Hip-hop began in the 1970s as a cultural force that showcased the political, revolutionary and militant voice of Black America. Initially, it was created by Black people for Black people as a way of expressing the plight and promises within our community.
But to make hip-hop popular among wider audiences, the modus operandi shifted, creating a chasm between artists and the cultural implications that once informed rap. Over time, it appears some artists have progressively moved their fingers off the pulse of our history, and in the process disrespected the men and women who paved the way for their success.
Here are five examples of celebrities who lost touch.
Rap star Lil Wayne set a firestorm of controversy in 2013 when he collaborated on a remix of rapper Future’s “Karate Chop.” In his verse, Wayne spewed a lyric that referenced the brutal 1955 murder of civil rights martyr Emmett Till. The Till family members responded by releasing an open letter to Wayne in which they voiced their disappointment and concern for the irresponsible use of his public platform.
The beginning of the letter read:
“The words we speak are powerful enough for preservation of life, but also have the capacity to destroy it. When you spit lyrics like “Beat that p**** up like Emmett Till,” not only are you destroying the preservation and legacy of Emmett Till’s memory and name, but the impact of his murder in black history along with degradation of women.”
Wayne responded with an open letter “acknowledging” the family’s hurt and supporting Epic Records’ decision to pull the song from the airwaves. He wrote:
“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.”