Rap star Ice-T announced yesterday that he would delete the controversial track "Cop Killer" from his speed-metal album "Body Count." But the rapper insisted this withdrawal was not in response to police protests against his song, but due to death threats made against employees at Warner Bros. Records, the album's manufacturer. Ice-T blamed those threats on police officers.
"At the moment the cops are in a criminal mode," he said at press conference in Los Angeles yesterday. "They've raised a lot of death threats against Warner Brothers Records."
Bob Merlis, vice president and national publicity director for the label, confirmed the rapper's allegations. "Let's put it this way -- the bomb squad was here twice," he said. "I mean, all kinds of strange things have come in on the fax, all kinds of bizarre, not-so-veiled threats have come in on our consumer complaint line," he said.
After Ice-T's press conference, the label released a statement announcing that it would "cease manufacturing and distribution of the 'Body Count' album as it now stands, and will replace it with a new version minus 'Cop Killer' with amended artwork to reflect that change." The statement added that the decision would be put into effect "immediately."
Merlis stressed that the company put no pressure on Ice-T to pull the song. "He brought this notion to us," said Merlis. "It's the artist's call, and this was his decision. And we'll stand by him, as we have stood by him when he first released the record, and when we kept it in the marketplace under all that fire."
As of Tuesday, Warner Bros. had shipped more than 500,000 copies of "Body Count" since the album's release in late February. However, Merlis said that because a number of chains had already pulled the album from stock, the label had no idea how many copies were already in "the return pipeline."
But the Warner Bros. statement did request that music retailers "immediately" return all unsold copies of the "Body Count" album to the label. According to the statement, "The new version of 'Body Count' will be put into production on an ASAP basis, and should be available to customers within the next few weeks."
Ice-T's decision to delete "Cop Killer" from the album comes after more than a month of organized protest by police groups, which had threatened to boycott all Time-Warner products unless the song was taken off the market. There were also police protests outside the Time-Warner stockholders' meeting in Beverly Hills last week, while inside, the album was denounced by actor Charlton Heston.
Time-Warner issued a statement of its own Tuesday, respecting "Ice-T's decision to withdraw the Body Count song 'Cop Killer' from distribution." But corporate spokesman Ed Adler refused to comment on reports, published in the Wall Street Journal last week, that the media monolith was contemplating a policy against releasing recordings containing "inappropriate" material. "As I told the Wall Street Journal, we don't comment on board discussions," Adler said.
There was no word, though, on how this controversy would affect Ice-T's future output. "Is Ice-T going to be under the microscope next time? I guess so," said Merlis. "He's somewhat more famous than he was before, so by dint of fame, notoriety or whatever, perhaps whatever he does will be more anticipated.
"But I don't know what's going on in his mind, or how this will affect his thinking, or his recorded output."