While rap music is an expression of self, some artists have pushed the envelope to the point of inciting social media backlash or facing threats of being canceled. Over the years, rappers have penned lyrics that serve as food for the soul, but also have churned stomachs and raised eyebrows. However, there are other instances in which artists seem not to be completely aware of the harm they’re potentially inflicting on certain individuals or communities with their music.
Just last month, Lizzo came face-to-face with controversy when she dropped her record "GRRRLS." She was labeled an ableist due to her use of the term "spaz," which she says in her lyrics for the track that has since been changed. An ableist is a person who discriminates against someone with disabilities. The Detroit singer-rapper's song was called out by disability advocate Hannah Diviney, who alluded to the word being a slur that refers to spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy that involves muscle stiffness. Lizzo issued an apology after initially appearing to be uninformed about the offensive term. Other rappers like The Game, Joey Bada$$ and Cardi B also thought it was slang and non-offensive.
In her apology, Lizzo said, "It's been brought to my attention that there is a harmful word in my new song 'GRRRLS.' Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language. As a fat Black woman in America, I've had many hurtful words used against me so I overstand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case, unintentionally. I'm proud to say there's a version of GRRRLS with a lyric change. This is the result of me listening and taking action. As an influential artist I'm dedicated to being part of the change I've been waiting to see in the world. Xoxo, Lizzo."
There were other times when artists were unapologetic about their rhymes regardless of how offensive the bar(s) might've been. And some utilized lyrics that simply didn’t age well given the time the song arrived and the level of awareness that has risen from that timeframe to now. For example, Rick Ross' verse on Rocko's "U.O.E.N.O," where he alludes to drugging a woman, or J. Cole using the highly offensive phrase "retarded" on a collab with Drake back in 2013.
See more lyrics that rappers have used over the years that have landed them in hot water below.