Last week, Lil’ Wayne caused controversy when asked about the movement in an interview with ABC’s nightline. When asked about his feelings towards the group, he replied: “What is it?” and “I don’t feel connected to a damn thing that ain’t got nothing to do with me,”. He has since backtracked, but it raises the question whether Lil’ Wayne, as a high-profile figure, owes anything to activism.
Reporter: Andrew Whiteford | Sub-Editor: Hannah Grafton
The New Orleans rapper has been no stranger to controversy in his comments regarding race, earlier this month he explained on Fox News: “I don’t see racism. Most of my fans are white. I don’t get it.”. It did not take long for Black Lives Matter supporters to respond – Vic Mensa, American rapper responded on a Reddit AMA that his comments were ‘ignorant’ and ‘selfish’.
Whether or not what side of the political spectrum you find yourself, Lil Wayne’s dismissal of Black Lives Matter is shockingly ignorant to America’s racial tensions right now. It can feed into the extreme Republican rhetoric right now and be overtaken as a message of ‘this privileged, influential black man does not believe these lives matter – neither should you’. However, the colour of your skin does not oblige or contract you to a certain set of beliefs but why do we even care what a celebrity believes?
In 2014, Ace Metrix conducted a study on how influential are celebrities. Perhaps celebrities should champion their political views more? 44% of US adults think that celebrities can make either a sizeable or some positive change to issues they are supporting. 58% of respondents believe that the support of a celebrity certainly or perhaps changes people’s opinions about which political candidate to support, against just one-quarter who believe that such support probably or definitely does not impact consumers.
Pop culture has so much power. Beyoncé standing in front of a screen saying ‘feminist’ is iconic and powerful. Lady Gaga marching through Washington fighting Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is powerful. Angelina Jolie standing alongside UNICEF is powerful. Kendrick Lamar saying Black Lives do Matter is powerful. The issue could be that Lil’ Wayne does not even know how powerful his voice is growing up in a time where his voice was not valued. The sad reality is when you do not own your star power, you are selling yourself short.
If Lil’ Wayne’s influence is real, then his fans must feel betrayed and notice his disconnect with them. The kids who love his music are a lot of the kids who do not feel safe on the streets in their own neighbourhood. It detaches the artist from the audience. There are children with few opportunities listening to his music, thinking that he was me once and that I have star potential too. It is an insult to those who picked Lil’ Wayne and told him that he mattered to them.
Liam Austen, host of pop culture podcast The Current and media creator, is an avid believer of the power of the celebrity improving somebody’s well-being: “There’s a select few artists that have definitely had an impact on me, whether it be short or long-term. I think Kesha is probably the most prominent one – she helped me in my teenage years in figuring out my own identity and not being afraid to be myself.’
He continues: ‘Celebrities have the most impact in the mainstream, and their views on social issues are always necessary. Celebrities can’t really win in this case, but I always think that they have a responsibility to let their voice be heard – they have a much larger platform than many others, and their words could be the catalyst for change.’
‘For a hugely famous black musician to dismiss the movement as something so insignificant and unnecessary is worrying. I feel like if a white musician said the same thing it may not serve as big an impact, but Lil Wayne is an idol for many younger people – both black and white – and for him to suggest that BLM isn’t relevant is troubling. That gives off the wrong message to such a huge audience.’ he finishes.
Even if the general population do not understand why a celebrity speak up on issues that they believe is wrong, Liam Austen is a perfect example of the transformation that can occur. The evolution from insecure and feeling displaced to finding freedom and now using his own voice for better is something that cannot be overlooked. Is Lil’ Wayne dismissing Black Lives Matter problematic? Yes. You just do not know how certain words may change somebody’s life.