New Zealand's biggest music specialist is hoping to clean-up by cleaning up it hip hop range.

In 10 of its leading outlets, the Sounds chain last week started carrying titles of edited hip hop albums alongside its standard ranges. The intention is to start rolling out the new sections to all its 40-plus outlets in the coming months.

Music buyer Matt Ruys admits it is still early days, but says sales results so-far had been encouraging. The initial edited range includes new releases such as Kanye West's "Graduation" and 50 Cents' "Curtis," together with classic sets from the likes of Dr Dre, 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G.

Ruys says the releases are sourced directly from U.S. record companies -- parallel importing music is legal in N.Z. -- because edited versions are not readily available locally.

However, Ruys stresses that Sounds will still continue to stock a full range of unedited hip hop albums, and he does not believe the move will dent the chain's credibility with urban fans. "This is not about replacing unedited versions with clean ones," he says. "Personally, I would rather listen to the unedited version, but there are parents out there who are concerned about what their kids listen to and we should provide them with an alternative."

Sounds will continue to buy-in stock from the U.S., although if the edited ranges take-off, Ruys says it may encourage local distributors to start offering the edited versions.

Adam Holt, managing director of Universal Music NZ, says the company has offered edited versions in the past but there has been little demand for them. "We have always made clean versions available for acts like Eminem and 50 Cent, but we don't carry a full range," he says. "It's very much a niche business but we are always open to looking at new opportunities in the market."

Universal is also the distributor of Dawn Raid Entertainment, one of the leading lights of the local hip-hop scene. However, Holt says he doesn't think any mainstream N.Z. releases have warranted an edited version and is doubtful whether there would be much demand for them.

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