Could rap lyrics shift after Wayne, Ross mishaps?
FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2012 file photo, Lil Wayne performs at the iHeart Radio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. Lil Wayne and Rick Ross, two of the most celebrated and successful artists in rap today, recently lost major endorsements after protests forced high profile corporations to drop the rap stars. Both artists rapped lyrics deemed vulgar and over-the-top; one referring to rape, the other about the beating of Emmett Till, on songs where they were the featured acts. (Photo by Eric Reed/Invision/AP, File)
NEW YORK (AP) — Since it began, rap has found ways to offend. Whether for political content, sexual imagery, misogyny, violence or coarse humor, rappers have found themselves having to defend their words on a regular basis, no matter how innocuous — or extreme.
Those defenses have typically been defiant. So it was a bit startling when both Lil Wayne and Rick Ross — under intense fire over rhymes deemed offensive — gave mea culpas for their words amid threats of boycotts and a loss of major endorsements.
Their contrition, and the success of their detractors in getting them dropped by major corporations, raises the question: Could the close attention paid to lyrics today — mainly because of the digital age and social media — find some rappers toning down their words, or compromising artistry, to satisfy others?
Ebro Darden, the program director of New York's Hot 97 radio station, thinks rappers may become more mindful, but isn't convinced this is a tipping point in the genre.
"I think they'll be more cautious about the disrespect they show toward a specific situation," he said. "I think hip-hop is a culture of people speaking what they feel and see. ... I think it does get out of balance sometimes and I think that's the main issue people have with hip-hop."
Others see Lil Wayne and Ross' situations as blips that won't shake up how rap stars approach their music.
"Folks in hip-hop are going to use freedom of expression," said Cori Murray, the entertainment director at Essence. "I don't see them self-editing themselves."
There are still plenty of examples of vulgarities dominating in rap, including pop hits such as Kendrick Lamar's "(Expletive), Don't Kill My Vibe" and A$AP Rocky's "(Expletive) Problems." The use of gay slurs has been toned down, though rappers like Tyler, the Creator still say them regularly.
FILE - This Sept. 29, 2012 file photo shows Rick Ross performing at the BET Hip-Hop Honors at Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center, in Atlanta. Lil Wayne and Ross, two of the most celebrated and successful artists in rap today, recently lost major endorsements after protests forced high profile corporations to drop the rap stars. Both artists rapped lyrics deemed vulgar and over-the-top; one referring to rape, the other about the beating of Emmett Till, on songs where they were the featured acts. (Photo by John Amis/Invision/AP, file)
But even for a genre known for using outrageous words to convey a message, some thought Lil Wayne went too far. On a remix of rapper-producer Future's song, "Karate Chop," Lil Wayne compared a sex act to the beating that killed 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi. PepsiCo cut ties with Lil Wayne in May; it was the same week the company pulled an online Mountain Dew ad — developed by Tyler, the Creator — that was criticized for portraying racial stereotypes and making light of violence toward women.