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RECORD REVIEW : 2 Live Crew’s ‘Banned in U.S.A.’ Single Is Provocative, but PG

TIMES POP MUSIC CRITIC

There’s more chance of 2 Live Crew leader Luther Campbell’s new “Banned in the U.S.A.” single ending up in the national Top 40 than in a U.S. District Court.

Unlike the sexually explicit language that led to the Miami rap group’s “As Nasty as They Wanna Be” album being declared obscene June 6 by a U.S. district judge in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the tone of “Banned” is provocative but strictly PG.

Though rap singles rarely get widespread radio airplay because station programmers argue that the hectic, aggressive musical style is too harsh for mainstream listeners, “Banned” has several elements going for it despite the simplistic nature of most of the raps.

These elements include the single’s extremely catchy chorus--which is based on the chorus of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A,” one of the most popular tunes of the 1980s--and the widespread public interest in the 2 Live Crew controversy.

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The rap recording won’t be released to record stores and radio stations until Wednesday--the Fourth of July--but some copies were made available to the media Thursday.

“Banned” is a reflection by Campbell and other members of 2 Live Crew on the controversy surrounding the group since the June 6 ruling.

Campbell--who was arrested on obscenity charges after performing material from the X-rated album in a Hollywood, Fla., club after the ruling--has maintained in interviews that he is a victim of racism and political opportunists in the court ruling and he continues to express those themes in the new single.

Sample lines:

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We got white collar people

Trying to cramp our style

Saying we’re too nasty and we’re too loud

Corrupted politicians playing games

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Bringing us down to boost their fame .

The irony of this record--by a musician condemned by some for allegedly corrupting American morals--is that it ends up being a celebration of Constitutional freedoms. The closing lines, in fact, are played over some strains from “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“Banned” isn’t great record-making, but it is an extremely clever reaction to the controversy that has grown up around 2 Live Crew--and clearly shows that this is a band with artistic ambition.


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