If you were a songwriter and all your thoughts and efforts were put onto a piece of paper, would you want big brother to come and tell you that half of the subject matter is inappropriate and must be censored? Censorship can be defined as a banning of literature, music, and other forms of expression. This is a problem that many rap artists face these days. The three main objectives in this piece I will pursue is why we should allow artists to express themselves, why rap artists should have the freedom of speech, and why censoring destroys the art in rap. For these reasons I believe that rappers should have the freedom to express their views on their albums.
For years gangsta rappers have sang about the racism, police harassment, poverty and desperation that exists in America’s inner most parts of our cities. From old school NWA to Bone Thugs ?n’ Harmony to newer artists such as DMX, the struggle and anger stays very thematic. Controversy has always played a role in rap because of its content. In one of the most famous cases of music censorship, police in Dade County, Florida set up a sting to arrest three retailers selling copies of a record by 2 Live Crew to children under the age of 18. Objections to 2 Live Crew started with the breakthrough of their hit Me So Horny. No prosecutions resulted in standing convictions. Members of 2 Live Crew were also prosecuted for performing the material live in concert. Later that year, Florida grand jury determined that four rap albums (including Freedom of Speech by Ice-T) are legally obscene. Area retailers quickly pulled the records from the shelves to avoid prosecution. Following the controversy surrounding Ice Cube’s album Death Certificate, the state of Oregon made it illegal to display Ice Cube’s image in any retail store. The ban even extended to ads for St. Ides Malt Liquor, which used Ice Cube as a spokesperson. As we can see censorship is a major controversy in the rap community.
Many people believe that freedom can only exist in a somewhat controlled environment. Most would-be censors think that your freedom ends when it begins to hurt others. Censoring music, however, may do the most damage. For every time musical content or a CD is removed, the censors have taken away part of your intellectual freedom, the freedom to listen and understand all points of view, even if they are unpopular.
Some people view many rap artists as doing nothing but harming and distorting peoples’ views on life, but I believe that people take their original attitude to subjects such as rap and take from it what they want. Letting artists express themselves helps us to take something positive from their views and expand our mind and social perspectives. Taking Eminem as an example. He writes songs about death, drugs, and rape because of the way he was raised and the way he views his life. I think this gives us a better understanding of other people’s views and perspectives on life issues. Not only that, but media in general, gives us a more global perspective on life and living.
Being an occasional poet, I understand that censoring a piece of my work would virtually destroy the art in it. When everything in a song is put together and recorded it is very hard to re-record and maintain the same quality of character that the previous recording had. So I understand when recording artists get angered by record management and write about their hate for them. The government already puts the parental advisory sticker on the case to protect children from buying the music, so management and government should not have to censor his music because of what this county is based upon.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free practice thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. Many people, including myself, say that many rappers’ lyrics are obscene and ridiculous. But this country is based on freedom. The U.S. Constitution simply states that every man, woman and child has the right to freedom of speech. And what gangsta rap has demonstrated is using the right to freedom of speech.
If you are supportive of my views and would like to make an impact against censorship, here are two ways to help fight censorship:
* Internet petition against Censorship: Mass. M.I.C., Parents for Rock and Rap, and Rock Out Censorship have joined together to sponsor a Fight Music Censorship campaign. Show them you care by signing this petition.
* R.O.C.: The Rock Out Censorship homepage with lots of ways to get involved.