A few days ago, a remix of Autotuned warbler Future's "Karate Chop" made its way onto the Internet. Metaphorical extraordinaire Lil Wayne guests on the track and in his own Autotuned warble, delivers the line, "Beat that pussy up like Emmett Till."
Emmett Till was the victim of a disgustingly racist, disgustingly brutal murder in 1955 — after supposedly flirting with a white woman, the 14-year-old African American was hunted down by her husband and that guy's half brother, who did monstrous things to him including gouging out one of his eyes, shooting him, attaching a cotton gin fan to his body and tossing him in the Tallahatchie River. They were acquitted and then admitted murdering him later in a magazine interview. The event helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement; a picture of Till's retrieved corpse is about as iconic as something that is virtually impossible to look at can be.
People were appalled by Weezy's hyperbolic similie, which is described by the AP this way: "Following a crude reference to rough sex, Lil Wayne indicates that he wanted to do as much damage as had been done to Till." Yeah, not exactly, but OK. He just means he's trying to fuck really hard.
Till's cousin/the family spokesperson Airickca Gordon-Taylor articulates the offensiveness better:
The images that we're fortunate to have (of his open casket) that Jet published, they demonstrate the ugliness of racism. So to compare a woman's anatomy - the gateway of life - to the ugly face of death, it just destroyed me. And then I had to call the elders in my family and explain to them before they heard it from some another source.
Jesse Jackson tweeted that he reached out to the boss of Future's label, L.A. Reid, "and we had the comment removed." From there, Epic vowed to remove the lyric from the song's official release:
Epic Records said Wednesday it regretted the unauthorized remix version and that it was employing "great efforts" to pull it down. The brief reference - just seven words - will be stricken from the song when it's officially released later.
Till is something of a go-to reference in music — Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris have devoted full songs to his story, but he's also frequently name-dropped in hip-hop with varying degrees of respect. Wayne's is the most graphic example and the phrase "beat that pussy up" has been riling people for years by itself (back in the day, there was a great music-crit debate over the Ying Yang Twins' "Wait (The Whisper Song)") for suggesting misogyny and sexual violence.
Wayne's a sharp lyricist, but striking two sensitive areas in seven words proved overwhelming. The uproar is unsurprising, but also somewhat self-defeating. It brought hurtful words people seek to suppress much more attention than they officially received. Also, Epic's promise seems like mostly lip service at this point — two days later, the "great efforts" have not yet included pulling it from YouTube, where multiple uploads of the remix have lived for days.
[Image via Getty]