Even before N.W.A famously fired their 1988 warning shot "F*** tha Police," hardcore hip-hop was known as the rebel music of the day. Like the previous generations' early rock 'n' roll that championed spending the night together, glam metal that wouldn't take it anymore, and punk rock out for revenge, it reached out to disenfranchised youths and in the process alienated parents, conservative groups and corporate America.
Eventually, onetime rebels become acceptable parts of mainstream culture. The Rolling Stones are currently celebrating their 50th anniversary with a series of high-priced shows. Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna to Take It" is now being used by Extended Stay America to rage against the bathroom coffee machine. And even AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, Ice Cube, is now shilling Coors Light--but only after he made the transition from gangsta rapper to film star in such lighthearted fare as Are We There Yet?
Which brings us the blight of current hip-hop bad boys Tyler, The Creator, Lil Wayne, and Rick Ross, who despite the fact that they've all been commercially successful are still pushing the envelope of what's acceptable in mainstream culture. Yet that hasn't stopped corporate America from signing them to advertising deals and sponsorships in hopes of reaching those free-spending disenfranchise youths. However, in recent weeks, these deals have proved troublesome for those big corporations, as the rappers continue to push the line of good taste.
Just the other day, PepsiCo was forced to pull an online Mountain Dew campaign developed by Tyler, The Creator after it was greeted with outrage. Another Mountain Dew-affiliated artist, Lil Wayne, is still in hot water over a references to civil rights figure Emmett Till. And, Rick Ross was recently given the boot by Reebok after controversy erupted over his song, "U.O.E.N.O.," which some believed advocated date rape.
On "Mad Men," the hit AMC show that deals with an advertising agency in the '60s, lead character Don Draper was urged by client Heinz to try lure the Stones to sign on to do an ad for ketchup. He was not too enthused about the prospect and it never came to fruition. But that made us wonder--if he was suddenly thrust into the 21st century and had to deal with trying to work today's hip-hop rebels and advertisers, what would Dan Draper do?
Here's a look at the three latest controversies.
Tyler, The Creator - Mountain Dew
It seems that PepsiCo was trying to keep this campaign on the down low. It was an online-only campaign never meant to air on TV, but it wasn't able to avoid controversy. Social commentator Dr. Boyce Watkins caught it and called it out as "arguably the most racist commercial in history."
In the one-minute clip, an apparently abused woman on crutches attempts to ID a suspect in a lineup of African-American men and a goat, voiced by Tyler. The goat threatens the woman by saying, "Ya better not snitch on a player" and urges her to "keep ya mouth shut." Rather than IDing the suspect, she screams, "I can't do this!" and flees.
A spokeswoman for PepsiCo says the company learned on Tuesday that some found the ad offensive and immediately took it down and advised the rapper to remove it from his YouTube channel.
A rep for Tyler said in a statement, "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 the ad was taken down."
Lil Wayne - Mountain Dew
As of this writing, Lil Wayne's "This Is How We DEW" commercial is still online, much to the displeasure of the family of slain civil rights figure Emmett Till. Appearing on the remix of Future's "Karate Chop" in February, Weezy brags about his sexual skills by comparing them to the 1955 killing of Till for whistling at a white woman. Weezy raps, "Beat the p***y up like Emmett Till."
The line was pulled from the release by Future's label, Epic Records, and Weezy issued a half-hearted apology. Although the Till family didn't find the apology acceptable, Lil Wayne is still shilling Mountain Dew when he isn't in the hospital dealing with seizures, which may be caused by his love of sizzurp -a mixture of Codeine syrup, soda (Mountain Dew?), and Jolly Ranchers.
Rick Ross - Reebok
Reebok was hoping to pump up its presence in the lifestyle market with an endorsement from hip-hop boss Rick Ross, but it all went south after Rozay seemed to glorify date rape in the Rocko track "U.O.E.N.O."
After protests against Ross gained momentum, he tried to smooth it all over in a radio interview in late March. "There was a misunderstanding with the lyric, a misinterpretation," he explained. "I would never use the term 'rape' in my records and as far as my camp. Hip-hop don't condone that, the streets don't condone that, nobody condones that."
However, it was too late. By April 11, Reebok decided to cut ties with Ross. "Reebok holds our partners to a high standard and we expect them to live up to the values of our brand. Unfortunately, Rick Ross has failed to do so."