Emmett Till's Family Reacts to Lil Wayne Controversial Lyric

By CHRIS TALBOTT
AP Music Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn.
A cousin of the late Emmett Till wonders if Lil Wayne understands just how damaging it was when he rapped a vulgar reference to the black U.S. teen whose death in 1955 became a significant moment in the civil rights movement.

Airickca Gordon-Taylor says Till’s family would like an apology from Lil Wayne for the brief but disturbing lyric on Future’s “Karate Chop” remix. But more than that, she’d like the platinum-selling New Orleans rapper to understand how his comparison of a sex act to the 14-year-old Chicago native’s torture death in Mississippi is hurtful to the black community.

The Future remix with Weezy guesting was leaked on the internet over the weekend. 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.

The rapper made a crude reference to rough sex and used an obscenity. He indicated he wanted to do as much damage as had been done to Till.

Gordon-Taylor says Epic Chairman and CEO LA Reid personally reached out to her on a conference call Wednesday evening that included the Rev. Jesse Jackson to explain and apologize. Jackson said in a phone interview Thursday that Reid said on the call that Future and Lil Wayne were cooperative.

Weezy has made no comment, nor has he addressed the issue on his Twitter account. Gordon-Taylor says there’s been no attempt to apologize so far.

Till was in Mississippi visiting family when he was killed for flirting with a white woman. He was beaten, had his eyes gouged out and was shot in the head before his assailants tied a cotton gin fan to his body with barbed wire and tossed his body into the Tallahatchie River. Two white men, including the woman’s husband, were acquitted of the killing by an all-white jury.

Till’s body was recovered and returned to Chicago where his mother, Mamie Till, insisted on having an open casket at his funeral. The pictures of his battered body helped push civil rights into the cultural conversation in the U.S. Bob Dylan even wrote a song about it: “The Death of Emmett Till.”

Gordon-Taylor, founding director of the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation, said Lil Wayne’s lyric was devastating to her family. Simeon Wright, Till’s cousin who shared a bed with his relative the night he was taken by the killers, heard the lyric for the first time Wednesday night.

Both Gordon-Taylor and Jackson believe the 30-year-old rapper could help with that problem if he chose. Jackson says he’s met Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Carter, before and that he “respects his art.”

Jackson says the issue of a negative portrayal of the black community comes up from time to time, citing The Rolling Stones’ “Some Girls,” for instance: “We just felt they could make their point without grossly insulting people.”

Music also has the power to uplift, he noted. Harry Belafonte opened eyes to conditions in Africa and the Caribbean, for instance. Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” helped Americans see the war in Vietnam in a new light. And Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” helped clear the way for a national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Online:

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