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Can black community change the face of Hip Hop?
Rappers' offensive lyrics have community crying foul
Published Wednesday, May 15, 2013
by Rebecca Nuttal

Lil' Wayne's lyrics equating the 1955 murder of teenager Emmit Till to a sex act led Mountain Dew to disassociate itself from the rapper after Till's family complained.

Members of the black intelligentsia let out a collective victory cry last week when hip-hop artist Lil’ Wayne lost a multi-million dollar endorsement deal with Mountain Dew as a result of lyrics comparing the beating of murdered teenager Emmett Till in 1955 to a sex act.

Led by outcry from Till’s family, one by one the nation’s black bloggers and columnists were sounding off. Their justice was swift. Or not. Wayne’s song was released in February, but Mountain Dew did not take notice and drop him until May.

Still Mountain Dew’s action, coupled with Reebok’s latest decision to sever ties with hip-hop artist Rick Ross because of his own offensive lyrics, could be indicative of the growing power of public opinion when married with social media. Perhaps if enough people stand up, in the form of blogs and twitter posts, these kinds of insensitive lyrics will no longer percolate the airwaves.

“Artists now are going to be more careful about what they say,” said hip-hop artist Jasiri X. “They were so used to saying the most outlandish and ridiculous stuff.”

This certainly wasn’t the first time Wayne recorded offensive lyrics, but it was perhaps the first time the lyrics gained national attention.

“I think it shows the power we have as a community,” said Jasiri. “I think it’s a power we’ve always had. We complain, but we don’t really organize. My only concern or critique is what we need to do is offer an alternative.”

He hopes that alternative will be more Americans turning to more conscious rappers, who promote more positive images of African-Americans. However, some believe that it’s actually the minds of the White CEOs in the music industry that need to be changed because they control which hip-hop artists are pushed in the mainstream.

In an effort to hold them accountable, one group, the Internet collective FAAN Mail, which stands for Fostering Activism and Alternatives Now, sent a letter to Universal Music Group. The letter was in response to the “Birthday Song” music video by rapper 2 Chainz in which he raps “All I want for my birthday is a big booty ho.” FAAN Mail argues that such lyrics and imagery carry on the rap tradition of objectifying women.
“It’s really about representations of black people that these older white CEOs are comfortable with,” said Jasiri. “At the end of the day, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross are really intelligent. Neither of them are really street guys, they’re playing a character for these white CEOs to make money so that’s really who we have to challenge.”

However, the question remains if so many people find Lil Wayne’s lyrics so abhorrent, why did he surpass Elvis Pressley last year as the leading male with the most entries on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart?

Does Black America really care if his lyrics are insensitive or offensive? Tell us what you think. Write us at editor@thecharlottepost.com.


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