Does rap deserve a bad rap? M.C. Hammer said, while being interviewed on Channel 3's 11:00 p.m. news in Louisville recently, that "I don't do it, but it's their prerogative if they want to do it," referring to the 2 Live Crew rap group who is accused of verbally degrading women, using four-letter words, etc. in their songs. Do we have the right to express ourselves at the expense of others on tape or vinyl for the sake of freedom of speech, the almighty dollar and/or publicity? Well, unfortunately, yes.
Without being too facetious, I'll attempt to straddle the fence and avoid the obvious ruses. Obscenities and degrading the opposite gender has continually been, and will always be, offensive to some, especially that sex, race or the socioeconomic backgrounds of that person or people referred to by the referrer pointing the finger.
As a songwriter, I expect to be censored by so-called censors such as radio stations or record sales outlets (by their own right) providing my lyrics cross tested or untested offensive grounds.
Pat Huber, Executive Director of the NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) is a member of the Coalition Against Lyrics Legislation which is monitoring and lobbying against labeling bills. She stated at the NSAI Summer Songwriters Seminar on July 21, 1990, that "freedom of expression is a constitutional right, and the First Amendment must not be challenged. Therefore, the recording industry should police itself and voluntarily label products that contain explicit lyrics." In essence, labeling censors could actually end up listing offensive words on the label attached to the tape, CD, etc.
I would hope that we not have to read such a label with blanket material attached to music, but by the same token, I commend those who say "I will not place gutter garbage on my shelves to sell," or those who say, "I have a shelf set aside for offensive material."
So does rap deserve a bad rap? No! All music takes a rap on occasion. Focus should be on the songwriter, performer and music industry person who occasionally goes beyond good taste.
NSAI Louisville Songwriters meet second and fourth Mondays at 1733 Bardstown Road, in Louisville.