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Rapping the 1st Amendment

March 14, 1998

Gangsta rapper Shawn Thomas, 26, who performs under the name C-BO, was jailed recently for violating his parole, after his new album, "Til My Casket Drops," was released in February.His agreement that stated he would not record lyrics disparaging to law enforcement or that promoted gang life.

Last week, the parole board reversed its decision about the lyric agreement. But the rapper, who originally was imprisoned last year for illegal firearms use, remains in jail on other parole violations, including traffic offenses.

Was Thomas' right to free speech violated by the parole agreement? Or have rap musicians gone too far and need to be curbed. DEBORAH BELGUM spoke with teenagers about rap music.

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TY HOLLAND

15, sophomore, Inglewood High School

Thomas should have been able to write his songs and put anything he wanted into his album, but the thing is he signed a parole agreement.

A parole is a privilege. That is how parole is set up. If you don't abide by these rules, you go back to jail.

The same thing happens to drug dealers who get out on parole. They can't hang around certain people as part of their parole. They want to keep you out of trouble.

With this rapper, they said he could not write any anti-law enforcement lyrics. He signed an agreement to this effect. He should have followed it.

If he hadn't signed the agreement, I would say he should be able to write and sing whatever he wants. I think he signed the agreement just because he wanted to get out of jail.

People say violent lyrics shouldn't be written because it affects young people's minds. The problem is, it is not the singer or the music company's job to discipline the kids or determine how the kids are brought up. It's the parents.

If they don't like what their children are doing or the music they are listening to, they should discipline them.

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NIKKI CLARK

18, senior, Polytechnic High School in Long Beach

We have a Constitution and amendments for a reason. Thomas' rights were violated regardless of what he went to jail for. He didn't act out what his songs said.

He should have the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

If he did his time, he did his time. On his parole, they should have just told him what areas not to go into and don't do drugs, like a normal parole.

It was stupid for him to sign the parole agreement. He should have protested this point.

Also, there are advisory stickets on all CDs that tell you whether you have to be 17 or 18 to buy them. What about parental responsibility?

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ERIC HAYES

17, senior, Inglewood High School

He deserves to be back in jail. He signed the agreement; no one forced him to. He gave up his 1st Amendment rights. In this case, he signed something that was helping him. If I wanted to get out of jail, I would have signed the agreement too.

If he was going to make a record, he shouldn have been been more careful. He already had a problem with the law. It was a stupid thing to do.

With his experience in the music business, he could have done something like help someone else produce their own record. He messed up.

I really don't think it is OK to write those kinds of lyrics. It could damage a person or have people thinking about the law in a way they shouldn't. If you don't want to get in trouble with the law, you should stay away from writing lyrics like that.

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