“I’m not slowing or softening,” yelled the can’t-be-tamed Eminem. “No apologies!”
Seen as crass to some and satirical to others, his murder-laden, homophobic slur-ridden, misogyny-filled lyrics provoked critics. But Eminem kept his promise and never apologized for it — and his fan base still remained loyal. Despite his kid-unfriendly music, many have considered the “Hip-Hop Cash King” to be one of the greatest rappers alive.
As years have passed, J.Cole, Lil Wayne, and Rick Ross have emerge as hip-hop royalty. And they’ve also been on the receiving end of criticism for their lyrics. Unlike Slim Shady, however, all three have apologized. But how genuine are these apologies?
Rick Ross’ failure to show remorse for a ”U.O.E.N.O” verse about slipping a molly on an unsuspecting woman ripped his Reebok endorsement deal right out of his hands. “At this time, it is in everyone’s best interest for Reebok to end its partnership with Mr. Ross,” Reebok told Billboard.
This sent Rick Ross flying to Twitter to apologize: “I don’t condone rape. Apologies for the #lyric interpreted as rape.”
Lil Wayne plunged into hot water for using the name of Emmett Till, who was brutally murdered in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a White woman, in the lyrics of one of his songs. He apologized (kind of), but Mountain Dew was not on board. They pulled a Reebok and dropped Wayne.
I could just imagine their PR reps badgering them to issue a statement of apology: “Wayne, you best put those tattooed tears to use and show em’ that you’re sorry!” “Ross you have $5 million at stake!” But I think I’ll pass on a phony apology that was sloppily thrown together to dodge the possibility of losing a lucrative deal. I’d rather accept no apology over a faux-pology. Especially since Birdman, who works closely with Lil Wayne as CEO of Cash Money, recently stated that he considered boycotting Reebok and Mountain Dew. “This is music, man; all we doin’ is makin’ music,” Birdman said. “Next time, we’re gonna stand up [against Reebok and Mountain Dew] and we’re gonna shut that s*** down.”
I understand that as a rap artist, you can’t possibly satisfy every single listener. Should they apologize for every offended person? Insisting that rappers keep it PC will just have them walking on egg shells; freedom of expression would be smothered. “I view rap similar to how I view comedy,” J.Cole said. “It’s going to ruffle feathers at times.” Still, disgracing Black history, for example, is an absolute no-no. Glorifying materialism, dropping n-bombs and drug-use, although controversial, does not seem to jeopardize rappers’ bank accounts because these sensitive topics have no major campaigns behind them.
Autism is associated with outspoken celebrities like Holly Robinson Peete, Jenny McCarthy, Toni Braxton and Kate Winslet. UltraViolet, a women’s rights group that successfully helped convince 140 advertisers to pull out from Rush Limbaugh’s radio station for his comments about activist Sandra Fluke, pressured Reebok to sever ties with Rick Ross. Some individuals and groups can attack where it hurts the most: the pockets.
J.Cole is being applauded for delivering a heart-tugging apology after Peete, mother of an autistic son, made a teary plea on Access Hollywood over lyrics on Drake’s “Jodeci Freestyle” that offensively referenced autism and retardation. In an in-depth letter, J.Cole said, “I’ll gladly own my mistake[…] there’s nothing cool about mean-spirited comments about someone with Autism.”
What adds an element of sincerity to the letter is the fact that J. Cole didn’t make it after an endorsement deal was threatened. He stepped up and owned up to a faux pas that could have been left unacknowledged. By responding, he added a positive notch to his reputation. Sometimes doing the right thing and admitting a mistake is the right thing to do simply because it’s the right thing to do.
On the other hand, if a multi-million dollar endorsement deal is at stake, in most cases, an apology is tied to it. As a representative of a brand, hip-hop artists compromised their “artistic freedom” the minute they signed it away to Reebok and Mountain Dew.