They Won't Back Down

For a couple of guys who were taking on Bob Dole, the far right and a major media conglomerate, Daz and Kurupt of Tha Dogg Pound sure were enjoying themselves. The two gangsta rappers were in L.A. shooting a video for "Let's Play House (Runnin' Fo' the Fence)," from their forthcoming debut album, "Dogg Food." Death Row, their label, had rented a $4 million ultramodern house for the day. Between takes, Delmar (Daz) Arnaud, 21, played with his 11-month-old daughter, Imani. (Daz is Snoop Doggy Dogg's cousin.) Ricardo (Kurupt) Brown, 22, slouched around and scoffed at some wardrobe items offered up for his approval. Producer Dr. Dre called the boys over to a van so he could preview some hot new beats on the tape deck. The van bounced up and down, like a homeboy version of "Wayne's World."

You'd hardly believe these fun-loving fellows are currently embroiled in a battle with their parent company, Time Warner. Since Senator Dole made his May 31 speech about "nightmares of depravity" in popular culture -- and conservative William J. Bennett echoed him with sideswipes at Time Warner's board members -- gangsta rap has been under renewed attack. At the heart of the debate is Time Warner and its half-owner-ship of Interscope Records, which distributes Death Row, home of gangsta icons like Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg. Before he got fired last month, Warner Music Group executive Doug Morris had just extended a deal with Interscope that precludes Time Warner from censoring or interfering with any of Interscope's releases. "Dogg Food," due in August, is sure to reignite the controversy: as Snoop's sidekicks, Tha Dogg Pound is revered in the rap community for its blunt, brutal and often misogynistic talk about life in the inner city. "Well if Kurupt gave a f -- about a bitch I'd always be broke/ I never have no mothaf -- in' indo to smoke," rapped Kurupt on Snoop's 1998 album "DoggyStyle." Indo is marijuana. That album sold 4.5 million copies; "Dogg Food" is expected to shoot to No. 1.

Interscope and Time Warner chiefs were in negotiations last week. "The way it looks at this point, Time Warner is going to drop [Interscope]," says an industry source. "It's a matter of when and how." Time Warner declined to comment. If that happens, Tha Dogg Pound is not expected to suffer financially. Interscope could get to buy back its stock cheap -- and, perhaps, cozy on up to MCA, where Doug Morris just resurfaced with his own new label. Whatever happens, Death Row CEO Suge Knight swears that "Dogg Food" will come out as scheduled. "There is a lot of crazy stuff going on right now," he says, "but my focus is on the Daz and Kurupt getting their due." Of course, Daz and Kurupt disdain the forces trying to keep them down. "All Dole wants to do is stop us from making money," sneered Kurupt. "It's all just to get them attention for their careers," seconded Daz. Then he cuddled his baby girl and gave her a sweet little kiss.