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Lil Wayne’s Unwise Emmett Till Lyric Spawns Rap’s Latest Pseudo-Apology

Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne has publicly backed away from a lyric that turned a key moment in the Civil Rights Movement into a cheap sexual punchline. Epic Records already apologized for the offending line, which appeared on a remix of Future’s F.B.G.: The Movie track “Karate Chop,” and took down online versions of the song. Now Wayne has issued a statement disavowing the lyric, which referred to a tragic 14-year-old lynching victim in ’50s Mississippi by saying, “Beat the pussy up like Emmett Till.”

As posted by Miss Info, the statement never uses words like “apologize,” “sorry,” or “forgive,” but it does express an attempt to “acknowledge” the pain of Till’s family (“as well as the letter you sent to me via your attorneys”). In the statement, Wayne promises not to allude to Till or the family in his music. He promises not to perform the lyrics live and says he supports Epic’s decision to drop the lyric from Future’s track. He also pays tribute to earlier generations of civil rights pioneers.

As AllHipHop reports, the Till family had been putting pressure on Pepsi brand Mountain Dew over Wayne’s previous failure to apologize for the lyric. The family also posted a YouTube video taking the rapper to task. The nonprofit Mamie Till Mobley Foundation, named after Emmett Till’s mother, has yet to comment via social media on Wayne’s latest public statement.

Wayne’s “apology” — in which, again, he never actually apologizes — comes as other leading rappers have also been forced to confront the ways their words affect the world outside of hip-hop. Rick Ross issued a non-apology and then an actual apology, potentially costing him millions, after protesters offended by an apparent lyrical reference to rape successfully urged Reebok to end his endorsement deal. Meanwhile, Jay-Z’s trip to Cuba and lyrical boasts about it continue to receive comment from President Barack Obama.

Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group member Meek Mill pointed out somewhat inelegantly that the late Notorious B.I.G. also rapped about subjects that might not sit well with corporate sponsors. Jay-Z famously declared, “I’m not a businessman / I’m a business, man!” But now that he and other rappers are not just businesses, but huge corporations, an art form that previously allowed for the expression of unbridled id — yes, sometimes in ways that could reasonably offend — might be entering a new phase in its evolution. What does it mean when rappers start having to play by the same rules as decent, paycheck-cashing citizens?

Read Wayne’s full statement, via Miss Info, below.

Dear Till Family:

As a recording artist, I have always been interested in word play. My lyrics often reference people, places and events in my music, as well as the music that I create for or alongside other artists.

It has come to my attention that lyrics from my contribution to a fellow artist’s song has deeply offended your family. As a father myself, I cannot imagine the pain that your family has had to endure. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge your hurt, as well as the letter you sent to me via your attorneys.

Moving forward, I will not use or reference Emmett Till or the Till family in my music, especially in an inappropriate manner. I fully support Epic Record’s decision to take down the unauthorized version of the song and to not include the reference in the version that went to retail. I will not be performing the lyrics that contain that reference live and have removed them from my catalogue.

I have tremendous respect for those who paved the way for the liberty and opportunities that African-Americans currently enjoy. As a business owner who employs several African-American employees and gives philanthropically to organizations that help youth to pursue their dreams my ultimate intention is to uplift rather than degrade our community


Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr.?
Lil Wayne