Bad Rap

The Hennepin County library system just wanted good clean fun on its CD rack. What it got was a free-speech debate that won't quit.

By his own account, Gegner's arguments on the CD purchases stem from that same desire to account for a diversity of views within the community and to support, in his words, "intellectual freedom." Which is where the impulses behind the two viewpoints collide, and sparks start flying.

There is, however, one demographic neither Berman, Gegner, nor anyone else involved in the turbulence has considered: hip-hop artists themselves. "I can understand the guy who doesn't want his 14-year-old to hear the word 'cunt,'" says Slug, a local rapper whose own records might come with edited companions should the library ever wish to stock them. "Maybe I'm getting old. Maybe it's because I'm a parent now, but there's a difference between a Lil' Kim record and a J.D. Salinger book. I mean, fuck, dude, some of this shit is pornographic!" But, as of last month, not all of it. If Slug's daughter wants to get an earful of the kind of music daddy makes without being contaminated by its seamy lingua franca, all she needs is a library card and the knowledge that, in Hennepin County, Coolio is a "gangster," not a gangsta. She'll find the spiffed-up version, as of this month, out on the shelf, right beside its evil twin.

To some, Slug's sentiment may be the rhetoric of a concerned parent, even if you won't find many suburban-branch soccer moms echoing his diction. For Sanford Berman, it's the language of denial. "I don't think you're doing kids any favor by isolating them from reality," he says. "In terms of stimulating curiosity, it's just going to make them want the real thing that much more."

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