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Album: Body CountReleased: 1992
Body Count was a Hardcore band fronted by the rapper Ice-T. He got the idea for this song after he came into the studio singing "Psycho Killer" by The Talking Heads, and someone in the studio thought there should be a "Cop Killer," to express concerns of people harassed by police.
Ice-T ran with gangs and committed plenty of crimes in his youth, but credits rap music for helping him take "my first step into the legitimate world."
Regarding this song, he told NPR: "I've never been a cop hater. When I was breaking the law, the cops were my opponent - I just thought I could outsmart them. Anybody who speeds thinks they can outsmart the cops. At that time I knew I was breaking the law, so why would I be mad at the police? 'Cop Killer' was a song about brutal police. It was a year before Rodney King, and I was living in the world where cops were snatching people out of their cars and beating their ass. So I thought, What if somebody went on a binge against the brutal cops, how would you feel about that?"
The song is about exactly what the title suggests: going out and trying to kill a cop. When the song was released, a Texas police agency called for a nationwide boycott of the song, which brought up censorship issues and generated lots of controversy. The resulting media attention led to skyrocketing sales of what would have otherwise been a fairly obscure track. In fact, the album had already been out for a few months when the kerfuffle came along and gave it new life.
Warner Brothers Records pulled this song off the album under pressure from government agencies and police groups. Ice-T left the label a few months later.
Starting in 2000, Ice-T performed on the hit NBC drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as a police detective. That means that eight years after writing and performing a famous song about murdering a cop, he was playing one on TV.
Making a statement on free speech, Soundgarden performed this song at their 1992 Lollapalooza appearance.
Ice-T told Q Magazine that controversy is overrated. He said: "There's a lot of people who think controversy sells records. It doesn't. It hurts you. It causes so much unnecessary s--t. With 'Cop Killer,' I've found out firsthand what it's like to have a whole country after you. The president says your name, you got police all over the world hearing this one guy made this record about killing them. You go in the cross hairs. You're that image that Public Enemy made."