Cop Killer and Deracialization of Lyrics
Sieving's article on the controversy over Ice T's song "Cop Killer," gave the reader a fresh perspective on why Ice T's message on racial differences failed. Ice T's song although not techinally rap, it was released as a rock song on Ice T's album Body Count. However, it was seen by many in media and the public as a rap song by a ganster rapper telling people to be violent towards law enforcement. It was released during a politically charged time in 1992 with a presidental election and the wake of the largest race riots in over 20 years in Los Angeles over the Rodney King beating. Sieving accurately pointed out that Ice T's message really wasn't about simply inflicting harm to law enfourcement, but was more about an indicment about black culture in the wake of economic and political subjecation.
When this issue become a political charged in the American media and culture, Sieving pointed out that Ice T and those around him chose the wrong path in defending or countering the arguement about the message of "Cop Killer." Because they failed to address the underlying racial component of the song, Ice T and Time Warner lost the ability to defend the artistic message of the song and its underlying tones about racial inharmony in urban areas. Instead, they looked at as protecting Ice T's first amendment rights.
The opponents of this song used the argument and as Sieving points out quite effectively the brutuality of the lyrics. They even frame it differently by having people like Charlton Heston read it out load as if it was short story. This effectively nullified the protection of the 1st amendament rights that T's supporters had used to defend the lyrics and the song. Sieving went as far to point out that the mainstream media and opponents of the song went as far as just using snipets of the song to further their agenda. One of the best at this was then future President Bill Clinton who used part of an interview by Sister Soulijah to point the violent sub-culture that rap (hip-hop) artists brought to American society.
I thought Sieving did a good job of presenting an argument about the failure of Ice-T to capitalize on his song as being culturally relevant commentary on black issues in urban environment where those that represent the law are often the ones bending or breaking it. His song was an outlet of what many in black urban area felt in regards to the police state that existed in these areas. Not only were blacks fighting amongst themselves they had to deal with what Ice T contended was a corrupt law enforcement system. In Sieving's final paragraph he pointed out that Ice T's record was fairly popular with white surburban teens who had never experienced this kind of oppresion. In some ways this song and album helped bridge a cultural divide between white and black America. However, the supporters of this song missed that point and eventually pulled the song from the album due to the controversy and political polarization it created.