By Ashley Zimmerman
By Dana Krangel
By John Hood
By Ashley Zimmerman
By David Von Bader
By Sayre Berman
By Steve Brennan
By Ashley Zimmerman
In the smoke-filled confines of Morning Drinker Studios in Fort Lauderdale, there was a rap-off a-brewin'. Weed aficionado Afroman and Florida's own Blowfly, two rappers who like to spout off about drugs, drinking, and all types of ill shit, were poised to offend anyone within earshot. Blowfly, the original dirty mouth of the South, was being as nasty as he wanted to be in 1978 when his Porno Freak became the first album in U.S. history to be banned for graphic language. Afroman's video for "Because I Got High" was briefly banned from MTV a few years ago.
And there they were, in one room.
The dapper Afroman, dressed in a copper-colored pajama-like outfit and grasping a 40-ouncer of Schlitz, was in town for a show at Ray's Downtown in West Palm Beach. Blowfly is recording a new record. And they had come together for one night only to record a track.
The single that emerged from that May 27 session, "Blowfly for President," plays out like a faux-press conference between presidential nominee Blowfly (who runs on a "pussy platform" ) and VP Afroman, who blurts out " Uh... I'm high, sir, and I forgot my last point." Jokes about Condi Rice (affectionately called Cuntaleezza) and Kobe Bryant ("Have you seen the tits on his wife?") get passed around like a joint at a Doobie Brothers concert.
The Blo-Fro meeting coincided with my recent reading of Taboo Tunes: A History of Banned Bands and Censored Songs, by Seattle writer Paul Blecha. With wit and color, Blecha recounts the FBI's long and well-documented surveillance of musicians (something that Miami hip-hop artists are experiencing now) and the controversy surrounding dance moves in the early 20th Century. The waltz was deemed "reckless," and ballroom dancing, naturally, was considered a gateway to hell. No, really. In 1913, several Portland, Oregon, dance halls were raided, and the headline of one paper spelled it all out: "Dancehall Held Evil."
Blecha covers the sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll ethos that authorities began scrutinizing in the '50s and '60s. The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" was thought to be obscene because no one "got it," and Elvis' pelvis was censored on the Ed Sulllivan Show because everyone got it. The 1986 Dead Kennedys album Frankenchristwas considered obscene for its cover art, and Jello Biafra was charged with violating the California penal code for distributing harmful materials to minors. Judas Priest and Black Sabbath got the finger-wagging for being all satanic. NWA got the fuzz all fired up for saying "fuck tha police."
Although Blecha doesn't touch on it much, South Florida has a special place in the world of censorship. State officials warned Elvis in 1960 that if he moved at all during his upcoming concert in Miami Beach, he would be arrested. Jim Morrison flashed his goods at a Miami concert in 1969 and was charged with indecent exposure. Then there's wacky gothic prince Marilyn Manson, who's smeared his metallic obscenity all over this phallic state. He was arrested in Jacksonville in 1994 for violating the "Adult Entertainment Code."
Blecha does, however, elaborate 2 Live Crew's dalliance with the fuzz in 1990, when the album Nasty as They Wanna Be was pulled from retailers shelves and deemed obscene, thanks to the track "Me So Horny." A local record store owner, Charles Freeman, and several members of Campbell's band were arrested.
A little later, a New York college rawk band, Too Much Joy, played a set of Crew songs at a Fort Lauderdale club and was arrested.
Indeed, Tunes is an amazing and witty history of lawmen and moral busybodies with too much time on their hands. Blecha talks about "fear of music" -- as ridiculous as that sounds, it should be feared. Rhythm and melody can incite action. They can educate. They can enlighten. Clear Channel has taken control of the majority of radio stations in South Florida and across the nation. Yet we're so caught up in who's going to marry a millionaire that we don't seem to care. Jessica Simpson sure isn't going to incite people to research history and get informed on sociopolitical issues.
Blecha would have loved the scene at Ray's Downtown when Afroman hit the stage well after midnight. He was clutching a bottle of Colt 45 and tore through the song "Drive Better Drunk" like he was running a red light.
As the crowd got progressively more blotto (Afroman advised us to drink more so his music sounded better), the band sealed the deal by doing a scorching rendition of "Me So Horny," complete with half-naked, big-bootied girls bending over and rattling the junk in their trunk. Everyone had a good time, and no one cared that obscenities and sexual innuendo were being thrown down like Black Cat Snappers at a July 4 barbecue. But maybe that was because we were all drunk, high, and having an orgy on a stack of Bibles.