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Obscenity trial only stirred the debate

Luther Campbell hurled the words like a brick at black prosecutor Pedro Dijols. "I'm a businessman, I got 40 employees," said Campbell, during a break in 2 Live Crew's obscenity trial last week in the Broward County Courthouse. He raised his voice and cut his eyes to Dijols, who was walking down the hall.

"I don't have to be anybody's token."

It was just one more stereotype in a week of stereotypes. Dijols was a black man prosecuting a black man, 2 Live Crew leader Campbell. So Dijols had to be a race traitor, and a token, according to Campbell.

And because Campbell was a black man who had become a target for well-known conservative Broward Sheriff Nick Navarro, he had to be the oppressed. To hear his attorney tell it, Campbell is the First Amendment's Sword of Gideon, the street hero tossing Molotov cocktails under the tanks of ultra-conservatism, a credit to his race.

The 29-year-old street kid who got his start selling albums from the trunks of cars was practicing a black art form, adding more color to the rich tapestry of his inner-city culture.

The jury bought the defense arguments.

Dijols can accept the verdict, but not Campbell as a cultural icon, a revered storyteller of modern black culture. That's a lie, he said.

"Where is the fight against slavery ..." said Dijols,referring to the explicit lyrics of a 2 Live Crew song. "He (an expert of black culture called by the defense) said this is representative of black culture. It's not.

"It doesn't say a word about hard-working people, the problems in the black community."

Campbell thinks it does; but maybe it's a culture that anyone born safely outside the inner-city streets can't really understand.

"When we sing about the "f--- shop," we're singing about a place where you can pay $10 and get a woman and a bed and a sink. Everybody knows where the f--- shop is. In Miami, it's on 79th Street."

2 Live Crew's music is largely about sex in the inner city, easily available, cheap, submissive, violent, demeaning sex.

"It's ludicrous to insinuate that the black community has lower community standards," Dijols said. "It's a lie."

Experts had testified that rap, or hip-hop, has been around since the days of slavery and is a means of escapism. Campbell said anyone who thinks that when 2 Live Crew sings "Bust that p---y" the group is encouraging a man to go hurt a woman is just plain goofy.

"It's just supposed to make people laugh."

The jurors laughed, every one of them, all the way to their innocent verdict. None of them took it seriously; all of them found it had some artistic value.

"Our feelings were that the musicians in the band were telling the public how they feel inside of themselves," said Beverly Resnick, 65. "And they were doing it with music."

"It was humorous, and I do believe humor is an art form," said David Gilliland, 26, a mechanic.

Gertrude McLamore, 61, was the only black juror. She said she found nothing in the music that insulted her: "I like the music, and my kids like the music."

It was a complete turnaround from the all-white, all-middle-age jury that recently found Broward record store owner Charles Freeman guilty of violating obscenity laws for selling the 2 Live Crew album Nasty As They Wanna Be, which has sold 2-million copies.

Navarro said the verdict will not have any effect on his push to clean up Broward County, and if Campbell and 2 Live Crew do the same show again, they will be arrested again. Campbell, who was expected to leave Sunday or today to continue his tour, said that tour will take him back to Broward County. And there will be no changes in the stage show, which includes shouted obscenities, barely clad dancers and political slogans such as "F--- Navarro."

It was those two or three shouted obscenities that, defense attorney Bruce Rogow said, proved the show had political meaning.

"Tossing an orange down a sewer," Dijols said, "doesn't make a fruit salad."