Delores Sheen-Blunt, executive director of the Sheenway School and Culture Center in South Los Angeles, said youths were caught up in the superficiality of rap. "If you teach someone from rap, they can recite the words, but do they really understand it?" Blunt said. "For little kids, it's too much, too soon. Obviously, we have a problem when the only way you can tell how you feel is through a rap phrase."
She added, "We have beauty in our culture, but we're at a critical stage. At a time when young people need so much cultural awareness, inner strength and self-discipline, they're into this rap. You have to rap to be someone. If you are not associated with it, if you don't go to the concerts, if you don't have all these tapes, you're not hip or 'def.' "
Rev. Edward V. Hill of the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles said rap should be censored, not only because of the language, but because of the images associated with it.
"Rap places into the living room of white America an image of black people that lowers us in their eyes," he said. "It makes it easier to overlook the efforts of the many children and young people in my community who are accomplishing great things.
"I'm pro-censorship. The human spirit cannot receive and hear everything that's out there and not be affected. I'm way out on the right wing on this. The concept of free speech never meant to embrace filthy and nasty."
But most of those interviewed agreed that the issue of free speech was more delicate than whether 2 Live Crew uses dirty words in its songs. To unconditionally take away that right is asking for disaster, they said.
Tempo Records manager James Miller said any ban of rap would be "just like banning books or freedom of speech. If you're going to put it on the airwaves, it should be governed. But when you come into a store, no one's putting a gun to your head. I don't like Nazis and killing, but if that's freedom of expression, I don't want them to take mine away."
Steve Hochman and staff writer Dennis Hunt contributed to this article.