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Title: Testimony in the county court of the seventeenth judicial circuit in and for Broward County, Florida
Publication info: Ann Arbor, Michigan: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library

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Source: Testimony in the county court of the seventeenth judicial circuit in and for Broward County, Florida
Evanston, IL: Program of African Studies, Northwestern University
no. 1, pp. 3, 1991




LUTHER CAMPBELL, "2 Live Crew") et al.,


No. 90-171616 MM10

"J" Johnson


Fort Lauderdale, Florida

October 19, 1990

10:00 o'clock A.M.

The above-styled case came on for jury trial before the Honorable JUNE LaRAN JOHNSON, Presiding Judge, at Broward County Central Courthouse, Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, Florida, on the 19th day of October, 1990, commencing at 10:00 o'clock A.M.



by PEDRO DiJOLS, ESQ. and LESLIE ROBSON, ESQ. Assistant State Attorneys

appearing on behalf of the Plaintiff.




appearing on behalf of the Defendants.



was called as a witness on behalf of the Defendants and, after having been first duly sworn, was examined and testified upon his oath as follows:



Q. Dr. Gates, have you ever testified as an expert witness before, in court?

A. No.

Q. Are you being paid a fee for your testimony today?

A. Yes, I am.

Q. And how is that fee being computed?

A. At $250 an hour.

Q. When you make your speeches around the country, what is your rate for making a speech at the universities that you described?

A. $3,000 an hour.

Q. Have you listened to the tape recording that we provided to you of the performance of 2 Live Crew at Club Futura on June 10th, 1990?

A. I have, two and a half times.

Q. And you have listened to the recordings of the songs, "Me So Horny", "Fuck Shop", "If You Believe In Having Sex" and "Come On, Babe"?

A. I have.

Q. Dr. Gates, when did 2 Live Crew first come to your attention?

A. 2 Live Crew came to my attention when a New York Times reporter called, John Pirellis (phonetic) called me.

Q. As a result of the telephone call from Mr. Pirellis, did you write anything with regard to 2 Live Crew?

A. Well, yes.

Q. What did you write?

A. I went out and bought the tape. I told him I couldn't respond to his questions because I hadn't heard the tape. That wouldn't be honest. I bought the tape, listened to it that night a couple of times, thought that I had an interpretation that might be unique, and the next morning decided to write what is called an op.ed. page for the New York Times.

Q. Was it published?

A. Yes, it was.

Q. What was the name of that piece?

A. "Decoding 2 Live Crew."

Q. What was the thesis of that piece?

A. Well, the thesis was, in a nutshell, that what we saw was not what we got. That there was a meaning hiding beneath the surface of the obvious meaning of the lyrics.

What was going on was much more complicated and was quite different than what people were claiming was going on.

Q. Dr. Gates, what is "signifying," when you wrote your book Signifying Monkey?

A. Signifying is a very old and venerable tradition. It is often confused with games called the "dozens."

It involves great teasing, cajoling, re-naming people. Often it involves the use of lewd language or off-color language. Often it involves graphic descriptions of sexuality, but it is such a highly refined practice that it is taught now in many university courses.

That it was such a highly refined art form, it came to be included in anthologies of black literature and of black culture.

Q. Is rap a form of art?

A. Oh, absolutely, it seems to me it can be defined as art.

Q. Does it detract from being art because the words that are used are four letter words?

A. Oh, no, not necessarily. The greatest literary tradition in English literature, like people such as Chaucer and Shakespeare, Greek Literature, western literature, has always had its vernacular, has always included a lot of lewdity, a lot of verbal puns, sexual puns, curse words, et cetera. So this is very much a part of the art of western culture.

Q. Are we to take the lyrics literally that we heard on the tape?

A. Well, there is very little art that should be taken literally.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. Well, imagine a pond full of fish. From a hundred yards away, you look at that pond, you see the surface of the pond. It looks like that's what the pond consists of, what's on the surface.

So, if you see mosquitos floating or lily pads floating, et cetera, et cetera, it appears to be the contents of the pond. But once you get up to the pond and maybe jump in it, you realize there is a lot of life under the surface. That's the way art works.

There is always a surface value and there is always a subvalue, a content underneath that surface. In fact, the technical name for this is the difference between surface content, what's on the top, and manifest content, what's underneath.

Q. What's the manifest content of "Fuck Shop", "Come On, Babe", "Me So Horny", "If You Believe In Having Sex" and the performance that you listened to on that cassette tape?

A. Well, the manifest content, as a literary critic, the fact that here—I have to back up a little bit. These are songs that have taken one of the worst stereotypes about black men, primarily, but also about black women, and blowing them up.

Q. What are the stereotypes?

A. The stereotypes that have been most commonly associated with black men in western culture is the fact that we are oversexed or hypersexed individuals in an unhealthy way.

Q. How did that stereotype evolve?

A. It evolved, as nearly as we can figure, from the 16th century when Europeans were "discovering" Africans and stealing African human beings and making them slaves. They had to find ways to justify their enslavement ...........

..........It would be the way that men used to treat women. Men used to say because a woman is not smart enough, she is meant to cook or to have sex with. So women had to overcome that stereotype.

How do we overcome that stereotype? I think one of the brilliant things they embrace is that stereotype.

Q. What do you mean?

A. Well, they represent the stereotype over and over again, in such a graphic way, namely to exploit it. You can have no reaction but to burst out laughing.

You realize how ridiculous this all is. That's why we all laugh when we hear the performance. I thought one of the healthy things, listening to it, as I said, was hearing the reaction of the audience.

There is no cult of violence here. You can't hear any danger at all in the background. What you hear is great humor, great boisterousness. Why? By showing the black man as nothing but the refrain in "Me So Horny", "all I want to do is make love," that was the litany of these four songs.

They are being written and sung by young virile black men. Everybody understands what is going on. Even if they don't understand it as a literary critic, they understand it on a subliminal level. Their response is to bust out laughing, to view it as a joke, a parody.

Parody is one of the most venerable aspects of any literary tradition. It is certainly very important to Afro-American culture and literature.

Q. If you took them literally, would you be missing the point?

A. The whole point is he is a metaphor in the same way the lyrics of these songs are metaphors. They are not to be taken on a literal level. They are to be taken on their figurative or metaphorical level.


I HEREBY CERTIFY that the foregoing, pages 1 to and including 9, is a true and correct transcription of my excerpt of my stenographic notes of testimony taken had before the Honorable JUNE LaRAN JOHNSON, Presiding Judge, and a jury, at Broward County Central Courthouse, Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, Florida, on the 19th day of October, 1990, commencing at 10:00 o'clock A.M.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto affixed my hand this 20th day of October, 1990.


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