Censorship often targets R&B and Hip Hop, two genres at the forefront of cultural expression. Music videos -- crucial extensions of an artist's vision -- are frequently subject to prohibitions and limitations. This leads to discussions on how to strike a balance between the freedom of art and its social impact. Some videos are attacked for perpetuating harmful stereotypes, particularly about women, while others are gasped at for initiating social movements and elevating underrepresented voices. This raises an important issue: Is it appropriate to restrict an artist's freedom of expression?

The controversy surrounding 2 Live Crew highlighted this tension. The group’s explicit lyrics and provocative videos, released in the ‘80s, eventually led to obscenity charges. When Cardi B's song "WAP" dropped in 2020, it was met with similar criticism and attempts to ban it. Released despite it all, the “WAP” music video is still regarded as one of the Bronx rapper’s most innovative creations to date. It also serves as an example of perseverance and the ongoing struggle of facing censorship. Let’s check out some of the visuals that weren’t as lucky and were banned.

1. Pour It Up by Rihanna

Rihanna's "Pour It Up" music video was temporarily pulled from VEVO just 10 minutes after its debut due to provocative content. The visual featured the Bajan singer pole dancing and twerking in scantily clad outfits, which pushed the boundaries of mainstream music video content at the time. Despite the initial ban, it was quickly reinstated and has amassed over 490 million views on YouTube.

2. Ride by Ciara featuring Ludacris

In 2010, Ciara's music video for "Ride" featuring Ludacris was banned by BET, according to the singer. It showcased the Texas native performing what some saw as highly suggestive dance moves, including hip gyrations and provocative body movements while wearing revealing outfits. "Ride" found significant success on other platforms and resonated with fans who praised Ciara's dance skills and new musical direction.

3. E.I. - TIPDRILL REMIX by Nelly

Nelly's "E.I. - TIPDRILL REMIX” visual sparked significant controversy due to its content and depiction of women. The video featured graphic scenes set with explicit dancing and sexually suggestive imagery. It also included the infamous scene where Nelly swiped a credit card down a woman's buttocks. Initially aired on BET's late-night show “UNCUT,” which showcased unedited and explicit videos, the "E.I." remix faced public outcry and received criticism from various groups, including women's rights organizations. This ultimately led to BET banning the visual from its channel altogether.

4. Vans by The Pack

The music video for "Vans" by The Pack faced controversy and was even banned from MTV. Despite the song’s catchy tune and playful celebration of the shoe brand, the network reportedly refused to air it due to concerns that it amounted to a promotional piece for Vans, contravening their guidelines on brand promotion in music videos. Despite this setback, the song and accompanying visual still gained traction within sneaker culture and Hip Hop communities, achieving a major following.

5. Stupid H** by Nicki Minaj

BET reportedly restricted Nicki Minaj’s “Stupid H**” airplay due to concerns about its suitability for a broader audience. The video featured Minaj in various colorful and eccentric outfits, accompanied by frenetic visuals and rapid-fire editing. However, due to its suggestive imagery and explicit language, "Stupid H**" faced censorship. Despite these restrictions, the visual still managed to attract attention -- many even praised Minaj's bold artistic choices.

6. Monster by Kanye West

In 2011, MTV reportedly chose to ban Kanye West's "Monster" visual due to its controversial content, which included graphic imagery and explicit themes. Showing deceased women alongside the song’s featured rappers -- JAY-Z, Rick Ross and Minaj -- the music video stirred significant backlash, particularly from feminist bloggers. Activists Sharon Haywood and Melinda Tankard Reist led a petition on Change.org, urging Universal Music Group and MTV to remove the clip. Reist stated, "The mainstreaming of videos like this increases desensitized and callous attitudes toward violence against women... Women are reduced to sex-doll-like playthings."

7. S&M by Rihanna

Rihanna's "S&M" music video also faced controversy and restrictions due to its provocative content. Featuring BDSM-themed scenes and suggestive imagery, the visual was restricted by YouTube and reportedly banned in 11 countries. YouTube limited its accessibility, placing it behind an age-gate due to graphically sexual themes. Despite the bans, "S&M" achieved commercial success and sparked debates about censorship and the portrayal of sexuality in mainstream media.