Rick Ross: Free Speech vs. Responsibility

April 10th, 2013

(Photo: Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Beats by Dre)

By Gee King

The controversy surrounding Rick Ross’ lyrics on Rocko’s single “U.O.E.N.O.” continues to spread as more opinions pour in. The bars, “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,” have caught the ire of women’s activist groups and placed Rozay’s recent endorsement deal with Reebok in jeopardy. While he claims the issue stems from a simple misunderstanding, many others feel his lyrics encourage the drugging of a potential sex partner without their knowledge. Tyga and Talib Kweli recently spoke out to share opinions from both sides of the spectrum, expressing the conundrum that Ross’ rhymes have placed hip hop culture in.

Known for his conscious bars and intelligent rhetoric, Talib Kweli condemned Ross’ rhymes last week. ”He’s a misguided 40-year-old person,” said Kweli of Ross. “Rick Ross condoned rape in that song … and he should apologize, and his apology that he offered was unacceptable.” From Kweli’s perspective, the radio interview and tweets that chalked the backlash up to a “misinterpretation” are weak. As a grown man, Kweli and others believe Ross should understand the implications of his bars, which will be played in clubs nationwide and ultimately influence millions of listeners. And if he doesn’t understand, he should humble himself and listen to the women’s rights groups who are familiar with the consequences of such art.

Tyga sees things from another angle. Currently in the middle of a women’s rights controversy of his own, the “Rack City” MC supported Ross’ right to freedom of speech. With students at Harvard University protesting the school’s decision to invite him to perform at their annual Yardfest because of lyrics they feel encourage a “rape culture,” Tyga is familiar with the backlash that can come from one’s artistic expression. “If you don’t like it, don’t click on it, don’t download it. I think it’s just getting out of hand with the whole like people looking into it too much,” he said in reference to both controversies. But the question remains whether these MCs are victims of overzealous activists or irresponsible artists who are ignorant to the true impact of their work.

Any rational person has trouble accepting the idea that someone as intelligent and savvy as Ross could be oblivious to the reason for everyone’s outrage. While he doesn’t explicitly use the word rape, his lyrics do condone behavior that is both immoral and illegal. Granted, those that defend him could argue that most of his lyrics fit into those two categories. But just as the countless detractors that have targeted hip hop’s most objectionable lyrics over the years have failed to step back and realize the perspective these artists are coming from, both Tyga and Ross seem disinterested in opening their eyes to view the world from their critics’ points of view. Neither the MCs nor the protesters are obligated to change their stances. This is America and rappers are free to rhyme about what they like while protesters can speak out about what they don’t like. But until both sides step back and acknowledge the other’s perspective, no progress will be made.

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