NASHVILLE — Epic Records says it is making “great efforts” to take down a new Future remix with a vulgar Lil Wayne lyric that has offended the family of a black U.S. teenager whose murder in the 1950s for whistling at a white woman helped to change the national conversation on race.
In a version of the song leaked over the weekend, the rapper makes a sexual reference to the beating death of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago boy tortured and shot in Mississippi in 1955. Till’s family objected, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson contacted Lil Wayne’s management, The Blueprint Group, on the family’s behalf.
The label issued a statement Wednesday night apologizing for the release of the song.
“We regret the unauthorized remix version of Future’s ‘Karate Chop,’ which was leaked online and contained hurtful lyrics,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the legacy of Emmett Till and his family and the support of the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. … we are going through great efforts to take down the unauthorized version.”
Epic will release an official version of the song that “will not include such references.”
A publicist said Lil Wayne had no comment.
He appears briefly on the song, alluding to the black teenager’s beating in a way too vulgar to print.
Till was in Mississippi visiting family when he was killed. He was beaten, his eyes were gouged out and he was shot in the head before his body was tossed into a 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. Pictures of his battered body helped push civil rights into the cultural conversation in the U.S.
A cousin of Till’s wondered if Lil Wayne understands just how damaging the lyric was.
Airickca Gordon-Taylor said Till’s family would like an apology from Lil Wayne. 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.
“It was a heinous murder,” Gordon-Taylor said in a phone interview Thursday from Chicago. “He was brutally beaten and tortured, and he was shot, wrapped in barbed wire and tossed in the Tallahatchie River. 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.”
“Once he got the point he realized this was beyond the zone and he immediately pulled it,” Jackson said. “And he talked with both artists, who agreed.”
Gordon-Taylor said 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.
Bob Dylan wrote a song about Till: “The Death of Emmett Till.”
A Facebook posting on the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation page Wednesday night said Epic Records Chairman and CEO LA Reid had contacted the family to personally apologize.