To whom much is given, much is required. For years, celebrities have used the excuse that they are only entertainers when they have faced controversy over negative imagery in their work.
From the violence in hip-hop to overtly sexual images on television, many celebrities have shied away from responsibility and even shunned the notion that they are role models. Many believe that art only imitates life, but rappers Rick Ross and Lil Wayne are finding out that the negative aspects of life should not be glorified, as their music has been dropped from the rotation at Michigan’s WUVSIp 103.7 radio station.
It is time that all entertainers realize that with celebrity and freedom of speech comes responsibility. And while pushing the envelope might be the norm in Hollywood, pushing people too far can severely damage a career.
The aforementioned Michigan station decided to ban all music from the two rappers, because of Lil Wayne’s controversial reference to Emmet Till in the remix of Future’s song “Karate Chop” and Ross’ lyrics celebrating date rape in R.O.C.K.O.’s song “U.O.E.N.O.”
In “U.O.E.N.O.,” Ross raps, “Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it. I took her home and enjoyed that. She ain’t even know it.”
According to Foxnews.com, “Molly” is slang for the crystal form of the “date rape” drug MDMA, which distorts reality and lowers inhibitions.
Lil Wayne raps, “beat the p**** up like Emmet Till,” referencing the Chicago teenager who was brutally murdered by bigots in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a White woman. Those lyrics were immediately chastised by Till’s family and Stevie Wonder, which led to the verse being dropped from the remix of “Karate Chop” according to MTV.com.
Rappers have pushed the boundaries for years, despite the controversy that it brought. From profane language to violent content, many rappers believed they were just offering commentary on what they saw in urban America.
Songs that were once about love became songs about sexual conquests. Women became B’s and H’s and songs that used to offer solutions to social problems became songs that celebrated the gangster culture of many inner-city communities.
Many rappers are in a position in their career that others would love to be with millions of adoring fans, lots of money and lots of influence. And while many would rightfully say that it is not their place to raise other people’s children or change the world, they have to realize that they have been blessed with a platform that could possibly influence the world, so why not make that a positive influence.
According to a statement released by the Michigan radio station, “The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that over 300,000 women are raped or sexually assaulted per year in the United States alone. That is a disturbing number and should not be taken lightly. (Rick Ross’) lyrics not only condone the behavior, but he boasts about it in song. While some feel it’s only entertainment, many feel it sends and encourages the wrong message. Several individuals and organizations have taken a stand and so are we…We pride ourselves on playing music that is non-degrading and non-violent. While we believe in freedom of speech, creative writing and individualism, we refuse to be part of the problem by spreading messages that could harm or end someone’s life.”
In addition to the music ban, Reebok is facing enormous pressure from groups like the women’s rights website Ultraviolet to drop Ross as an endorser of their products, according to FoxNews.com.
What Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and other entertainers must realize is that they have every right to express themselves in any form or fashion of their choosing without government interference.
However, that does not mean privately owned radio stations, customers and record stores have to support their controversial material and that could severely hurt their financial success if it leads to fewer radio spins and fewer album sells.
The “controversial” songs from years past that are still celebrated today were songs that lifted up a community and a nation.
From the anti-Vietnam War anthem “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye to hip-hop’s socially-conscious anthem “The Message” from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, music has always provided commentary on the ills of the world.
However, the songs that are still revered decades later, are often not those that glorified those ills, but the songs that found a remedy to those ills.
Date rape and senseless violence are just some of the many problems plaguing society, so why not use the platform that you have been blessed with to solve the problem, not celebrate the problem.