By ga, New York Times

How much street cred is too much?

For executives at Mountain Dew, that may have been the question of the day on Monday, as the brand looked to move beyond a public relations embarrassment that had led it to end a multi-million-dollar endorsement deal with the rapper Lil Wayne. The brand severed its ties because of pressure brought by the family of Emmett Till, the African-American teenager whose 1955 torture and murder in Mississippi for supposedly whistling at a white woman helped foment the civil rights movement.

The body of Emmett Till at his funeral shows the mutilation and torture he underwent at the hands of his lynchers in Mississippi in 1955. Photo credit: Chicago Defender

The body of Emmett Till at his funeral shows the mutilation and torture he underwent at the hands of his lynchers in Mississippi in 1955. Photo credit: Chicago Defender

The family took issue with vulgar lyrics referring to Till that were performed by Lil Wayne on a remix of “Karate Chop,” by the rapper Future. In an interview with the Web site AllHipHop.com in April, the family said it would put pressure on the brand, which is part of the PepsiCo Americas Beverages division of PepsiCo, to drop the artist; Mountain Dew did so on Friday….

Last week Lil Wayne, whose given name is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., issued a letter to the Till family in which he acknowledged how his “contribution to a fellow artist’s song has deeply offended your family.”

 Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images Lil Wayne lost an endorsement deal with Mountain Dew after Emmett Till's family complained about a lyric he wrote.


Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images
Lil Wayne lost an endorsement deal with Mountain Dew after Emmett Till’s family complained about a lyric he wrote.

He continued, “As a father myself, I cannot imagine the pain that your family has had to endure.”

The family was not satisfied with that response and instead called for a meeting with executives at PepsiCo. At the same time, a publicist for the family said, they found an additional way to pressure Mountain Dew: to bring to public attention an offensive Mountain Dew video ad created by the hip-hop producer and rap artist known as Tyler, the Creator, that featured a battered white waitress, bandaged and on crutches, trying to identify her assailant from a lineup that included African-American men and a goat.

That ad prompted a flurry of media attention, and Mountain Dew pulled the ad on Wednesday. Two days later it severed its relationship with Lil Wayne….

In a telephone interview [the Reverend Al] Sharpton said he had also been in contact with Lil Wayne’s management. He described the issue as a “teaching moment” for both the brand and the artist.

“The fact is that a lot of these young artists do not understand these civil rights issues, do not understand history and what it is that people are offended by,” he said. “The corporations become insensitive because they are profit-driven and have no regard for what’s going on in our communities.”

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