Young people, let me give you a prime example as to why you should PAY ATTENTION to the rap lyrics you listen to and repeat out loud. Around this time last year, rapper, Lil Wayne, came under fire for his featured verse in a remixed version of Future’s “Karate Chop,” in which one of the lines went as this: “beat that pussy up like Emmett Till.” Now this wasn’t the first time Emmett Till was referenced in a rap lyric, and it probably won’t be the last. Rick Ross, Kanye West, even newcomer, Kendrick Lamar have all abused the tragic story of Emmett Till for a quick rhyme.
(If you can stomach Future’s overly autotuned, brain cell killing, broken up speech of a verse, you are super human. For those who can’t, the lyric in question occurs at 3:14.)
When I was younger I was guilty of listening to songs without truly listening to them. I either liked the artist’s singing voice, or I thought the beat was hot, which is the excuse many kids give for listening to less than mediocre rappers. However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve made it my mission to know what these artists are saying because the meaning behind a song can sometimes affect a person’s response to it. While it is said that song lyrics, like lines of poetry, can be up for interpretation, whether positive or negative, there is nothing positive about this:
That is a picture of Emmett Till at his open casket funeral in Chicago. While visiting Mississippi 1955, this poor 14-year-old child was kidnapped, brutally beaten, taken to the edge of the Tallahatchie River, shot in the head, had a large metal fan used for ginning cotton fastened to his neck with barbed wire, and pushed into the river by white men, J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant, all because he allegedly whistled at a white woman.
For the longest time, white woman were thought to be docile and weak, and they needed the protection of their white men. On the contrary, black men were viscous brutes who lusted after white women. However, when I read this story, the only brutes I saw were the two white men who murdered an innocent child. This is a classic example of white supremacist thought in the South back then. Lynching was rampant, especially if it was suspected that the victim was a white woman and the perpetrator, a black man. Idiot criminals like Milam and Bryant could get away with their heinous crimes against blacks because they were white and had the law on their side.
When you know the true story behind the name, Emmett Till, it’s hard to accept anything that demeans it, whether intentional or unintentional. Lil Wayne did send a letter of apology to the Till family. Epic Records also apologized and removed the lyric from the song. Although apologies are good, I sometimes feel that if someone were truly sorry, they would not have done the offensive deed in the first place.
This Black History Month, I want you all to KNOW your history, both the memorable and the painful. Give it the respect it deserves.