I’m sympathetic to the fact that record labels were under pressure to create clean edits of rap songs, especially in the 1990s. It may seem quaint now to read about C. Dolores Tucker or the Parents Music Resource Center in an era where any kid can listen to songs on YouTube and experience 1000x the profanity…and that’s just in the comments (*rimshot*). Nonetheless, creating radio edits was good business, a nod to DJs to let them know that it’d be safe to play this new single without the FCC getting on their ass.
However, clean edits are an art. Some artists simply recorded two different versions of their lyrics (*cough cough* “My Hitta” ain’t fooling no one) but usually, it was up to someone at the label (read: probably an intern) to do a quick edit using the existing studio tapes. I always thought that Gang Starr did it up nice, with Premier scratching over where the profanity would have been. In other cases, an engineer simply dropped the lyrics out while the beat continued to play on. That wasn’t so bad if you only had a few words to deal with but if you’ve ever heard KDAY’s radio edit of “Ain’t No Fun,” the end effect is like masturbating with your elbows; it’s possible, it’s just not that enjoyable.
But until today, I’m not sure I ever heard a radio edit done as sloppily as this one:
Civilized Savages: Ill Rhyme Skill (original clean edit)
From 12″ (Armageddon, 1994)
I mean…you can tell the label cut some serious by the fact that no one thought to check their label design to avoiding putting key text over where the spindle hole is supposed to go. It makes the b-side title confusing…I thought it was “New Rule Flava” for the longest. It’s not surprising then that the clean edit would be similarly wack. What they did was clip out any profanity but without an instrumental bed. Given that this was 1994, I’m assuming someone had a razor and was literally splicing tape to make this edit. I originally thought that my speakers were going out until I realized what was going on.
Now…I like this song and would have very much preferred the option to have a dirty version that didn’t sound like _____ so I loaded it into my multitrack editor and came up with what I think is a pretty good edit-of-the-edit.
Civilized Savages: Ill Rhyme Skill (edit of the clean edit)
From 12″ (Armageddon, 1994)
I used the 4 bar intro of the song to fill in the spaces where sound was originally cut out and from what I can hear, it works rather organically and likely would have been similar to what a proper radio edit would have done to begin with. Did I really need to spend an hour or so working on this? No…but it was bugging me so much, I just had to do something about it. Enjoy.
Edit: I didn’t realize that Chopped Herring reissued this EP in 2009…including the original dirty version.