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Friday, March 1, 2024 | Back issues
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Rap Labels Win Partial Victory In Activist’s Suit

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The 9th Circuit largely dismissed an "anti-gangsta rap" activist's lawsuit accusing Death Row Records, distributor Interscope Records and their attorneys of maliciously prosecuting her after she tried to get them to clean up the violent and misogynistic messages in gangsta rap.

In the early 1990s, Cynthia DeLores Tucker, a prominent civil rights advocate and former chair of the National Political Congress of Black Women (NPC), became concerned at the growing popularity of gangsta rap, an aggressive style of rap that she claimed was sending black youth the wrong messages about women and violence.

To combat its proliferation, Tucker launched a campaign to pressure music producers and distributors to stop selling gangsta rap to minors. She enlisted the help of lobbyists and well-known artists, such as Dionne Warwick, Melba Moore and Terri Rossi. She even appeared at a 1995 Time Warner shareholders' meeting and offered Time Warner executives $100 to read aloud gangsta-rap lyrics from albums under their label. She was also arrested for protesting the genre outside a Tower Records store.

In the mid-1990s she focused her attention on Death Row Records, a successful rap label launched by Suge Knight and rapper Dr. Dre. After several talks with Death Row executives, the NPC drafted a letter for Knight to sign that stated his intent to "reverse the negative trends in African-American music."

The next day, a meeting occurred between Warwick, Tucker, lobbyist Voncier Alexander, and Michael Fuchs, then-CEO of Warner Music Group. Knight was invited but did not attend.

Death Row's attorney, David Kenner, claimed someone from the meeting called Knight and offered him $80 million and two recording studios if he would agree to break his contract with Interscope and enter a new contract with Warner Music Group.

After Knight refused the offer, Interscope and Death Row filed complaints against Tucker for inducement to breach contract and interference with contractual relations, among other allegations.

But during the pre-trial phase, Interscope and Death Row moved for voluntary dismissal on the grounds that "Tucker is essentially judgment proof." The district court granted their motions and dismissed the complaints without prejudice.

Within a month, Tucker and her husband, William, filed federal complaints against Interscope, Death Row and their attorneys, alleging malicious prosecution and loss of consortium. Tucker was replaced by her estate after her death in 2005.The circuit dismissed the claims, save for the abuse-of-process claim filed by Kenner, concluding that the Tuckers failed to produce any evidence that defendants acted with malice.

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