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Wiesenthal Center Denounces Ice Cube's Album : Rap: Jewish human rights group finds "Death Certificate" lyrics racist and calls for retailers to stop selling record.

November 02, 1991|CHUCK PHILIPS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a largely Jewish human rights organization based in Los Angeles, called Friday on four national record chains to stop selling copies of rapper Ice Cube's new album, "Death Certificate."

In faxes to the heads of Musicland, Tower Records, Wherehouse Records and Music Plus chains, Rabbi Abraham Cooper charged that the album contains lyrics that "threaten and promote violence" against Korean Americans and "call for the murder" of a Jewish music industry figure.

"I know that recording artists these days like to use the excuse that their music reflects reality, but this record is dangerous," Cooper told The Times on Friday. "This is not a just theoretical issue here. Ice Cube is advocating violence against other ethnic minorities and given the climate of bigotry in the 1990s, we consider this kind of material a real threat."

Cooper specifically objected to the song "Black Korea" and a lyric in "No Vaseline" that advocates killing his former manager, Jerry Heller:

Get rid of that devil, real simple,

Put a bullet in his temple ...

The album by one of rap's most controversial and acclaimed figures was released Thursday by Los Angeles-based Priority Records--with advance orders totaling more than 1 million copies.

Priority President Brian Turner said the record is not anti-Semitic and said his company will continue to produce the album.

"The allegations made by the Simon Wiesenthal Center are absolutely invalid," he said. "Ice Cube's lyrics represent nothing more than a macho put-down kind of thing that stems from a long-standing feud between Cube and his former group, N.W.A. and that group's manager, Jerry Heller."

Ice Cube could not be reached for comment, but defended his music in an interview given before the boycott that will be published Sunday in The Times's Calendar section.

"I'm not against Jews in either of those songs," Cube said, referring to "No Vaseline" and "True to the Game," another selection from the new album. "I'm just doing what they do in the media.

"When they describe someone they often say he's black or Korean or Muslim. That's all I'm doing. Saying he's a Jew doesn't mean I don't like Jews or I'm using a negative. I don't like (Heller), but it's not because he's Jewish."

Two years ago, the Simon Wiesenthal Center ran an advertisement in several trade magazines criticizing the rock group Guns N' Roses and former Public Enemy rap member Professor Griff for allegedly promoting anti- Semitic sentiments. Last year, the center also caused a stir when it condemned Public Enemy and Madonna for releasing records that allegedly contained anti-Semitic material.

But this is the first time that the organization has called for a boycott. Cooper said he felt the boycott was necessary because the record was so "inflammatory."

"Ice Cube's album is a cultural Molotov cocktail," Cooper said. "Ice Cube has the constitutional right to promote murder and racism. But we also believe that Americans from all walks of life have the right not to carry or buy music advocating violent bigotry."

Executives from the four retail chains could not be reached for comment, but one record store in the African-American community said on Friday it intends to ignore Cooper's request for a boycott.

"It doesn't matter one bit to our customers whether Rabbi Cooper calls for a boycott or not," said Robert Venter, a clerk at Crain's Records, a South Central Los Angeles record retailer that has specialized in African-American music since 1961.

"What could the rabbi possibly know about the African-American experience? Ice Cube's record is selling faster than anything we've had in this store since Michael Jackson's last album. No matter what the Simon Wiesenthal Center thinks, it will not cause us to stop selling the record."

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