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Bill Callahan Leads With Life's Little Moments On 'Gold Record'

Bill Callahan

Photo by Hanly Banks Callahan

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Bill Callahan Leads With Life's Little Moments On 'Gold Record'

The onetime Smog singer speaks to GRAMMY.com about viewing songs as living things, looking back at his younger self, re-recording "Let's Move To The Country" and more

GRAMMYs/Sep 4, 2020 - 07:51 pm

If the songwriter’s job is to explain life as he sees and feels it, then understanding, and making peace with death, is an essential part of that task. Bill Callahan, who’s been releasing music for 30 plus years—first under the moniker of Smog, then with his own name—has achieved just that. While his earlier work may have been death-driven, more prone to chaos than clarity, more tormented than tender, when he emerged after a rare five-year hiatus in 2019 with his 17th album Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest, he returned with a passion for humanity. Following the death of his mother and the birth of his son, on Shepherd he not only managed to reconcile that new life with death, but he did what only the very best songwriters and sages can do: he made his listener thankful for life, while giving them a newfound appreciation for death. "When we let go," he sang, "Our arms are open, and our hearts are exposed."

Callahan, once the drunken uncle at the wedding, has now become the world's godfather. His voice, stolid and baritone, immediately puts you at ease. He counsels you like a patriarch. He tells jokes. He recites your anxieties back to you so that they don’t sound so bad anymore. When he picks up the phone to this call, the clucking of his teeth and tongue blends into the sound of the rattlesnakes in his backyard, while birds sing above, uneaten and free.

On his new album Gold Record, Bill’s world grows smaller and smaller. It’s filled with acts of daily trivialities and grievances—getting work done, not getting work done. Seeing eye to eye with others, not seeing eye to eye. Motiveless domesticity. Everything exactly how it is. The sound of a man settled down. The sound of a man who’s moved to the country.

GRAMMY.com spoke to him about his change in focus, viewing songs as living things—and Harry Styles.

What did you have for breakfast this morning?

I had some gluten-free toast with almond butter and raspberry jam.

Do you have the same thing every morning?

I guess I go through phases of fixating on one thing, but it’s actually pretty varied.

Is your general routine as varied?

No, I have a kid and that kind of regulates my world. He comes into the bed around 6:30 in the morning and then we get up and make his lunch and his breakfast, get him dressed. Feed ourselves, take him to this little camp he goes to. And then at 9 a.m. I’m free to do as I please.

Does that mean music or do you have a routine outside your kid and outside music?

Yeah, now that my time is limited I’m more kind of disciplined about when I work. Usually mornings are the most creative and energetic time for me so I usually either start playing guitar or start looking at notebooks of words.

You said you look at notebooks, what do you mean by that?

I just have a notebook with unfinished songs in it.

So do you write songs that might go onto a record from those unfinished songs?

Yeah.

Have you kept up to date with other music released this year?

Yeah a little bit.

Has there been anything you enjoyed or anything that’s annoyed you?

There's always stuff that annoys me but I try not to talk about it just ‘cause what does it matter? I liked the Harry Styles record a lot, I was surprised by how much I liked it.

What did you like about the Harry Styles album?

It’s just real, powerful and absorbing songs, surprising arrangements. Seems to be off on his own path. There’s kind of a trend in music now of disaffection and really it seems like depression and heartbreak and not in the traditional girl-breaks-your-heart [way], but like, life has broken a lot of people's hearts right now. And that’s valid but it’s not all there is. It’s a very uplifting thing to listen to I think.

What do you intend to give to the world as an artist?

I’m not really sure. I guess the thing I do is try to do my best and to really consider the listener, which I think maybe a lot of people don’t really do somehow. That’s kind of my pledge to anyone who wants to listen, is that I care. Some people will make music just because they can, they have the skill. I don’t really have the skill, but I care.

Did you consider the listener as much when you were starting out?

I don’t think I did, I think I came to value it maybe about 10 years ago, or maybe less than that. Especially when I put the Shepherd record out because it’d been five or six years since I’d done anything except tour. When people still cared, it just kind of warmed my heart. I was able to take five to six years off releasing anything and people were still anxious to listen and critics were still willing to write about it and talk to me. That was a good jolt for me.

When you start off playing music and no one knows who you are, especially back then in the early '90s, there would be at least four bands on every bill, sometimes five or six. If you wanted to play a show, you’d have to be first on a bill of five bands and no one’s heard of you, which is fine, but coping with the fact that no one gives a shit... So to not give a shit about the audience is kind of the only way you can make sense of what you’re doing. And then that became the way that I related to the audience because that’s how it was from the beginning. At some point I realized, well, these people, now they’re listening and now it’s changed my attitude because people are actually caring.

You said that change happened eight years ago. Why?

I was talking to this journalist who had interviewed me pretty early on a couple times and wrote some nice articles about me and then I didn’t hear for a while, and then they kinda popped back up on my radar and said she wanted to talk to me about whatever new record I had out at the time. She was remarking on how I'd played a show the night before that she was at, how different it was to how people were listening, and she started to cry, which really struck me that someone would be that moved by my success or whatever you want to call it. I was telling her how my attitude was changing just from taking a step back.

Sometimes you’re in a situation and you don’t really see where you are because you have tunnel vision, 'cause it helped you get things done by blocking certain things out. I think for whatever reason around that time I took a step back and realized that there wasn’t a reason to be angry at the audience, but I don’t really know what triggered that.

Is it because you sensed that the audience were finally listening?

I don’t know, I think I just started to feel kind of ridiculous.

When you re-recorded "Let’s Move To The Countrydid it feel like you were in conversation with a past self?

I guess so, because it has some unfinished sentences in it. It’s kind of an unfinished song, which was the beauty of it at the time, but then I thought it would be a good idea to finish the song. I finished the part that was unfinished but then added more unfinished chapters to it.

Do your other songs feel finished to you?

I think pretty much every song is either unfinished or proves to be inadequate or lacking in some way. And that’s the whole reason for me continuing to make music—because there’s always room for improvement. And then having a listener and/or critic really helps finish the song but they point out the holes that songs have on purpose. I think songs are probably supposed to be unfinished so that each listener can finish them in their own personal way and that’s why people are so passionate about the music that they like, 'cause something in their psyche has finished the song, so they feel like it’s a part of them.

How do you choose which moments to capture into song?

Anything that I hold in my mind, any exchange I had with a person or a physical space that I keep returning to in my head or a line I read in a book or a movie. I assume that everybody is like this but I have recurring things that keep coming back to me randomly—sometimes it’s just an intersection I was at on tour. Like, why have I  been thinking about that time let alone a stop light in Ohio when nothing happened? Something important must’ve happened then. But that's kind of a more abstract… Anything that sticks in my head, I think it must have some significance even if I don’t know what it is until I start writing about it. Like with the song "The MacKenzies." I bought my first car from this couple, and they invited me in and gave me a cocktail and chatted for a while, but that was like 30 years ago. I’ve thought about them ever since. So I was like, let me try to turn them into a song. I think the moments choose me and they keep showing themselves in my consciousness.

Most of these memories and encounters on the album seem to take place on the road, in cars.

I love cars, I love driving. I think a lot of my songs are about movement. With cars, there’s an inverse feeling of potentiality, so that’s probably why they appear often.

As a songwriter, you seem to have developed a more superficial appreciation for these things, whereas before it felt more existential.

I think with Shepherd I tried to cover all bases like the tangible and intangible parts of life and the physical and immaterial parts. But I think with Gold Record I’m more rooted in the everyday interactions of life.

So are you trying to narrow your focus?

I think I was trying to because Shepherd was kind of all about me and I wanted to make a record that was more about other people and other lives. I haven’t really had any complaints about it but I do wonder with a record like Shepherd, like what if you’re not married or don’t have a kid, are you gonna give a shit about this? People not in that situation still seemed to get something out of it.

Has your perspective changed since making that album?

I always feel like I’m expanding as a human which could just be a psychological trick our brains play on us as we get out of bed in the morning. I do think being married and having a kid pushes me into all sorts of places that I would never have gone if I was single. And also watching a kid develop and seeing all the levels of how complex humans are because every couple of weeks there’s another layer of onion skin that my kid has on him that he seems like a complete human but then he develops some other trait that’s part of being human. So seeing that and just having to counsel him and guide him with his newfound complexity, that’s always a lesson for myself. But probably my general perspective is pretty much the same. And I think the Covid thing is really gonna change things for a lot of people. What can we really think in the face of this type of death that’s just sweeping across the world. We have to realize that there’s a natural thing that the biological world brings on us every 100 years or so.

Now that you have such an interest in humanity, I wonder how you look back on your younger self?

It depends how far back I’m looking but if I look all the way back, I mostly feel like shame. If I look at the time as a whole, I’m proud of the fact that I was so prolific and adventurous, I tried to change the sound of each record or just to make a different feeling thing for people to listen to. In some ways I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of my time back then but on a generous day, I just look at it as if I’m grateful I had that time to just make music without very many other concerns at all. I think I spent that time fairly productively. Now that I have more going on in my personal life I realize that you can do both, but you might have to relearn how to do music.

Why don't you see yourself in the books you read anymore?

That was just a feeling that overcame me a while back. I think when you’re in your late teens, early 20s and you discover the books that complete you or speak for you, say the things that you want to say but just can’t say it. That feeling when you’re reading a book like I could’ve written this, I should’ve written this but really you couldn’t have written it. Those books kind of become your skeleton to form the body that you present to the world. After 10 or 15 years of seeking out all the books I should read there was a point where I kinda felt like I’d read all the books that were gonna affect me. I guess having bad luck, a string of trying five or six different books and them not speaking to me, but I think that’s kind of a signal that you’re ready to start writing your own.

Would you write another one?

Yeah… I love writing prose, I just need to get into some kind of groove with it, songwriting always kind of blows it away just because it’s something I know how to do a bit easier and quicker. I do wanna say that eventually I was able to find books again that are a very important thing to be reading, it just took a while.

I noticed there are fewer epiphanies and aphorisms on this album compared to your previous. When you do include them how do you know whether they’re "important advice or just preachy as hell?"

Yeah totally but usually if I’ve gotten to a point where I think that I have some advice that should go into a song, if I believe in it that strongly then I’m usually pretty confident that it might hold some value for somebody. At least for a year or two. I tend to revamp my world view every couple of years.

Have you always been that way?

I don’t think so, I don’t think I was that complex as a youth, as a 20-something, I didn’t have the complexity, the vision. You tend to be rather self-centered when you’re younger I think, maybe reactionary, you might see things with a very narrow vision. You see your parents from a childlike perspective only so when you grow up you can see things like your parents and other people from a more nuanced perspective.

Did you think about death from a young age?

I didn’t really get into reading novels until I was 17 or 18. I associate novels with thinking about death just because a book is like a little tomb, it’s got all these lives in there and they’re kind of trapped by a book or a story. Kind of like they’re dead but also like they have immortality at the same time. I’m not sure exactly when I started incorporating it, pretty early I guess in my songwriting.

And you view songs as living things?

I do, yeah. I mean you can listen to a song by anybody, someone dead, and the song is still alive.

Tame Impala Checks In From Hibernation

Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

Rotimi

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

Mumu Fresh On What She Learned From Working With The Roots, Rhyming & More

Quarantine Diaries: Joan As Police Woman Is Bike Riding, Book Reading & Strumming D'Angelo

Joan as Police Woman

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Quarantine Diaries: Joan As Police Woman Is Bike Riding, Book Reading & Strumming D'Angelo

As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors

GRAMMYs/Apr 7, 2020 - 07:21 pm

As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors. Today, singer/songwriter Joan Wasser of Joan as Police Woman, whose forthcoming covers album, COVER TWO, includes tracks by The Strokes, Prince, Talk Talk, and more, shares her Quarantine Diary.

Thursday, April 2

[10 a.m.-12 p.m.] Went to bed at 4 a.m. last night after getting drawn into working on a song. Put on the kettle to make hot coffee while enjoying an iced coffee I made the day before. Double coffee is my jam. Read the news, which does not do much for my mood. Catch up with a few friends, which does a lot of good for my mood. Glad it goes in this order.

[12 p.m.-2 p.m.] Make steel cut oats with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, fresh ginger, fresh turmeric, a sprinkling of cinnamon and cardamom, and of course, coconut butter to melt on top. If you’re not into coconut butter (sometimes marketed as coconut "manna"), I’d suggest just going for it and getting it (or ordering it) and putting it on your sweet potatoes, your oats, anywhere you’d put butter. I’m not vegan but I do enjoy hearing the tiny scream uttered by a strawberry as I cut into it. 

Contemplate some yoga. Contamplate meditating. Do neither. Resume work on the song I want to finish and send today. I have a home studio and I spend a lot of my time working on music here. The song is a collboration sent to me from Rodrigo D’Erasmo in Milano that will benefit the folks who work behind the scenes in the music touring system in Italy. 

[2 p.m.-4 p.m.] I traded in a guitar for a baritone guitar right before all this craziness hit but hadn’t had the time to get it out until now. I put on some D’Angelo, plugged into my amp and played along as if I were in his band. Micahel Archer, If you’re reading this, I hope you are safe and sound and thank you immensely for all the music you've given us always. 

[4 p.m.-6 p.m.] Bike repair shops have been deemed "necessary," thank goodness, because biking is the primary way I get around and I need a small repair. I hit up my neighborhood shop and they get my bike in and out in 10 minutes, enough time to feel the sun for a moment. 

I ride fast and hard down to the water's edge and take in a view of the East River from Brooklyn. There are a few people out getting their de-stress walks but it is mostly deserted on the usually packed streets.

[6 p.m.-8 p.m.] Practice Bach piano invention no. 4 in Dm very, very, very slowly. I never studied piano but I’m trying to hone some skills. Realize I’m ravenous. Eat chicken stew with wild mushrooms I made in the slow cooker yesterday. It’s always better the second day.

[8 p.m.-10 p.m.] Get on a zoom chat with a bunch of women friends on both coasts. We basically shoot the sh*t and make each other laugh. 

Afterwards I still feel like I ate a school bus so I give into yoga. I feel great afterwards. This photo proves I have a foot. 

[10 p.m.-12 a.m.] Record a podcast for Stereo Embers in anticipation of my new release on May 1, a second record of covers, inventively named COVER TWO. Continue to work on music (it’s a theme).

[12 a.m.-2 p.m.] Tell myself I should think about bed. Ignore myself and confinue to work on music. 

[2 a.m.-4 a.m.] Force myself into bed where I have many books to choose from. This is what I’m reading presently, depending on my mood. Finally I listen to Nick Hakim’s new song, "Qadir," and am taken by its beauty and grace. Good night. 

If you wish to support our efforts to assist music professionals in need, learn more about the Recording Academy's and MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.

If you are a member of the music industry in need of assistance, visit the MusiCares website

Report: Music & Culture Infrastructure Can Create Better "Future Cities"

Hero The Band perform at the Recording Academy Atlanta Chapter Annual Membership Celebration
Photo: Marcus Ingram/WireImage

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Report: Music & Culture Infrastructure Can Create Better "Future Cities"

How sound planning for a creative future in our urban areas makes all the difference for artists and musicians

GRAMMYs/Oct 24, 2019 - 01:27 am

The future, as they say, is now. And for music makers around the world, building a future for themselves often starts at home, in their local creative community and in the city where they live. While technology has expanded communication and made the world smaller, cities continue to grow, making planning for the future a critical cultural mission of the present.

To that end, a new report by global organization Sound Diplomacy titled "This Must Be The Place" examines, "The role of music and cultural infrastructure in creating better future cities for all of us." The 37-page deep dive into community planning and development highlights the importance of creative culture in what it calls "Future Cities."

"The government defines ‘Future Cities’ as 'a term used to imagine what cities themselves will be like," the report states, "how they will operate, what systems will orchestrate them and how they will relate to their stakeholders (citizens, governments, businesses, investors, and others),'"

According to the report, only three global cities or states currently have cultural infrastructure plans: London, Amsterdam and New South Wales. This fact may be surprising considering how city planning and sustainability have become part of the discussion on development of urban areas, where the UN estimates 68 percent of people will live by 2050.

"Our future places must look at music and culture ecologically. Much like the way a building is an ecosystem, so is a community of creators, makers, consumers and disseminators," the report says. "The manner in which we understand how to maintain a building is not translated to protecting, preserving and promoting music and culture in communities."

The comparison and interaction between the intangibility of culture and the presence of physical space is an ongoing theme throughout the report. For instance, one section of the report outlines how buildings can and should be designed to fit the cultural needs of the neighborhoods they populate, as too often, use of a commercial space is considered during the leasing process, not the construction process, leading to costly renovations.

"All future cities are creative cities. All future cities are music cities."

On the residential side, as cities grow denser, the need increases for thoughtful acoustic design and sufficient sound isolation. Future cities can and should be places where people congregate

"If we don’t design and build our future cities to facilitate and welcome music and experience, we lose what makes them worth living in."

For musicians and artists of all mediums, the answer to making—and keeping—their cities worth living in boils down to considering their needs, impact and value more carefully and sooner in the planning process.

"The report argues that property is no longer an asset business, but one built on facilitating platforms for congregation, community and cohesion," it says. "By using music and culture at the beginning of the development process and incorporating it across the value chain from bid to design, meanwhile to construction, activation to commercialisation, this thinking and practice will result in better places."

The report offers examples of how planners and leaders are handling this from around the world. For instance, the Mayor Of London Night Czar, who helps ensure safety and nighttime infrastructure for venues toward the Mayor's Vision for London as a 24-hour city. Stateside, Pittsburgh, Penn., also has a Night Mayor in place to support and inform the growth of its creative class.

Diversity, inclusion, health and well-being also factor into the reports comprehensive look at how music and culture are every bit as important as conventional business, ergonomic and environmental considerations in Future Cites. Using the Queensland Chamber of Arts and Culture as a reference, it declared, "A Chamber of Culture is as important as a Chamber of Commerce."

In the end, the report serves as a beacon of light for governments, organizations, businesses and individuals involved in planning and developing future cities. Its core principals lay out guideposts for building friendly places to music and culture and are backed with case studies and recommendations. But perhaps the key to this progress is in changing how we approach the use of space itself, as the answer to supporting music may be found in how we look at the spaces we inhabit.

"To develop better cities, towns and places, we must alter the way we think about development, and place music and culture alongside design, viability, construction and customer experience," it says. "Buildings must be treated as platforms, not assets. We must explore mixed‑use within mixed‑use, so a floor of a building, or a lesser‑value ground floor unit can have multiple solutions for multiple communities."

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Nearly 30 Years After Their Debut, Body Count's 'Carnivore' Is The Thrash-Metal Band's Most Fully Realized Album

Ice-T In 1993

Photo by David Corio/Redferns

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Nearly 30 Years After Their Debut, Body Count's 'Carnivore' Is The Thrash-Metal Band's Most Fully Realized Album

Led by iconic rapper Ice-T, the L.A.-based seven-piece keep their socially conscious themes consistent and the music louder than ever on their seventh studio album

GRAMMYs/Mar 10, 2020 - 10:06 pm

In early 1992 Ernie Cunnigan visited the Burbank office of Howie Klein. The guitarist (who goes by Ernie C.) and the then-president of Reprise/Warner Bros. Records were listening to the upcoming self-titled debut from Cunnigan’s band, Body Count, fronted by his Crenshaw High School buddy Tracy Marrow, already famous as rapper Ice-T. Ice, with the savvy creative connectivity that guides his multi-hyphenate media career to this day, introduced his forthcoming metal band in 1991 via tracks on O.G. Original Gangster, his fourth album.

It's not unusual for high school pals to form a band. What was unusual, though, was that Body Count was a hardcore thrash metal band comprised of all-black musicians, with point-blank lyrics that were both insightful and incite-ful concerning racial and social inequities and the climate of America. Listening to the 18-track debut, Klein praised it, while voicing concern about the lyrics of "Momma's Gotta Die Tonight," a song about the matricide and dismemberment of a racist parent. Turns out it was the last track, a ditty called "Cop Killer," that should have given the executive pause. 

While Klein was and remains stridently opposed to censorship and is a dedicated free speech advocate, Body Count, per the era, was released with a parental advisory sticker (as was Original Gangster). Less than two months after Body Count dropped, Los Angeles exploded in fiery violence in reaction to the acquittal of four policemen in the beating of Rodney King, as well as the shooting death of black teenager Latasha Harlins by a Korean grocer. (The grocer was given only probation.) It was the worst possible climate for "Cop Killer," with lyrics including "Fk the police, yeah!" and shout-outs to then L.A.P.D. chief Daryl Gates, Ice's "dead homies" and King. The blowback went all the way up to then-President George Bush, and though Time Warner supported Ice-T in his fight against the song's opponents, he eventually pulled the cut from new pressings of the album.

Currently, streaming services including Spotify and Apple Music offer the version sans the group's most (in)famous song, replacing "Cop Killer" with "Freedom Of Speech" from Ice's 1989 solo album, The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech...Just Watch What You Say, edited to add samples of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" and the voice of political punker Jello Biafra. On YouTube, "Cop Killer" has more than 1.5 million views, with most of the comments thoughtful and positive, understanding the intentionally incendiary messages Body Count was delivering. Ultimately, if Body Count isn’t a classic record in the way that critics consider Nirvana’s Nevermind or Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back to be, it’s an important and groundbreaking one. As Ice-T has said, Body Count is: "a protest record,” not the norm in the metal world, but still the way BC's songs operate today.

Indeed, 28 years later, things haven’t changed. Biafra is also on Body Count's powerful new album, Carnivore. Police actions like "stop and frisk" (the NYC law enforcement program that was proven to disproportionally target black and Latino men) wasn’t legally discredited until 2014. Body Count’s one-time bassist, Lloyd "Mooseman" Roberts III, was murdered in South Central Los Angeles in 2001 in an accidental drive-by; in the last 12 months, 126 black men were killed by guns in L.A. County, as opposed to 23 white men. And Ice-T and Body Count are still raging against the machine.

Ice-T enjoys pushing buttons lyrically, and if they’ve sometimes been heavy-handed or misguided ("KKK Bitch" or "Bitch In The Pit"), Ice-T is a politically eloquent, passionate and personal songwriter, which can be too easily overlooked given Body Count's volume-heavy metal chops and Ice's delivery, a speedy vocal style that’s been traditionally more aggro-rapping than melodic singing.  

That said, Carnivore is Body Count’s best album to date; it’s the most fully realized musically, and there’s a cohesion to the vocals and music that led Body Count bassist Vincent Price to lay out the band’s growth in a Metallica timeline: "Manslaughter [2014] was basically Kill ‘Em All; Bloodlust [2017] was our Ride The Lightningand Carnivore’s our Master Of Puppets."

He's not wrong, and though Ice-T’s more than 20-year stint as detective Odafin "Fin" Tutuola on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit has precluded lengthy Body Count tours, the buzz is loud for this seventh album.

Ice-T may be the original gangster, yet he’s patient, articulate and fervent in explaining songs and motivations to audiences and the press alike. "When I'm Gone," featuring Amy Lee of Evanescence, was inspired by the killing of Nipsey Hussle. It’s a reminder, as he says in the tune, to "tell the people that you love, that you love them now. … Don't wait; tomorrow may be too fking late."

His prolific musical social criticism and seemingly left-leaning views are thoughtful and targeted, despite the vitriol of so many Body Count songs. In the nearly 30 years since founding his revolutionary band, Ice-T observes, "I think you’ve got less racism; less people, but more avid racism. It’s unnerving to think that we’ve come so far but there’s still so far to go." As he advised in a 2017 interview, "Don’t just be angry. Know what you’re talking about so you don’t alienate someone who should be an ally."