Fallout from Rick Ross’ rape lyrics could inspire change in hip-hop

theGRIO REPORT - The firestorm has singed the 37-year-old rapper at the moment, but any long-term consequences appear slim according to those who work in the business, as he likely won’t lose his fan base...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Rick Ross claims the lyrics he raps in Rocko’s track “U.N.O.E.O.” have been misinterpreted as condoning rape, but a portion of the public remains unconvinced, and radio stations and sponsors are taking heed of the dissatisfaction. Since gaining heat across the Internet, at least two radio broadcasts pulled the track from rotation, online petitions launched demanding the music industry be held responsible for such detrimental language, and a college in Canada cancelled Ross’ forthcoming concert this week.

The firestorm has singed the 37-year-old rapper at the moment, but any long-term consequences appear slim according to those who work in the business, as he likely won’t lose his fan base.

“An artist like Ross, who started making music about street culture and drug culture, and then crossed to the mainstream didn’t offend his primary audience,” Ebro Darden, morning show personality and Program Director at New York’s Hot 97 radio, tells theGrio. “But he did offend some in his more mainstream, new audience.”

The scolding of social media

As Darden observed, a lot of listeners initially overlooked Ross’ provocative lyrics. It was only brought to their attention after erupting anger in the online community.

“People didn’t say anything until we asked them about it,” he remarks. “There was a lot of talk on Twitter. Most people thought it was in bad taste.” Likewise, Nikki Nikole, Production Manager and On-Air Personality for K97.5 radio in Raleigh, says it was primarily the online community who brought attention to the controversy.

“At the station I work for, the song never made rotation, but I did hear it play in the club,” Nikole comments. “The response was 50-50. Some people were upset, while others seemed not to care. In my opinion, it was a blatant reference to rape, which many other hip-hop artists have made before. I believe that social media made the public more aware of this particular situation.”

Ross’ loaded apology

The Rocko track was released in February on his mixtape Gift of Gab 2, but it wasn’t until March that furor arose over Ross’ featured lyrics in “U.N.O.E.O.” In his verse, Ross describes an interaction with a female in which he drugs her before intimating a sexual encounter.

“Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it,” he raps. “I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.”

After a storm of criticism, Ross apologized for his words, telling New Orleans radio station Q 93.3, “I wanna make sure this is clear, that woman is the most precious gift known to man.” He alleged the dispute was a “misunderstanding,” as he never used the term rape.

Later, Ross tweeted, “I dont [sic] condone rape. Apologies for the #lyric interpreted as rape. #BOSS.” He followed that with a second tweet, “Apologies to my many business partners, who would never promote violence against women. @ReebokClassics @ultraviolet.”

The multiple apologies coincided with the release of Ross’ new track, “National Champs” in which he condemns sexual violence.

They were also made the day a protest was organized by the National Organization for Women and UltraViolet, a women’s rights organization, outside Reeboks’ flagship store in New York. The demonstrators demanded the shoe company drop their sponsorship of the rapper, and brought along a petition with 72,000 signatures.

“I think Ross realized this could jeopardize his corporate endorsements and thus apologized,” Darden comments. Darden doesn’t foresee any immediate damage on Ross or the hip-hop community, however, commenting, “Time will tell.”

Adds Nikole, “Rick Ross’ apology, in my opinion, was fueled by the outrage on social media. It appeared to be more of a damage control apology then a sincere one.”

Rape as a common denominator

Truth be told, Ross is not the first hip-hop artist to rap about rape. Add Eminem, Ja Rule, and DMX to the list, along with Tyler the Creator, who was even more explicit than Ross in his song “Blow.”

“And you call this sh– rape, but I think that rape’s fun,” he rhymes. Furthermore, a report in Billboard indicates artists rarely lose endorsement deals over lyrical content, especially when no subsequent criminal acts have been committed.