Multiplatinum rapper Dr. Dre threatened to sue Detroit officials for what he termed their violation of the Up in Smoke tour's civil and constitutional rights, following the authorities' request that two videos not be shown during the tour's July 6 stop there.
"I can't believe the mayor of a city like Detroit would ignore the United States Constitution and act so irresponsibly," Dr. Dre (born Andre Young) said in a statement released Tuesday.
Last week, law enforcement authorities in Detroit and Auburn Hills, Mich., advised the members of the Up in Smoke rap tour which, along with Dr. Dre, includes Eminem, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and Warren G not to show film segments that authorities claimed violated local ordinances.
One of the videos contained footage of a robbery, in which Snoop Dogg asks the audience, "Should I do this ni--a?" The second tape shows a partially nude woman and depicts oral sex.
Hours before the show at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena, city officials said venue personnel and members of the tour would be ticketed or arrested if the videos were broadcast. The rappers and the promoter of the tour, former Los Angeles Lakers star guard Magic Johnson, agreed to yank the tapes in exchange for an extra hour of performance time, according to Greg Bowens, spokesman for the Detroit mayor's office.
When police in Auburn Hills made a similar request before the tour's performance in that city's arena, tour officials balked and took the city to court. A federal judge upheld the tour's right to show the tapes, but the city exercised its authority to enforce local laws once the tapes were shown. After the show, Auburn Hills police ticketed Dr. Dre for allegedly promoting pornography. The police also filed a complaint with the state liquor control board against the concert venue, claiming the second videotape violated the terms of the arena's liquor license.
Dr. Dre's statement quoted unidentified "attorneys" for the tour, who warned other cities against trying the tactics used in Michigan.
"We're putting other cities on notice that this behavior is unacceptable and will be the subject of injunctive relief actions if attempted again," the statement said.
Detroit was well within its legal rights when it informed the rappers about local laws, Bowens said.
"The law provides that you can't confiscate or edit [objectionable materials], but you can let people know what they can expect if they violate the law," he said, adding that a lawsuit has not materialized from Dr. Dre.
Bowens speculated that Dr. Dre is trying to milk the Michigan ruckus for publicity, since the shows in Detroit and Auburn Hills were poorly attended. Fewer than half of the 40,000 seats at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena were filled the night of the concert, and the Auburn Hills show failed to sell out.
Bowens said he also doubted that the rappers had grounds for a lawsuit, since the tour voluntarily agreed to pull the controversial videos.
Dr. Dre's attorney, Howard King, could not be reached for further comment about the lawsuit Tuesday. King also represents the rapper in a pending copyright-infringement lawsuit against Napster, maker of the MP3-trading software.
The Up in Smoke rap tour is scheduled to hit more than 40 concert venues this summer. It's a reunion of the remaining members of gangsta-rap giants N.W.A, and it features a host of West Coast rap luminaries. Former N.W.A member Dr. Dre released Dr. Dre 2001 his first album in seven years in 1999. The album includes a host of hits, including "XXplosive" (RealAudio excerpt), which is rising on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.