Originally published at Ongoing History of Protest Music
Back in 1992, Ice-T’s heavy metal project Body Count released their self-titled debut album, which
included one of the most controversial protest songs of all-time, “Cop Killer”. The lyrics express the
frustration that many in the Black community were feeling.
The original album version references then-Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates, and Rodney King, who was brutalized by the LAPD on March 3, 1991.
Ice-T defended the song as it faced a boycott. “I’m singing in the first person as a character who is fed up with police brutality. I ain’t never killed no cop. I felt like it a lot of times. But I never did it. If you believe that I’m a cop killer, you believe David Bowie is an astronaut.”
Due to the uproar, the album was pulled and reissued without “Cop Killer.” The studio version of the
song still hasn’t been re-released and isn’t available on streaming services, but there is now a cover version by R&B singer Macy Gray that features her backing group California Jet Club. The reworked track appears on her recently released album “The Reset.”
Gray said, “The album was written right in the thick of the pandemic. It was just a really good
time to make an album because everybody was emotive and expressing themselves. Everybody was just like releasing and letting go. Most musicians are musicians because they aren’t great communicators, so it all came out in the album.“
“There is a song called PTSD, which is a song about how my country gave me PTSD, cause after all that I was traumatized,” added Gray.
Part of that PTSD stemmed from the ongoing issues with police brutality, a theme that is heavily dealt
with on the timely album, which was composed in the aftermath of the murders of George Floyd
and Breonna Taylor in 2020. The modern-day lynching of Tyre Nichols renews the relevance.
Along with her music, Gray was motivated to co-found My Good, an organization created to support
families who have lost loved ones to police violence.
“I don’t think people are aware that three people die via the police on average every day. So the 99.9%
of those you don’t hear about, and most 99.9% of those don’t get any kind of settlement, don’t see a
penny,” Gray declared. “You know, you have moms 10 years later still going to court fighting for justice.”
Even though the lyrics of “Cop Killer” will still make a segment of people uncomfortable, the anger
towards corrupt cops is at an all-time level. More and more people are raising their voices to declare,
“Fuck police brutality!”