May 15, 1997
Gangsta Rap Debate Hits Time Warner
NEW YORK (AP) -- The gangsta rap controversy re-emerged
Thursday with critic C. DeLores Tucker slamming Time Warner at
its annual meeting for the sexually graphic songs of Lil' Kim.
Her comments, directed at management of the world's largest
media and entertainment company and particularly chairman Gerald
Levin, came less than two years after Time Warner's decision to
sell its stake in Interscope Records amid criticism of violent
and sexual rap lyrics.
Mrs. Tucker punctuated her argument by reading some
particularly explicit Lil' Kim lyrics to the gathered
stockholders. They were laced with profanity and references to
anal intercourse and ejaculation.
One relatively tame verse excerpted by Mrs. Tucker read:
"How you like it baby?
"Uhh. From the front.
"Uhh. From the back.
"Give that ass a smack.
"Bet your man won't do it like that."
Mrs. Tucker dubbed the music "gangsta porno rap."
"Must we continue to have to remind you that we should
have no songs that are offensive to any people?" Mrs. Tucker
told Levin as he officiated the meeting, held for the second time
at the storied Apollo Theatre in Harlem to bring focus to the
area's cultural heritage.
"Shame, shame, shame on our family Time Warner," she
told shareholders. She said the lyrics promote violence,
particularly in the black community, and told Levin: "You
condone the destruction of our children."
Levin, who had made an upbeat presentation about the company's
performance and outlook, took issue with Mrs. Tucker's comments,
saying he felt they were implicitly personal.
"Mrs. Tucker, the company has been committed to do
everything that needs to be done to recognize the impact of all
these materials," Levin said. Levin had his supporters, too.
One shareholder stood up to say he didn't feel criticism of one
artist ought to taint the entire corporation.
Mrs. Tucker's comments came in sharp contrast to the meeting's
optimistic mood, generated no doubt by the fact that Time
Warner's stock, long a Wall Street laggard, recently ascended to
a new high.
Shareholders approved all the measures management requested,
including the re-election of Levin to the board of directors as
well as new directors Stephen Bollenbach, chief executive of
Hilton Hotels, and Gerald Greenwald, chairman of United Airlines
parent UAL Corp. Also elected were current directors Richard
Parsons, Time Warner's president, and J. Carter Bacot, chairman
of Bank of New York Co.
Victorious, too, was a measure to have all directors come up
for election at the same time, rather than in a staggered
fashion, a move that gives shareholders more power.
The rap criticism hearkened back to the campaign against
Interscope, the label behind some of music's most controversial
rappers, including Snoop Doggy Dogg and the late Tupac Shakur.
Time Warner sold its 50 percent stake in Interscope in September
1995 amid a firestorm of criticism.
Universal Studios Inc., the former MCA, has since bought that
stake from Interscope.
Mrs. Tucker, chairwoman of the National Political Congress of
Black Women, said after the meeting that she is taking on all
music companies that produce offensive gangsta rap.
She is picking up the intensity of a campaign against Time
Warner, MCA parent Seagram and others, pushing government pension
funds to stop investing in companies that promote offensive
music. She says she's also looking at organizing community
The music industry took some issue with Mrs. Tucker's
"Anybody can go through a record store and find a bunch
of records they don't like," said Hilary Rosen, president of
the Recording Industry Association of America, a trade group.
"But the question is, 'Who's the one to decide which ones
come off the shelf?"'
Ms. Rosen also noted that the records Mrs. Tucker complained
about "had a bold and visible parental advisory."
"Yes, she had a point. She had a point that this artist
is clearly oversexed in her music," Ms. Rosen said.
"But the artist Kim can speak for herself and her music does
speak for itself."
In addition to Lil' Kim, Mrs. Tucker also named three other
Time Warner groups whose lyrics she finds offensive. They are:
Ol' Dirty Bastard, Junior M.A.F.I.A. and Busta Rhymes.
Warner Music pointed out that of the 2,500 albums it put out
worldwide last year, only about 1 percent required parental