My editing background noise this afternoon is the first album from Body Count, the metal band with Ice-T on vocals. Some of it is uncomfortable to listen to. But, truth be told, I absolutely adored this album back in 1992.
Mood music (Because it’s one of the few songs on the album without the N-word everywhere):
Listening to it now, I shake my head at the liberal use of the N-word. I hate that word. But because an African American was singing it, the 22-year-old me thought it was ok; that the hateful nature of the word was somehow neutralized because it came from Ice-T’s mouth.
Back then I thought it was a big joke. In my drunken moments I would play the most violent songs on the album (“Cop Killer” and “There Goes the Neighborhood”) and cackle myself blue. My friends joined in. They weren’t bigots, either. They were just caught up in the nonsense, too.
But looking back, it was more than a childish joke. On a couple different levels.
First, there were real racial tensions in 1991 and 1992. It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since a bystander recorded the police beating of Rodney King. In the spring of 1992, a jury let the officers off the hook and L.A. erupted into vicious rioting. That was scary stuff. Some people suggested a race war was at hand. The 1960s were probably much more dangerous in that regard, but for my generation that was the worst we had seen in our adult lives.
Second, my attraction to that album illustrates what an angry person I was back then. I was just getting started with the band Skeptic Slang and all the lyrics I was writing were tirades against my lot in life. My sister was suicidal, I was in a rage against years of verbal abuse from my mother and I was spiritually adrift.
I had yet to understand that life was never meant to be fair, and that there’s no such thing as happily ever after. I learned these things, eventually, thankfully,
My thinking back then was immature and depressed. If this album helped me through it and kept me sane so I could make it out the other end, so be it.
It’s a snapshot in time.
Nothing more, nothing less.