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Parental Advisory: A Brief History

For whatever reason, I had "99 Problems" stuck in my head today. Not the newer, Jay-Z, 2004 version about being stopped by the police. I'm talking about the (better) 1993 version by Ice-T. Nevermind that Ice-T went on to become a cop on Law and Order: SVU.

But it struck me as oddly humorous that those of us of a certain age are now parents and far less bothered by what used to be pretty edgy stuff when we were kids. NPR yesterday even ran a story about how boring gays on screen have become so that Hollywood is showing more transgender characters.

I had a look at the list of some of the first albums that got parents in a frenzy back in the day--Prince, Megadeath, Danzig, Soundgarden, Guns N'Roses. And, of course, the infamous 2 Live Crew As Nasty As They Wanna Be ("Me So Horny").

The Parental Advisory logo was started by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1985 as a response to the National PTA and Parents Music Resource Center to address growing concerns over music lyrics.


The sticker we all know and love is not a rating but simply an identifier applied by the record label to warn that an audio recording contains sex, violence, strong language, or substance abuse. It's actually called a "PAL Notice." And it's undergone several design changes since 1990. Going back and forth between "lyrics" and "content," font, being placed directly on album artwork, etc..

About 5% of the music released in a given year carries the PAL Notice.

The first hip-hop album to get the sticker was 1987's Rhyme Pays by Ice-T. The first video to get an early version of the PAL Notice was, strangely, self-titled Duran Duran (for nudity) in 1983.

You've got to fight for your right to party, right? Like I said, looking back no 30 year old would consider any of what I've mentioned very shocking these days. Some of what I've listed is now considered a classic. Our parents' generation was naked at Woodstock. There's nothing new under the sun.

So, without further ado, here is both the Jay-Z and Ice-T version for your comparison. Not safe for work. Not safe for your kids? I sat next to (and was unfazed) by a 3 year old yesterday who knows where babies come from. Probably better he learned from his mom than Ice-T, I suppose.



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