May 11, 2021

KMD "Black Bastards" (Article from May 11, 1994)

Time Warner-owned labels seem to be dropping as many rappers as they sign these days. Latest to get the boot is KMD, cut in April by Elektra after the group submitted cover art for its "Black Bastards" album. The cover, drawn by member Zev Love X, shows a white man in blackface being lynched. Described as a commentary on "whites misappropriating black culture," the drawing, according to a spokesman for KMD, "represented the hanging of stereotypes. It was a parody of the game 'Hangman' -- you get it wrong enough times and you die." Jackie Martinez, head of KMD's Hit U Off Management, says the group, which included a small "Sambo" caricature on the cover of its debut album, "Mr. Hood," was addressing "what (black) people were once portrayed as, nothing more than that. The artwork is just the opposite of what people interpreted it to be." Apparently, that explanation didn't wash with Elektra executives, who also rejected KMD's offer to change the cover. According to a statement by the label, "the imagery has exacerbated existing concerns within Elektra, and a decision has been made that it is best that the record be taken in its intended form elsewhere. We do not wish to tamper with KMD's statement by asking them to change it." "That they were dropped is totally ridiculous," says Martinez. "Time Warner apparently did not want to deal with another Ice-T incident," she said. A furor arose in 1992 over Ice-T's "Cop Killer" follow-up, "Home Invasion," leading to a boycott of Time Warner companies and stock divestment by several law enforcement unions. "They just want to avoid any kind of controversy. In order to not have it come to that, the quickest way is to just drop the artists. At this point, KMD is not signed to anyone." Lynching images are hardly new to rap album covers, much less to rap lyrics. The cover for the 1992 Public Enemy single, "Hazy Shade of Criminal," featured the infamous news photo of the August 1930 lynching of two black men in Marion, Ind.; Kool G Rap and DJ Polo's "Live and Let Die" featured Rottweilers and two hooded black men about to pull chairs from under two noosed-up whites. - Washington Post (May 11, 1994). Below are scans from KMD's special, deluxe edition release of Black Bastards with tons of additional information about the album, the controversial cover art, group members and a lot more. R.I.P. Subroc and MF DOOM. Props to Pete Nice and Dante Ross.