Byline: BEL MOONEY
RADIO 1 disc jockey Tim Westwood is an unlikely hero.
But if he was the victim of a murder attempt for speaking out against aggressive 'gangsta rap' music and preaching peace, not violence, then he is a very brave man indeed.
One of Radio 1's most successful figureheads, Westwood is immersed in pop culture. Who better to recognise its influence - and the dangers associated with one of its branches?
The murderous rivalry between different American rappers may seem remote to readers of this newspaper. Few will listen to Snoop Doggy Dogg while driving the children to school. But the music is increasingly popular in this country, too, which is why it appears on the Radio 1 playlist, and why major record labels sign up the singers.
There's money in rap, which means that its 'message' reaches more and more ears.
Besides, nothing exists in isolation.
The songs may come from the bleakness of urban America, but they pound out in clubs in Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester and London - which means they can echo in British life in ways that are deeply disturbing.
Gangsta rap began on America's West Coast about ten years ago. It has a harsh, aggressive beat, like the rattle of a submachine gun, and just as lethal.
Abuse Gangsta stars boast of killing their enemies with high-powered weapons. 'My 44 will make sure none of you kids won't grow,' sang Tupac Shakur, trying to whip up West Coast 'gangstas' to kill their East Coast brothers.
It's hardly surprising that Shakur was himself murdered in a 'drive-by' shooting. A hit song by Ice T includes the words, 'I've got my 12-gauge sawed off, I'm 'bout to dust some cops off'.
One of Snoop Doggy Dogg's charming ditties says: 'One gun is all that we need, to put you to rest/Pump, pump, put two slugs in your chest/Now you dead then, a mother******, creepin' and sleepin' six feet deep . . .' The singers call their fellow men 'niggaz', deliberately using the word that was a term of abuse by racist white people. It is an extraordinary reversal of what is acceptable, denying at a stroke all the work done to promote civil rights by great men such as Martin Luther King.
It spits on multiculturalism, laughs at equality and dignity, and feeds the prejudice of men such as those who murdered Stephen Lawrence.
This music insults the millions of black people who do not want their race to be associated with crime, drugs and violence.
If this isn't bad enough, in the hell of gangsta rap, women are only 'bitches' and 'hos' (whores), viewed as sexual slaves for whom gang rape is par for the course. They are 'cars' to be used and discarded at will.
Some of these lyrics are simply not printable, yet these songs are blasted out in clubs where girls such as my 19-year-old daughter dance.
What effect can this have on young women of all races, to hear themselves so described, and to be surrounded by young men who are enjoying this glorification of sexual violence? A single rap lyric can set back the cause of equality of the sexes (and races) a hundred years.
No wonder prominent black people have spoken out against it. For example, listen to the influential writer Maya Angelou: 'There has been a cacophony of sound, a screaming atonal symphony of noise in the African-American community.
'Some serious thinkers and some ponderous prophets bemoan the chasm that exists between the sexes. The general consensus is that the rift is so wide and deep it cannot be bridged. Hip-hop rappers prove the prognosis correct when they describe black women - their mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and their current squeezes - as hos, bitches and other menaces . …