Community outrage leads to removal of Emmett Till lyrics from Lil Wayne/Future song




by Dr. Boyce Watkins

(–Quick note from Dr. Boyce:  Thank you to you who’ve supported our efforts to confront Universal Records and the horrible song they were planning to release disrespecting Emmett Till. 

I spoke with Rev. Jesse Jackson yesterday, Bishop Tavis Grant, and the spokesperson for the Till family about the issue, and there is good news to report:

1) LA Reid, who represents the artist Future (on the song with Lil Wayne), agreed to take the lyrics out of the song.

2) Clear Channel has agreed not to play the song – I’m not sure if this is a nationwide agreement or just in Chicago, I’ll ask Rev. Jackson when we speak over the weekend.

There is still more to be done – Rev. Jackson makes the accurate point that a) the artist Lil Wayne should acknowledge that some of the music that he releases is harmful to his people:  Promoting a lifestyle of excessive drug/alcohol consumption, gun violence, s*xual irresponsibility and disrespect for women is disruptive to the psyches of young children who grow up hearing this message on the radio every single day (any good psychologist will tell you this).

b) Universal Records should sit down for a meeting with those who care about the issue (I have made myself available for such a meeting, but I’d be satisfied if they met with Rainbow Push and the Till family) to talk about long-term, systematic changes that need to be made to the artistic business model. I swear that the next time I write about some brother who’s done horrible things to other Black people because he’s “thugged out” like some rapper on the radio, I’m going to lose my mind.

To help you understand why I am so adamant about the impact that music has on the minds of children, I’ll kick in some of what I learned from studying Marketing.  When Nike puts a pair of sneakers on LeBron James and pays him $10 million dollars to do it, LeBron doesn’t have to say, “Go buy Nikes.” People purchase the shoe because LeBron markets a lifestyle that includes wearing Nike sneakers. The model is proven to work, which is why Nike pays him millions of dollars.

The same is true for hip-hop. When artists repeatedly say, “I smoke weed everyday,” “I’ll shoot that n*gga in the face,” or “b*ches ain’t sh*t,” they don’t have to say, “Please go shoot another Black man and please smoke weed before you do it.” The lifestyle is being marketed solely because a popular celebrity is professing it to be his own. That’s no different from LeBron James saying, “I wear my Nike sneakers whenever I play.”

The impact of commercialized hip-hop is even greater than that of a Nike commercial, because hip-hop demands a type of authenticity that is not necessary to market a corporate product – for example, when Lil Wayne says he’s a member of the Bloods street gang, he can’t just say, “Oh, I was just pretending” (he would die for this kind of lie). But if it’s found out that LeBron actually wears Adidas instead of Nike, this wouldn’t get him killed.

We’ve got to be intelligent about how this music is affecting our kids.  As the recent death of Hadiya Pendleton showed us, this is NOT a game.  With all due respect to the extraordinary creative genius possessed by artists like Lil Wayne, I think it’s critical that we begin to educate them on ways in which their powerful words so easily sway the minds of young black children.  You shouldn’t be using your platforms to destroy the people who love you.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the lecture series, “Greatness is not an option: Why we must teach our children to fly.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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