For The Love: Lil Wayne Disrespects Emmett Till

“…Beat the p**** up, like Emmett Till”—Lil Wayne (w. Future), “Karate
Chop”, 2013.

Rapper Lil’ Wayne (Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr.) is embroiled in a controversy over lyrics referencing murder victim Emmett Till, whose death by lynching in 1955 served as a galvanizing agent for America’s civil rights activism.

The lyrics– specifically, a 16 bar verse– come from a remix that Wayne, 30, participated on with Epic/Sony recording artist Future, on the  single “Karate Chop”.

Despite the fact that the single was never officially released (it was apparently leaked via the Internet) the public criticism has been so
vehement that Epic Records responded by indicating that the company is taking “great efforts” to remove it from public access. Surviving members of the Till family have publicly demanded an apology.

At least one prominent musician has publicly taken issue with the lyrics.  “You can’t equate that to Emmett Till,” said Stevie Wonder. “You just cannot do that. … I think you got to have someone around you…  even if they are the same age or older — is wiser to say, ‘Yo, that’s not happening.”

In 1955, Till was a 14-year-old boy from Chicago visiting family in the Mississippi Delta when a chance encounter with a passing white woman eventually led to Till’s kidnapping from the family home a few days later.  He was eventually found dead, brutally beaten and his head misshapen.  Two men put on trial for the murder were acquitted, and—protected by double jeopardy—infamously admitted to their own guilt in a later interview.  In the years to follow, poems, songs, and an ongoing assortment of civil rights gatherings and demonstrations referenced Till as a martyr for the civil rights cause.

This is an ongoing problem in hip-hop and other urban-culture entertainment, where certain celebrities  seem to be oblivious to history, and fan culture seems to be more and more accepting of an anything-goes creative aesthetic, even if it seems to fly in the face of common sense and heretofore basic standards of respect.  When pushback occurs for anything offensive that is done or said, the party in question tends to claim a persecution complex, or that his “freedom of speech” trumps all, regardless of the inanity of what he is being scrutinized for.  Even certain personalities have come to think of themselves as “social activists” by virtue of their celebrity status– despite never participating in any sort of public demonstration or protest, phone call campaign, letter-writing campaign, local government meetings, or really anything that might have a genuine context reflective of an involved citizen.

Buying holiday turkeys, winter coats or even computers for a classroom doesn’t make somebody MLK or Malcolm X.  Being reckless in one’s travel habits and getting busted for possession-based gun and drug charges doesn’t make somebody H. Rap Brown or Huey Newton.  In 1955 Jim Crow-era New Orleans (where Wayne is from), he could have easily met the same fate as an Emmett Till, whether in his teen years or now at age 30.  Hip-hop’s younger generations have made ritual of giving props to “the homies that didn’t make it” via pouring liquor and wearing T-shirts emblazoned with photos of the recently deceased.  If Wayne, Future and others were really cognizant of giving honor to the dead, they would not be so casual in engaging in throwaway punchlines that mock those whose bloodshed helped clear the way for the relative freedoms that are enjoyed now.

This editorial originally ran as “Lil’ Wayne’s Lyrics Ignite Furor Over Emmett Till Reference”

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  • lil wayne looks crazy in this picture.

    • don king

      n in every other pic 2.

    • brotha_man

      you prob still let him smash though.

    • brotha_man

      negro do look extra crazy though

    • timwest1000

      His pic looks like he was saying ” Uhh, Emmit Till was murdered, really?”

  • n n

    Emitt till was murdered that should not even come out of his raggedyass mouth.stop buying his trash and young black men have to start manning the hell up.know your history.

    • brotha_man

      preach! emmitt till’s death helped show America its ugly face. No rapper should be using his name unless its for a positive cause

      • Bumpy Johnson

        rappers are pushing limits…its getting to a point i feel as black folks we should just ban rap…let it be dead fo real like 6 foot under.

  • R.E Dykes

    ok wow

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  • Vic Sage

    This is the idiot that this generation holds up on a pedestal that in and of itself tells the tale of this generation and why it’s so lost, sad,and hopeless and let’s not forget walking around with their pants damn near their ankles like jackasses..”

    • Bumpy Johnson

      with their draws out lil ediots….this is too far , now i actually hate this faggot ass bi!ch

  • Future is trash and Wayne is definately trash. I guess Future was dick riding 2 hard 2 ask Wezzy Wee 2 change his verse. I heard Future stole another nigga style and blew up when he was in prison. Real life Thugnifigance booty but cheeks ass niggaz.
    R.i.p. Emmett Till
    What a song to release in black history month.

  • Jared

    If I’m not mistaken, Kanye West used him in a lyric that could be viewed as similar as I remember it…I believe he referenced his face to Kanye’s face during his accident. Kanye was in an accident that he caused. Was that not disrectful?

    • Charismatic eNegro Jef Vinson

      No. He was saying his face was almost as fucked up as Emmit Till’s (and it was) Wayne is using it another way that disrespectful.

  • It’s only rap no big deal if anything he educated us on a part of history that some of us didn’t know about lil Wayne is intellectual and has a great vocabulary I respect that his metaphors inspire people to goggle and educate they selves on who emmit till was # knowledge is power

  • Freebe Jackson

    Why do people care what these high school drop out, uneducated, drug addict rappers say? Stop giving these weirdos credit and the things that come out of their mouth won’t be a shock or worth giving a f*ck about. If a person is mentally ill and say crazy things it holds no weight because we have already written the person off as mentally ill…We need to write these rappers off in the same capacity.

    • brotha_man

      cuz young minds are east to mold and the youth should know emmitt till’s story from reading books, not from lil wayne associating his name with rough sex.

      • Freebe Jackson

        nobody would know lil wayne said the dumb ass line if everybody didnt make a fuss about it…i wasnt checking for no song with him and future on it and i didnt hear the song on radio until everybody started making a fuss over it… its going to get over looked as disrespectful……its on radio now …they will edit that line and the song will be in rotation everyday for 2 months

  • J.R Smith & Wesson

    Somebody should ask him why he used his name…

    • timwest1000

      we know why, cuz it rhymed and he thought it was clever and cute. just stupid as hell.

      • Corey Mac

        Exactly. I remember when I was listening to that song, & heard that line I immediately thought to myself: “That was very distasteful”.

  • Kanye’s reference to Emmit Till was in good taste. He was referencing his looks after the accident and equating it to the condition in which young Emmit was found. It is actually a very clever use of imagery when you listen to it in its context.

    Wayne reference was in poor taste, who wants to “beat the p**** up, like Emmit Till?” That image that he is painting is one of bloody mangled vagina after sex with him. Can you see the difference?

  • restless

    disrespectful publicity stunt he should be ashamed he went from tie my hands to this??

  • just_some_bastard #ALCOHOLIC

    i just don’t even care. I’ve heard just as offensive lyrics and nobody cared.

  • Matt Swan

    If you can sit here and say you don’t care what he says, then you are more ignorant than Wayne. No one in YMCB seems to have a clue and think becuase they can put a few words that rhyme together they are rappers with a movement or something to say. None of them can hold a lyrical candle to an intelligent (usualy 35+yr old) rapper, but yet their music is the first to sell out. It’s not that they are dummies, it’s that the masses are for buying it. When was the last time you heard a decent rap from Baby…..I’ll wait. NOT NEVER!! We don’t need to go back to the Golden Age of hip hop, we need rappers that actually can rap, have something to say other then the usual BS they have never done, or throw money at every trick with a fake ass just so they can get laid. We need to tell Two Chainz to acknowledge that he DID go to college and get his degree and tell todays youth they can do the same rather than play ignorant when the quesion is posed. That is a good way to use his “celeb”status to move todays youth in a positive direction to get an education so when some of them are the next “IT” rappers, they won’t come out wth dumb ass “lyrical” comparisons like Mr. 55 baby mommas and counting Carter here. Lets move away from the crying, emo, dumb a** hell, have to get into trouble to stay relevant, unable to rap “rappers”, and move on. Booty clap, strip hop, and even Baby’s ignorant I’m a fake a** Blood, have a place, but in actual Hip Hop, they’re not welcome.

  • Damien the demon beats

    lil wayn shouldn’t talk about anyone’s aperince , it “aint” right .

  • Pierre Elliott


  • lil wayne need to be beaten untill his head is misshapened

    • Darren Myt Collins

      his head looks like its already misshapended

  • Falcon Seven

    weed and mollys got him trippin hard.

  • tnas

    we’ve seen worse,we’ve heard worse ..Wayne had no bad intentions ..this is music ( ART ) ..and that was just a word play , he didnt say he supports the Emmet Till incident

    • AziatizDougla

      Yea sure but if some white dude said the same thing you wont be defending his ass.

      We need to stop protecting bitch ass niggas when they do bullshit like this!!!!

  • Q.

    YMCMB = Young Misguided Coons, Minstrels & Buffoons

  • John Nashid

    Ignorant “Lil Negro”, disrespect for The Love of Money. The history of Black peoples suffering means nothing to the foolish.

  • ChinotheJet

    I’d expect this from a much younger rapper, or an up-and-comer trying to make some noise, but Wayne is old enough to know better. Waiting on a Mos Def response…

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  • solo0ne

    damn wayne is so ugly but money makes him whatever he wants to be

  • We love you dude and we know you did what you thought you had to do. Just got finishing listening to the song, Had to do what I had to do by recording artist Johnnie Newkirk Jr on iTunes and thought of this situation!

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  • lil wayne is trash sad thing is this generation’s “artists” have price tags on their asses and people glorify the selling out and exploitation of their community is this what our grandfathers and grandmothers aunts uncles FAMILY fought and dead for SHAME

  • This was a fantastic article

    I found it accidentally, but a very well constructed opinion on a matter that doesn’t get discussed enough.

  • Allahu Akbar

    lmao those Emmit Till Seizures got his ass

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  • Guest

    no one said anything to kanye for his emmitt till reference back in the day… “On the plane scared as hell that her guy look like Emmett Till” im just sayin…

  • Karissa

    It’s obvious that he has no type of respect for the dead.

  • Aset

    This is why black people are threat to NO ONE in our society today! Simply simon people like this will always keep the plight of self awareness at a bare minimal!

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