Lil Wayne Gets Versed in Black History
Till Family Responds to Disgraceful Lyrics
Artist Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., who goes by the stage name of Lil Wayne, is arguably one of the most controversial figures in the Hip Hop industry. Throughout his career, Wayne has been highly criticized and praised for his sometimes abrasive and inappropriate lyrics, as well as his often outrageous actions. Listeners are saying that this time, perhaps he has gone too far.
On Feb. 12, 2013, Lil Wayne found himself acquiring negative publicity once again, when the remix to Future’s single: “Karate Chop,” featuring a verse from the self-proclaimed “best rapper alive,” leaked on to the Internet. Almost immediately, a firestorm of controversy began as fans were exposed to the first lines of Lil Wayne’s auto-tuned induced verse: “…pop another pain pill, ‘bout to put rims on my skateboard wheels/Beat the [expletive] up, like Emmett Till.”
Within a few days of its release, fans and others, including Emmett Till’s family, were calling for the song to be removed from the Internet and for Future’s record label, Epic Records, to release an alternate version of the song.
The lyric refers to Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old boy who was killed in Mississippi in 1955. Till was killed after allegedly whistling at Carolyn Bryant, a white woman. A few days later, her husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother J.W. Milam entered the home of Emmett Till’s great uncle, kidnapped Till and ruthlessly murdered him. His body was subsequently left in the Tallahatchie River, only to be uncovered days later. At his funeral, Till’s mother insisted on an open casket.
This tragic event helped to serve as a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement, after African Americans directly witnessed such a violent and hateful act against one of their own. Till’s death publicly displayed the amount racism that existed in America and is viewed as a land mark event within the realms of African American history, which Wayne’s ignorant lyric blatantly disrespected.
Since the release of the song, Till’s family has penned an open letter to Lil Wayne, which will be published in VIBE Magazine. In the letter, the family voiced their concern about the controversial lyric and about how emotionally jarring it was for them. “Your lyrics reopened Emmett Till’s casket and reminded the world, but most importantly my family including survivors of the tragedy, of the gruesomeness of hatred and served as a reminder of the loss we suffered. Although its been over 57 years, it feels like yesterday,” says the letter.
Wayne’s lyric is seen as a slap in the face of Till’s legacy. With his words, not only is he destroying Till’s memory and name, but the impact of his murder on black history.
The tongue possesses power,” writes the Till family. “Your ‘celebrity’ thrusts you into the spotlight affording you the opportunity to embrace your role as a black man, father, friend, and artist that has the ability to reach international audiences.”
The Till family and other criticizers argue that this event is not a matter of free speech, but of Wayne’s duty as an African American with a position of power in our community to promote the vitality of respecting black history. Ultimately, it is up to him and other icons within our community to pass on a sense of reverence to our youth, not degradation. The power of speech is overwhelming.
Epic Records, the company under which the song was released, has made a conscious effort to remove the original version of the song from the Internet. An alternate version has been released, without the lyric, and will serve as the official single. The CEO of Epic Records, Antonio “L.A.” Reid, has also personally reached out to Till’s family in an attempt to apologize for the accidental leaking of the song and for its inappropriate lyrics.
Seemingly receptive of Reid’s apology, the Till family has extended an invitation to Lil Wayne to join The Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation, which was founded to help continued the legacy of Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till, and which also serves as a foundation that aims to help families that have been victimized by hate crimes and violence.
Despite this, both Wayne and Future have yet to comment or weigh in on the controversial matter. However, it has been recently confirmed that a music video is being shot for the song, which will include appearances from both Future and Lil Wayne.