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Another week, another rapper apology. Lil Wayne finally apologized to Emmet Till’s family for doing what rappers do. But let me stop myself. If you’ve paid attention to previous posts you know how much disdain I have for the lyric police and these trumped up scandals over rapper verses. But let me address one thing that concerns me much more. The authorship of said apology. Because if Lil Wayne wrote this apology it’s the best verse he’s dropped since The Carter II.
Dear Till Family:
As a recording artist, I have always been interested in word play. My lyrics often reference people, places and events in my music, as well as the music that I create for or alongside other artists.
It has come to my attention that lyrics from my contribution to a fellow artist’s song has deeply offended your family. As a father myself, I cannot imagine the pain that your family has had to endure. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge your hurt, as well as the letter you sent to me via your attorneys.
Moving forward, I will not use or reference Emmett Till or the Till family in my music, especially in an inappropriate manner. I fully support Epic Record’s decision to take down the unauthorized version of the song and to not include the reference in the version that went to retail. I will not be performing the lyrics that contain that reference live and have removed them from my catalogue.
I have tremendous respect for those who paved the way for the liberty and opportunities that African-Americans currently enjoy. As a business owner who employs several African-American employees and gives philanthropically to organizations that help youth to pursue their dreams my ultimate intention is to uplift rather than degrade our community.
Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr.
Anyone who’s seen HBO’s Entourage knows that PR agencies are supposed to save their clients from themselves. But then again Entourage took place before Twitter was TWITTER. And Hip-Hop artists are far from typical celebrities. Rappers more than any other profession other than politicians and reality TV stars (which they sometimes becomes) sell people exaggerated versions of themselves. To put it short hip –hop fans expect more truth from our artists not less. Even if that truth is based on ignorance. We sanction foolishness every day. By letting the politically correct cleansed world of Hollywood image consultants, record label marketing departments, corporate sponsorships, and outraged people who don’t even listen to the music control the discussion we compromise what makes hip-hop important.
All emcees have their detractors. I’m not particularly fond of that Lil Wayne verse and yes I did think the line was crude. And maybe a simple “I’m sorry for disrespecting Emmet Till” would have been cool. So a PR firm writes the apology that Emmet Till’s family had been clamoring for? And what was accomplished exactly? Now there are sacred cows in hip-hop. What used to be no holds barred, take it or leave it, I am what I am, I say what I want, the last frontier for unsanitized, unsynthesized, unhomogenized talk in American Pop Culture has been destroyed within the space of a month. Hip-Hop went from 1970’s Time Square to the Walt Disney Corporation Presents Time Square that fast.
[ALSO READ: Emmett Till’s Family Rejects Lil Wayne’s “Apology”]
And I understand that the bigger the paychecks get the more people pay attention. But this utter and total defeat still saddens me. Lil Wayne is no free speech Martyr and SHOULD he have said that line, no I concede he probably shouldn’t. Hip-hop history is littered with lines, verses, hell even whole albums worth of songs that shouldn’t have been made. But everybody did what they were “supposed” to do hip-hop wouldn’t exist in the first place.
The ironic thing about this all is that the civil rights movement didn’t completely succeed, certainly not in the part of the world that Lil Wayne comes from. His crude line on the Karate Chop remix is frozen in time. No matter how well ghost written this apology was it doesn’t change the fact that he was searching for a “clever” metaphor that could be used to illustrated just how forcefully he invaded a groupie’s lady parts and he chose to call back an image of the brutal horrors of the murder of an innocent teen during the height of the civil rights struggle. And that was wrong. And that’s where the story ends for me.
It’s a peculiar thing the apology. Ultimately a meaningless gesture. Either what’s been done can be undone or it can’t. In the case of harmful words they can not be undone. What an apology does for the person being apologized to is the greatest magic of all. You have to grapple with the irrational belief that this person has actually had a change of heart. You have to believe that this person not only acknowledges that he or she is wrong but they care about how their wrongness affected you. Because if you don’t accept that belief and you DEMANDED an apology and actually received it than what was all your bleating about in the first place?
Yet Emmett Till’s family rejected Lil Wayne’s PR staff’s beautifully written apology. Why? Because the whole time this controversy has been about finger-wagging and self-righteousness. No expression of remorse whether genuine or a piece of PR fluff will ever be enough to satisfy the naysayers and the lyric police. I don’t know anything about Emmett Till’s family and their tireless campaign for civil rights because …..well have they been campaigning tirelessly for civil rights? Just a question, I haven’t googled or wikipedia’d any of them so honestly I don’t know. Their status as the family of a civil rights icon has given them a megaphone to speak out about the most pressing issues facing the black community… Lil Wayne’s lyrics.
At the end of the day I think Lil Wayne probably should apologize for a lot of things. The reckless impregnation of D-list black celebrities, his last two albums, helping to popularize wanton drug abuse. But hip-hop fans would never ask that of him. I don’t think we should. I don’t think the civil rights movement should be a sacred cow. Hell if it had succeeded Hip-Hop might not exist. The conditions that produced Lil Wayne might not exist. And that disrespectful verse might not exist. Oh well I guess God Forgives, Emmett Till’s Family Don’t.
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