The music industry is no stranger to public outrage. It is part of the culture. Pushing the envelope just might sell songs. However, when writer Drake and rapper J. Cole picked on autism, the response was visceral. The lyric that has spurned so much anger is: “I’m artistic, you n****s is autistic, retarded.”
Perhaps the listening public watched the news and heard retractions. True to form J. Cole retracted (more press). Mercurynews.com quoted his words: “I was instantly embarrassed that I would be ignorant enough say something so hurtful,”… “What makes the crime worse is that I should have known better.”
But wait a minute. J. Cole went to college and was at the top of his class. Ignorant?
Rappers and songwriters are signed by record labels. Record labels employ producers. Is the ripple effect more about selling music? Does the end result spawn proceeds, even in the face of adversity and humble apology? Slander makes for sales.
Holly Robinson Peete is a spokesperson for Autism Speaks. She spoke candidly on Access Hollywood Live about her son, who has autism; he read the lyrics and asked his mother what they meant. Historically, individuals with autism might even be able to read or decode words even before they understand their meanings. How does a mother explain this definition to a child who idolizes the performer who hurt him?
I just don’t know that these artists understand … the power that they have. Because my son is struggling to fit in. And I mean struggling. So when I see an artist with this kind of following, who is writing not just ‘autistic,’ but trying to make it the new R-word, it’s not going to happen on our watch. Because we struggle every day. And I couldn’t even write about it or talk about it for a long time… These kids are struggling to be accepted in community…..Does he know that one in 50 school-aged children are suffering with autism? This is not something that is some random little niche issue. This is a big issue.
Billy Bush of Access Live refers to J. Cole’s hurtful writing as “pre-meditated” and Robinson Peete agreed. Cole even rhymed the word “retarded”. It was conscious.
Shock jock entertainment is a great catalyst to glean attention and sales. Comedian Dennis Leary wrote a book that disparaged parents who have autistic children.
“There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can’t compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks . . . to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don’t give a [bleep] what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you – your kid is NOT autistic. He’s just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.”
Again, Leary implored the public and said “Sorry.” Apologies don’t erase words; however they do get more press.
Let’s put your monies where your mouths are, Mr. J. Cole and Mr. Drake and producer Jay-Z of Roc-Nation. J. Cole admits to a “crime”. Community service is a good start. Donate, contribute, and just give. Start with Autism Speaks.
This is how you apologize to Holly Robinson Peete and all of the families living with autism.