut, Born Dead’s cover featured another Dave Halili-illustrated cover, this time of a stillbirth in a maternity ward. The biggest hit and video was a faithful cover of “Hey Joe” which originally appeared on 1993 tribute album Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix, mixed by Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer, that takes Body Count outside of their usual hardcore and shows off the band’s chops—Ice-T as an affecting singer, and Ernie C as a guitarist who can match the greatest. “Body M/F Count” starts the album by repeating the themes of “Body Count’s in the House,” “Body Count” and “Body Count Anthem” over solid riffs, police sirens and radio, and the album benefits from rhythm guitarist D-Roc and bassist Mooseman stepping up into songwriting, like the former’s riff-heavy “Masters of Revenge” and the latter’s thrashy “Necessary Evil” and sadly prescient “Drive By.” But if Body Count was inspiring by making greatness sound attainable, Born Dead sounded more attainable, with less of the original’s distinctive wit and hooks. A “Medley” music video of “Masters of Revenge – Killin’ Floor – Drive By – Street Lobotomy – Born Dead” looked like an unfocused message from band that had been famously incisive. Once more, Body Count closely with a powerful title track, the predominately spoken word ‘Born Dead,’ which was performed with “Necessary Evil” on MTV’s Jon Stewart Show. Entertainment Weekly‘s “B” review summed the record as “a lot like the first, only less funny,” but removing Body Count’s humor showed how critical it was to their music. Born Dead’s liner notes memorably dedicated the album “to all the people of color throughout the entire world: Asian, Latino, Native American, Hawaiian, Italian, Indian, Persian, African, Aboriginal and any other nationality that white supremacists would love to see born dead.”



4. Carnivore (2020)

For us longtime Body Count fans, watching the band get their first Grammy for Carnivore’s “Bum-Rush,” felt a little like seeing Bob Dylan get his first Grammy for “Gotta Serve Somebody” off 1979’s Slow Train Coming, a belated award for an artist that deserved the recognition years earlier. But also like “Gotta Serve Somebody,” “Bum-Rush” is a formidable message from a veteran artist, and well worthy of its acclaim. Carnivore erupts with extreme metal distortion (the title track), guests as varied as Power Trip’s Riley Gale and Evanescence’s Amy Lee, and bandmates Vincent Price, “Ill Will” Dorsey and producer Will Putney stepping up into songwriting, while Ice lashes out at corrupt police “Point the Finger” and negligent politicians “Bum-Rush,” while taking the band in new directions (the moving “When I’m Gone”) and honoring metal history (a smoking rush through “Ace of Spades.”) Ice also turns one of the most hackneyed rock star moves, recording your own hits, into a flex with thrashed-out versions of “Colors” (featuring Slayer’s Dave Lombardo) and a bonus track “Six in tha Morning.” Maybe Law & Order Ice-T superfan Taylor Swift was listening and got some ideas.



3. Manslaughter (2014)

“When I heard ‘Talk Shit, Get Shot,’ I couldn’t believe how well the music had translated, them working with Will Putney, modern production, bringing some connections to modern metalcore,” God Forbid/Bad Wolves guitarist Doc Coyle remembered Manslaughter. He wasn’t the only one—even those of us who loved and followed Body Count for years were stunned by the heavy catchiness of Manslaughter’s first single, Body Count’s biggest hit to date. “Talk Shit, Get Shot” kicks hard enough to warrant a comeback in itself, with the instant hooks, heaviness and humor that drew us to Body Count in the first place, built on with rapped verses and an all-time great metalcore funk breakdown. Thankfully, the rest of the record stands on killer deep cuts like the groove metal “Pray for Death,” the thrashy “Back to Rehab” and of course Body Count’s reaching their breakneck peak with the infectious women moshers tribute “Bitch in the Pit.” Ice reclaims the “99 Problems” hook he wrote for 1993’s Home Invasion from the more famous cover by Jay-Z, though the album’s most popular cover was a version of Suicidal Tendencies’ “Insitiutionalized,” reimagined with modern Ice problems like Coco telling him he plays too much Xbox, served with an equally hilarious music video. Military veteran Ice takes a completely different tone for “I Will Always Love You,” coming up with a more honorable salute to the troops than any music industry chickenhawks have ever dreamt up, and while Manslaughter isn’t quite as consistent as the classic Body Count records, it’s hard to find a review of Manslaughter that doesn’t call it their best album since the debut, or even their best to date. Body Count weren’t just reunited on Manslaughter, they were back.



2. Bloodlust (2017)

From the air raid sirens and emergency alert broadcast delivered by one Dave Mustaine (paying tribute to Ice’s Black Sabbath and Jello Biafra-sampling “Shut Up, Be Happy,” which served as Dave’s Megadeth entrance music for years), Bloodlust has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, Bloodlust is not only a career peak for Body Count but all of metal, a future classic that defined its decade and is now transcending it. Released on the 25th anniversary of their debut, Body Count sound sharper and more energized than before, incorporating metalcore breakdowns and production that leaves the band’s imitators in the dust. “They’ve always been amazing. But they’re even now more amazing than ever, the musicianship level is fucking off the hook now,” said Max Cavalera, whose signature bellow graces the furious betrayal anthem “All Love is Lost” and God Forbid’s Doc Coyle appears on the haunting “This is Why We Ride.” Body Count pulls off the daunting metal stunt of a Slayer cover, nailing “Raining in Blood/Postmortem” (renamed for legal reasons) with a forcefulness that honors the original and distinguishes it as Body Count’s own. In an era of frontloaded records, self-proclaimed “album artist” Ice-T unleashes a record that gets better as it goes along, thanks in large part to the rejuvenated band, completed by bassist Vincent Price, drummer “Ill Will” Dorsey and guitarist Juan of the Dead, which locks in with precision and chemistry. The poetic “God, Please Believe Me” and horror scenario “Here I Go Again” show off the band’s range, and “The Ski Mask Way” drops an all-too chilling armed robbery into a ferocious blast of a song. But Bloodlust hits hardest with its socio-political songs, including the hit “No Lives Matter” and the closer “Black Hoodie,” two of the heaviest, angriest, catchiest political songs committed to tape this century. Not many metal bands can claim to be releasing their best music three decades into their career, but not many bands are like Body Count, sounding tighter, heavier, and better than ever on Bloodlust. For most artists, this would be as great as it gets, and to many fans it is.



1. Body Count (1992)

The best punk record of the 1990s. Scary, funny, catchy and unpredictable, Body Count sounded so shockingly original in 1992 that some critics dismissed them as a novelty. Those critics have faded from memory, but the band’s singularity is still undeniable over 30 years later. There had been punk bands that metalheads liked, such as Discharge, and metal bands that punks liked, including Slayer, but one wouldn’t put Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing on a metal list, or Reign in Blood on a punk list. Body Count’s first album is one of the only records that could be both. Raging against police brutality, white supremacy, the drug epidemic, mass incarceration, censorship and anything else the United States throws about them, Body Count depicts Black life in America with horror movie language and some of the most contagious hardcore ever committed to tape years, decades before Black Lives Matter had a movement or the great replacement theory had a name. Even if Body Count never staged their incredible comeback, the themes of songs like “Cop Killer,” “There Goes the Neighborhood,” “Bowels of the Devil” and “Body Count” would keep them relevant, and the music of “KKK Bitch” and “Body Count’s in the House” would make the band’s metalcore imitators sound like pop-punk. “The Winner Loses” still moves  and “Voodoo” gets even funnier on the umpteenth listen. These days, BIPOC rock bands can fill an entire Afropunk festival bill, Beyoncé can take “Formation” to the Super Bowl and Kendrick Lamar can bring down the Grammys with “Alright.” One sees all of them working with the ideas Body Count set forth on their first album, but nobody has matched the power of the original record.


Ben Apatoff
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