Sunday, March 9, 2003

Prince pushed the limits

By Gil Kaufman
Enquirer contributor

Though the trend has picked up steam in the past three years, it may have its origins almost 20 years ago, according to Sean Ross, editor in chief of the radio industry trade magazine Airplay Monitor.

In 1984, Ross said many stations began playing Prince's single "Erotic City," with its 17 uses of a word that some mistook to be "funk." Seeing that the boundaries could be pushed, stations were primed to play more songs with controversial content.

"In small doses, I don't think adult listeners are bothered, even by the barely disguised stuff," Ross said, citing the mainstream pop rap hit from Nelly "Ride With Me," which features a barely obscured "mother------" in its lyrics.

"When he (Nelly) got away with that," Ross said, "it was probably a signal for the floodgates to open further. FCC fines are based on complaints they get, so only someone like Eminem is likely to encourage (an offended listener) to sit down with a tape recorder and capture the offending audio."

Although Eminem has become a lightning rod of controversy due to his violent lyrics, Ross said Nelly's relatively benign party tunes are "hardly worth the effort" to complain about.

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