But many others denounced rap and groups such as Public Enemy, which specializes in aggressive, strongly political statements of black consciousness, and N.W.A, whose "Straight Outta Compton" album last year included stark, heavily profane tales of gang life.
They said much of rap projected a negative image of blacks to whites, as well as to each other. They were especially critical of the profanity and sexual explicitness of the lyrics.
Although few said that rap should be censored, most of those interviewed felt that some steps should be taken to force the more outspoken rap artists to more "responsible" to their young audiences.
For opponents of rap music, the uproar and legal action against the popular genre has been long overdue.
Public Enemy sparked a national scandal when one of its members made anti-Semitic remarks in a Washington Times interview last May. The group member, Professor Griff, is no longer associated with the New York outfit, whose "Fear of a Black Planet" album is one of the 20 best-selling albums in the country.
An FBI official last August accused N.W.A of encouraging "violence against and disrespect" for law enforcement officers. A Newsweek cover story in March blasted rap for celebrating gang culture, debasing women and glorifying attacks on police.
However, many in local communities said the move against 2 Live Crew was basically a case of racial harassment.
"It's a backward step and racially motivated," said James Miller, manager of Tempo Records on Crenshaw Boulevard. "They don't ban (Los Angeles rock group) Guns N' Roses. I had one good customer bring back "GN'R Lies" because of the lyrics. If you're going to ban 2 Live Crew, you have to go across the board."
Monica Delacruz, 14, said there was nothing wrong with 2 Live Crew's lyrics: "I don't think it's (the arrests) right. Like N.W.A, when they sang that song, 'F--- The Police.' It is truth . . . They're just rapping. All they're doing is singing. It's not like they're hurting anybody." But she added that her parents and teachers would be happy about the arrests: "They think that they shouldn't be singing songs like that."
Others, ranging from those who work to rehabilitate gang members to observers of the local cultural scene, say that as far as the recent trouble goes, 2 Live Crew --as well as other rap artists who filled their songs with profanity--have asked for it.
"I'm not really into censorship, but 2 Live Crew has put out a series of degenerate records that are demeaning to women," said Donald Bakeer, an English teacher at Manual Arts High School and a singer who has recorded his own album, complete with rap songs.
"As an English teacher and a member of this community, I feel something needs to be done," Bakeer continued. "When you use the airwaves to put out something called 'Me So Horny' (the hit single from "Nasty'), it's wrong. When you use the mass media to vomit up your profane, perverse proclamations, I think the powers that be have a responsibility to stop it."
Bakeer's voice rose in anger: "I mean, this is targeted for the Afro-American community, and the bane of the younger generation is premarital pregnancy."
Jitahadi Imara, vice president of the African-American Music Society, which is dedicated to the study, preservation and promotion of African-American Music, said he had no objections against what he called social conscience rap or entertainment rap.
"But unfortunately, there is socially offensive rap such as 2 Live Crew that is destructive as music," he said. "It's conveying to youth a perception of life that is negative and underdeveloped. N.W.A is socially offensive. (The initials themselves include a racial expletive) at a time when there is a movement to reidentify ourselves with Africans.
"Much of this rap has destructive moral and social vocabulary. The presentation of life is problematic and helpless. It's a kind of ghetto vision."
But even opponents of 2 Live Crew said they did not denounce all rap.
"Rap is poetry on the radio," said Bakeer. "It's the first time that people are tuned in to poetry en masse. It's message music."
He said he has used rap to help teach English and literature in his classes. He praised N.W.A for reflecting the reality of street life, and Public Enemy for "embittered but profound" political commentary.
"It's not perfect, but I can see these groups beginning to grow," he said. "We need artists with that political bent."
Chilton Alphonse, executive director of the Community Youth Sports and Arts Foundations, which works with gang members, agreed.
"Rap does represent me and my experience," he said. "It's truly a form of expression. I was listening to a record by M.C. Hammer this morning, where he was rapping about praying."
However, some of the good intentions of rap are lost in the relentless beat and the lifestyle, some community leaders said.