Sunday, December 27, 2015

Tragedy's Infamous Cop Killer Song Finally Discovered and Released!

Wow, this is a major one, folks! Two of hip-hop's leading limited vinyl labels, Heavy Jewelz and Diggers With Gratitude have joined forces to release one of the most important recoveries of lost vintage material to date. Hopefully you remember a couple years ago, when DWG released the first Black Rage EP, a collection of three original demo mixes of songs from Tragedy's second album. It had the unheard remixes on side A, and released versions on side B. That was pretty damn cool, but Black Rage Demos Part 2 is an even bigger deal. This EP doesn't need to be padded out with tracks we already have, because it's six (technically eight, but two are instrumental skits) track collection of the rest of the unreleased Black Rage project, including completely unheard songs, including his infamous "cop killer" song "Bullet."

Most of us are already familiar with the legend of the song, though you've probably never heard it. The whole "Cop Killer" controversy had just happened over Body Count's song, and Tragedy was on the same label, Warner Bros, as The Intelligent Hoodlum. Well, technically he was on A&M, but Time Warner owned A&M Records along with a bunch of other labels. Warner was running scared and had Tragedy pull a song called "Bullet" off his upcoming album, Black Rage, which was eventually retitled Saga Of a Hoodlum (he didn't even get to keep the album title), because it also had reference to cop killing.

There's a pretty good article from the September 3, 1992 issue of The Chicago Tribune which interviews both Trag and A&M president Al Cafaro. Trag said, "I was approached with an option by the president of the record label: 'If you want to put it out as is, you can take it to another record label.' ...I don`t want the song to be misunderstood, but I will admit that the song is a cop-killing song. However, it is a reaction to cops killing... It was like, 'Yo, this is a touchy subject right now, but we're going with it.' That was the vibe at first. But as the Ice-T situation escalated, the label felt more responsible to the label than to the song." Cafaro added, "When I heard the song, I was taken aback... This song really stepped over the line... The conclusion I reached was that I couldn't stand behind [the song]. I couldn't in good faith release this, and then, if called upon, stand behind it and defend it." There's plenty more in the article, including more from both of them, plus details of other artists' songs that got removed from their albums for referencing cop killing, too. So go ahead and read the whole thing here.

And now that we get to finally hear it, yeah, it's not just a song that references cop killing, it is a full on ode to it. It opens up with the chorus, "shoot a cop, gonna shoot a cop dead! (Buck buck!) Kill a cop, put a bullet in his head!" And none of the verses soften that message. Interestingly, it's got some extra samples on the hook, but the instrumental is essentially Master Ace's "Music Man." Now I'm not one to cheer on hate speech, but I do like my artistic expression undiluted and uncensored, and there's no question that this song and the other tracks on this EP would've made for a hotter, more compelling Black Rage album than the Saga Of a Hoodlum LP (which was still quite good) we got.

And just what else is on here? Well, let's start small, with the two skits, "Intro" and "Fuck George Bush." The first is a funky, little breakbeat and the second is based on a vocal sample loop saying exactly what you think. Then there's an alternate version of "Underground," a song which did make the Saga Of a Hoodlum cut. This version isn't very different, with the same vocals and the same samples flipped the same way. The "here we go" chorus is different, though, and it doesn't have the scratching on the hook. I guess the main difference is that it has a less sleigh-bell heavy drum pattern, which I do prefer; but ultimately it's too similar to the album version to be very exciting. These are just nice little extras to have, I'd say.

Now let's get to the more exciting stuff. "Black Rage" is the title track that never was, and there are no production credits, but it's got that funky early 90s Marley Marl feel, but a little rougher, in tone with the song's clear concept. And "Rebel To Amerikkka" takes it even further. I don't think I can put it any better than the press sheet that calls it, "a worthy (and considerably angrier) successor to 'Arrest the President'." That's true both lyrically, where he aggressively goes after Bush, and instrumentally, which is frantic but tough. These songs are great; it never ceases to blow my mind how much great music artists and labels have just shelved and forgotten about.

I should pause to point out here, though, that this song and "Bullet" also feature uncredited guest verses. I'd love to find out who this is. I do have a guess, but I wouldn't say I feel very certain... could it be Scram? I don't know much about Scram, but he seemed to be a DJ for Trag around this time. He gets shouted out at the end of "Posse (Shoot 'Em Up)," and I was googling around trying to find any info on him, but only found out that RapGenius seems to think it's a reference to Scram Jones, a producer Trag would work with in his later Khadafi years. I may not know much about Scram, but I do know that's wrong. First of all, SJ has done some good stuff, but I'm fairly certain he's too young to have been around back then. But also, primarily, he's a white guy. Here, go look at some photos on his website. Now look at this photo, clearly labeled, of Trag and Scram from the inside of the In Control Volume 2 cassette [right]. That's a different dude. And Scram does get name checked on this EP (particularly the "Black Rage" song). So that's my guess. But who knows? It could be anybody without a distinctive enough voice to rule out. He comes off well on this EP anyway.

So what else is there? There's "Adolescents At War," which has a nice slow funk feel to it. And all these songs, combined with the first Black Rage EP, apparently represent the entire unreleased Black Rage album now (after all, some of it WAS released as Saga). The fact that every song on here is highly socio-politically charged is really powerful and honestly, if Black Rage had come out as originally intended, I think it would've make much bigger waves. But at least we finally get to hear it now.

And that's not quite everything. The last song I don't believe was ever intended for Black Rage, but it's from the same period, and definitely fits in conceptually with the rest of this material. It's an unreleased remix of "America Eats the Young," Trag's song from Marley's second album. Interestingly, it's a lot smoother. I don't think it's as effective as the screechy, high energy track that did get released was, but this is a cool alternative. This mix also doesn't have Chuck D's back-up vocals, which is fine, since it was always disappointing he never kicked a verse on the original anyway. Instead, they have a chorus of children repeating the mantra, "America eats the young," on the hook.

Sound quality is great. I think it's all taken from professionally released, official promo tapes, and then further remastered, just like the recent Young Zee album I was involved with. It's all clear and robust.

This EP is limited to 300 copies, and as of this writing is still available from DWG's Fresh Pressings store. As pictured above, it comes in a sticker cover and with DWG's traditional press sheet. Now, 150 of them are pressed on traditional black wax. But if you copped it as part of a bundle with DWG's other new release, Jae Supreme's Life Work EP, which includes the vinyl debut (FINALLY!!) of Nas's demo track "Villain," then you got one of the 150 blue/green translucent vinyl copies, which is now sold out. But the black is still available, so don't sleep. Releases like these don't come around too often.


  1. Long overdue release. Together with the Kerwin Young EP's this is probably my favorite release of 2015.

    BTW, Vinyl Addicts is only semi-dead... :)

    About 90% of the old content is still available @

    That blog hasn't been updated in years though. Every time I plan on picking up where I left off, something gets in the way. Who knows... maybe next year?!?!

    Peace, Smoov

    1. Nice! One of the things I was thinking a lot was that, not only is it a shame VA's not updating, but all the old content is gone. So that's great news that it's still available.

      And obviously a big thumbs up to the idea of picking it back up in 2016. XD