The Darkness' Justin Hawkins On 'Easter Is Cancelled,' Lying All The Time & Taking Advice From Todd Rundgren

The Darkness

Photo by Simon Emmett


The Darkness' Justin Hawkins On 'Easter Is Cancelled,' Lying All The Time & Taking Advice From Todd Rundgren

The swaggering frontman expands on the ideas behind the U.K. rock heroes' sixth studio album, learning to take care of his voice and staying anonymous in Switzerland

GRAMMYs/Oct 9, 2019 - 03:59 am

Most will remember U.K. camp-rock maestros The Darkness from their early aughts days with lead singer Justin Hawkins croon-chanting, "I believe in a thing called love: JUSTLISTENTOTHERHYTHMOFMYHEART!" Well, the quartet have been steadily producing records since their rollicking 2003 debut, Permission To Land, save for a hiatus between 2006 and 2011. 

These days, Hawkins, his brother and guitarist Dan, bassist Frankie Poullain and drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor are fresh off of releasing their sixth studio album, the impishly titled Easter Is Cancelled, which, according to Hawkins, came from his going down a rabbit hole of savior-themed "what ifs."

"Let's imagine a universe when Jesus decides on the day of the crucifixion that he's not having that after all and he's going to use his supernatural God-attributed gifts to escape," he tells the Recording Academy over the phone. "And then I suppose the thinking is, what kind of world is it after that? Is there poverty? I suppose nobody else would get crucified either. I think that that that'd probably be the last time anybody's crucified. And that's just a kickoff."

Below, Hawkins delves further into the ideas behind Easter Is Cancelled, the current state of rock and roll ("there's a real appetite for quality rock; there just isn't any quality rock") and why the Darkness, despite the viral nature of their debut single, will never be in the business of creating "content."

How does Easter Is Cancelled stand apart from your previous work?

Well, the last studio album was our first foray into writing with Rufus [Tiger Taylor] as a legit member of the band. And so a lot of the stuff on that last record is just us trying to have fun and all of us are accepting things that we don't think are necessarily world-beatingly brilliant, but they're fun to play and it is good for the relationship. And it was a good document that shows where we were at that time, but I think this one is all of us going, "Right, fk, we're going to make something amazing and we won't stop until we've done that." And I think that comes across. We really did not compromise on anything. If one person had anything vaguely negative to say about any part of any song, it just disappeared, never to be seen again, locked in the vault to be used as a BBC Sports theme at some point in the future.

We spent eight months doing that and came up with an album that doesn't sound, to me anyway, doesn't sound self-indulgent. Or if it does, it sounds self-indulgent in the right away. It doesn't sound like we've become an elfin tribe, it still sounds like a rock record.

I read some interviews that you did while preparing to release the previous record. There was some commentary about how it sounded a little bit harder rock, more metal. And I didn't really get that impression from the sound on this album.

You know what? I think the reality is that I just say words and I don't always mean [them]. I met somebody recently who just looked at me and said, "You lie all the time, don't you?" I was like, "Yeah, thanks." I love somebody who appreciates what I really do.

It's hard in promo because I didn't know what to say about the last record, really. And also, I think your perception of it's a little bit different when you've been working on it closely. I think I was probably referring to “Japanese Prisoner Of Love.” I probably had that in my head, thinking, "Oh, yeah. This'll be heavier than we normally do, isn't it?"

Well, I do think your fan base enjoys how the Darkness leans into the campier side of rock, never appearing to take yourselves too seriously. But a lot of the themes and the ideas on Easter Is Cancelled are more serious. And in the promotional materials, you talk about how you have a responsibility to change the establishment. Do you see your role in the industry differently now than you used to?

Well, I saw a talk that Todd Rundgren did a few years ago, and I love Todd Rundgren's music and I wanted to see him and talk about music. And he said something that really stayed with me: it was that music used to be a product and then now it's a service. And I think that just sums it up, doesn't it? We've all regressed to being minstrels at the beck and whim of whoever is going to pay enough... I don't know what the currency would be, doubloons, enough doubloons to buy the puffy trousers that we want. And that's a long-term effect. You've got Coldplay with the puffy trousers because they're getting all the doubloons and then we'd probably be somewhere down the long tail eating mud. And that's the reality of that status and also the nature of the music trade. The last concern of the whole infrastructure is, "how is the musician going to make money?" Who cares?

You guys kind of came up at a time when musicians made money in arguably a more straightforward way, via album sales. But you've been around long enough now to see the economics shift and change. Have you had to change the way you monetize yourselves as musicians?

We've refused to [change]. We've gone through a few different managerial changes. We can't get our heads around the concept of "content," and we're not interested in doing that.

As vacuous and as daft and as whimsical as I seem, I am actually quite a serious person when it comes to the arts, and I feel like making albums is what I grew up wanting to do and doing YouTube videos of some people farting or whatever it is, I'm not interested in that and I'm not interested in Instagram, Twitter annoys me. I understand why in order to monetize your existence as a musician you need to have a firmer sense of ownership from your fans, but that offends me. You know?

I feel like you're supposed to be free to express stuff, not just be what your fan base wants you to be, because you should be a viable artistic entity even if it means losing your fan base. You should always run that risk and you should never be afraid of it. I feel like making an album is like painting a picture. That simple, isn't it? It's like somebody says, "People aren't buying pictures anymore. What they're buying is some Etch-A-Sketches that have been varnished." What kind of person puts down the paintbrush in that instance and then starts Etch-A-Sketching? And the answer is somebody who isn't a true artist, somebody shouldn't be fking holding a paintbrush in the first place. They should be, I don't know, doing something else.

Doubling back for a second, can you elaborate on what actually led to the name Easter Is Cancelled

It came about because I was asked to do some poems and write down all of my lyrics over the years and make a book, which would be a stocking stuffer for the hardcore Darkness fan. I wasn't that interested in doing it because I like singing songs. I don't like doing books. Never done a book before, not that interested in doing it, really. So I just said, "I'm writing an album. Can we do this next year or something?" And they went, "Well, what about Easter?" And then, "You can do an Easter poem." I was like, "Okay." And I wrote, "Wishing you Easter pleasure that you cannot measure with a ruler bula bula." And I just sent it off and I got an email back from my manager saying, "Easter is cancelled."

That was how that started. And then I thought, "Well, Easter is cancelled. Let's have a think about that." And I did an internet search for "buff Jesus" and I found a Boris Vallejo piece of artwork with a buff Jesus broken down from the cross and I thought, "Well, why stop there?" Let's imagine a universe when Jesus decides on the day of the crucifixion that he's not having that after all and he's going to use his supernatural God-attributed gifts to escape. And then I suppose the thinking is what kind of world is it after that? Is there poverty? I suppose nobody else would get crucified either. I think that that that'd probably be the last time anybody's crucified. And that's just a kickoff.

Have you gotten any pushback from religious types?

[Yeah], I was disappointed when people assumed that it was intended to shock. Because I feel like if it's 2019 and then the thing that you're shocked about is a rock band misappropriating some religious iconography that's been around since fk knows when, then you need to close your laptop and have a look around you. It's mental. It's mental to be upset about that kind of stuff, and I never considered for a second it would shock anybody. And I think most people claim not to be shocked, but only to be disappointed.

And then I just have to ask, well, what were you hoping for, then? Were you hoping for, for example, a rehash of Appetite For Destruction where there's the four faces of The Darkness on a cross? Because that's still a cross. Or were you hoping for Easter Is Cancelled written on a bin lid or wherever it was that Slippery When Wet was? Because the actual artwork is too racy or do you want a piece of something that's from the band and expresses an idea? What do you want? What do people want? I think nine times out of 10, the answer is they want the band to be expressing themselves, for better or worse. I hope that's what the people want because if what you want is water, then can I direct you to the Maroon 5/Coldplay section of the record store where you'll find all of your musical desires will be sated.

Yeah. I think whenever anyone in art decides to imagine a different idea of Jesus or decides to redirect that story, people tend to freak out.

I was thinking about ... You know when in Inglourious Basterds when they're shooting Hitler in the face? Even though that's a guy that's responsible for a whole lot of genocide... To reimagine his end, I don't understand where the difference is. Why is that not offensive and then the Jesus one is? I suppose it's been 2000 years of all that stuff.

Moving on for a moment, the press materials for Easter Is Cancelled contemplate what rock and roll even means anymore. You write that it used to mean challenging the establishment, but now it's "something that most artists seem to have given up on in favour of easy celebrity." As someone who came up during a time of rock and roll resurgence, what else have you observed about the way the genre has changed in popular music?

Yeah. I think there's a lot of stuff that's really exciting to listen to at the moment, but in a sort of nostalgic way. I don't want to name any names or shame anybody because I think new music needs to be supported. Let's just say for argument's sake this singer sounds like another singer from 30 years, 40 years ago, right?

And then you listen to it and it's impossible to not be excited by it because it reminds you of those great albums, that really iconic voice, but then you can't just do that. You need to have a second influence or you need to work with a writer like Justin Hawkins who can get the best out of you. That's what you need to do. You can't just do records slightly weaker and less syncopated version of the singer you already sound like. That's one of the problems with rock and roll: you have to go back such a long way to find an artist that's done anything challenging within that genre that it's losing to other genres. That's what's happening, isn't it?

And it will change because you've only got to look at how excited people get about something that's totally retro. There's a real appetite for quality rock. There just isn't any quality rock, but that's because it only comes around every, what, decade, 15 years something brilliant happens in rock, whether it's grunge or nu-metal. Some people thought that was brilliant. And then of course most people will deny that they thought that, but they did.

And then everyone thought we were brilliant. Every 10, 15 years, something's going to come and they'll go, "Look, rock and roll isn't teetering on the edge of the precipice. They've pulled them back." And we all live to do the devil's horns and wear a denim jacket once more, not leather though because that's not vegan.

When you guys first arrived, you became so well known for your Freddie Mercury-esque falsetto vocals. Have you been one to do vocal exercises?

I never used to in the olden days. I used to smoke a lot and drink a lot and eat a lot of really sh*tty food and didn't do any exercise or any exercises. And then I just when it went wrong, I used to get somebody to come in and try and help me make it better. But now I've paid my dues. I've done all my rock and roll stuff, so I don't do anything naughty anymore. I think singers, they're slightly different to other musicians in the way that they prepare for shows. I've been getting some vocal training from a friend of mine who helps singers at the Zurich Opera House.

He's showing me a lot of really cool preparations and warm downs and stuff that he assures me [Luciano] Pavarotti would have done in the olden days so that he could then go on to party after he's done his singing. I've got loads of stuff that I do. It's not really ointments and potions. In fact, with that experience I've reduced it a lot. It's not taking an hour to prepare for a show anymore. It's more like 20, 25 minutes, but it's way more effective and I don't know, I just make sure I don't have too much of a late night the night before. Actually, that's not true at all. Anyway, I do try.

Serious question: How often do people approach you on the street and attempt to sing the chorus to "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" at you? 

Say, for example, I'm in a supermarket and I'll walk past and I've been spotted, but they're not quite sure I think. I hear people singing it to each other and then laughing and then waiting for me to react, to check. I think that's what's happening there.

It never happens in Switzerland. This is one of those places where nobody gives a thought at all because I just think that they're used to it. It's part of the reason why Tina Turner and Phil Collins and all that lot have retired here. The other reason, of course, would be the tax advantages, being able to have a bank account that are held in a number as opposed to a name and all that other lovely Swiss stuff, but a big part of it is the culture here is they will not bother you if they spot you and recognize you. It just doesn't happen. Sometimes I realize that people have spotted me and I'm sort of known around the town, but nobody says anything to me directly or sings that song. 

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



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."

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

Joan as Police Woman


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


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


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."