“Beat that p*ssy up like it’s Emmett Till” will go down in history as one of the most ignorant rap lyrics of all time; which is why it should come as a surprise to no one that the “martian” himself, Lil Wayne, crafted the 7-word monstrosity in the recesses of his drug-addled brain.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the ensuing justifiable outrage when, Karate Chop, the latest song from Hip-Hop “It-Boy,” Future, featuring Wayne, hit the internet. The family of Emmett Till – unsuccessfully – demanded an apology from Wayne; Rev. Jesse Jackson – successfully – demanded that Epic Records, the label that released the song, censor the lyrics; and the legendary Stevie Wonder weighed in to tell the 3o-year-old skateboarder:
“You can’t equate that to Emmett Till. You just cannot do that… I think you got to have someone around you that – even if they are the same age or older – is wiser to say, ‘Yo, that’s not happening. Don’t do that’.
The spokesperson for Till’s family, Airickca Gordon-Taylor, said that her family was deeply troubled by the line. Simeon Wright, Till’s cousin who shared a bed with him that fateful night in 1955 when he was murdered by racist, white cowards for allegedly whistling at a white woman, said that the “Ku Klux Klan would be proud” of Lil Wayne.
A criticism so harsh one would hope Wayne would want to rethink his life.
“It was a heinous murder,” Gordon-Taylor said in a phone interview Thursday from Chicago. “He was brutally beaten and tortured, and he was shot, wrapped in barbed wire and tossed in the Tallahatchie River. The images that we’re fortunate to have (of his open casket) that `Jet’ published, they demonstrate the ugliness of racism. So to compare a woman’s anatomy – the gateway of life – to the ugly face of death, it just destroyed me. And then I had to call the elders in my family and explain to them before they heard it from some another source.”
Even those fans who have supported Wayne since he came into the game as a child agree that he has crossed a painful boundary:
“I feel like that’s degrading to the Black community,” said Joseph, a 24-year-old Wayne fan, “when is enough enough?”
Lil Wayne has made millions from referring to women as “bitches” and “sluts” — and positioning other black men as street targets. He’s been applauded for it for so long, he probably had no idea that people would be offended by one little line about the murder of one more black child. This is, after all, the same rapper who compared cooking crack to whipping slaves:
See I wake up in the mornin’/ Take a shit shower shave/ Stand over the stove and whip it like a slave
Okay new day/ new yay/ Bet I whip it like Kunta Kente
But now we’re offended? Lil Wayne’s “enough” occurred long ago, making this spectacular show of outrage over one more disrespectful lyric in a long, lucrative career of misogyny, violence and greed over a bouncy beat, hypocritical at best.
Of course, he had no problem throwing out Emmett Till’s name in such a vile context. This is just par for the course for him. It is much more problematic that society chooses this moment to reprimand him and show him the error of his ways. By expressing outrage over one lyric and remaining silent about an extensive catalog of music that would probably be nonexistent if not for the excess of brainwashed bravado, detractors are in essence saying that the Civil Rights Movement is a sacred cow, but today’s Black community is fair game for exploitation.
This symbolic outrage speaks to our need to have an enemy outside of our own communities. Though Lil Wayne was dead wrong for disrespecting Till, at what point do we take an honest look at the environment that created Lil Wayne — and other rappers like him? Instead of actually addressing the cause and effect of commercialized Hip-Hop, many of us would rather focus on the glory days of racism when the enemies all had white faces — instead of the enemy’s agenda being perpetuated by black faces rocking dreads.
Racism is easier to tackle than self-hatred because dismantling self-hatred includes a journey into accountability that many in Black America are not willing to take.
So, yes, by all means, let’s criticize Lil Wayne. But if we don’t seize this moment to not only denounce other lyrics that are disrespectful, but educate our youth about their history in a way that makes it meaningful for them, then we might as well slip on a pair Beats by Dre headphones and sing along – because we’re no better than he is.