Body Count

Murder 4 Hire (Escapi)

When rapper/actor Ice-T released the first Body Count effort in 1992, critics snickered at the formulaic metal as the world at large hollered about "Cop Killer," the "pivotal" track that was eventually removed from future pressings by the record company. Ironically, neither the rap nor metal audiences ever responded to Body Count, which makes this year's arrival of Murder 4 Hire all the more puzzling.

With three members already dead (Bassist Mooseman died in a drive-by in 2000, two others by natural causes), the 48-year-old rapper/actor Tracy "Ice-T" Morrow had little reason to resurrect his metallic plaything for a fourth time. (Born Dead came out in '92 and Last Days in '97, but don't pretend to know that.) Sure, Limp Bizkit and Korn ripped him off, but Ice-T's best work is years ahead of any of those white boys.

Yet despite being the mother of all cliché fests, Murder succeeds on its sheer audacity and unrepentant ugliness. The riffs are still rudimentary. The sound is a high holy mess with vocals about a mile in front of everything else. But tracks such as "Invincible Gangsta" and "The Passion of Christ" still have the same conviction and urban authenticity that Ice-T always provided when he rapped. By the time the entire sordid mess comes to an end and the last "motherfucker" is shouted into the din, the listener is pummeled, bruised by an unwanted artifact, a scary reminder of rage that continues its profitability.

 
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