9/11, Biggie & History's Only Case of Retroactive Censorship - DJBooth

9/11, Biggie & History's Only Case of Retroactive Censorship

It's time to restore a classic to its original form in the name of free speech and hip-hop.
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As I've written before, I find hip-hop censorship on the whole hilarious. The rules for what words get taken out (Em couldn't say "rubbers" on "Crack a Bottle") and which get left in (but "skeet skeet" from "Get Low" is cool?) are an arbitrary mess of confused regulations and behind the scenes politics. But the retro-active censoring of Biggie's classic "Juicy"? That's some next level shit.

"Time to get paid, blow up like the World Trade" - Notorious B.I.G.

First I need to set the stage, and clear up some confusion. It's rare that a classic record is recognized so quickly, but from the first time hip-hop nation heard "Juicy" they knew they were looking at a classic, and listening to one of the best emcees ever. From 1995-2001, DJs across the country, including MTV and several other large corporate outlets, played the song repeatedly, and never bothered to touch his dope World Trade reference. And then 9/11 changed everything.

(Pause to clarify. You'd be surprised how many people ask, "How did Biggie know the World Trade would be bombed?" like he was Nostradamus. Sorry crazy conspiracy theory folks, but he's referring to the '94 bombing of the World Trade Center, which killed six people but did relatively minor damage otherwise.)

Suddenly that line took on a whole new context, and the same DJs who had played the record literally thousands of times scrambled to remove the line from the airwaves, where it has almost exclusively stayed off the air for the better part of a decade. Why was the line removed? It's not like Big was celebrating or even advocating the bombing. No, it was simply that 9/11 changed America, and one of the changes involved retroactively alerting a six-year-old-hip-hop song.

I can't be the only one who's amazed at the historical forces at work here. Ok, fine. I'm probably the only one, but still. Think about it. One of the greatest rappers of all-time puts out one of the greatest songs of all-time. Years go by, and then the worst disaster to hit American soil strikes. And then, a collective decision is made to punish that rapper for (not really) making a reference to something that hadn't even happened yet!

To put that in a more modern context, that's like the Statue of Liberty being bombed in six years and then DJs removing the reference from Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind". (And if that happens, I'll probably be arrested for writing this.) Actually, that's not really a perfect analogy, because to the best of my knowledge what happened to "Juicy" has never happened before. Ever. In any genre. If some loyal citizen of DJBooth Nation can come up with another example of retroactive censorship, please let us know.

I say enough is enough. I'm not sure what the original censorship was supposed to accomplish, besides protecting outlets from angry calls from misinformed people who completely overreact, but it's time to restore a classic to its original form in the name of free speech and hip-hop.

It's time to blow up once again.

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