Action Bronson has found himself at the centre of a veritable shit-storm when a bunch of angry Canadians trawled through his back catalogue to unearth the appallingly titled B-side Consensual Rape. Because of the existence of the song (which has never been performed live) Bronson’s NXNE performance on public property was cancelled. Whilst the title is undeniably crap, the songs actual lyrics are relatively tame for a rap song. Consensual Rape begins with the muttered words “fucking drug shit, do the drugs…” which subtly hints that a) this is probably not a person to be taken too seriously, and b) if you’re offended by drug use, Bronson is probably not going to be your cup of decaffeinated tea. Rap is a genre known for being controversial, for being shocking, and for being inextricably bound up with crime. But even still, some lines still manage to offend more than others. We count down the top 8 most controversial rap lyrics of all time.
1. “Tire marks, tire marks, finish line with the fire marks/When the relay starts I’m a runaway slave…master” – Iggy Azalea, D.R.U.G.S
If there’s an institution in the universe that white people generally take great pains to distance themselves from; it’s slavery. By the same token, there’s an unwritten rule of Public Relations that you should never invite your audience to draw comparisons between yourself and slave owners. This probably goes double if your whole career is dogged by accusations of cultural appropriation. So when Iggy Azalea referred to herself as the “runaway slave master,” Mayor Rob Ford’s spin team shook their heads with pity.
But this was a freestyle rap yeah? A gifted freestyle rapper can’t control the Pentecostal words that come out of their mouth. At it’s worst it’s just a very twisted Freudian slip. Wrong. The song samples a Kendrick Lamar B-Side, Looking for Detox in which K-Dot raps “tire marks, tire marks, finish line with the fire marks, when the relay starts I’m a runaway slave.” In a touching piece of “homage” Azalea samples the song and re-uses the same opening line from Kendrick. Except she alters it very, very slightly by changing it to “SLAVE-MASTER.” So what Iggy has done here is stolen the work of a black man, put a tasty racist twist on it, and then presented it as her own. It’s like a racist aptronym. The dictionary definition of “cultural appropriation” should just be the YouTube URL to this song.
Azalea manages to make a song titled D.R.U.G.S controversial for a slavery reference.
2. “If you don’t judge my gold chains/I’ll forget the iron chains” – LL Cool J, Accidental Racist
Where to begin with this sonic abortion? In an extremely misguided attempt to repair race relations, Nashville singer Brad Paisley seeks forgiveness for his “accidental racism” – a sentiment shared by my grandfather. Paisley is acutely aware of how offensive his Confederate flag t-shirt might appear. But he doesn’t wear it to honour the Confederate legacy of driving a nation into Civil War to preserve the right to hold black people in bondage. No. He wears it because he’s a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan. A band that very occasionally uses the Confederate colours and motifs in some of their artwork. Fair enough. And I suppose he wears that white hood with the two eyeholes cut out simply because he’s a man that appreciates privacy and the feeling of fine bed linen against his face. Paisley is sick of the bigotry. He’s wrongfully judged by his appearance, and not by his “progressive” sentiments that echo the absolute pointlessness of trying to make amends such as: “it ain’t like you and me can re-write history, our generation didn’t start this nation” and “it ain’t like I can walk a mile in someone else’s skin.”
Sadly, whilst Brad Paisley is the real villain here he’s not (yet) a rapper, and is outside of our crosshairs. In 11 bars of absolute dribble, LL Cool J manages to make The Klumps look like Dr. Cornel West. LL laments the bigotry black people have to suffer: “just because my pants are sagging doesn’t mean I’m up to no good.” But yet he who is without sin cast the first stone, because LL isn’t innocent either – “so when I see that white cowboy hat, I’m thinking it’s not good.” However, he reaches a compromise, and he won’t judge Brad for his symbol of a separatist nation that would rather be literally dead than without slaves, if Brad doesn’t “judge my do rag.” Fair.
It’s done even less to repair race relations than this famous interracial duet in which a black man was also a puppet.
3. “‘Bout to put rims on my skateboard wheels/ Beat the pussy up like Emmett Till” – Lil Wayne, Karate Chop (Remix)
Good taste is maybe not something you’d expect from a man with diamonds permanently affixed to his teeth and the ‘ESPN’ logo tattooed to his arm – but Lil Wayne’s line in the ‘Karate Chop’ remix still managed to be fish-market odious. In this poetic gem Wayne Carter graciously lets the degradation of women take a backseat to the brutal murder of a civil rights icon, and still manages to throw in a mention of his skateboard as well for good measure.
Emmett Till was of course the teenage boy who was murdered in Mississippi after allegedly flirting with a white woman, and who helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement. The Till family sent Weezy a letter showing their disgust for his lyrics “Not only are you destroying the preservation and legacy of Emmett Till’s memory and name, but the impact of his murder in black history.” They also took umbrage with Wayne’s insensitive zeal with the female sex organ “… along with degradation of women,”
Of course the reason why Wayne’s lyric is so offensive is because if it weren’t for the death of Emmett Till, Weezy would have probably been unable to purchase his 16-year-old daughter Reginae a Ferrari. Oh, and he said “beat up the pussy”!??
4. “Fuckk the F.B.I. and fuck all the Army troops/Fighting for what, bitch? Be your own man” – Soulja Boy, Let’s Be Real
Soulja Boy is the artist who
perpetually pushes boundaries, causes us to question what we often take for granted, asks the tough questions and is prepared to tackle the controversial issues of the day did Crank Dat.
Soulja Boy is not known for his politics, and as such people were decidedly pissed when a guy with controlling interest in the Bathing Ape Company thought he would throw in his two cents on the Iraq War.
And if you’re part of the select group of impressionable US servicemen who find themselves regularly swayed by the content of rap lyrics, chances are you’re still not going to be convinced by a guy who’s actual Wikipedia page describes his music as “vacuous and insipid.”
5.“I really think the war on terror is a bunch of bullshit/Just a poor excuse for you to use up all your bullets/How much money does it take to really make a full clip?/9/11, building 7, did they really pull it?” – Lupe Fiasco, Words I Never Said
If you want a surefire way to look like a dumbass, publicly declare your support for a conspiracy theory.
Words I Never Said was Lupe’s middle finger to Atlantic Records, which touched on controversial political topics like September 11, government fiscal policy and the occupation of Gaza. It was considered so ‘edgy’ and ‘subversive’ that it was adopted as a pseudo-theme song by hacker group Anonymous.
For a singer to simply name-check the issues on pages 1-5 of today’s newspaper doesn’t make you Bob Dylan. This is more We Didn’t Start The Fire than Imagine. It’s got a lot of this about it –
Lupe has long walked a tight rope between genius and idiot. And this one firmly falls in the latter category. “Obama didn’t say shit” says Lupe “that’s why I ain’t vote for him, next one either.” Encouraging voter apathy amongst black populations isn’t generally regarded as a social good….
6. “Little gay-looking boy / So gay I can barely say it with a straight face-looking boy / You witnessing massacre like you watching a church gathering taking place-looking boy”– Eminem, Rap God
Eminem made a name for himself with shocking homophobic lyrics, but managed to throw off the suggestion that these were genuinely held sentiments when he performed with Elton John at the 2001 Grammys. Further, Eminem has always maintained that he has never used the word “faggot” to refer to a person’s sexuality, but was rather a word used in the Detroit rap-battle scene to mean a “punk or a bitch or an asshole.” That may be so. But this line on Rap God delivered at age 40 is fairly unequivocal. The Gay vs. Straight thing sort of makes that fairly clear. C’mon man.
7. “I swear that bitch Rita Ora got a big mouth/ Next time I see her might curse the bitch out/ Kicked the bitch out once cause she bitched out/ Spit my kids out, jizzed up all in her mouth and made the bitch bounce.” – A$AP Rocky, Better Things
Oh man. Did he really just say “spit my kids out”? What’s more insulting is Rocky’s painful backtracking in interviews, in which he sort of half-qualifies his comments, and then ends up saying something even worse. “She got me into a lot of trouble but I just want to clarify, this isn’t me saying ‘don’t go listen to Rita Ora‘ or that she’s a terrible person… I didn’t say the pussy was whack,” he said. Yeah guys, it’s not as if he said “the pussy was whack”, which is obviously the absolutely worst thing he could have said, and which would have entitled Rita to be offended.
At one point he tries to pass off the lyric as the dying wish of mentor A$AP Yams, saying, “that was one of the joints that I feel like a I recorded before Yams passed that I knew he really loved.” I’m sure wherever Yams is now, he’s touched that he’s been remembered through a moving anecdote of one person’s inability to ingest A$AP Rocky’s genetic material. “To Rita Ora and her fans – keep going, you’re still beautiful baby girl, just next time keep your mouth shut and I’ll do the same.” Yuck. Of course Rocky has taken the high road here, where Rita Ora had no discretion. Rocky is a man of intense privacy, not one to put his relationships in the public sphere.
8. “Put Molly all in her champagne she aint’ even know it/ I took her home and I enjoyed that she ain’t even know it” – Rick Ross, U.O.E.N.2O
For those who don’t know, Rick Ross was an actual former state prison guard, before becoming a rapper and taking the name of an actual living drug king pin. It’s the kind of 180 that would make Tony Hawk blush. Given that Rozay ranks just behind the Talented Mr. Ripley for people who have built success on a foundation of pure lies, you sort of have to take everything he says with a pinch of his finest fictional blow. He’s not exactly credible; if you ain’t even know it. So when Ross said on that same song, “I’m bout to get you fucked niggas whacked,” there weren’t riots in the street. Because it was yet another example of the kind of fake boasting that even Brian Williams would think pathetic.
But the date-rape line was more offensive than copping an up close glimpse of Ross’s inked-up man-mammary – because, like, what if he’s not joking? Obviously there’s a fine line between humour, braggadocio and real life. So the general rule of thumb is that if you want to keep your Rebook deals, and keep peoples food from retching up their oesophagus, axe the date-rape lines – this could have been very easily achieved given that absolutely nothing in Ross’s verse rhymed, meaning it could have literally been replaced with ANYTHING. Abysmal.