Months after Lil Wayne created a firestorm for lyrics that name-dropped slain civil rights figure Emmett Till along with a vulgar sexual reference, the rapper has formally apologized to Till’s family.
In a letter sent to the Till family, which they released to the public Wednesday, the Young Money leader atoned for the controversial line taken from a remix of the hit "Karate Chop" by Atlanta rapper Future that was released earlier this year.
“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,” he wrote. “I would like to take a moment to acknowledge your hurt, as well as the letter you sent to me via your attorneys.”
Although the lyrics are unprintable, the line in question saw him compare his sexual prowess to the 1955 assault of Till -- a 14-year-old African American who was tortured and killed after reportedly whistling at a white woman during a family visit in Mississippi. It put a spotlight on civil rights issues when Till’s mother insisted on an open-casket funeral service to show the public the condition his body had been left in.
Epic Records Chairman Antonio “L.A.” Reid apologized to Till’s family and had the reference removed (Future is signed to Epic). But that was in February, and Wayne continued to remain silent, despite demands from the Till family for him to make a public apology. Now that the rapper has rebounded from a March hospitalization for multiple seizures (he reportedly went back to Cedars-Sinai on Tuesday night for another seizure).
In his letter, Wayne wrote that he not only supported Reid’s decision but also vowed that he would “not be performing the lyrics that contain that reference live and have removed them from my catalogue.”
Wayne isn’t the only rapper to be in the hot seat this year over offensive lyrics. Rick Ross faced a backlash over lyrics that seemingly promoted date rape. He offered a casual apology, but women’s rights groups put pressure on Reebok to drop the rapper as a spokesman. The athletic company eventually severed ties and Ross issued a lengthy atonement.
Although we won’t link the verse (it’s still easy to find out there), Wanye’s letter can be read in full below:
Dear Till Family:
As a recording artist, I have always been interested in word play. My lyrics often reference people, places and events in my music, as well as the music that I create for or alongside other artists.
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.
Moving forward, I will not use or reference Emmett Till or the Till family in my music, especially in an inappropriate manner. I fully support Epic Record’s decision to take down the unauthorized version of the song and to not include the reference in the version that went to retail. I will not be performing the lyrics that contain that reference live and have removed them from my catalogue.
I have tremendous respect for those who paved the way for the liberty and opportunities that African-Americans currently enjoy. As a business owner who employs several African-American employees and gives philanthropically to organizations that help youth to pursue their dreams my ultimate intention is to uplift rather than degrade our community.
Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr.