When Rappers Go Over The Line… The Emmett Till Line

Emmett Till

Lil’ Wayne, Mr. ‘Please Say Da Baby,’ is at the epicenter of another war of words. Only this time, the rapper isn’t feuding with another MC or taunting NBA players. His latest target is actually a child; a dead one at that who came to be one of the defining faces of the civil rights struggle: Emmett Till.

“Beat that p*ssy up like Emmett Till.”

Weezy, who drops the word “pussy” in almost every other song, tried to prove his manhood once again by invoking the slain 14 year-old who was tortured and murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman in 1955. His bloated body was found in the waters and then put on display by his courageous mother, Mamie Till Bradley, who wanted the world to see what had been done to her boy. For some, history is only reserved for books on the shelf, but pictures don’t lie. The image of Emmett Till lying in his coffin, the toll of death visible even from the faraway eye, is a searing one pierced not only in the annals of time but Google has left no room for ignorance. You can’t see Emmett’s decomposed body and make a comparison to sexual bliss given the circumstances of his murder. Not everything is fair use in the name of “art” or whatever Wayne passes his music as.

Epic Records delivered a mea culpa for the offensive lyric in Future’s “Karate Chop (Remix).” Future has gone on the record declaring that there was no ill will attached to the Till reference but how could anyone of good conscience who was in the room at the time of the recording not think the lyric didn’t cross a red line? It shouldn’t have taken a public relations uprising to make the label regret the decision to OK the words even being spoken into existence.

Currency is now King in this day and age. Malignant words that devalue the history of African-Americans are par for the course and dominate the charts. Weezy is no different from his counterparts Kanye West and Jay Z who have made “Niggas” even more fashionable since their Grammy winning tune ‘Niggas in Paris” struck gold at the box office. Those who dissented were drowned out by the cheers in favor of the anthem but the disregard for Emmett Till’s life and memory reinforced that there are still some acts that violate our conscience as a whole. Provocateurs continually push, but when we push back as a whole without division, our unity helps to honor those who made it possible for Wayne to even exercise his right to speech.

Wayne hasn’t spoken about the uproar his line caused. He has since moved on to throwing jabs at Miami Heat players Lebron James and Chris Bosh. At least they’re still alive to defend themselves, but the unison of so many speaking as one on behalf of Emmett Till showed that violations of conscience is not just a relic of the past. There used to be a time when the Black community marched and protested for the basic tenets of life: respect and equality. These days, the threshold of common decency is stretched more than a rubber band, but when we stand up to be heard, we are.


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