Mountain Dew Is Having a Bad Week at the Intersection of Race and Rap

Hiring "controversial" rappers to be your brand ambassadors can be a blessing and a curse. Mountain Dew, the extreme corn-syrup beverage, is learning a peculiar fact about these spokespeople: They tend to generate controversy.

Their personal brand profiles, which make them so exciting and relevant to the kids, tend to offend non-kids, often in ways fraught with racial tension and unproductive for the reputation of your product.

So after giving Tyler, the Creator—the rowdy and enthusiastically offensive frontman of Odd Future—the opportunity to create commercials, Mountain Dew has been forced to pull one of the resulting ads and apologize. In the clip (below), a battered and fearful white woman is trying to pick her assailant out of a police lineup of five black men and one goat. The joke is that the goat appears to be the actual guilty party, but enough people found the humor lacking that Mountain Dew decided to kill the spot, saying "it understood how the ad could be offensive," according to the Associated Press.

Unfortunately, the cowering white woman vs. black men and goat was only half of Mountain Dew's image-management problems today. Its recently hospitalized spokesperson Lil Wayne issued an apology for the verse he'd contributed in February to the Future song "Karate Chop (Remix)," in which he said that he would "beat the pussy up like Emmett Till."

Till, of course, was the 14-year-old boy tortured and killed by white supremacists in Mississippi in 1955. Equating his treatment to rough sex managed to be offensive in both directions, and Till's surviving relatives, through their attorneys, had pressed for Mountain Dew to drop Wayne's endorsement deal.

"As a father myself, I cannot imagine the pain that your family has had to endure," Wayne wrote in a statement. "Moving forward, I will not use or reference Emmett Till or the Till family in my music, especially in an inappropriate manner."

There's no word yet on whether Wayne's mea culpa will be too little too late for Mountain Dew, but these incidents, not to mention Rick Ross' recent date-rape dustup at Reebok, will no doubt be on the minds of corporations considering hiring rappers in the future. Sometimes when you hire performers who give the middle finger to authority and political niceties, you get performers who give the middle finger to authority and political niceties.

Update: Odd Future's manager, Christian Clancey, has released a statement via Tumblr to respond to the Mountain Dew commercial drama. An excerpt is below:

It was never Tyler's intention to offend however, offense is personal and valid to anyone who is offended. Out of respect to those that were offended and the ad was taken down. For those who know and respect Tyler he is known for pushing boundaries and challenging stereotypes thru humor. This is someone who grew up on David Chappelle. This situation is layered with context and is a discussion that Tyler would love to address in the right forum as he does have a point of view. As someone who hasn’t had the experience of being discriminated against I choose to respect the opinion of those who have... what I can speak to is Tyler who represents much more than the current narrative this story suggests. Contrary to what many may discern from this Tyler is the embodiment of not judging others, his delivery may not be for everyone (which is true for anyone who pushes boundaries) but his voice is nonetheless important to the conversation since his demographic understands what he ultimately stands for and sees the irony of it all.