June 10th, 2014: I looked out of my window and saw pigs flying, and shortly thereafter received a text from Satan asking why Hell just froze over. Suddenly I remembered that Ice-T’s rap metal outfit Body Count had just released Manslaughter, so I grabbed hold of one of the aforementioned pigs and flew to my local record store to pick up a copy. Upon hearing Manslaughter in its entirety, I texted Satan the answer to his question: “because a great rap metal album was released in 2014.”
I’m going to get the obvious out of the way right now: Manslaughter is big, loud, obnoxious, and politically incorrect. Its success lies in Body Count embracing all of those things without a shred of irony, while also emphasizing the metal aspect of rap metal. Manslaughter is full of riffs and hooks that call Hatebreed, Sick of it All, and Terror to mind, aiming for the lizard brain and succeeding in a big way. “Enter the Dark Side” builds up to some stupidly heavy riffs and a midsection beatdown that calls vintage Celtic Frost to mind, and “Talk Shit, Get Shot” has some of the catchiest, most infectious chugging on the album, as well as sixteen idioms for getting shot, which was too good to not mention.
All of the riffs in the world wouldn’t matter if Body Count had a bad frontman, but Ice-T is a respected veteran in the rap scene for a good reason: he’s a prodigious and charismatic presence behind the mic, and his performance on Manslaughter reinforces that. Ice-T’s lyrics are incredibly entertaining throughout, with his 2014 update of Suicidal Tendencies‘ “Institutionalized” being a definite highlight. His phrasing is spot on in every song, and his intense delivery drives home the point that this is a metal album, albeit one with rap elements. Hatebreed‘s Jamey Jasta drops in for “Pop Bubble,” and hearing him and Ice-T try to out-angry each other about the current state of music over some catchy aggro riffing is a ton of fun.
Manslaughter is loud, obnoxious, and politically incorrect, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a ridiculously entertaining listen because of it. While it’s hindered a bit by a lack of variety, the overall enthusiasm of the band (which features alumni of Steel Prophet and Agent Steel), Ice-T’s great performance, and the criminally underrated Ernie C.’s standout guitar solos keep the album from getting tedious. The faster material actually works this time around (a Body Count first), and I can’t stress enough that even though it’s technically a rap metal album, it’s rap metal in the sense of Ice-T fronting Hatebreed as opposed to garbage like Limp Bizkit or Hacktivist. Manslaughter aspires to be a great album of pummeling, politically incorrect fun, and it succeeds on all counts.
Tracks to Check: “Talk Shit, Get Shot,” “Manslaughter,” “Institutionalized 2014,” “Enter the Dark Side”