Rappers Adopt Stricter Warning Labels

They may not clean up their language, but top-name rappers say they'll make it easier for parents to know what their kids are listening to.

An initiative to display parental advisory labels more clearly is among the commitments announced at the conclusion of the first-ever hip-hop summit in New York. The high-profile event was attended by politicians and rap giants such as Sean Combs, Queen Latifah, Will Smith and veterans 2 Live Crew and Naughty By Nature. (Check out a slideshow of some of the participants.)

The new, voluntary labeling system will employ tags that cannot be removed to alert listeners that an album contains sexually explicit or violent lyrics.

Such recordings will also get a cautionary marketing campaign. The warnings will be visible in all ads and promotional posters, an issue that has become a priority with politicians, including Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., who have accused the music industry of advertising explicit content to young adults.

Crafting a New Image

The three-day event saw one of the biggest names in the industry attending private meetings with politicians and religious leaders to evaluate hip-hop's controversial reputation.

"One of the things we discussed at the summit was to uplift the image of rap," organizer Russell Simmons said at the conclusion of the conference. "There are a lot of stories about rappers and their cars, but not so many about rappers and their charities."

As founder of Def Jam Records, Simmons announced he will sponsor a mentoring program to provide financial planning and guidance for rappers, who often find themselves earning huge sums of cash at a young age. He also announced the formation of a political action committee and think tank to discuss issues such as racial profiling and censorship.

Hip-hop is among the most profitable arms of the music industry, with its stars repeatedly finding their lyrics discussed and questioned by those in Washington.

Just last week, the Federal Communications Commission fined a Colorado radio station $7,000 for playing Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady." The station said it thought it was a clean version of the track, but the FCC still deemed it indecent.

During the first day of conference, rappers expressed great concern over freedom of speech.

"I've been fighting this battle for about 12 years now," said 2 Live Crew originator Luther Campbell, who was among the first rappers to put a warning label voluntarily on one of his albums. "It's good that everybody is now collectively trying to get together to understand what the actual issue is. And what the political issues are."

Looking at Society's Problems

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, in a 2 ½-hour keynote speech Wednesday, told an audience including Combs, Simmons, Wyclef Jean, Redman and LL Cool J that rappers should be praised for describing society's ills. "What society wants to do with the young people is to break the mirror rather than take a look at it and clean itself up," Farrakhan said.

And yet while telling their stories, rappers admit they are using lyrics that might not be fit for young listeners.

"Parents should definitely be concerned. I'm a parent myself — that's why I put the [warning label] sticker on there," said Campbell.

Rising star Talib Kweli agreed that many rappers feel parental concerns.

"I'm a parent and I would say the vast majority of hip-hop artists are parents, so when you talk about parents, you're also talking about hip-hop artists. I know there are artists who I listen to who I would never play around my kids," he said.

Rapper Treach of the Grammy-winning group Naughty By Nature says that whatever they chose to sing about, the artists should be in charge of their lyrics.

"We created this whole culture, so we have a right to control it," he said.

ABCNEWS' Zak Young contributed to this report.

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