Body Count - Murder 4 Hire
Escapi Music
Rap Metal
12 songs (44:53)
Release year: 2006
Escapi Music
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Body Count’s debut self-titled album was, admittedly, rubbish, but it was an enjoyably aural fist in the face of Middle America, going to the extent of earning Warner Brothers death threats over the inclusion of the song Cop Killer and getting the attention of everyone from George Herbert Walker Bush to Charlton Heston. The group’s frontman Ice T eventually removed the song from the album in disgust at the controversy taking precedence over the music, and whilst the band have never repeated the success of that album (Ice T appearing on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in the meantime, ironically playing a po-po) it’s interesting that for all the supposed influence on the likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit (both, let’s face it, to good music what a shitstain on the Mona Lisa is to fine art) Body Count was based more around Hardcore Punk and Speed Metal than anything Nu-related. Ice T himself has made his love of Slayer known, stating that he’d rather tour with the Thrash legends than Korn, and whatever his political views may mean to you the fact remains that Body Count are a damn sight more fun to listen to than most of the Nu-Metal hordes.

Now, Metalheads, especially you underground mofos who frequent this ‘zine, are typically wary of anything rap-related, and to be fair I can already imagine the forum furore when even Bullet For A Valentine face censure over their Metallic content. Yet considering that on their debut Ice-T barely rapped at all, and that his lead guitarist Ernie C is actually pretty good, surely there’s room finally for an album that successfully fuses Rap and Metal – and gets the full respect of both worlds? Well, the eagle-eyed will have noted that this review is three years late – because for all Body Count’s notoriety Murder 4 Hire was hardly a big seller. Trying to sell Rap Metal when we’re halfway through the first decade of the new millennium is anything but a sound business move, even Stuck Mojo finding their mojo decidedly stuck, and it’s easy to see with hindsight that Body Count did not succeed in uniting the two worlds.

Modern rap is like every other genre in that the best example of the genre is to be found anywhere than on the radio, and it suffers and gains as much from purists as Black Metal does. It’s difficult to see, however, exactly who these purist fans of Body Count are; worthy of notice is that Ice-T and Ernie C are the only original members left, drummer Beatmaster V dying of leukemia, bassist Mooseman leaving then dying in a drive-by shooting whilst working for Iggy Pop, whilst rhythm guitarist D-Roc died of complications from lymphoma in 2004, and listening to Murder 4 Hire next to the debut, it’s interesting that it’s much more of a rap album. The backing Metal is somewhere between Slayer and Obituary, chuggy and riff-driven but with an interestingly dark vibe to it, but all too often it’s spoiled by the wildly varied quality of the songwriting. Opening track Invincible Gangsta suffers the most from this, sounding great until Ice-T starts declaiming about the kind of clichéd gangster nonsense that 50 Cent has made a career for his bullet-scarred self from, but following song The End Game is excellent in comparison. Comparing the gangster mindset with aggressive American foreign policy, the passion in Ice’s voice in the verse compared to the cold, almost monotone chorus predicting nuclear destruction working wonderfully, and although Ice-T is nowhere near the wordsmith that, say, Public Enemy’s Chuck D is, he does a’ight here.

He doesn’t do so bad on the rest of the album, either. You Don’t Know Me (Pain) sounds like oddly like Eminem rapping over a slowed-down late Ministry riff, making the excellent point that trendy people who listen to Gangster Rap know nothing about the lives that people actually live, whilst The Passion Of Christ and In My Head are practically tributes to Slayer. Of course, they’re pretty bad when you compare them to the legends themselves, but it’s a thousand times better than anything Limp Bizkit ever came up with. There’s even soloing on the nicely punk title track! Overall, however, too many songs are lacking – Down In The Bayou seems to reuse a riff from earlier in the album, Dirty Bombs wouldn’t have got on a bad Biohazard album (please don’t sing, Ice... just, don’t do it) and the less said about Lies the better. No doubt, when looked at with my harshest hat on, Murder 4 Hire is a hodgepodge of half-inched Slayer riffs and bad rapping, but enough honest love for their influences shines through and somehow makes it all sound better than you’d expect. Body Count circa 2006 are surprisingly listenable (there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the closing instrumental) and on this basis might make a truly great album if they can get their heads out of the 90s clichés that drag them back.

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Killing Songs :
The End Game, Murder 4 Hire
Goat quoted 60 / 100
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