LISTEN UP, rappers, you better come up with new words to rhyme with "rich," "no" and "bigger."
Following in the wake of the Don Imus scandal and Oprah's own hip-hop peace talks, mogul Russell Simmons of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, said yesterday that the recording and broadcast industries should consistently ban three racial and sexist epithets (those would be the b-word, the h-word and the n-word) from all so-called clean versions of rap songs on CD and on the airwaves.
Hold on a second. Who listens to clean versions of rap songs?
Regular readers of this column know that Tattle is not for censorship, but what's the point of sanitizing the rap that is already largely sanitized. The epithets in question are already banned from most clean versions. Simmons, however, said there's no uniform standard for deleting such words, and record companies sometimes "arbitrarily" decide which offensive words to exclude or include.
"We recommend [they're] always out," Simmons said yesterday. "This is a first step. It's a clear message and a consistency that we want the industry to accept for more corporate social responsibility."
The recommendations drew mixed reaction and no music executives were associated with yesterday's announcement.
Writer Bakari Kitwana ("Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop") said it was a step in the right direction. Kitwana said there needed to be uniformity in removing obscenities from music. He pointed out that in some songs curse words are replaced with clean words while, in others, epithets and curse words are merely covered up by silence, allowing listeners to still infer from context the edited words.
(Like if Tattle writes "Holy sh--!" You still kind of get it.)
"It shows that people in the industry are realizing that the pendulum is swinging and that there's a national conversation that they don't want to be on the wrong side of," Kitwana said of the recommendations.
(But no one in the industry was involved with the recommendations.)
Writer Joan Morgan ("When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down"), said the announcement amounted to "absolutely nothing." She called the recommendations "short-sighted at best and disingenuous at worst." It was, she said, an "anemic, insufficient response" that failed to address homophobia and other issues in some hip-hop culture and rap music.
Morgan said calling for the removal of the three epithets assumes "all of the violence, misogyny and sexism in hip-hop is only expressed in" those words.
"It's says let's take the responsibility away from people creating the content and put it back on the corporations," she said.
Actually, it doesn't even say that - it merely seeks to clean up the "clean" versions. The "explicit" versions - the ones sold with warning labels and not heard on FCC-regulated radio - can still be as misogynistic and homophobic as ever. Ho ho ho.
Simmons' recommendations also include forums to foster dialogue among entertainers, hip-hop fans and executives and the creation of a mentoring program for entertainers. Another recommendation calls for the establishing a coalition of music, radio and television executives to advise those industries on "lyrical and visual standards."
The proposal cautioned against violating free-speech rights but said that freedom of expression comes with responsibility.
"Our discussions are about the corporate social responsibility of the industry to voluntarily show respect to African-Americans and other people of color, African-American women and to all women in lyrics and images," read a joint statement from Simmons and Benjamin Chavis, the network's executive director.
Boy gone mild
Blowing his nose and wiping away tears, Joe Francis, the multimillionaire founder of the "Girls Gone Wild" video empire and the man who bragged about bedding Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Tara Reid, etc., pleaded guilty to contempt of court in Florida yesterday and was sentenced to 35 days in jail.
Francis, who was sued by seven women who were minors when filmed, apologized to Judge Richard Smoak for yelling at the plaintiffs during settlement talks.
Francis' lawyer, Jan Handzlik, said being in jail had changed his client.
"He is a different man. Undoubtedly he is a different man," he said.
He may want to be a different man - Francis also faces a federal indictment on claiming more than $20 million in false business expenses.
* "American Idol" cast-off Sanjaya Malakar, yesterday on "Live With(out) Regis and Kelly":
"It's paparazzi [who] get at you," he said, "and fans come up and try to give you hugs and get autographs. I would love to just be able to hug everyone and give autographs and take pictures, but you can't."
Well, you certainly can't hug everyone unless you want to go to prison.
Sanjaya said he wants to be a singer, actor and model.
"Like, I really - what I want to do is experience the whole entertainment business because, I mean, I'm not just a musician, I'm an entertainer," he said.
In order to be an entertainer, you have to be entertaining.
* In other "Regis & Kelly" news, Regis will return to the show Thursday, having recovered from triple-bypass surgery.
His first guest will be David Letterman, whom Reege subbed for when Dave underwent heart bypass surgery in 2000.
* According to a new survey by Health magazine, 64 percent of women have sex once a week. With the passing of Anna Nicole Smith, however, that average is likely to drop to once a year. *
Daily News wire services contributed to this report.