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How Blind Melon Lost Their Minds & Made A Masterpiece: 'Soup' Turns 25

Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon performing at Woodstock '94

Photo by Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Image

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How Blind Melon Lost Their Minds & Made A Masterpiece: 'Soup' Turns 25

Blind Melon went to New Orleans to record the follow-up to their 4x Platinum debut album amid chaos, arrests and substance abuse. Singer Shannon Hoon never made it out

GRAMMYs/Aug 15, 2020 - 05:30 pm

The opening lines of "Hello, Goodbye," which kicks off Soup, Blind Melon's ill-fated second album, serve as Shannon Hoon's warning to listeners of what's to come as the record unfolds.

"I'm entering a frame bombarded by indecision, where a man like me can easily let the day get out of control, down this far in the Quarter," he sings in mock-vaudevillian against boozy New Orleans brass. The revelry is gone as soon as the last horn fades, though, when the pummeling one-two punch of "Galaxie" and "2x4" hit. It's clear this is not the Blind Melon of the lithe, carefree smash hit "No Rain."

The story of Soup, which turns 25 this week, begins and ends in New Orleans, a city that attracts wayward artists like a beacon to its endless menu of distractions. Trent Reznor, Johnny Thunders, Alex Chilton and Marilyn Manson are just a few who lived there in the 1990s alone. And in '94, Blind Melon came, too.

"We didn't really think to ourselves, 'Hey man, New Orleans is probably the worst place for us to be,'" says guitarist Christopher Thorn. "You can party 24/7—the bars never close. You can get anything you want at any fking time. In the moment, it felt romantic and it felt like exactly what we should be doing."

A few months removed from the debauched final leg of a two-year tour, Blind Melon regrouped in the city's Garden District, where bassist Brad Smith, drummer Glen Graham and guitarist Rogers Stevens had all recently moved. They set up in the "low-rent luxurious" guest house behind Stevens' New Orleans home to jam before moving into Kingsway, a mansion-turned-recording studio owned by producer Daniel Lanois on the edge of the French Quarter.

"We were on fire, because we had just toured our asses off for a couple years," says Thorn. "I would say the band was really at a high level, as far as our playing goes and how we were working together."

The process of writing Soup was different from the collective experience of writing their quadruple-Platinum self-titled debut in North Carolina. Now they were all writing and demoing songs on their own and brought in solid ideas ready to work. Rehearsals usually started late at night, and they tracked demos to an ADAT recorder until morning, collaborating on songs like "The Duke" and "Galaxie." Some tunes, like "St. Andrew's Fall" and "2x4," which was their opener during summer 1994 shows like Woodstock, were already fully formed.

Likewise, the transition to Kingsway with producer Andy Wallace in late 1994 started as a productive time. Hoon and Thorn moved into the house, and the band tracked together in a large dining room while Wallace mixed downstairs. New songs like the Hoon-penned "Vernie," a tribute to his grandmother, and "New Life," written when he learned his girlfriend, Lisa Sinha, was pregnant, contain some of his warmest melodies and lyrics.

Before long, though, the city's party atmosphere began to take over the sessions. Drug dealers became common fixtures, and Hoon sightings became rare. "You only got Shannon for so much time," recalls Thorn. "I don't know how Andy even just finished that record for us. You got Shannon for a few hours a day, if you're lucky." And even then, what they got wasn't always pretty.

One afternoon, Thorn came downstairs to eat a bowl of cereal and found Hoon cooking cocaine on the stove. Another time, he cut himself up with a razor blade for fun. Hoon wasn't the only one in the band overdoing it, though, as accounts in Greg Prato's oral history, "A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon," attest. The collective madness that had become commonplace at Kingsway found its way onto the record.

Thorn and co-guitarist Rogers Stevens were at their Jekyll and Hyde best, playing opposite sides of the coin and never the same parts. Smith and Graham led the whole circus of accordions, mandolins and assorted instruments through dense arrangements. On the serial killer goof "Skinned," banjo is dominant and a kazoo takes the solo. The band explored Eastern sounds and a bossanova beat on the album's most adventurous song, "Car Seat (God’s Presents)." No matter what the band threw at him, Hoon was up to the job. Musically, it all worked.

"There was definitely a feeling of all of us maybe becoming a bit unhinged," says Thorn. "All that added into a great record, and all that drama and all that craziness, it definitely gets on the tracks."

The album's darkest moment is the Hoon-authored "Mouthful of Cavities,” a chilling confessional of drug abuse and paranoia, sung as a duet with singer Jena Kraus. It's unclear whether Hoon is singing about himself or to himself. But perhaps tellingly, the opening lines, "Mouthful of cavities, and your soul's a bowl of jokes," originally read, "Head full of cavities, and my soul's a bowl of jokes."

"I think we all got used to talking to Shannon off the edge," Thorn says. "He would do too much cocaine and start talking about his childhood and things like that. He told me he had a black heart one night, and I was like, 'Dude, what is going on with you? You don't. What do you mean?’ He got really out there and started to really slip. I just didn't have the tools [to help], other than trying to be a friend."

The lyrics to the upbeat closing track, "Lemonade," read like a play-by-play of Hoon’s time in the city. He admits that "this far down South I have no self control," and seems to nod to his arrest for punching a police officer as well as his razor-blade episode in other lines. In a morbid twist, locals Kermit Ruffins and the Rebirth Brass Band bring the album to a close with a second-line funeral march.

The original 'Soup' packaging
Photo courtesy of Christopher Thorn
 

On August 15, 1995, Soup dropped on an alt-rock scene that had already welcomed hit records from contemporaries like The Smashing Pumpkins, Primus and Red Hot Chili Peppers. But even in the anything-goes realm of mid-'90s rock, Soup sunk on delivery.

MTV buried the videos for "Galaxie" and "Toes Across the Floor." Radio was unimpressed, too. "Galaxie" briefly reached No. 8 on the same Billboard Modern Rock chart "No Rain" topped two years earlier during its Billboard Hot 100 run, when it peaked at No. 20. "Toes Across the Floor" didn’t chart at all.

Then came the biggest blow—a scathing review by Rolling Stone and a paltry one-and-a-half-star rating. Writer Ted Drozdowski decried Soup’s lack of riffs or "hippie positivity," derided Hoon’s vocals as out of his range and predicted their impending irrelevance.

"It fking devastated us," says Thorn. "We thought we made this amazing record, and we thought everyone was going to be super proud of us for not trying to repeat 'No Rain' again. We thought we had made Exile on Main Street. Then the review comes out and someone says, 'Hey, what you made, that you were so proud of, is absolute shit.'"

Photographer Danny Clinch was on tour with them when they found out about the review. "You couldn't respond like you could today through Twitter or Instagram or your own voice," he says. "You had Rolling Stone magazine. People looked at it to see if it was a good record or not."

Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter wrote a letter to Hoon three days after the "obscene little review" came out to encourage him to stay the course and follow his instincts. He pointed out that in the '90s, "Rolling Stone reviews don’t sell records. Videos do."

But unfortunately for Blind Melon, lightning didn’t strike twice in that department, either. Instead of giving MTV the happy-go-lucky bee girl dancing in a lush meadow, they produced two remarkably bad videos—the first, for "Galaxie," was dark and simply 180 degrees from "No Rain," while the clip for "Toes Across the Floor" was awkward and sterile. Both tried to be conceptual but were literal to a fault. In the latter, the actor actually scrapes his toes across the floor at one point.

"They both sucked," says Stevens. "We had a couple of terrible experiences with directors, but with the 'Galaxie' video, that experience came from an uninterested, outside third party—namely [LSD advocate] Timothy Leary, who showed up looking for crack, basically. We were there with a huge warehouse rented and a crew of like 50 people. It's costing, I don't know, 50 grand a day or something ridiculous." Hoon ended up punching a guy on the set and then disappeared until the next day.

To make matters worse, their record label, Capitol Records, had undergone a shakeup and the new leadership wasn’t invested in supporting Blind Melon through their difficult-second-record phase. Once the deck began to stack against the band, they pulled support.

In a clip from the 2020 documentary All I Can Say, compiled from Hoon's own home videotapes, he doesn’t mince words. "A lot of people are offended 'cause they believed in what MTV portrayed us to be all about. No one’s gonna know what I’m about from one video and a bee girl and a cute little story."

Photo courtesy of Christopher Thorn

By all accounts, Blind Melon was focused when they began their U.S. tour behind Soup. The September 27, 1995 performance at The Metro in Chicago, captured on the Live At The Metro (2005) DVD, is especially strong. Hoon was sober and connecting with audiences, and the band was tight. Spirits were even higher by the time they reached the West Coast, when Sinha and their newborn daughter, Nico Blue, joined them for a week.

Then, after their show in Los Angeles (heard on the 2005 live album Live at the Palace), Hoon fell off the wagon. The band hooked up with old friends at their hotel, and kept the party going on the bus the next day as his girlfriend and daughter flew back home and Blind Melon rolled to the next stop. When they reached Houston a week later, he was high when he took the stage. Thorn and his bandmates were livid.

"I went to bed early, as in, I didn't stay up all night doing blow with him," says Thorn. "I was just disgusted with him, and he could tell I was mad. He would do little things to try to make it up to you without really saying anything. I remember he gave me this [Andy] Warhol book, because he knew I loved art. He's like, 'Hey man, you want to check out my Andy Warhol book?' I was like, 'Yeah, thanks man.' I was pissed."

The bus arrived in New Orleans the morning on October 21 just like any other day. Thorn remembers seeing Hoon in the hotel elevator as they went to their rooms. Nothing seemed off to him. When Hoon got to his room, he began recording on his video camera, a scene shown in All I Can Say. Alternately pacing the floor and stretching out on the bed, Hoon arranges a plane ticket to go home to his new family. His last words in documentary, from the same conversation, are simply tragic: "I, like, really need to get off that fking bus."

Just a few hours later, Hoon was found dead from a cocaine overdose on the band's tour bus. The surviving members of Blind Melon were left to sort out his life and death, as well as his legacy.

"I regret not really looking at those lyrics at that time and going, 'Hey man, are you okay?'" says Thorn. "We were all caught up in it. I wasn't in a position to go, 'Hey man, are you okay? You seem like you're drifting.' He could say the same thing about me or somebody else in the band. We should have said, 'Shannon's fked up and we're coming home right now. Everyone's going to deal with it. All you managers and record companies are not going to make any money.'"

Stevens has similar recollections about the period. "The shows that did get played just before Soup came out and after it came out, most of them were really good. There was some nonsense going on here and there. It wasn't like a rager. We had been through many periods that were way worse. It certainly didn't feel like we were approaching some sort of impending doom, at least to me. I thought that many other times. Maybe when it didn't happen, I just became desensitized, and I shouldn't have."

Soup went on to earn a GRAMMY nomination for Best Recording Packaging – Boxed at the 38th annual GRAMMY Awards in 1995. The album, which pictured Wallace eating soup in a New York City diner on the cover, was packaged to look like a greasy-spoon menu. The album's songs were the "specials," and the foldout included the CD and bonuses such as an "After Show Only" backstage pass.

The full 'Soup' packaging, styled to look like a greasy-spoon menu.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Thorn

"I think it was the first time, and maybe even one of the few times, that I worked with a food stylist," says Clinch, who was hired to shoot the cover. "We propped it out. They didn't have exactly everything we wanted, so we got our own coffee mugs, silverware, stuff to make it look as authentic as we wanted it to."

Meanwhile, Soup has quietly become a dark-horse favorite of the alt-rock era among fans and critics.

"You listen to that record, it was so adventurous and so timeless," says Clinch. "In my opinion, it doesn't feel like a '90s grunge record at all."

Stevens agrees. "We had a different reference point than our peers. We just approached it from, I feel like, a purer point, where there wasn't a litmus test of things that you were okay with or not that got you in this club. There was a lot of that going on that I felt was ridiculous.

"I did feel at the time that Soup was special," Stevens adds. "I also felt it was unfinished business. That will haunt me until the end of my days. I'll never get over that because aside from my family, the thing that really matters to me, really, is making great records."

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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."