Rap Critics Assail MCA for Lyrics


Accusing music giant MCA of reneging on a promise that it would not distribute offensive material, a trio of rap critics Tuesday expressed displeasure with the recent release of albums containing violent and profane lyrics.

Former education secretary William J. Bennett, head of the Washington-based conservative think tank Empower America, said at a news conference that he is disappointed with Seagram, MCA's parent company, because it issued albums containing provocative material by such artists as the late Tupac Shakur. He noted that MCA executives had said they would exercise discretion in the albums the company released.

"MCA lies," said Bennett. "Their word is not worth anything. Seagram/MCA is peddling filth for profit and reneging on a moral commitment."

In a statement, MCA said it has "a comprehensive review process in place to monitor the content of releases from all of its record labels. As a result of the process, MCA has chosen not to release certain music. This is a subjective process and not everyone will always agree with these decisions. We know it is not easy, but we remain committed to the process we have established."

Bennett's criticism of MCA was echoed by Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) and C. DeLores Tucker, chairwoman of the National Congress of Black Women. The three aim to convince record companies, through public pressure, to stop releasing music that contains profanity and violence.

In May, Bennett, Lieberman and Tucker attacked the other five major recording corporations--Sony Music, Time Warner, PolyGram, EMI Music and Bertelsmann Music Group--for distributing explicit records, but withheld criticism of MCA because the company had said it would not release music it deemed offensive.

On Tuesday, Tucker took particular offense at the latest album by Shakur, who was shot Sept. 7 by an unknown assailant and died a week later. Tucker said the album and its cover is offensive to blacks, women and Christians.

Shakur's posthumous album, "Makaveli: The Don Killuminati: the 7 Day Theory," sold a spectacular 663,000 copies during its first week--three times as many as the closest competitor--and features an album cover of the rapper crucified on a cross, with a parental advisory sticker placed over his genitals.

Also singled out for criticism was the "Anti-Christ Superstar" album by the industrial rock group Marilyn Manson. The album entered the pop chart at No. 7 upon its release two months ago and is approaching sales of nearly 1 million units.

Lieberman alleged that the group's music glories pedophilia and was "perhaps the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company."

The three are asking retail outlets Sam Goody, the Wherehouse, Circuit City and Best Buy to reconsider the records they are "hyping" as holiday gifts.

Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Assn. of America, said: "MCA made a commitment to release albums that have artistic merit. They fulfilled that commitment. It's too bad [the critics] are disappointed."

She also pointed out that MCA had elected not to distribute a compilation of rap songs, "Death Row's Greatest Hits." The album is being distributed instead by EMI Music-owned Priority Records and was released two weeks ago.

Rosen said he doubts the crusade will have significant impact. "I don't think it will have any effect on sales. The music will speak for itself."

Times staff writer Chuck Philips contributed to this report.

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