LOS ANGELES — Epic Records Chairman Antonio “L.A.” Reid has apologized to the family of slain civil rights figure Emmett Till, and his label is working to remove from circulation a remix of the track “Karate Chop” by Atlanta rapper Future that included a vulgar sexual reference by fellow rapper Lil Wayne invoking Till’s name.
“Just ended a conversation with L.A. Reid, CEO of Epic,” reads a recent post on the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation Facebook page. Mobley was Till’s mother. “He apologized to me and our family and stated the song is being pulled!!!! ‘Future’ owns the rights to the song so they have the power to pull it.
“Mr. Reid stated the song was leaked out and he had not heard the lyrics. He is a man of integrity that values our family’s legacy and wouldn’t allow such heinous usage of Emmett Till’s name or dishonor his memory. We have yet to hear from Lil Wayne’s camp. ...”
Epic representatives said they would make efforts to remove the remix from the Internet and replace it with a version without Lil Wayne’s reference to Till, which cannot be printed in a family newspaper. A representative for Lil Wayne did not respond to the Los Angeles Times’ request for comment as of press time.
“We regret the unauthorized remix version of Future’s ‘Karate Chop,’ which was leaked online and contained hurtful lyrics,” a statement issued Thursday by Epic 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.”
There was no reference to the Lil Wayne controversy on Epic’s home page Thursday, but it did include a link to another mix of “Karate Chop” featuring Future’s fellow Atlanta rapper Casino, one with multiple uses of the “N” word.
Till was the 14-year-old African-American from Chicago who was tortured and then killed in 1955 after reportedly whistling at a white woman during a visit to family members in Mississippi. An all-white jury acquitted two white men, including the woman’s husband, of Till’s killing.
The case thrust civil rights issues to the forefront of the national spotlight when Till’s mother insisted on an open-coffin funeral service that allowed mourners, and the media, to see the condition of his body.
“It was a heinous murder,” Airickca Gordon-Taylor, Till’s cousin, told the Associated Press on Thursday. “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 (magazine) 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 other source.”
Bob Dylan wrote and recorded “The Death of Emmett Till” in 1962, which included the verse:
“I saw the morning papers but I could not bear to see
“The smiling brothers walkin’ down the courthouse stairs.
“For the jury found them innocent and the brothers they went free,
“While Emmett’s body floats the foam of a Jim Crow southern sea.”
Americana singer and songwriter Emmylou Harris included her own take on the story in “My Name Is Emmett Till” on her 2011 “Hard Bargain” album, a song written from the perspective of the murdered teenager:
“Oh, I had rather lived
“Till I was too old to die young
“Not even a soul I left behind
“All that might have come
“Summer clouds above my head
“The grass beneath my feet
“The warmth of a good woman
“Her kisses soft and sweet”