Hip hop has been met with significant problems in regards to censorship due to the explicit nature of certain genres. It has also been criticized for anti-establishment sentiment, as some of its songs depict wars and coup d'états that in the end overthrow the government. For example, Public Enemy's "Gotta Give the Peeps What They Need" was censored on MTV, removing the words "free Mumia".
After the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Oakland, California group The Coup was under fire for the cover art on their Party Music, which featured the group's two members holding a detonator as the Twin Towers exploded behind them. Ironically, this art was created months before the actual event. The group, having politically radical and Marxist lyrical content, said the cover meant to symbolize the destruction of capitalism. Their record label pulled the album until a new cover could be designed.
The use of profanity as well as graphic depictions of violence and sex creates challenges in the broadcast of such material both on television stations such as MTV, in music video form, and on radio. As a result, many hip hop recordings are broadcast in censored form, with offending language "bleeped" or blanked out of the soundtrack, or replaced with "clean" lyrics. The result – which sometimes renders the remaining lyrics unintelligible or contradictory to the original recording – has become almost as widely identified with the genre as any other aspect of the music, and has been parodied in films such as Austin Powers in Goldmember, in which Mike Myers' character Dr. Evil – performing in a parody of a hip hop music video ("Hard Knock Life" by Jay-Z) – performs an entire verse that is blanked out. In 1995 Roger Ebert wrote:
“ Rap has a bad reputation in white circles, where many people believe it consists of obscene and violent anti-white and anti-female guttural. Some of it does. Most does not. Most white listeners don't care; they hear black voices in a litany of discontent, and tune out. Yet rap plays the same role today as Bob Dylan did in 1960, giving voice to the hopes and angers of a generation, and a lot of rap is powerful writing. ”
In a way to circumvent broadcasting regulations BET has created a late-night segment called "Uncut" to air uncensored videos. Not only has this translated into greater sales for mainstream artists, it has also provided an outlet for undiscovered artists to grab the spotlight with graphic but low production quality videos, often made cheaply by non-professionals. Perhaps the most notorious video aired, which for many came to exemplify BET's program Uncut, was "Tip Drill" by Nelly. While no more explicit than other videos, its exploitative depiction of women, particularly of a man swiping a credit card between a stripper's buttocks, was seized upon by many social activists for condemnation. The segment was discontinued in mid 2006.
Also in the 1990s, gangsta-rap was popular but also heavily censored due to the explicit nature of the lyrics. Radio stations across the country stopped playing gangsta-rap all together. Many social and political people denounced rap like Delores Tucker, especially towards acclaimed rapper Tupac Shakur. The controversial hip hop group N.W.A. was sent a letter of warning from the F.B.I.. Despite this, the letter helped the group gain a wider audience and a more "gangster" appeal. Also, rap icon Ice-T made the controversial song Cop Killers.
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