Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    Someone give 1990 their argument back...

    The redundant topic of censorship is in the spotlight again and usually when we debate censorship, black folks are at the forefront. I watched an episode of Oprah today with everyone on the stage calling for an end to derogatory images of women in hip-hop and the use of the word nigger, which they felt pollutes the black community. Oprah's guest demanded the music be stopped and they praised C. Delores Tucker who was on an anti-rap campaign in the '90's. Tomorrow, hip-hop artists will join the panel to defend their side.

    This reminds me of when 2 Live Crew was banned in 1990 due to their lewd lyrical content. History is repeating itself nearly twenty years later and it is frightening. Yes, there should be a change in the music...yes, we should have dialogue...yes, there should be a balance with hip-hop…yes, if you don’t want an artist to perform somewhere you should protest. Nonetheless, when you talk about “banning” Snoop Dogg (who has as much artistic credibility as one of Britney Spears' farts) for using the word "nigga"—who else will be banned? Mos Def, Common and other artists are considered "respectable" and also use the word "nigga" and bitch—what will happen to them? Suddenly we say, "Oh no, we didn't mean them—only the real savages." Who deems what is inappropriate? It won't be other black folks. Will it be the FCC Enforcer—also, known as the people who sealed the nail in the coffin of Janet Jackson's career? So, once again people in power will regulate what is and what isn't appropriate for black Americans. Here is a brief history of black artists/musicians being banned or censored in the USA:

    1954 - Michigan congresswoman Ruth Thompson introduced a bill in the House that would prohibit mailing any pornographic recording. The offense would be punishable by five years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.

    1955 -
    Mobile, Alabama radio station received over 15,000 letters of complaint about the playing of "dirty records". The station promised that they would censor all controversial music, especially rhythm and blues.

    1956 - ABC Radio Network bans Billie Holiday's rendition of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" from all of its stations because of its prostitution theme.

    1956 - Members of the White Citizens Council of Birmingham, Alabama, rush the stage at a Nat King Cole concert and attack the legendary performer due to the reaction of Birmingham's young teen girls to Nat's crooning--the council members confused Cole's music with newly popular and "oversexed" R&B.

    1958 - The management of St. Louis radio station had all rock & roll music banned from its play list. The disc jockeys gave every rock and roll record in the station library a "farewell spin" before smashing it to pieces.

    1965 - Jim Hendrix's single "How Would You Feel" is given little airplay on radio because of the song deals with the plight of blacks in America.

    1977 - The Reverend Jesse Jackson calls for bans against disco music from U.S. radio station, insisting the music promotes promiscuity and drug use.

    1984 - Rick Allen and his wife express concerns over a Prince album to their local PTA meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio. This action started the mid-80s music censorship movement that eventually results in the RIAA universal parental warning sticker.

    1985 - The title of Marvin Gaye's song "Sanctified Pussy" is changed to "Sanctified Lady" for a posthumous release, Dream of a Lifetime.

    1988 - The co-owner of Taking Home the Hits in Alexandria, Alabama, is arrested in June for selling 2 Live Crew's Move Somethin' to an undercover police officer.

    1989 - Officials at the FBI write to gangsta rap group N.W.A. In August, informing the performers that the bureau does not appreciate their song "Fuck Tha Police."

    1990 - Missouri legislators introduce a bill in January that forbids the sale of records containing lyrics that are violent, sexually explicit or perverse. Similar measures are introduced in 20 other states.

    1990 - A Tennessee judge rules that 2 Live Crew's Nasty As They Wanna Be and N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton are obscene under state law. Anyone arrested for selling the records could face fines from $10,000 to $100,000, depending upon the involvement of minors in the offense.

    1990 - In San Antonio, Texas, a record store owner is jailed for selling a copy of 2 Live Crew's Nasty As They Wanna Be to the twenty-year-old son of an anti-pornography activist.

    1990 - About two months after members of 2 Live Crew were arrested in a Florida nightclub for performing material from their controversial album Nasty As They Wanna Be, members of the New York rock band Too Much Joy are arrested in the same club for performing 2 Live Crew songs.

    1992 - The state of Oregon makes it illegal to display Ice Cube's image in any retail store.

    1992 - In July Ice-T drops the song "Cop Killer" from his Body Count album. One month after the album is released, police organizations across the country protest Ice-T, begin boycotting all Time-Warner products, and threaten to divest the Time-Warner stock owned by police pension funds.

    1997 - Three owners of Lyric Hall in Oxford, Mississippi, are arrested and handed six month jail terms for booking a performance by 2 Live Crew.

    1998C. Delores Tucker renews her call against rap music, this time joined by U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman. Examples of the group's targets include: Wu-Tang Clan, The Notorious B.I.G., Geto Boys, The Dogg Pound, Tupac Shakur, Gravediggaz, Cypress Hill, Lords of Acid, Black Crowes, and Blues Traveler.

    1999 - Police organizations across the country call for the cancellation of a sold-out concert scheduled for New Jersey's Continental Arena. The concert, featuring headliners Rage Against The Machine and the Beastie Boys, is a fundraiser for death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal.

    2000 - Loud Records succumbs to pressure from national video outlets to remove images of nooses around the necks of Dead Prez in the clip for their song “They Schools.” Group member M-1 objected, saying “This represents our people, poor and oppressed, trying to claim their right to a fair and just life. The U.S. education system has been the primary force behind the miseducation of our people.”

    Do people really want history to repeat itself? Some of these bans you might agree with, some you might not. However, even the most vapid, idiotic and stupid music should be allowed to be made. We cannot put decency codes on art because good taste is relative. I know people who think 50 Cent has incredible flow and storytelling ability--regardless of his coon babble.

    In 1998 "gangsta' rap" was banned then somehow rock/blues groups like the Black Crowes and Blues Traveler fell in the mix. In addition, I remember how mortified people were with N.W.A.—now their legendary song "Fuck Tha Police" is labeled a protest song.

    I am deeply confused how Imus' racist comments somehow turned to hip-hop. Especially considering Imus himself was the first one to compare his comments to hip-hop, a great diversion tactic that a man forty years in broadcasting knows too well—while we all conveniently forget the word jiggaboo was used. On Oprah Sharpton said he protested The Boondocks for using the word "nigga", but that show was great social commentary on black America, especially hip-hop.

    There should be an examination of race in America, not music in America. Words like "nigga" (reinvented and popularized by Richard Pryor--should we start blaming Pryor?) and "ho" are a part of the American lexicon. Talib Kweli, The Roots, Kanye West—even Queen Latifah—have all used bitch or nigga in their music. Not every artist who uses these negative words are minstrel shows who are disrespecting black women and black people. Those words and images are not the cause of poverty, drugs, violence, rape, STDs, pregnancy, abortion, poor education, racism, misogyny, homophobia, HIV/AIDS, SHOOTINGS (was the man who murdered over thirty people at Virginia Tech University listening to 50 Cent on his iPod while he blew people to bits?) or any other problem in America. The smokescreens are the signs of a huge wildfire.

    I truly admire the legendary quote, "I may detest what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."


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    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 8 comments

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