Friday, August 3, 2007

Chamillionaire announced that his new album, Ultimate Victory, would be cuss- and N-word free

Nekesa Mumbi Moody
Associated Press

NEW YORK–Rap's critics have been complaining for years, only to watch the music become even more profane – and more popular. But now it seems as if disgraced CBS radio host Don Imus may be accomplishing what a generation of detractors could not.

Four months after Imus was fired for making sexist and racial comments about the Rutgers University women's basketball team, there has been intense scrutiny of rap's negative imagery.

Questioning whether there was a double standard, calls came from everyone from civil rights leaders to rap pioneer Russell Simmons for corporations and radio stations to more closely censor profanity and racial epithets.

And as the genre's sales continue to plummet, some artists are publicly abandoning offensive language.

The platinum-seller Chamillionaire recently announced that his new album, Ultimate Victory, would be cuss- and N-word free. Numerous lesser-known rappers are promoting themselves as alternatives to misogynistic gangsta rap.

The handlers behind 17-year-old sensation Sean Kingston are touting him as PG-rated. And the veteran gangsta Master P also declared that he would make clean music (though the Dancing With the Stars contestant's hitmaking days now seem long gone).

Still, others remain defiant amid increasing pressure from the public and corporations. They vow to remain, in the words of rap's raunch king Uncle Luke, as nasty as they wanna be.

"It would have to pay something real strong to make me change the way I do my music," said Twista, whose explicit lyrics got him dropped from a McDonald's-sponsored concert this week. "I'm gonna keep saying it because I know I'm just making good music.''

Chamillionaire figured he could still make good music – just without the rough language. The rapper, who won a Grammy this year for his socially charged smash "Ridin'", says he never cursed all that much in his music anyway. The N-word was a different story: ``I've always used the N-word.''

But he went on tour and saw mostly white faces lip-synching the epithet along with his lyrics. Now Chamillionaire has had a change of heart for his new album, due in September on Universal Music Group, a unit of General Electric Co.

"I was like, 'You know what? I'm not going to say the N-word on this one because when I go back on the road, and I start performing, I don't want them to be saying it, like me teaching them," he said.

Now rap sales have plunged a dramatic 33 per cent from 2006 – double the decline of the overall music industry. And rappers have moved from the fringe to the mainstream, which makes them – and their endorsements, movie roles and clothing lines – more vulnerable to outside pressure.

Tolerance for bad language and the like may be diminishing. Verizon dropped its sponsorship of Gwen Stefani's tour when a videotape surfaced of opening act Akon simulating sex at a separate concert with a fan later revealed to be 14. And while McDonald's Corp. signed Twista on for its free summer concert series, it quickly dropped him after public pressure mounted due to his lyrics.

Twista's replacement? Sean Kingston.

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