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Cold Comfort

Jesse Frohman

To a T: The Iceman Cometh.

Ice-T counts the bodies with heavy-metal band

By Nicky Baxter

You have to admire the self-proclaimed former street hustla Ice-T. He's come a long way from hawking nickel bags of weed and whatnot in South Central to selling occasionally dope beats and lyrics as a rapper ("no beeper needed" as one of his song's says) and portraying superfly guys in movies like New Jack City.

But it was his speed-metal combo Body Count that led to Ice-T's being bumped off his Warner Bros. label. And it was all over one cartoonish tune. Released in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating, the song "Cop Killer" turned Ice-T (nee Tracy Marrow) into a high-profile free-speech advocate.

Pols, scribes and pop fans alike tuned in to see if Ice would melt under pressure to remove the offending item from Body Count's self-titled debut. After much huffing and puffing, the rapper-turned-metal-head knuckled under, agreeing to excise "Cop"; Rolling Stone, which had apparently adopted Ice-T as "their" nigger, cast him as a hero who had to do what he had to do to survive.

But the word on the street was that T had played himself; he was just another blowhard. In the end, it was much ado about nothing; after removing "Cop Killer" from the album, Ice-T and company were themselves "removed" from the label (although the split was reportedly initiated by Ice--don't believe that hype).

Subsequently, Virgin Records stepped into the breach. Body Count, however, has produced just one album--Born Dead--and that was two years ago. Like the first album, Born Dead is mediocre even by metal's floorboard-level standards. There's noise aplenty here, but beneath the clatter, not much else is going on. Guitarists Ernie C and D Roc do a credible job of simulating a dozen head-on car collisions, bassist Mooseman and drummer Beatmaster "V" whack away with the primal fervor.

So why does Body Count still bother? And why do we care? One reason: Ice-T. The rapper/actor/rocker's act is simply too irresistible to pass on, as anyone who has seen him perform can attest. Using the stage as a platform for expletive-filled anti-Right screeds, Ice-T is, of course screeching to the converted; moreover, his "Up With Youth" sloganeering conveniently ignores or distorts racial and class contradictions boiling just beneath rock's surface. But then Ice-T has never been interested in assuming any positions that might alienate his audience(s).

Like any politician worth his salt, he wants to be all things to all people: Rapper, rocker, actor, activist. Down with the brothas on the block and white boys in the 'burbs; West Coast playas and East Coast 'hoodies. The trouble is, in order to be effective, even the slickest hustla has to find a niche and mine it before moving on to the next mark.

Ice-T and Body Count perform Sunday (Dec. 8) at the Edge, 260 California Ave., Palo Alto; 9pm; cover varies; 415/324-EDGE; and Monday (Dec. 9) at 9pm at Palookaville, 1133 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $9.50adv/$11dr. (454-0600)

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