“Efil4zaggin,” the second album by Los Angeles rap group N.W.A, has been declared not obscene by British magistrates, ending a case that marked the first time a record has been seized by police under Britain’s Obscene Publications Act.
Nearly 25,000 copies of the album were removed from the London depot of Polygram Record Operations, its distributor, by Scotland Yard’s Obscene Publications Squad on June 4. The record had been released in Great Britain the previous day and already had sold 16,000 copies by the time police raided the depot.
All copies of the album, which contains explicit references to sex, drugs and violence, are being returned to the distributor and will appear in records stores “as quickly as possible,” said a spokesman for Island Records, which released the album and is owned by Polygram.
After a four-hour hearing Thursday during which the album was played in court on a small cassette player, the presiding magistrates ruled the album did not break British obscenity laws and ordered police to pay the record companies’ court costs.
“I am thrilled,” Island managing director Marc Marot told reporters after the hearing. “We all thought it would be difficult for magistrates to define the difference between what they found offensive and what could be proved to be corrupting.”
Under the statute used by prosecutors, no individuals were charged with crimes, but the case could have resulted in all the records being destroyed.