Various Artists

Explicit Rap

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In the early 1990s, Luther Campbell became an unlikely poster child for the First Amendment when Florida attorney Jack Thompson declared that the 2 Live Crew's lyrics violated obscenity laws and tried to shut him down. But Thompson's war against the U.S. Constitution failed, and a variety of free-speech advocates rushed to Campbell's defense -- Democrats, Libertarians, even some moderate Republicans (who felt that parents, not the government, should monitor what kids listen to). In 1991, Priority stood up for Campbell -- and hardcore rap in general -- by assembling the compilation Explicit Rap. Priority's goal was to promote free speech (and make some money in the process) by putting together a compilation that hardcore rap's detractors would find offensive, and, sure enough, there is plenty to offend delicate ears. If you like your music clean-cut and wholesome, you won't appreciate explicit offerings like the 2 Live Crew's "Me So Horny," Ice-T's "Girls, L.G.B.N.A.F.," Too Short's "Cusswords," and N.W.A's "A Bitch Iz a Bitch." If Priority wanted to thumb its nose at critics of hardcore rap, this compilation does exactly that. Some people saw Explicit Rap as not only an attack on Thompson, but also, an attack on Tipper Gore and the Parents' Music Resource Center. Here's where things become ironic: some of the same music industry people who were lambasting the PMRC in the 1980s and early 1990s made generous contributions to Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000. Perhaps they decided that Tipper Gore, unlike Thompson, wasn't trying to get anyone's music banned -- she was only trying to help parents monitor what their kids were listening to. At any rate, Explicit Rap isn't the last word on hardcore rap in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but it's generally enjoyable if you like your rap on the raunchy side.

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