THE recording industry is stickering again. The famous...

Salmagundi

August 10, 1994

THE recording industry is stickering again. The famous "Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics" warning now has a soulmate. Epic Street, a division of Epic and Sony has placed the following warning on MC Eiht's new album "We Come Strapped": "The lyrical content contained on this album solely expresses the views of the artist."

That should have been obvious but Sony insists. This way they evade criticisms of not being socially responsible while still selling their controversial product.

Since pop music has existed, its halls have echoed with the same criticisms. From jazz to swing to the lambada to gansta rap, it has been called subversive, corrupting, vulgar and unclean.

But history has vindicated pop music and will continue to do so. For every Ice T forced to close up shop at Time Warner because of "Cop Killer" protests, come 10 Dr. Dre's, whose album "The Chronic" sold more than 4 million copies and opened the door for a new crop of streetwise musicians, spinning tales of gang war and assault weapons. The product hits the stores with a storm of controversy. Politicians bicker, the music industry hems and haws. But nothing changes. Life moves on and next week, five identical products appear without a peep from anyone.

Western culture has a long history of blaming art for social woes. Art cannot defend itself. It hangs on a wall or spins in a stereo, yet its influence is overwhelming. But we only like it when it affirms, not when it questions. Then it's decried as dangerous and immoral.

Cynicism and insecurity create this attitude, causing us to assume that the art in question is so powerful and insidious that human beings stand helpless in its face.

This is shortsighted and false. Americans young and old are influenced by the cultural forces around them. Shutting down one element of that culture does not make those influences disappear. What frightens adults is accessibility. What appears obscene from a distance may be in the living room before it can be stopped.

Paradoxically, this is exactly the place America should be acting. Instead of calling for bans on culture that rattle ideological cages, they should exercise freedom of choice. This, after all, is the job of parenting, imparting to a child the ability to decide right from wrong, acceptable from vulgar. Buying an album involves choice, nothing more. Attempting to stifle pop culture has proven to be an exercise in futility. Instead, learn to choose wisely.

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