Rap music is no stranger to controversy. The music genre historically has always had key figures make national headlines with controversial statements or lyrics. Ice-T released a song called “Cop Killer,” shortly after the Rodney King Beatings in 1991. Ice-T’s song was so controversial, that Time Warner (the parent Company of Warner Bros. Records, Ice-T’s label) forced Warner Bros. to drop him and ban the release of the “Cop Killer” album.
An interesting point to Ice-T, is the fact that he is currently playing a police officer on a hit TV show, “Law & Order: SVU.” Rap group Public Enemy was accused of anti-Semitism when group member Professor Griff was caught in a public interview with the late journalist David Mills Griffin making numerous anti-Semitic statements such as “Jews are responsible for the majority of the wickedness in the world.” NWA was put on “notice” by the FBI when they released a song on their landmark debut album “Straight Outta Compton” titled “F—k The Police.” They were even sent a letter by Milt Ahlerich, assistant director of the FBI office of public affairs, to Los Angeles-based Priority records, which distributed records by N.W.A. Rap music has a history of being misogynistic as well. Rappers usually rap about their sexual conquests with woman, and are very often disrespectful. Woman’s rights groups for years have confronted this, and will not allow rappers to pull the “Freedom of Speech” card to rationalize rappers blatant disrespect for woman. One of the most successful rappers today has garnered a tremendous amount of negative press for his recent controversial lyrics, which have been interpreted as glorifying rape. A recent Rolling Stone article discusses how famed rapper ‘Rick Ross’ is attempting to apologize for these controversial lyrics.
Rick Ross, born William Leonard Roberts II in 1976 in Coahoma Mississippi, is one of the top music artists today. In 2012, MTV named him “The Hottest MC in the Game” (a coveted title that many artists would love to receive). He has a net worth of over $28 Million dollars. He is managed by no other than Diddy (aka Puffy Daddy, aka P. Diddy). Ross also runs a successful independent label called Maybach Records, which has a roster of other successful rappers (Wale, Meek Mill, and up coming sensation French Montana).
No stranger to controversy, Ross has consistently made headlines with questionable decisions and actions. In 2008, he was arrested for gun and marijuana possession. In August of 2008, Ross was sued by YouTube entertainer DJ Vlad for alleged assault and battery. On January 27th 2013, Ross and his girlfriend were targets of a drive-by shooting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Ross has had an ongoing feud with another successful rapper, 50-Cent. The “beef” is due to what Ross claims is how 50-Cent looked at him wrong at the 2009 BET Awards. In 2010, Ross was scheduled to perform at the Soul Train Awards, but left shortly prior to his performance. Insiders said it was because he lost the coveted “Best Hip-Hop Song of The Year” award to Eminem and Rhianna. Ross denies that losing the award was the reason he left prior to his scheduled performance.
Ross’s most recent news headlines stems not just from his high record sales (his most recent release “God Forgives, I Don’t” has sold almost 500,000 copies, with 218,000 copies in its first week), but also of a controversial line in a song by fellow rapper signed to his Maybach Music label, Rockie Fresh. Rockie Fresh, born Donald Bullen in 1991, released a song titled “U.O.E.N.O. (You Ain’t Even Know It)”, which features a verse by Rick Ross. Check out the song for yourself here:
Ross has come under fire by many people, including various women’s rights groups for a specific line in the song that has been interpreted as encouraging and glorifying rape. In the song “U.O.E.N.O.” Ross says, “Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.” Ross had made a public apology previously on New Orleans radio station Q93 for his controversial statement. Ross said, “It was a misunderstanding with a lyric, a misinterpretation where the term ‘rape’ wasn’t used. And I would never use the term ‘rape’ in my records.” He has come forward again to not only apologize, but to explain his intent with the lyrics. Ross had tweeted directly from his personal twitter account, “I don’t condone rape. Apologies for the lyric interpreted as rape.”
Unfortunately for Ross, the criticism for his lyrics has continued to mount. Fellow rapper Talib Kweli called Ross “a misguided 40-year person” during a segment on HuffPo Live. Kweli added by saying that “Rick Ross condoned rape in that song and he shouldn’t, and he should apologize, and the apology that he offered was unacceptable.” Talib Kweli also took to his personal twitter account to voice his feelings on being “underwhelmed” by Rick Ross’s apologies. Kweli tweeted, “Its clear from Ross’s apology that he doesn’t understand u don’t need to say ‘rape’ to condone rape . . . Ross needs love and education on this issue. He has a platform that can be used for good, especially if he takes responsibility here.”
Rick Ross might end up suffering a serious financial fallout from this. The controversy has begun to affect Ross’s endorsement deals. The women’s rights group UltraViolet planned a protest outside a local Reebok store in Manhattan on April 4th. They brought with them petitions with more than 71,000 signatures demanding that Reebok sever its ties with Rick Ross. UltrViolet’s co-founder Nita Chaudhary said Ross “is pushing the idea that if you don’t use the word ‘rape’ it doesn’t count. We are fed up and disgusted with Reebok.”
One of the major concerns with lyrics like this is the impact it has on the youth market. I know Rick Ross is not the only artists talking about drugging woman and sexual abusing them. I cannot say for certain what his true intentions were, but the effects of his and other musicians lyrics can be construed in an detrimental way. Just recently a group of adolescent boys were convicted of rape. They had drugged a young girl and filmed themselves sexual abusing her, among many other despicable acts that she suffered while she was unconscious due to being unknowingly drugged.
I understand freedom of speech and am a big proponent of it. I have been involved in music in one facet or another for most of my life. The beauty and attraction of making music is that musicians and lyricists can express themselves to a large population that can resonate with the message each artist is conveying through their music. But successful recording artists with a large impressionable fan base need to understand that they have a responsibility to influence their listeners to act positive. As the famous line in Spider-man comics says, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Once you become a successful musician, you are bestowed a large amount of success and influence over your fan base. This is essentially a considerable amount power over your audience. Musicians need to understand that there comes a responsibility with this success. I don’t think having a responsibility to act positive is too much to pay, considering all the other riches and luxuries they receive. Maybe they should look at as a way of giving back to their fans and community, for all they support and success they have given the artist.
If you want to have your voice be heard, here is the online petition to have Reebok drop Rick Ross.