A whole hell of a lot has gone done in the three years since Body Count released their last album, Manslaughter. That album, while musically hard-edged, was largely predicated around a theme of humorous swagger: "Talk Shit, Get Shit", "Pop Bubble", a lyrical update on the Suicidal Tendencies chestnut "Institutionalized". The month after that album's release, Eric Garner died in police custody after a choke hold rendered by the arresting officer fatally rendered Garner unable to breathe. Less than a month after that incident, an unarmed Michael Brown was shot at least six times during what many witnesses described as a belated attempt to surrender following a police chase. These and other widely reported upon police shootings and perceived instances of police brutality occurring within a brief window of time – and it goes without saying that the earlier 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin by a civilian had already left a bad taste in the mouths of many toward the justice system in general – sparked nationwide protests, leading to the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Well, y'all done pissed Ice-T off, now. The man has always been political, and the air raid sirens / martial law announcement kicking off opening track "Civil War" strongly recall the Jello Biafra guest turn on Ice-T's 1989 track, "Shut Up Be Happy", but on Bloodlust the man is especially reinvigorated in terms of social justice and systemic inequality. No fewer than three of the first four songs on the album deal with police violence against African-Americans (though "No Lives Matter" broadens the threat level to all poor people). "Black Hoodie" obviously evokes Trayvon Martin but implies the same thing could just as easily happen to any black man who dresses in a manner that invokes racist stereotypes. "This Is Why We Ride" addresses the age-old perils of growing up poor in the ghetto, acknowledging the systemic issues that drive desperate behavior but also calling upon the communities themselves to take responsibility for some of the more fatalistic behavior.
Elsewhere, Ice half-jokingly revels in that very violence, the title track swearing a bloody end to anyone who crosses him, while "Here I Go Again" is a grand guignol murder fantasy in old school Geto Boys mode. "Walk With Me" is less sanguinary but nonetheless offers vague threats of a mortal end to anyone unfortunate to encounter the more deranged side of the character's psyche. And as contradictory as the subject matter may seem coming from the mouth of someone who spent the first half of the album decrying violence, that's all they are: characters. Metal has always invited violent subject matter, and hip hop itself has seen countless lyricists over the years balance the dichotomy of lamenting the violence of the gangbanger lifestyle while enjoying its spoils.
There will be a certain number of "cuck" trolls who write off this album as being divisive between whites and blacks, the same way they do anytime the subject of the BLM movement comes up. They will do this in spite of the fact that Ice begins "No Lives Matter" with a prologue explaining that the phrase "black lives matter" was never meant to imply that white lives don't matter. They will, quite simply, continue to miss the point. Bloodlust would be a slightly stronger album if the back half of it stuck with incensed, Public Enemy-style political invective instead of venturing off into rote gangbanger fantasies, but even the inconsistency can't undermine the potency of the album's peak moments (including a ripping cover of "Raining Blood"). While Manslaughter was more of a crowd-pleasing comeback bid heavy on the lulz, Bloodlust represents a soaring call-to-arms. Not many long-in-the-tooth metal bands manage to shake things up this late in their careers, but 25 years after their first album Body Count have managed to launch themselves back into genuine relevancy.