Rick Ross is facing a growing online firestorm over lyrics that critics say condone date rape.
The song in question, “U.O.E.N.O.,” by Atlanta rapper Rocko, features verses from Ross and Future and was released on a mixtape, Gift of Gab 2, back in February. On the second verse, Ross seems to rap about drugging a woman with molly, slang for crystallized MDMA, and having sex with her:
“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.”
Although the song was released weeks ago, the lyrics’ didn’t spark outrage online until last weekend.
On March 23, a petition calling for Rick Ross to “publicly apologize for glorifying drugging/raping a woman” was posted to change.org, an online petition platform. It’s gathered more than 500 signatures since.
On Monday, Rosa Clemente, an activist, journalist and former Green Party vice presidential candidate, posted a Youtube video criticizing Ross. "This lyric is obviously promoting rape. Not just date rape, but rape and rape culture and violence against women. We live in a society that, by the time that African American women and Latina women are 18, almost half of them -- 44 percent -- have been sexually abused."
Jerry Barrow, senior editor for Urban Daily, connected the lyrics to the recent conviction of two high school football players from Steubenville, Ohio, for raping a drunk 16-year-old girl, wrote about the lyrics on Monday as well:
“The timing of this lyric couldn’t be worse as women in Delhi fight to protect their womanhood from rape and young boys in America are being sent to jail because they think it’s okay to have sex with women who are too drunk or high to give consent… It is not acceptable to preach the practice of drugging women to have sex with them ‘without them even knowing.’ If she didn’t know she didn’t give consent. And if she didn’t give consent she was raped. You’re out here telling your fans that it’s cool to rape women and YOU don’t even know it.”
Yesterday, 103.7 the Beat/WUVS-LP, a non-profit community station in Muskegon, MI, announced it was pulling all Rick Ross songs from the rotation because of the song. “Following that teen rape case in Ohio, we felt [Rick Ross] was very insensitive. It sends the wrong message out to the youth that’s following him,” Paul Allen Billings, general manager/program director of the station, told Billboard. “To promote a date rape drug in a song, it’s like saying its OK to do this behavior. He’s saying it’s acceptable.”
Billings says that listener feedback from the boycott has been positive so far. “Our community has been in support so far. They know that we’ve always very cautious about the music that we play in the past. But we’ve still always been in the top 6 in the market. They’re accustomed to that. But this time we wanted to go a step further and take all the artist’s songs off. We wanted to say we don’t support him on any level. We respect freedom of speech, but at some point we have to draw the line.”
The station also announced that it was pulling Lil Wayne songs from rotation as well, in light of his guest verse on Future’s “Karate Chop” remix, which references Emmett Till, a black 14-year-old who was murdered in Mississippi 1955 for allegedly flirting with a white woman—an incident widely considered a catalyst for the civil rights movement. “I’ll beat the p***y up like Emmett Till,” Wayne rapped. Future’s label, Epic Records, later apologized, and pledged to release a new version of the song without the lyrics in question.
Ross responded to the controversy this morning in an on-air interview with New Orleans radio station Q93.3 FM: “There’s certain things you can’t tweet. I want to make sure this is clear, that woman is the most precious gift known to man, you understand? There was a misunderstanding with a lyric, a misinterpretation. The term rape wasn’t used. I would never use the term rape in my records. As far as my camp, hip-hop don’t condone that, the streets don’t condone that, nobody condones that. So I just wanted to reach out to all the queens that’s on my timeline, all the sexy ladies, the beautiful ladies that had been reaching out to me with the misunderstanding. We don’t condone rape and I’m not with that.”
Ayana Byrd, cultural critic and co-editor of the book "Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts," was not impressed by Rick Ross’ clarification.
“This is not an apology, it is the typical approach of blaming the woman,” she tells Billboard. “Specifically, in Ross's case, blaming the ‘queens’ or ‘sexy ladies’ who clearly heard his lyrics about drugging and raping someone. Women know what sexual violence is; we do not need the word ‘rape’ to accompany it. We have been raised and continue to live in a culture that all too often condones it and excuses it and even, at times, celebrates it. So we can identify it no matter what words it goes by. Shame on Rick Ross for thinking he could be slick and excuse this with some word play.”
A rep for Def Jam, Ross' label, said neither the company nor Ross had further comment on the matter.