“What Is A Lil Wayne?”
I’ve been very angry very frequently of late. I reason that the frustration of the job hunt and effects of being unemployed are getting the better of me. Or, maybe it’s because as a native Caribbean girl who loves sunshine, the wintry weather of New York – even after almost a decade of living here for – chills my spirit. Or, perhaps, it’s the fact that I remain a patriotic daughter of the soil even though I’ve been so far away for so long from my homeland Barbados and I’m far from impressed by the candidates its two major political parties are contesting in general elections on Thursday, Feb. 21. I’ve been closely monitoring the election campaign and based on their childish banter, rehashed and unrealistic promises, and flawed manifestos, I find it hard to believe that most of these politicians are serious about leading the country toward a better Barbados. I weep for my island.
A few of my friends have concluded that my stress build-up is tied to my vow of celibacy, “You need to get some,” they’ve humored. I counter by saying in time I’ll fulfill my best-laid plans. Constantly being on edge is against what I’ve always strived to be and what people have come to know about me – that I’m usually “cool under fire”. Even in the midst my most turbulent trials, I’ve remained hopeful and maintained my sense of humor. As often as I’ve been angry recently, I’ve welcomed every opportunity for a laugh. One can therefore imagine that with this combination of agitation and a thirst for laughs, I was in no way amused when I read this past week about Lil Wayne rapping disrespectfully about Emmett Till.
Lil Wayne must have been high on some trees to think that it was cool to rap: “Bout to put rims on my skateboard wheel/ Beat that p—y up like Emmett Till.” The despicable lyrics were featured on a remix to Future’s “Karate Chop” that was apparently leaked. Rightfully so, the Internet lit up with responses by thousands who were both shocked and disgusted by the vulgar verse. Relatives of the brutally murdered teenage Till called on Weezy to apologize. Till’s cousin, Airickca Gordon-Taylor told the New York Daily News in a telephone interview: “It was a heinous murder. He was brutally beaten and tortured, and he was shot, wrapped in barbed wire and tossed in the Tallahatchie River. The images that we’re fortunate to have (of his open casket) that ‘Jet’ published, they demonstrate the ugliness of racism.” She added, “So to compare a woman’s anatomy – the gateway of life – to the ugly face of death, it just destroyed me. . .”
Lil Wayne has yet to apologize. Future has, however, pulled the line from the song and told MTV here that his fellow rapper “had no bad intentions.” That’s not good enough. Lil Wayne’s actions have done more than insult the memory of Till, he has shown that he has no respect or appreciation for all those who fought and might I dare say continue to fight to rid our society of such heinous crimes, to help combat racism. Till’s torturous death in Mississippi in 1955 was instrumental in changing the national conversation on race.
As a scholar of black history, I first heard the Emmett Till story in my teenage student days back in Barbados. Ten years later when I returned to “school” in New York to pursue a second degree, I revisited the tragedy in my Black Theater class at CUNY City College. I watched the documentary with my colleagues and was so overcome with pain and anger, it was as if I were hearing the story for the first time. As the camera zoomed in on Till’s mutilated body lying in that casket – the one his mother said would be an “open casket” for “the world to see what they did to my baby” – there was not a dry eye in that classroom. Then as if the message could escape us, our professor Eugene Nesmith included on the syllabus, “Blues For Mr. Charlie” – a James Baldwin play loosely based on Till’s story and dedicated to late Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers and the black children killed during the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Yes, Till’s story resonates strongly with me. I cannot fathom that Lil Wayne could know and understand this history and spit such racy lyrics comparing Till’s horrific death to a woman’s anatomy, to sex.
As if Lil Wayne hadn’t already pissed me off like if I had been re-watching the movie “Rosewood”, I read yesterday that during All Star weekend at an “LIV on Sunday” at Stereo Live in Houston, Texas, he ranted: “F*** NBA! F*** Lebron! F*** SheWade! F*** Chris Bosh! And I f***ed Chris Bosh wife!” Madamenoire reports here that he claims that the Miami Heat had him banned from attending the All Star game and during his rant he also incited the crowd: “When I say fawk, ya’ll say NBA.” Is this what hip hop has become?
A May 2012 article reports that rap and hip hop have been declining in sales. After being ranked third on the global sales charts in 2000, they were ranked seventh on the charts in 2009. The article states: “Between 2000 and 2009, rap and hip hop retail sales decreased by 48.3 percent; more than any other music tracked. Combined, rap and hip hop started out selling $2.5 billion worldwide, but by 2009, their sales dropped to $1.3 billion, a 48 percent decrease in sales.” Despite these figures, Forbes reported last summer that hip hop continues to make moguls of out men. Of The Forbes Five: Hip-Hop’s Wealthiest Artists 2012, Bad Boy Records owner P. Diddy is the closest to becoming a billionaire, with a net worth of $550 million. He’s followed by Jay-Z with $460 million; Dr. Dre third with $270 million; ranking fourth is Birdman with a fortune of $125 million; and fifth is Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson at $110 million.
Lil Wayne, real name Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. a.k.a. Mr. Carter, Weezy or Weezy F. Baby is not far behind and one might say he has earned the title of hip hop mogul. Now 30, he started his career at just 15 years old and despite being perennially controversial, the New Orleans native has clearly proven there’s a demand for his artistic “talent”. He’s president of Cash Money Records and founded Young Money Entertainment (an imprint of Cash Money); he has platinum and double platinum albums; numerous music awards including 10 BET, four Billboard and four Grammy’s. In addition these accomplishments and an obvious massive fan base, Lil Wayne’s reach includes 10 million Twitter followers. He undisputably has influence over a huge percentage of our population and beyond. Like it or not, he is a staple of American music.
For all the aforementioned factors, as idealistic as I might come across, Lil Wayne ought to use his influence, his music for good. He should be utilizing his talents to raise the consciousness of a young generation who, if they first hear about Emmett Till through his music, they get the lesson wrought through that tragedy. Lil Wayne should be using his verses to help affect positive changes in the said hip hop industry, which could do with less smut and more edifying messages. He should be using his “power” for the betterment of society, especially the black society that arguably has not conquered many of the issues hard fought during the time of Emmett Till.
If Lil Wayne does not man up and apologize to the Till family and thereafter clean up his lyrics and his image, for all the money he has, for all his net worth of $95 million, he really isn’t worth sh*t!
~ I Keep it Irie ~