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The Ice-T debate

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Long before the current controversy over Ice-T’s ”Cop Killer” erupted, execs at his label, Sire/Warner Bros. Records, knew they had an explosive subject on their hands. According to one insider, the company debated whether to include ”Cop Killer” on the new album, whether to name the album after that notorious song, or whether just to drop the album entirely.

Although Warner brass are now reluctant to reveal details of these decisions, the record’s executive producer, Howie Klein, discussed the behind- the-scenes arguments at a Stanford University music class a few months before the album’s March 31 release. ”There were people in the company who felt uncomfortable with this material,” Klein said, ”three or four people at the highest level who didn’t want to put it out. Someone asked if we’d take the song off. I let Ice-T know, but I also told him I’d be disappointed if he did.” There was one compromise: It was decided to call the album Body Count rather than Cop Killer, as originally planned, but the words Cop Killer are tattooed on the chest of the man illustrated on the cover.

Bob Merlis, vice president and director of publicity for Warner Bros. Records, confirms that ”we discussed the entire album. We knew it was controversial but not dissimilar from other albums with provocative lyric content. We put a (parental advisory) sticker on it.” But neither the compromise nor the sticker was enough for irate Texas police officers, who plan to take their protest to the July 16 Time Warner annual shareholders meeting in Beverly Hills. ”It was a corporate decision, not a free-speech issue,” says Mark Clark, a Houston patrolman who is spokesman for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas. ”It’s irresponsible for Time Warner to make money off that song. They owe America’s police an apology.”

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