As I discussed very recently, I have a taste for music that tends to contain a considerable amount of misogynistic words and objectification. But sometimes, there are lyrics that are just too horrible to look past as being “good music, bad ideas.” The freshest Lil Wayne controversy is that of his decision to put an extraordinarily messed up reference in the remix of Future‘s track, “Karate Chop,” which was leaked online a few days ago.
In his rap, Lil Wayne says, “Pop a lot of pain pills / Bout to put rims on my skateboard wheels / Beat that pussy up like Emmett Till.”
Emmett Till, for those of you who don’t know, was a 14-year-old African American boy who was shockingly tortured and murdered in Mississippi after allegedly whistling at a white woman in 1955. The woman’s husband and the man’s half brother hunted Till down, brutally beat him and gouged out one of his eyes. They then shot him, wrapped him in barbed wire and tied a cotton gin fan to his body, later throwing it into the Tallahatchie River. Till’s mother famously insisted on an open casket (photos of which can be seen online, but they are incredibly upsetting in every way, so search at your own risk) to show the “horrors of racism.” His death — and the killers’ subsequent acquittal despite later admitting their guilty — was seen as one of the sparks for the Civil Rights Movement. See why it would upset some people to include as a reference? Plus, it implies that beating a woman’s anatomy until she is literally dead is somehow acceptable fodder for song lyrics.
What happened to Till was not even 60 years ago, so naturally, many of his relatives are still alive — and they are (justifiably) angered by this revolting simile. Airickca Gordon-Taylor, cousin of Emmett Till and founding director of the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation, stated that the lyric was extremely hurtful to her family, and to women as well as African Americans.
“[The lyrics are] offensive not only to us, but to our ancestors and to women and to [the artists] themselves as young, black men…
“Our family was very offended, very hurt … [and] disturbed by it. We found it dishonorable to [Emmett’s] name and what his death has meant to us as a people and as a culture … I just couldn’t understand how you could compare the gateway of life to the brutality and punishment of death. And I feel as though they have no pride and no dignity as black men.”
She also stated that Simeon Wright, another of Till’s cousins who actually shared a bed with him the night he was taken by the killers, had been disgusted by the song.
“And he said the Ku Klux Klan would be very proud of Lil Wayne. And as tough a man as he is, I could see the hurt and the anger in his eyes. It just demonstrates to our family just how lost are our youth.”
The lyric, angering everybody from Stevie Wonder to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, has been pulled by Epic Records. Wonder, a “friend and fan” of Lil Wayne, asked a very rational question of the situation, “Sometimes people have to put themselves in the place of people who they are talking about. Imagine if that happened to your mother, brother, daughter or your son. How would you feel?”
Photo: Aaron Gilbert/ WENN