Sales of Ice-T's "Body Count" album surged dramatically last week in Texas and Southern California after law enforcement agencies and political candidates in those areas called for a ban of the rapper's controversial "Cop Killer" song.
Ice-T's sales jumped an estimated 60% in Los Angeles, where Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores and the Los Angeles Police Protective League had urged Time Warner, the distributor, to stop selling the album.
"We completely sold out of 'Body Count' this week," said Darrin Mercado, store manager of Crain's Records on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles. "I think the controversy over the album is really stirring things up.
"After all, the album has been out for a couple of months. Now, all of a sudden, everybody's asking for it."
In Houston, where the Combined Law Enforcement Assn. of Texas (CLEAT) initiated the call for a Time Warner boycott on June 10, sales of "Body Count" leaped 370%. Sales more than doubled in Austin, San Antonio and Dallas, according to SoundScan, the New York research firm that tabulates U.S. sales figures for Billboard magazine.
"Of course sales increased--I bought one myself," CLEAT President Ron DeLord said Wednesday. "I felt like I had to listen to the entire record, so I went out and bought one. We don't care if they sell a million more copies because of our protest. That's not the point. You have to speak out against this sometime. If not now, when? How bad will the next album Time Warner produces be? We're not backing down one bit on this boycott. We're going to stay on them until the stench of this will make them decide it isn't worth it."
"Body Count" sold an estimated total of 17,000 copies across the nation last week, an 18% increase over the previous week, enabling the rap-metal collection to move from No. 66 to No. 62 on Billboard's upcoming pop album chart.
The Houston City Council passed a resolution Wednesday denouncing Time Warner for distributing the record. The Los Angeles City Council has scheduled a hearing Tuesday on a similar motion introduced by Flores, a Republican candidate in the 36th Congressional District.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Deane Dana, who is up for reelection, also joined the call for Time Warner Inc. to withdraw cassettes and CDs of "Cop Killer" from store shelves because of the song's potential to incite violence.
But Ronald Hampton, executive director of the National Black Police Assn., a 35,000-member Washington-based national organization that has refused to participate in the Time Warner boycott, disagreed.
"This song is not a call for murder," Hampton said Wednesday. "It's a rap of protest. Ice-T isn't just making this stuff up. He's expressing his concerns about police misconduct. He's responding to a very real issue that affects many Americans, especially blacks and Latinos: police brutality."
Law enforcement groups calling for the "Cop Killer" ban object to the following lyrics:
I got my 12-gauge sawed off.
I got my headlights turned off.
I'm 'bout to bust some shots off.
I'm 'bout to dust some cops off.
. . . my adrenaline's pumpin'
I got my stereo bumpin'.
I'm 'bout to kill me somethin' .
A pig stopped me for nothin'.
However, Hampton pointed out that the song's chorus specifically addresses the LAPD and the Rodney G. King case, including such lines as:
Cop Killer, It's better you than me
Cop Killer . . . police brutality
. . . for Daryl Gates
. . . for Rodney King
. . . for my dead homies .
Hampton questioned why police groups and public officials were investing so much energy objecting to the Ice-T record while so many other problems plagued the nation's communities.
"There are no statistics to support the argument that a song can incite someone to violence," Hampton said. "I do not believe that any responsible person would go out and shoot a police officer just because he heard an artist rap about it. Artists have always expressed their opinions about social conditions in music. Ice-T's work is in the same tradition."
Officials at Warner Bros. Records and Time Warner declined to comment. Los Angeles rapper Ice-T, who is scheduled to deliver a speech on the matter today at the New Music Seminar in New York, has not yet commented on the controversy.