Check out these 15 musicians who received backlash for their controversial lyrics.
Song: Blurred Lines
After six albums and nearly two decades in the music business, Robin Thicke is finally at the top of the charts thanks to his single “Blurred Lines” off the album of the same title, but his success is not without its negativity. The song has received criticism for what many perceive to be misogynistic undertones. Tricia Romano of The Daily Beast described the song as “kind of rapey,” referring to lyrics like “I know you want it, but you’re a good girl…” but that hasn’t stopped listeners from making the song No. 1 on the Bilboard Hot 100 for seven weeks straight.
Song: Jodeci Freestyle
The Autism community took great offense to J.Cole’s “Jodeci Freestyle” featuring Drake in which the J.Cole quips, “I’m artistic, you n****s is autistic, retarded.” The Autism Speaks organization demanded an apology for the insulting line and asked that it be removed from the song. Cole immediately issued a lengthy and sincere apology letter saying, “I realized right away that what I said was wrong. I was instantly embarrassed that I would be ignorant enough to say something so hurtful.” Drake also issued a heartfelt apology and indicated that the line would be taken out of the song.
Song: Born This Way
While Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” was praised by many Americans for its progressive message about gay, lesbian, and transgendered people, it was not so well received in other countries, particularly Malaysia. The song was banned from radio due to lyrics like: “No matter gay, straight or bi / Lesbian transgendered life / I’m on the right track baby.” One radio network rep explained the ban saying, “The issue of being gay, lesbian or bisexual is still considered as ‘taboo’ by general Malaysians.”
Song: Karate Chop
Memo to the Lil Waynes of the world: comparing rough sex with a woman to the tragic beating of Emmett Till is not only vulgar and misogynistic but offensive, insensitive and disrespectful. Something that Weezy found out when he made that very comparison in the song “Karate Chop,” rapping “beat that p***y up like Emmett Till.” Wayne came under fire from the African-American community and Emmett Till’s cousin Airickca Gordon-Taylor who said: “I just couldn’t understand how you could compare the gateway of life to the brutality and punishment of death. And I feel as though they have no pride and no dignity as black men.” Mountain Dew also took issue with the vulgar lyrics and dropped Lil Wayne from his endorsement. Epic Records has since issued an apology and stated that the lyrics would be removed from the song.
While Robin Thicke’s suggestive lyrics in “Blurred Lines” could be interpreted as “rapey” by some, Rick Ross’ “U.O.E.N.O.” is very unambiguous when it comes to the subject. Ross raps: “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,” the implication being that he spiked her drink with ecstasy and then had his way with her without her consent. Change.org and RapRehab.com called for the Miami rapper to take responsibility for his shameful lyrics. Ross eventually issued a sort-of apology, saying that he would never condone rape but it couldn’t undo the damage. He lost a $2.5 million deal with Reebok over the incident.
Song: Man Down
Rihanna’s song “Man Down” seemed to take on an even more provocative nature when she released the music video for it, which depicted a woman shooting her abusive lover. The song received backlash from the Parents Television Council which felt that the song was “an inexcusable, shock-only, shoot-and-kill theme song” and made it appear that murder was an acceptable answer to abuse. Rihanna defended the track saying, “its about a woman who has committed a murder that she regrets and is completely remorseful about,” but also added that it’s a song that is empowering to young women in abusive situations.
Eminem’s entire career has been built on controversy. The devil-may-care rapper has no qualms about saying what’s on his mind, even if it’s considered homophobic, misogynistic, violent, and self-loathing. The Detriot rapper made headlines with the track “Kim” off his debut album The Marshall Mathers LP. The song is a stream-of-conscious murder fantasy in which Em kidnaps and kills his ex-wife (and the mother of his child) Kim. Though he never specifically says he intends to kill her, with lyrics like “Come on we’re going for a ride b***h/Sit up front/We’ll be right back/ Well, I will. You’ll be in the trunk” listeners know exactly where the song is going.
Song: Let’s Be Real
For someone with the name “Soulja Boy” the young rapper certainly doesn’t seem to have much respect for the real soldiers. In his song “Let’s be Real” Soulja Boy flips off the troops saying,”F**k the FBI / And f**k all the army troops / Fighting for what? / B****, be your own man.” The lyrics provoked a lot of anger and prompted military retail network Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) to refuse to carry his album Respect My Hustle if the song appeared on it. Soulja Boy apologized, and his camp pulled the song from the Internet, vowing that it would never be sold commercially.
Song: If You Seek Amy
Young girls just love Britney Spears. Parents of young girls…not so much, especially after the song “If You Seek Amy” from her Circus album. “If You Seek Amy” being a homonym for, well, a more vulgar phrase meaning “have sex with me.” Due to the controversy the song was re-recorded for radio, changing “seek” to “see.” Some stations even made their own edits of the song.
Song: Get Your Gunn
Song: They Don’t Care About Us
Song: Darling Nikki
Prince has always been a very sexual creature, so if there’s any artist worthy of inspiring the parental advisory sticker, it’s him. A fact that Tipper Gore (yes, that Tipper Gore) recognized when she helped form the PMRC (the Parents Music Resource Centre), a committee formed in 1985 to control children’s access to inappropriate music. ‘They accomplished this by putting warning stickers on albums. The group went after Prince’s Purple Rain album for the song “Darling Nikki” which speaks of a tryst with a sex fiend. That’s right, Prince is partly to blame for the parental advisory sticker we see on records today.
Song: I Kissed a Girl
The Rolling Stones
Song: Some Girls
In the song “Some Girls” The Rolling Stones enumerate many types and stereotypes of women, amongst them is the stereotype that black women are highly promiscuous (in not-so conservative terms). The band’s front man, Mick Jagger, apologized to Rev. Jesse Jackson for the lyrics and indicated that they were intended as a response to cultural stereotypes but he refused to re-record the song.
Song: Cop Killer
In his heyday Ice-T made headlines for his controversial song “Cop Killer,” a song about offing some corrupt cops. He raps: “I got my twelve gauge sawed off / I got my headlights turned off / I’m ’bout to bust some shots off/ I’m ’bout to dust some cops off.” As one could imagine, then-president George H.W. Bush and police organizations didn’t take too kindly to the song.