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How Lil Wayne and Rick Ross Screwed Their Branding

by Minority Fortune

Hip hop artists just like any other artists are essentially paid to tell their stories. An artist’s expression knows no boundaries or limits. Their fans/customers will come to love an artist for their style, and if they’re super lucky, they’ll even catapult into fame. However, all bets are off when you begin to commercialize your art. The Free Dictionary defines commercialization as:

 

com·mer·cial·ize  (k-mûrsh-lz)

tr.v. com·mer·cial·ized, com·mer·cial·iz·ing, com·mer·cial·iz·es

1. To apply methods of business to for profit.

2.

a. To do, exploit, or make chiefly for financial gain.

b. To sacrifice the quality of for profit.

Too bad Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, and other artists don’t realize the exchange they have made for profit. When your art is created for the purpose of financial gain, you are obligated to keep your audience satisfied or at the very least in a state of being indifferent. Under no circumstances will you be doing your potential profit any justice if you piss off your audience. Lil Wayne and Rick Ross had to learn the hard way.

Rick “I Like Playing Around With Rape” Ross

Rick Ross felt the wrath of millions of women and women sympathizers when in Rocko’s “U.O.E.N.O.” song, he wrote “Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it”.  Perhaps Ross was on Molly himself when he wrote these lyrics because if he was sober, it’s a sad state of affairs. These lyrics struck hard with victims of rape and sexual assault. It left a bad taste in the mouth of a lot of people, whether directly affected or not. Even as tons of fans rallied and made a public outcry, Ross callously stated that his words were taken out of context. With the lack of a sincere apology and engaging discourse, protests and petitions began to surface. Anti-sexism group UltraViolet created a petition urging his sponsor Reebok to drop the artist. Over 100,000 signatures were obtained. Still, no apology in sight from Rick Ross. Eventually, Reebok cracked and dropped Rick Ross like a hot potato. Their PR stated the following to LA Times:

 

“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…While we do not believe that Rick Ross condones sexual assault, we are very disappointed he has yet to display an understanding of the seriousness of this issue or an appropriate level of remorse. At this time, it is in everyone’s best interest for Reebok to end its partnership with Mr. Ross.”

 

Key emphasis on the bolded. Surprisingly, or not so much, Rick Ross issues the apology of his life after that. However, too little, too late.

Lil Wayne aka Weezy F. (for Fail) Baby

Second offender Lil Wayne decides to take a dump all over the injustice done to Emmett Till. In a remix released in February of the song “Karate Chop” by LilWaynemountaindewrapper Future, Lil Wayne writes the following: “Beat that p**** up like Emmett Till”. Sex, beatings, and Emmett Till should NEVER be paired in a sentence together. While Wayne was trying to be witty and liken something of pleasure/pain to something horrendously gruesome is just plain lunacy. There was no pleasure in Emmett Till’s death. Period. Emmett Till’s family was understandably displeased with his legacy being used for display in such cheap lyricism. They began speaking out against the distasteful lyrics, and no serious apology came from Lil Wayne. As the outcry grew louder, Epic Records issued an apology. L.A. Reid even personally contacted the family to apologize months ago. Crickets from Lil Wayne. On May 1, a letter began circulating online that Lil Wayne wrote to the family acknowledging the lyrics were wrong but didn’t issue an apology. Understandably, the Till family was not moved and rallied for Mountain Dew to drop Lil Wayne in their campaigns. Two days later, Pepsi Co issued a statement:

“We do not plan any additional work with Lil Wayne moving forward,” a Mountain Dew representative said in a statement. “His offensive reference to a revered civil rights icon does not reflect the values of our brand.”

The Deweezy campaign website was taken down.

 

Job well done, Pepsi Co, even though it’s questionable why you signed a deal with the likes of Lil Wayne in the first place. Lil Wayne had months to right his wrong, yet nothing was done. This year he’s going to be several millions short in earnings with a damaged reputation that will cost him more endorsements in the future. Way to screw yourself, Wayne. Hope those six words were worth however many million they will cost you, and to think the 3 words “I’m sincerely sorry” might have lessened the financial impact. Oh well. Money talks. BS walks. Put that in your next song.

Righting the Wrong

The ego is real. However, to navigate this world the least unscathed is to live in humility. We are all human. We are all going to make mistakes. We are all going to hurt someone intentionally or unintentionally many times in our lives. The power in ourselves is not to justify the action but rather accept it and rectify it. Perhaps these artists could have saved their million dollar endorsement deals if they had just apologized immediately. However, it makes for a brilliant case study on how “keeping it real goes wrong”…again. As a mainstream artist, you can’t do what you please and expect no wrath if you’ve hurt your audience. As it stands, there’s no better way to learn this lesson than by losing money.

Whether these two artists along with many others realize it or not, they are a brand. Everything you do or say will be scrutinized. Freedom of speech is a given in the US. Make no mistake about it. Lil Wayne and Rick Ross have the right to say what they said. However, every action has a reaction. If they didn’t depend on a paycheck, then so be it. Since most of these hardly-wealthy artists only have about 1-3 years of spending runway before they would go broke, they do depend on a paycheck. Just as they have their right to say something, others can exercise their right to put pressure on their employers/sponsors to kick these artists to the curb.

If anything, we hope this lesson teaches Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and many more artists to actually exercise some thought as they write their lyrics or read what their ghostwriters hand them. Money, drugs, women, and material goods have infiltrated the rap lyrics of mainstream music for decades now. We don’t need anyone trying to outdo these themes with new ones of rape, battery, and re-victimizing. Ironically enough, these two artists have both experienced multiple seizures in the past year. Instead of writing not-witty-at-all lyrics, perhaps it’s time to focus on the things in life that really matter.

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