Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mafia Influence on the Oscars

In a departure from past Oscar shows featuring syrupy Disney tunes and soundtrack ballads, this year's telecast will give audiences country music, alternative rock and a super-sanitized version of a racy rap song.

The song, called "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," is from the movie "Hustle & Flow," the story of a pimp who aspires to a singing career. In the Oscars' first performance by a rap group, the group Three 6 Mafia will perform the song, one of three nominated in the best original song category, at the March 5 Academy Awards ceremony.

The pimp movie won't be the only aspect of the Oscars show that could make social conservatives cringe. The gay-themed cowboy movie "Brokeback Mountain" leads the nominee pack and the show is being hosted by Jon Stewart, who fills his news satire "Daily Show" on the Comedy Central cable channel with George W. Bush jokes.

"The Academy (of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences) is really to be commended," said Aaron Rosenberg, lawyer for Three 6 Mafia. "It's admirable that voters are recognizing the hip-hop generation and its influence on American culture."

While rapper Eminem won the best song Oscar in 2003 for "Lose Yourself" from the film "8 Mile," he skipped the ceremony and the song was not performed.

With decency concerns in high gear in the aftermath of the notorious baring of Janet Jackson's breast during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, Three 6 Mafia worked to make their lyrics meet ABC's broadcast standards.

"We took out all the cuss words and made it squeaky clean," rapper Paul "DJ Paul" Beauregard, who co-wrote the song with Jordan "Juicy J" Houston and Cedric "Frayser Boy" Coleman, said in a telephone interview.

The writers substituted new lyrics where necessary in the song, which portrays the life of a hustler in the inner city of their hometown, Memphis, Tennessee.

For instance, Beauregard said they substituted "It's messed up where I live but that's just how it is," for the lyrics: "It's f---ed up where I live but that's just how it is."

"The song will be FCC friendly," Rosenberg said.

Just in case, ABC is also expected to use a five-second delay to aid network censors.

While Beauregard is thrilled with the chance to perform during the Oscars, he sees a double standard in the media.

"Some stuff should definitely not be heard by younger kids but what they're able to watch on television, like people stealing cars, is sometimes a lot worse than what we're singing about," he said.

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