Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lil Wayne and Emmett Till

In the lecture given by Jeffrey Ogbar on Febuary 15, 2013 titled “Ready to Die: Critiquing Hip-Hop’s Narratives of life and Death,” Ogbar talked about how record labels sensor content and will sometimes not allow certain lyrics on an album. He said that typically, lyrics about black on black violence are published, while lyrics about black on white violence (especially when involving the police) are typically banned. This “logic” allows for some of the most offensive lyrics to be published.
Epic Records released Future’s new song “Karate Chop (Remix)” this past February.  In this song, Lil Wayne compares having sex to the murder of Emmett Till. In verse three Lil Wayne raps,
Pop a lot of pain pills
            Bout to put rims on my skateboard wheels
            Beat that pussy up like Emmett Till
            Two cell phones ringin’ at the same time
            That’s your ho, callin’ from two different phones
            Tell that bitch “leave me the fuck alone!”
            See, you fuck her wrong, and I fuck her long

            As I believe it should, this outraged the Till family and led them to release a letter about the lyrics. Even Stevie Wonder, who had previously admitted to being a fan of Lil Wayne, commented, “you can’t equate that to Emmett Till. You just cannot do that.”
Personally, these lyrics infuriated me. The line “beat that pussy up like Emmett Till,” mocks the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. Emmett Till’s murder was widely publicized and is considered a horrible act of racial violence that deeply impacted the Civil Rights Movement.
            This line is also offensive towards women. Emmett Till’s funeral was an open casket. If you look at pictures of Emmett Till before and after his death and beating, there are almost no similarities. At the time of his funeral, Emmett Till was unrecognizable. When Lil Wayne says, “beat that pussy up like Emmett Till,” he is saying that men should preform sex with such force that they abuse women. He is making it a good thing to use force and violence during sex.
            I believe that the letter the Till family released on this issue says it best, “when you speak lyrics like, ‘beat that pussy up like Emmett Till,’ not only are you destroying the preservation and legacy of Emmett Till’s memory and name, but the impact of his murder in black history, along with the degradation of women.”  


  1. I wonder how much of this story is still linked to white segregation of blacks. You mention that black on white violence is often banned but black on black is ordinary. This strikes me as somewhat similar to the sexual assault history of white men raping black women and getting away with it. If a black man rapped about having sex with a white woman, record labels would probably ban it as well. However, music videos or other lyrics make us assume that this black man is talking about sex with a black woman so the record label deems it sellable. The issue of sex and violence against women is another problem that is not simply black or white. Although rap can sometimes lend itself towards being more specifically violent and sexual, many other genres of music address sex and women that can be equally as problematic.

  2. As a fan of Lil' Wayne, this line disappointed me. I agree with the family of Emmett Till. Equating sex to a violent act inflicted upon Emmett Till is not only disrespectful to Emmett Till, but it is degrading to women. As a father of a young girl, you would think that Lil' Wayne would have more respect towards women. After all, he would not want someone to do his little girl like that. It is lyrics like this that plague the hip hop community. Unfortunately, young African American men think that it is okay to mistreat women in this manner. In my opinion, Lil' Wayne should attempt to positively impact young men instead of fill their minds with degrading and disrespectful ideals such as this.

  3. This line that diminishes what happened to Emmett Till reminds me of the Anne Frank jokes many people make today. Such jokes and memes include "Knock knock. Who's there? Not Anne Frank's best move;" one of the memes shows a picture of Frank's face with the text that reads "This one time at camp, we got so baked." There are many memes that play off of what happened to her, just as Lil' Wayne's song plays off of what happened to Till. These are both done for the amusement for an audience but at the expense of the families other lynching and holocaust victims, and black people and Jewish people in general. I think it's interesting (and horrible) that in our society we place an expiration date on the horror of such despicable acts, such as Till's murder and the Holocaust, and deem it appropriate to create jokes or songs at the victims' expense. Just because it's been almost sixty years since Till's lynching does not mean that it is appropriate to use the violence of what happened in comparison to having sex. These songs and jokes diminish what happened and could allow room for history to repeat itself because if we stop acknowledging the horror of what happened, we are not making any progress in moving forward.