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MCA to Sell Posthumous Shakur Rap

Pop music: The slain rapper's final work is the first gangsta rap album sold by MCA since it established ties with Interscope and Death Row Records.

October 29, 1996|JERRY CROWE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MCA Inc., which entered into a $200-million partnership with Interscope Records in February after Time Warner severed ties with the label, will manufacture and distribute a posthumous album by slain rapper Tupac Shakur.

MCA's Music Entertainment Group confirmed Monday that the collection, which will be released next Tuesday by the controversial Interscope-affiliated Death Row Records, is the first gangsta rap album distributed by the company under terms of its Interscope deal.

The announcement was eagerly awaited in the record world because MCA has a loophole in its Interscope deal allowing it to refuse to distribute any album by the company or its related labels that MCA deems "objectionable."

"We have a review process that exists for all of our labels," a spokesperson for MCA's Music Entertainment Group said Monday. "This album went through the review process and we chose to release it."

A Times staff writer who has heard the album described its tone as "violent, profane and extremely funky"--which is similar to the earlier albums by the rapper, whose work is as acclaimed as it is controversial.

Time Warner sold back its interest in Interscope last year after becoming the target of an anti-rap campaign led by C. DeLores Tucker, chairwoman of the National Political Congress of Black Women, and former federal drug czar William Bennett, a co-director of Empower America.

Tucker, Bennett and other rap critics, including Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, have decried the music's explicit sexual and violent lyrics. (Neither Tucker nor Bennett were available for comment on the MCA move by Calendar deadlines.)

Shakur's most recent album, "All Eyez on Me," was released in February and distributed by PolyGram in a deal that was negotiated before Interscope became allied with MCA. Shakur's earlier albums, all of which have returned to the bestseller list since his death Sept. 13, are now distributed by EMI Music.

Unlike Time Warner, all the other major record distributors are foreign-owned, leaving them less vulnerable to political pressures in this country. (MCA is owned by the Canada-based Seagrams Co.) All five of MCA's competitors are releasing and/or distributing rap or rock music that has been branded as offensive by Tucker and Bennett.

"All Eyez on Me," an expletive-laced two-disc set that includes specific references to Dole and Tucker, sold 566,000 copies during its first week in stores--the second-highest first-week total of any an album this year, according to SoundScan.

Expectations are also high for Shakur's new album, "The Don Killuminati--The 7-Day Theory," which he recorded under the pseudonym Makaveli. Industry observers expect it to enter the national sales charts at No. 1, possibly with first-week sales of 500,000 or more.

Recorded shortly before the rapper was shot Sept. 7 in Las Vegas, the album includes various songs that touch on such favorite Shakur topics as guns, politics, sex and revenge.

In one of the most striking songs, "Me and My Girlfriend," Shakur claims an allegiance to his favorite pistol with a passion usually reserved for sexual partners. It's a highly unconventional ballad that underscores a recurring premonition in his work: the inevitability of his own violent demise.

Besides Shakur's death while riding in a car driven by Death Row Records owner Marion "Suge" Knight, the rap label has received a series of blows in the past few months. Dr. Dre, Death Row's co-founder and the most respected producer in rap, left the label to form his own company.

More recently, it was learned that Knight and the label were under investigation by the FBI for alleged links to street gangs, drug trafficking and money laundering. And, last week, Knight was jailed for violating conditions of probation stemming from a 1992 assault on two aspiring rappers. Knight remains jailed while an investigation continues about possible conflicts of interest involving the district attorney originally assigned to the case.

Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn and staff writer Cheo Hodari Coker contributed to this article.

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* RAP EXECUTIVE'S HEARING: A judge suggests that the state attorney general's office may yet take over Marion "Suge" Knight's case. Main news section.

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