UPDATED: Lil Wayne's musical name-dropping of Civil Rights icon Emmett Till landed him in the middle of a Chicago controversy Wednesday afternoon, one which drew in the Rev. Jesse Jackson to get it resolved.
Earlier this week, "Karate Chop," a new track by Atlanta rapper Future, began circulating online. The song features a third verse rapped by Lil Wayne (aka Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.), which begins:
Pop a lot of pain pills
'Bout to put rims on my skateboard wheels
Beat that p---y up like Emmett Till
Till was a 14-year-old Chicago boy who brutally murdered in 1955. Days after reportedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi, two men took Till into a barn, beat him savagely and shot him in the head before dumping his body in a river. Till's family insisted on an open casket at the funeral, and photographs of the boy's beaten, misshapen face helped to ignite the Civil Rights movement.
Airickca Gordon-Taylor, founding director of the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation, issued a statement Tuesday saying the song is "disappointing, dishonorable, and outright disrespectful to our family."
"My agenda is not to be disrespectful to Lil Wayne, even as much as I feel he's been disrespectful to my family. We just want Emmett's name removed from that song," Gordon-Taylor told the Sun-Times later Wednesday afternoon. "That entire segment is very misogynistic and promotes domestic abuse toward women by our own race.
"But it also shows total disregard of where you've come from. He wouldn't even be out there rapping these stupid lyrics without the sacrifice Emmett made. Personally, I think Lil Wayne should just go ahead and apologize to my family. It's hurtful."
Gordon-Taylor's foundation sought to reach out to Lil Wayne and contacted the Rev. Jackson for assistance Wednesday. She was asking for the song to be withdrawn for distribution unless Till's name is removed. The foundation's Facebook page yesterday posted a message encouraging followers to call Clear Channel Communications to voice their disapproval of the song being played on radio.
"Karate Chop" has circulated online but is not yet available for sale.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Gordon-Taylor got just what she wished.
The Sun-Times participated in a conference call between the Rev. Jackson and Antonio M. "L.A." Reid, president of Epic Records, the label handling Future's music, in which Reid confirmed that the version of "Karate Chop" currently online had been leaked without authorization.
"This is not the official version," Reid said. "We understand the sensitivity of this."
Jackson added that the official recording "has removed those lyrics from that song."
This is not the first time Lil Wayne has dropped Till's name. In "Swizzy," from a 2007 mixtape, Lil Wayne also uses Till as a metaphor for violence, "Beating up your block / Yeah, I get my Emmett Till on." Even Chicago native Kanye West mentioned Till in "Through the Wire," on West's 2004 debut album: "On the plane, scared as hell that her guy look like Emmett Till."
"I'm pleased, and my family's pleased," Gordon-Taylor said Wednesday evening. "I expected people would see the wisdom of acting on this, I just didn't know how long it would take."
But she said she's learned something about the generational divide within the black community as a result.
"Reading the comments at different stories online in the hip-hop community, the only people opposed to our cries to remove Emmett Till's name are from young people," she said. "They don't understand the indignation of that statement and using Emmett Till's name like that. Many of them haven't been educated as to who Emmett Till is and the impact his murder had on black people. They have the attitude of, so what?"