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GUNNING FOR THE GANGSTAS
Her body's beautiful, so I'm thinkin' rape. Grabbed the bitch by her mouth, slam her down on the couch. She begged in a low voice: "Please don't kill me." I slit her throat and watch her shake like on TV.
--Geto Boys, Mind of a Lunatic
The meeting was in Time Warner Inc.'s plush New York corporate suites, but the talk focused on lyrics from the mean streets of gangsta rappers. C. DeLores Tucker, the 67-year-old head of the National Political Congress of Black Women, handed Warner Music Group Chairman Michael J. Fuchs seven lyrics from Time Warner label recordings that she views as highly demeaning to women. "Read this out loud," she insisted. "I'll give you $100 to read it." Fuchs demurred.
The entertainment industry had better get used to this tough-talking minister's daughter from Philadelphia. A veteran of the civil rights and feminist movements, Tucker has marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and Gloria Steinem. She became the nation's top-ranking African American state official when Pennsylvania Governor Milton J. Shapp named her Secretary of State in 1971. And for the past three years, she has been battling the companies that peddle rap albums extolling sexual violence against women.
BULLY PULPIT. Now, Tucker's campaign is gaining clout. Former GOP Education Secretary William J. Bennett has joined her cause in an unlikely alliance. (Tucker disagrees with him on just about everything else, from affirmative action to gun control.) And Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) also is getting behind her campaign. Tucker is using her newfound bully pulpit to send a blunt message to the entertainment industry. "They're pimping pornography to children for the almighty dollar," she roars. "Corporations need to understand: What does it profit a corporation to gain the world but lose its soul? That's the real bottom line."
Time Warner executives say they're willing to consider the issues behind the group's complaints. But they gripe that they're being unfairly singled out for criticism by opportunistic politicians, even though foreign companies such as Germany's Bertelsmann produce more gangsta-rap recordings than they do. And some Democrats charge that the GOP is singling out Time Warner because of its past support of Democrats.
Unfazed by criticism, Tucker in recent weeks has gone for Time Warner's jugular: She took the floor at its May 18 shareholders' meeting in New York to blast the company as "devoid of social conscience and citizen responsibility." In late May, Tucker and Bennett launched TV ads attacking Time Warner. The campaign runs in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, urging parents to "make [Time Warner] feel the heat." On June 4, she demanded the firing of Warner Bros. Records Chairman Danny Goldberg, who called such detractors "a bunch of middle-aged people who don't like the music."
PLASTIC HANDCUFFS. Now, Tucker is threatening to picket the suburban houses of Time Warner execs. "We will march in their neighborhoods and let their neighbors hear the music," she vows. There's also talk of a boycott of Time Warner music, movies, and cable-TV properties. She plans similar tactics against Bertelsmann and other gangsta-rap purveyors.
Tucker may prove a formidable opponent. Since declaring her war of values in September, 1993, she has been arrested twice for blocking access to music stores that sold albums by rappers such as Snoop Doggy Dogg and Tupac Shakur. In her downtown Washington office, she proudly displays a pair of plastic handcuffs that were used to take her into custody--under a photo of her with King during his famous Alabama march from Selma to Montgomery in 1963.
Tucker has her critics. One prominent Pennsylvania Democrat calls her "an opportunist looking for anything that'll get her back in the spotlight." Other Democrats contend she is being used by conservatives to promote "family values" as a 1996 campaign issue.
Nonsense, insists a longtime friend, Democratic National Committee Chairman Donald L. Fowler. "DeLores Tucker is nobody's fool," he says. "She's a dedicated Democrat who is doing something that 99.9% of Americans agree with." Time Warner shows no sign of caving in. But with Tucker involved, it's sure to face the music.By Richard S. Dunham in Washington, with Michael Oneal in New York