(Reuters) - PepsiCo Inc severed ties with rapper Lil Wayne on Friday over a graphic reference to slain U.S. civil rights figure Emmett Till in a song.
Lil Wayne, 30, had been the face of the PepsiCo drink Mountain Dew’s “Deweezy” campaign, a play on the rapper’s “Weezy” nickname.
“We do not plan any additional work with Lil Wayne moving forward,” a Mountain Dew representative said in a statement. “His offensive reference to a revered civil rights icon does not reflect the values of our brand.”
The Deweezy campaign website was taken down.
In a remix of the song “Karate Chop” by rapper Future, Lil Wayne likens the beating of Till to sex.
The song was leaked onto the Internet in February and prompted an apology from Future’s record company, Epic Records, after Till’s family had complained.
But the controversy did not stop there. In a letter to Till’s family this week, Lil Wayne called the reference “inappropriate” but stopped short of an apology.
Till, an African-American from Chicago, was beaten and murdered in 1955 at the age of 14 for allegedly whistling at a white woman in the village of Money, Mississippi, where he was visiting family.
An all-white jury acquitted two white men of Till’s murder, sparking national outrage. The trial is credited with mobilizing the civil rights movement and drawing attention to racial injustice and violence in the American South.
On Wednesday, PepsiCo pulled a series of online ads for Mountain Dew by rapper Tyler, The Creator which was criticized for embracing racial stereotypes and trivializing violence toward women.
Epic Records is owned by Sony Music Entertainment, a division of Sony Corp.
Reporting by Martinne Geller and Eric Kelsey; Editing by Mohammad Zargham