Sanitized 'Pimp' Brings Rap Music to the Oscars

We're counting down the final hours to the Super Bowl of all awards shows, and while all the buzz is on how many awards the "Brokeback" boys will ride off with, controversy is brewing in the musical categories.

As soon as "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp" -- a song from the rap-centered drama "Hustle & Flow" -- was nominated, everyone began scratching their heads, wondering just how this song would be rendered on Oscar night, famous for squeaky-clean musical performances.

The song aptly describes what Terrence Howard's movie is about, and the scenes of him recording it make up some of the film's pivotal moments.

In 2003, Eminem opened Oscar's door for rap and hip-hop, although he didn't show up to perform "Lose Yourself" or collect his trophy. That precedent could help Three 6 Mafia, the southern rappers who wrote the song Howard performs.

Still, the profanity-laced lyrics might be too much for the image-conscious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Show organizers will no doubt be sweating and grateful for the five-second time delay.

Three 6 Mafia has already assured the Academy that the sanitized version has been purged of F-bombs and N-bombs, and will meet ABC broadcast standards.

"We took out all the cuss," rapper Paul "DJ Paul" Beauregard, who co-wrote the song with Jordan "Juicy J" Houston and Cedric "Frayser Boy" Coleman, told The Associated Press.

In one case, the rappers found a tamer alternative to "f---ed up," singing instead, "It's messed up where I live but that's just how it is."

It's not the first time a song has been cleaned up for the Oscars' delicate ears. The Academy faced a similar controversy in 2000, when "Blame Canada" from "South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut" was up for best original song. The show turned to actor-comedian Robin Williams to perform a sanitized version, which was turned into an old-time Hollywood extravaganza.

Phil Collins won that year for "You'll Be in My Heart" from "Tarzan."

New Rules Limit Original Songs

Leaving "Pimp's" racy lyrics aside, changes in Academy rules for best original song have changed the competition. Under the present criteria, a song cannot run under dialogue. It has to be clearly audible, and eligibility applies if it's the first song in the end credits.

Additionally, Academy members now have to rate potential nominees on a 6-10 scale with nominees having to score 8.25 or higher.

Because of these changes, the recent Golden Globe winner -- Emmylou Harris' "A Love That Will Never Grow Old" from "Brokeback Mountain" -- was ineligible for Oscar glory.

In fact, there are only three nominees for best original song. And one of them, "In the Deep," has generated controversy by potentially violating another Academy rule. The tune was used in an unreleased film prior to "Crash."

Kathleen "Bird" York, who co-wrote the song with Michael Becker, will perform it Sunday. York might be better known for her recurring role on "The West Wing," but her ethereal-sounding vocals left an indelible mark on the drama about race relations in Los Angeles, and her musical career has been on an upswing ever since.

Having the songwriters perform their own songs marks a change from last year, when the Academy tapped singers like Beyonce Knowles and Antonio Banderas to perform nominated songs.

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