On "Banned in the U.S.A.," Luther Campbell and the 2 Live Crew rap themselves in the American flag and cover their rears with a First Amendment blanket in a desperate attempt to justify their continued profiteering after "persecution" by officials in Florida and like-small-minded municipalities around the country. In case you've been lucky enough to be on Mars, the 2 Live Crew's "As Nasty as They Wanna Be" earned distinction last month as the first piece of recorded music to be declared obscene in a U.S. District Court, which in turn led to arrests of several retailers and of the group itself following a performance at an adults-only club in Florida.

Not that "Nasty" was obscene and not heard: More than 1 million copies were sold after the court proceedings began, suggesting that Campbell et al. had only a short trip from the courthouse to the bank. Atlantic Records, already proud of the blatant gay-bashing on the new Audio Two album, quickly entered into a multimillion-dollar distribution arrangement with the heretofore independent Campbell, and this week "proudly" put a million copies of "Banned" into the marketplace.

May they have many unhappy returns.

Those who managed to miss the original 2 Live Crew recordings will find only a few sexually exploitative cuts on "Banned": "Face Down, {Posterior} Up," "Strip Club" and a Spanish rap that probably won't go over too well in Little Havana. Like Mellow Man Ace's current bilingual hit "Mentirosa," it's built off the riff from Santana's 20-year-old hit "Oye Como Va" (Mr. Santana, call your lawyer). Overall, though, where "Nasty" was relentless sexual braggadocio, "Banned" is a loud whimper.

This excludes "{Expletive} Martinez," a cheap, mean-spirited call-and-response routine that goes on for more than five minutes and mocks "Martinez" (surely not Florida Gov. Bob Martinez), "Martinez's" wife and "Navarro" (obviously not Nick Navarro, the Broward County, Fla., sheriff). This is the kind of thing foul-mouthed louts come up with at the tail end of a stag party, and it wears thin after about 15 seconds. Maybe Campbell should be grateful: After all, with enemies like these, who needs publicists? On the inner sleeve, Campbell gives "extra special thanks" to "Bob, Jack, Nick, Tipper and all the right-wing people." (He also suggests "all ladies send photos with your best G-string bikini.")

While only parts of the album are offensive, much of it is defensive. The "Banned" single, which cleverly twists Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." into a paranoid/defiant chorus, is a self-serving PG take on an X situation. It suggests that the harassment of the group 'has been fueled by racism and political opportunism, which may well be the case. However, there's no reason to believe Campbell when he insists here that "we don't talk about harassing or sexually brutalizing women in our music." That must have been another 2 Live Crew album. Ultimately, the hit single's major problem is that it appeals to the intellect, not to the loins, which might please U.S. Judge Jose Gonzalez. Of course, truth in packaging would require that this song (and album) be titled "Banned in a Few Isolated Sections of the U.S.A."

The controversy is also addressed in "Man, Not a Myth," which builds on the Rascals' "Groovin' " groove as it invokes variations on "it's a black thing, you wouldn't understand" and casts the band's five-year journey in Homeric terms; "So Funky," which repeats the "Banned" arguments; "Bass 9-1-7," which uses radio callers to establish community solidarity; "This Is to Luke From the Posse," a testimonial from label-mates Professor Griff and the Last Asiatic Disciples, and Poison Clan, which has been described as the Baby 2 Live Crew; and, finally, "Arrest in Effect." This last cut and the seven-minute "I Ain't {BS}in' Part 2" are not even rapped -- they're spoken (and dully) with elemental studio riffs set underneath. It sounds as if the recording session had adjourned to a bar, which is at least a step up from the bathroom.

What's really offensive about this album is just how boring it is. Campbell and the 2 Live Crew were never particularly clever rappers, just foul-mouthed ones who learned that to talk, or rap, dirty is a sure way to influence some people and infuriate others. Unlike "Nasty," which, however despicable, had a randy party energy, "Banned" is for the most part lifeless, even when it attempts to create a "dirty dance" with "Do the Bart" (Matt Groening, call your lawyer). The 14 raps are held together by mock radio programming, including a short bit of "Video No Soul" by "Donnie Simple" (Donnie Simpson, call your lawyer).

The only decent cuts on the album are "{Expletive} a Gang," a Miami take on "We're All in the Same Gang," and the Griff/Poison Clan cut, which features some clever rhymes. At one point, Campbell suggests that the group's motivation was "being explicit, straight from the street, not forgetting our roots to an uptempo beat." Unfortunately, the beats are lame and lazy.

The album's cover is quite crowded, with the First Amendment, the new Recording Industry Association of America parental advisory sticker and a cartoon balloon in which Campbell says: "Buy this album. It's a true story!! It contains the hit singles 'Banned in the U.S.A.' also 'The Arrest in Broward County' and on the inside there is a poster for those people who do not believe in the First Amendment." That poster shows Campbell standing in front of an American flag, giving us the finger. Even if you believe in the First Amendment, you're getting the same finger.

All this doesn't mean Campbell and Crew shouldn't be supported on First Amemdment and free-speech grounds, however unappetizing they are as symbols in the escalating battle over censorship in pop music and the arts in general. What's amazing is not that people will listen to this album, but that they'll pay for it. The truth is that there's no reason to waste any more money, time or emotion sustaining Luther Campbell's excretory career.