That small parental-advisory sticker unveiled a few months ago by the Recording Industry Association of America has been showing up on a fair number of records, but its potential as a marketing ploy will soon be clearer:
On Nov. 16, Priority Records will release "Parental Advisory -- Explicit Rap," compiling 10 cuts by hard-core rappers Ice Cube, Ice-T, 2 Live Crew, N.W.A., Eazy-E, Geto Boys, Too Short and M.C. Choice. The cover is a 12-inch blowup reproduction of the RIAA's voluntary sticker, which reads "Parental Advisory-Explicit Lyrics." Among the cuts: Too Short's "Cuss Words," 2 Live Crew's "Me So Horny," N.W.A.'s "A Bitch Iz a Bitch" and a new track by Ice Cube called "The Product." A portion of the royalties will go to the Right to Rock Network/Rock and Roll Confidential, which battles censorship efforts aimed at rock, rap and pop.
Later in November, Eardrum Records (an Atlantic Associated Label) will release comedian George Carlin's "Parental Advisory -- Explicit Lyrics," with a blowup of the RIAA logo occupying the bottom half of the cover (and covering Carlin's mouth). Carlin's "seven dirty words" routine led to a landmark Supreme Court decision when a Pacifica station played them from an earlier live album; the new album includes bits titled "Offensive Language," "Rape Can Be Funny," "They're Only Words" and "Euphemisms." Another Atlantic-distributed rap album may not sport the RIAA sticker, but the implication is obvious: Titled "Barsha's Explicit Lyrics," it will include a special sticker reading "NOTICE: This is a rap record which contains street language and sexual innuendo."
The Helmsman Cometh Loudon Wainwright's "If Jesse Don't Like It," a single on Carthage Records, bears a sticker reading "Warning: Lyrics Require Thought." Not too much thought, apparently: "If Jesse says it's dirty it don't get any funds/ They use that taxpayer's money on tobacco and guns/ And your freedom of expression is being denied/ but if you're not sure what you like just let Jesse decide." The senator from North Carolina also provided inspiration for two songs that may never see the light of day: Performance artist Laurie Anderson did a piece with an awkward title in her opening speech at last summer's New Music Seminar and it was briefly listed as a B-side on her "Pretty Red Dress" single, only to disappear because, one source claimed, it might detract from the single's commercial prospects.
And a live promo copy of Todd Rundgren's "Jesse" has become a hot collector's item, particularly since it's not likely to be included on Rundgren's new album in January. The song attacks not only Helms for his opposition to government funding of the arts, but Pope John Paul II for his stand on abortion and Parents Music Resource Center founder Tipper Gore for being square ("you showed me things are still the same/ everybody's parents turn out lame"). Gore is also the inspiration for Warrant's "Ode to Tipper Gore," a brief sonic collage of onstage obscenities by lead singer Jarri Lane. Its inclusion has led to two versions of Warrant's "Cherry Pie" album: The one with "Ode" carries the RIAA sticker, while the one without, intended for chains and stores that refuse to carry a stickered product, doesn't. Gore also merits a rude mention (as does Barbara Bush) on Kid Rock's "Pimp of the Nation" on Jive/RCA, the flip side of his "Yodeling in the Valley" single.
The clean/dirty duality seems to be an emerging trend in the music industry. Rapper Too Short's "Short Dog's in the House" comes in clean and explicit versions, with the latter outselling the former 10 to 1. Heavy metal band Poison's "Flesh and Blood" sports a clean and dirty cover; the dirty version features fresh tattoos with a little blood still evident, while the clean version is dry (yes, it's being outsold as well).
Logo Loco Then there's the logo problem: Geffen refused to put its name on Def American releases by Slayer, Andrew Dice Clay, Danzig and the Geto Boys, this last refusal leading to the dissolution of Geffen's distribution agreement with Rick Rubin's Def American. The Geto Boys album quickly landed at Atlantic, which distributes it now -- uncredited, and with a disclaimer reading "Def American Recordings is opposed to censorship. Our manufacturer and distributor, however, do not condone the content of this recording, which they find violent, sexist, racist and indecent." Actually, this sounds more like advertising.
Now MCA has taken its name off an upcoming album by the Young Black Teenagers, really five white adult rap fans who have recorded a song titled "Daddy Called Me a Nigger 'Cause I Like to Rhyme" (explaining how they grew up listening to and loving rap music). The flip side is a dramatic reworking of Run-DMC's "Proud to Be Black" that summarizes the album's message: "We're here to cause a transition from your old state of mind to a new day and time." The album is the first release from the SOUL (Sound of Urban Listeners) custom label begun by the production team of Hank Shocklee (Public Enemy, L.L. Cool J) and Bill Stephney, who was a vice president at Russell Simmons's Def Jam, the most successful black-owned record company of the '80s empire.
And to complete the string, Simmons's new No Face/RAL/Columbia label is causing a commotion with two records: Already out is No Face's "Wake Your Daughter Up," which includes the rude invitation of the title cut, "Spanish Fly," "Socially Speaking" (which invokes Axl Rose, Tipper Gore, South Africa and crack dealers) and "Fake Hair Wearin' Bitch" (with a cameo by 2 Live Crew, the band's very obvious model). Then there's Bitches With Problems, who join with Hoe's Wit Attitude as two distaff crews. The first release is "Two Minute Brother," a 12-inch that comes with a "Triple XXX Uncensored Mix," a "We Want Money (The Pay-the-Bitch) Mix" and a "Radio Friendly Edit." The album arrives in January.
And the bleat goes on... .