METAL & RAP ON TRIAL IN TEXAS

by: John Woods


Not since the days of the 2 Live Crew and Judas Priest cases have we seen such a legal flurry involving rock and rap music as we see going on in today. "To date, there are three legal cases in progress, all resulting from someone being murdered, and in each case the crimes are being blamed on the music that the perpetrator(s) just happened to be listening to that day. One case has targeted the rap music of Tupac Shakur, another on a song from a 10 year old album by Metallica, and the last on the music of Megadeth.

The outcome of these cases should be watched very closely by all people in the anti-censorship movement around the country. Are we seeing the beginning of a trend, where anyone committing a crime of any sorts, in hope of receiving a lighter sentence will blame music and other forms of fictional entertainment for their actions? Are we going to see prosecutors and defense attorneys attempting to get precedent setting rulings against various forms of music, which would open the floodgates for an intensified attack by the pro-censorship forces, and pave the way for ambitious politicians to push forth more restrictive censorship legislation? And what about the music industry? Are the major labels finally going to have the balls to stand up and fight this, or are they going to pay out huge cash settlements to anyone who comes along to sue them over a song done by one of their artists? It gets real frightening to think about where all of this could lead, THINK ABOUT IT.

In Austin, we have the trial of Ronald Howard, a 19-year old who stands accused in the shooting death of State Trooper Bill Davis in 1992. We aren't going to attempt to speculate what did or did not happen that night on a stretch of Texas highway, but we are appalled that whatever happened is now being blamed on the rap music that happened to be in the tape deck of the stolen car Howard was driving.

Howard's court appointed Attorney, Al Tanner was quoted in the Houston Chronicle, saying that the main drive of his defense will be to prove that "anti-police songs provoked his client and prompted the shooting." Tanner goes on to say , "my client drove 120 miles from Houston to Victoria listening to gangsta rap." Tanner describes "gangsta rap" as an outlaw musical genre that focuses on drugs, sex, violence, and hatred for police." The particular piece of "gangsta rap" being targeted as the cause of this crime is titled "Souljahs Song" by Tupac Shakur.

Tanner states that he "has no doubts that Howard will be convicted (as we go to press, we have learned that after only 45 minutes of 'deliberation, the jury did return a guilty verdict) of capital murder, but he feels that his client ought to be spared his life, due to the music." Howard faces up to life in prison or the death penalty.

Prosecutor Bobby Bell has announced plans to call to the stand during the trail both Tupac Shakur and the Houston-based rapper Ganksta N-I-P, whose tape was also alleged to be found in the car Howard was driving. Thanks to Michelle, at RAP-A-LOT Records in Houston, THE ROC had the opportunity to speak with Ganksta N-I-P concerning this case. About blaming music for these crimes, he had this to say. "I think the gentleman (Howard) has to be accountable for his own action. He has to be accountable for his action, which means he had that thought in his mind before he even got in the car, that was on his mind regardless to what he was listening to or whatever. He had that thought and he was gonna do that anyway. So he has to be accountable for his actions." We then asked Ganksta N-I-P why he thought certain segments of society were so afraid of rap music, and why it has come under such attack. His answer was this, "Rap is from the heart and rap speaks the truth, and some people just don't like to hear the truth. They don't wanna hear it. I would like to say this to the people who keep criticizing and blaming rap for those ignorant acts of other people, you can't blame us for that. If a tape can make someone go out and do something, that lets me know that their mind space is so low to the point that they'll do anything, you know what I mean?"

Our second case in Texas comes from Ft. Worth. In January 1991, Donald Thomas, a 31 year old black man was gunned-down in a drive-by shooting. The shooters were three drunken Skin-heads, all known members of a local White Supremacist gang. Two pleaded guilty and are currently awaiting prison terms, while the third, although convicted was not sent to prison. Thomas' widow has recently filed a civil suit for an unspecified amount against the youths, their parents, the store that allegedly sold the youths beer that night, and, are you ready for this, against Metallica and their label Elektra Records. Carolyn Thomas is claiming that the song "No Remorse" from the 1983 "KILL 'EM ALL" album is what incited three young racists to violence. I present here the lyrics from the song "No Remorse," and, for the life of me, I can't see any case for claiming the song promotes race murder, the song is about the horrors of war.

NO REMORSE
(J. HETFIELD, L. ULRICH)

NO MERCY FOR WHAT WE ARE DOING
NO THOUGHT FOR EVEN WHAT
WE HAVE DONE

WE DON'T NEED TO FEEL THE SORROW
NO REMORSE FOR THE HELPLESS ONE

WAR WITHOUT END
NO REMORSE NO REPENT
WE DON'T CARE WHAT IT MEANT
ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER DEATH
ANOTHER SORROW
ANOTHER BREATH

NO REMORSE NO REPENT
WE DON'T CARE WHAT IT MEANT
ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER DEATH
ANOTHER SORROW
ANOTHER BREATH

BLOOD FEEDS THE WAR MACHINE
AS IT EATS ITS WAY ACROSS THE LAND
WE DON'T NEED TO FEEL THE SORROW
NO REMORSE IS THE ONE COMMAND

WAR WITHOUT END
NO REMORSE NO REPENT
WE DON'T CARE WHAT IT MEANT
ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER DEATH
ANOTHER SORROW ANOTHER BREATH

NO REMORSE NO REPENT
WE DON'T CARE WHAT IT MEANT
ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER DEATH
ANOTHER SORROW ANOTHER BREATH

ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE
NO WILL TO SAVE THE WEAKER RACE
WE ARE READY TO KILL ALL COMERS
LIKE A LOADED GUN RIGHT AT YOUR FACE

WAR WITHOUT END
NO REMORSE NO REPENT
WE DON'T CARE WHAT IT MEANT
ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER DEATH
ANOTHER SORROW ANOTHER BREATH
NO REMORSE NO REPENT
WE DON'T CARE WHAT IT MEANT
ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER DEATH
ANOTHER SORROW ANOTHER BREATH

ATTACK
BULLETS ARE FLYING
PEOPLE ARE DYING
WITH MADNESS SURROUNDING
ALL HELL'S BREAKING LOOSE
SOLDIERS ARE HOUNDING
BODIES ARE MOUNTING
CANNONS ARE SHOUTING
TO TAKE THEIR ABUSE

WITH WAR MACHINES GOING
BLOOD STARTS TO FLOWING
NO MERCY GIVEN TO ANYONE HEAR
THE FURIOUS FIGHTING
SWORDS ARE LIKE LIGHTNING
IT ALL BECOMES FRIGHTENING YOU
KNOW DEATH IS NEAR
NO REMORSE

On June 10, I phoned the offices of Elektra Records and was informed they had no comments concerning this case. That's the same story I got from Interscope Records (Tupac Shakur's label) when I called them.

And finally we have the most recent case of Andrew Merritt, a 15 year old from Houston,who on May 18, 1993 murdered his allegedly abusive mother and now claims that Satan himself came out of a Megadeth song and made him do it. For more on this case see the article submitted by R.O.C.'s Houston representative Vince Rounds.

These cases all scare the hell out of me, and as I previously stated, are we now seeing a trend where people will try to cop-out for their actions by trying to shift blame on some song they heard, some movie they saw, or even something they read? If what is happening in Texas is any indication of what lies ahead, I fear we're in for some real rough times ahead. I hope that we are not going to see labels like Elektra, or any other label, cave in and agree to fork out some big cash out of court settlements in cases such as these, just to hush things up and avoid some unpleasant PR. If any label pays one dime to settle a case like these, they are, for all practical purposes, admitting that the claims made against the music are correct. I hope for just once we'd see the major labels act like they have got some balls and say, "FUCK YOU! We will not allow anyone to legally blackmail us in this manner." It has never been proven, either scientifically or otherwise that what a person hears dictates how they will act, and artists, labels and fans have to stand up and fight this foolish notion to the hilt. If one record label pays one dime in damages in a case such as these, where will it end? Every punk criminal in hopes of avoiding responsibility for their actions will be blaming everything from records to the rings of Saturn for their actions, and the families and victims of their acts of crime will take full advantage of the opportunity for milking some hard cash from the record companies, the artists and who knows who else. I truly hope to see an industry that has what it takes to challenge this issue head on. If not, I fear the worst is yet to come.

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