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Hip Hop Stopped: 13 Classic Moments of Rap Censorship

As M.I.A.'s management roadblocks her new documentary, relive when Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Azealia Banks and more were censored by higher powers

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Can I Get a Bleep Bleep?

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  M.I.A. performs during the Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show at Lucas Oil Stadium on
Christopher Polk

Censored. Banned. Blocked. Pulled. Barred. Altered. Removed: All words an artist never wants to hear. 

Today, news broke that M.I.A.'s management "pulled down" a teaser clip of her upcoming documentary, which was leaked by its fed-up director in an attempt to force Roc Nation into further funding the project.

M.I.A. has had plenty controversial moments, but she's hardly the first to meet hardship in the hip hop world. From 2 Live Crew's federally-banned 1989 record As Nasty as They Wanna Be to iTunes blocking Action Bronson, check out 13 censorship moments in hip hop.

And don't miss Fuse's new series The Hustle Wednesdays at 11/10c. Check out Fuse's channel finder.

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2 Live Crew Deemed Illegal to Sell (1989)

2 Live Crew's 1989 album, As Nasty as They Want to Be, was so obscene a federal judge declared it too explicit to sell. Following the case, the members were arrested for obscenity for performing LP tracks in a sex club in Florida. An obscenity trial followed and the ban was eventually lifted and the members acquitted. The record went on to sell over two million copies.

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'SNL' Bans Cypress Hill (1993)

Cypress Hill were banned from Saturday Night Live after  DJ Muggs lit a joint on-air during their 1993 performance, and the band trashed their instruments during "I Ain't Goin' Out Like That." Twenty years after the incident, Fuse caught up with Muggs: "Everybody was mad at me. I was the f-cking bad guy," he said. Watch the infamous performance here.

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Snoop Dogg Barred From UK & Norway (2006, 2012)

Two European countries dropped Snoop Dogg like he's hot. 

In 2006, the Dogfather exchanged "insulting words" and scuffled with airport police when he insisted his 30-strong entourage enter a British Airways first-class lounge. It led to Snoop's four-year ban from the country, forcing him to miss out on $15.9 million in ticket sales in 2007, WSJ reports. 

In 2012, the "Ashtrays & Heartbreaks" rapper pissed off another European nation, Norway, after attempting to smuggle pot through the airport last July. He's barred for two years.

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Nas Changes 'N-Word' Album Title (2008)

Nas wanted to call his 2008 album the N-word. It didn't work out.

The MC said stores wouldn't carry the record with the controversial title. "Record stores are gonna have a problem in this day and time selling a record with that title," he said. "It's important to me that this album gets to the fans." 

 It became his fourth No. 1.

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Eminem's Bloody 'Relapse' Commercial Banned (2009)

To hype his sixth LP, 2009's Relapse, Eminem bathed in blood—which was probably V8 juice, let's be real—as creepy clips of dismembered body parts flashed across the screen. It was banned from TV... but Relapse became Em's fourth No. 1 record.

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BET Bans Ciara & Ludacris' "Ride" Video (2010)

As the song's sexy lyrics suggest—"They love they way I ride it / They love the way I ride the beat"—Ciara and Ludacris were going to bring a hot visual for their 2010 collabo "Ride."

It showed the singer wriggling in skimpy clothing and was banned from BET. Ciara fans were outraged after noticing other sexually-themed tracks, like Trey Songz' "I Invented Sex," were in heavy rotation.

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Kanye's 'Beautiful Dark Twisted' Cover Altered (2010)

The album artwork for Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was too hot for stores. The cover was a painting of a nude, grinning, bottle-holding black man, presumably West, straddled by a bare-breasted, booty-flashing angel-babe with wings and a tail.

"Yoooo they banned my album cover!!!!!" he tweeted, not explaining who "they" actually were. "Banned in the USA!!!" 

The blurred version (above) landed 'Ye his third No. 1 record.

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CBS Goes Bleep Crazy on Drake, Em & Wayne (2010)

While the Grammys invited Drake, Eminem and Lil Wayne to close out the 2010 ceremony, broadcasting channel CBS appeared worried about the performance. So worried that during the on-air broadcast, mics went dead for seconds on end.

New York magazine wrote, "Why were whole lines being cut to avoid one profanity and the music cut out along with the mics?" as the Huffington Post wondered if CBS overdid the censorship. RapRadar says certain non-explicative sentences were bleeped out too.

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M.I.A.'s "Born Free" Obscured on YouTube (2010)

M.I.A.'s graphic and violent "Born Free" video was unveiled in April 2010 and initially kept off YouTube. Citing the video sharing site's rule to "prohibit content like pornography or gratuitous violence," the video was "obscured" from the site. With the obscured setting, it was not easy to find the nine-minute visual as only those with a direct link to the singer's personal account could watch it on YouTube.

The video has since been made publicly searchable, though age-restriction, and uploaded to M.I.A's Vevo account. Watch here.

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MTV Bans Hip Hop's Hottest (1988-2011)

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7 Territories Ban Azealia Banks' 'Dazed' Cover (2012)

Azealia Banks loves controversy—have you seen her Twitter account? She's gotten into 10 public Twitter feuds. The "212" rapper also stirred the pot with her September 2012 cover for Dazed and Confused

The image of Banks smoking a blown-up condom like a Cuban cigar was banned in Singapore, Dubai, Malta, Switzerland, India and Thailand.

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Church Concerned Over Game's 'Jesus Piece' (2012)

Who knew the Pope was keeping his eye on the hip hop scene?!

According to Game, the Roman Catholic Church called his label about the artwork for his Jesus Piece LP, which depicts an African-American Jesus surrounded by gang symbols. "The Roman Catholic Church called Interscope and it got really crazy," he told Vibe.

The image was swapped to be the deluxe version's cover with the standard version replaced with a safe cover a month before the album dropped.

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Action Bronson & Harry Fraud Don't Get iTunes' Front Page (2013)

Rising hip hop producer Harry Fraud, who crafted the Saaab Stories EP with Action Bronson, claims iTunes wouldn't feature the release on digital store's main page due to its cover. It shows two bikini-clad girls in a bathroom: one hunched over a toilet (with Bronson looking over her) as the other is pulling toilet paper.

The Brooklyn producer tweeted his frustration (see above). iTunes is the biggest music store in the U.S. Being a featured release could have impacted sales for the two rising stars. The set debuted at No. 63 on the Billboard 200.

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