Recording music is a therapeutic process for rappers. The booth becomes a vessel for the truth, allowing for artists to use rapping as a form of getting things off their chests and clearing their minds. But just because it’s said out loud doesn’t mean that it's meant for the public to hear. What happens in the studio can become worldwide in seconds if a verse if leaked or a video of the moment is shared, intentionally or not. Although leaks get fans hype, they’ve been just as detrimental as they are beneficial for rappers in certain situations.
Let’s take it back to 2013, when Drake and J. Cole’s collaborative track “Jodeci Freestyle” first leaked on the internet. Cole’s verse contained jabs at his enemies, one where he used the word "autistic" to describe them. His comments weren’t taken lightly, upsetting the autistic community and leading to Drake and J. Cole issuing apologies on their respective blogs, something that Rick Ross and Lil Wayne did that same year.
A few years later, Rich Homie Quan would get his fair share of that experience as well, popularly traced back to 2015, when a Rich Gang collaboration titled “I Made It” leaked. On the song, Quan’s verse contains bars that were considered to be pro-rape, causing him to frantically speak out and reveal that the song was never see the light of day.
And even more recently, people like Eminem have found themselves falling victim to leaked lyrics by way of Conway The Machine's "Bang." After a few clapbacks between the Detroit rapper and Diddy’s media company Revolt, Em issued a rare apology.
Leaked songs and their lyrics have sometimes put rappers in a bad position over the years. So today, we decided to look back at 10 popular situations where leaked lyrics have gotten rappers in trouble.
In February of 2013, Lil Wayne faced criticism for referencing the beating of Emmett Till on a leaked remix of Future’s “Karate Chop.” In 1955, Emmett, a 14-year-old Black teen, was lynched in Mississippi after being accused of offending a White woman in her family's grocery store. On the song, Weezy raps, “Beat that pussy up like Emmett Till," enraging fans all over the country. The offensive lyrics and backlash not only caused Future’s label, Epic Records, to deny the songs validity, but also caused the Young Money CEO to issue an apology.
“As a father myself, I cannot imagine the pain that your family has had to endure,” Wayne wrote in an open letter to Till’s family. “Moving forward, I will not use or reference Emmett Till or the Till family in my music, especially in an inappropriate manner. I fully support Epic Record’s decision to take down the unauthorized version of the song and to not include the reference in the version that went to retail. I will not be performing the lyrics that contain that reference live and have removed them from my catalog,” he continued, in hopes to rectify the situation.
However, Wayne ended up losing his deal with PepsiCo as a result.
Rocko’s “U.O.E.N.O.” featuring Rick Ross leaked onto the internet in March of 2013, and received some serious backlash for suggesting date rape. On Rozay's verse, he raps, “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."
Once the leak began to spread, Ross found himself caught in a whirlwind of controversy that resulted in him getting dropped from his sponsorship deal with Reebok and also caused UltraViolet, a group that’s dedicated to fighting for feminism culture and political change, to call out the rapper publicly, speaking for women who have been through experiences like this.
Ross eventually issued an apology on Twitter. "I dont condone rape. Apologies for the #lyric interpreted as rape. #BOSS. "Apologies to my many business partners,who would never promote violence against women. @ReebokClassics @ultraviolet," he tweeted.
In an interview with Hot 97, Rocko said that he would release another version of the song without Ross' verse.
Drake Featuring J. Cole
A J. Cole and Drake collab called “Jodeci Freestyle” leaked in June of 2013, despite not seeing an official release until the 6 God's Care Package project in 2019. With the official release, controversial lyrics from J. Cole were edited out. He originally rapped, "I'm artistic/You niggas is autistic, retarded,” enraging the autistic community and spawning both artists to apologize on their respective blogs back when the leak first surfaced.
"Last week, when I first saw a comment from someone outraged about the lyric, I realized right away that what I said was wrong," Cole wrote on his Dreamville blog. "I was instantly embarrassed that I would be ignorant enough say something so hurtful. What makes the crime worse is that I should have known better. People with this disorder and their loved ones have to go through so much already, the last thing they need is to hear something as ignorant as what I said,” he continued.
Drake doubled down on that sentiment and vowed to eliminate those lyrics.
Eminem and Royce 5’9″
Back in November of 2014, a leaked snippet of Eminem and Royce 5’9”’s song “Vegas” contained offensive lyrics that were directed at Iggy Azalea. “Back to basic/Unless you're Nicki, grab you by the wrist/Let's ski, so what's it gon' be?/Put that shit away, Iggy/You gon' blow that rape whistle or me?," Em rapped on the record.
Iggy got wind of the leak and addressed Eminem’s comments on Twitter. “I'm bored of the old men threatening young women as entertainment trend,” she tweeted out on Nov. 20, 2014.
She followed up by saying that women have bigger “balls” in the music industry, and that they frankly go through way more harassment and criticism. Eminem didn't comment on the record any further than that, but he certainly ruffled some feathers with his words.
Over 100 leaked songs from Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan surfaced on the internet back in May of 2015. Considering the height of Rich Gang, fans were excited to get new music from the pair but some controversial lyrics from Quan caused fans to raise eyebrows in concern. On the record “I Made It,” Quan dropped in some lyrics that were perceived to be pro-rape. "I don't want your ho, just want that cookie from her/She tried to resist so I took it from her/How are you gonna tell me no?/You must not know who I am,” he rapped on the track.
After the leak blew up, Quan released a statement to clarify his stance on the issue. “‘I Made It' was never intended to be released. The song was not lyrically what I wanted to say and was not completed. Without my knowledge, there was a studio leak of the recording. I apologize that it’s out; and I have asked my lawyer to pursue a cease and desist on the song immediately. To be clear, I would never condone rape,” he said.
This would be the first of two incidents for Quan.
Shortly after Rich Homie Quan made a public apology about his pro-rape lyrics on "I Made It," more music from his catalog was leaked and one song called “Day 1” put the Atlanta rapper right back into trouble.
On the song, which leaked in June of 2015, Quan raps, “Chances ain’t shit if you don’t take one/Mansion full of bitches, about to rape one.”
Fans became even more upset with Rich Homie Quan, as his name made headlines for the same controversial issue twice in two months. When Billboard asked Quan if he felt he owed his fans an apology, his answer was yes. "Yes, I do," he said. "I do not condone or promote rape. I'm not a rapist. That song was recorded in December 2012. I was young and just rapping. At the time, I had no guidance in my life. I blame it on that. So I apologize once more to my fans."
Kanye West getting up on stage and interrupting Taylor Swift’s 2009 MTV Video Music Awards acceptance speech went down as one of the most popular moments in awards show history. And apparently, ’Ye felt as if he deserved the credit for that. When the original demo of his song “Famous” leaked in October of 2016, Yeezy’s lyrics about making Taylor Swift famous were far more aggressive than what the released version demonstrated.
On the leak, he raps, "I feel like Taylor Swift still owe me sex/I made that bitch famous," instead of "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous,” which appeared on the original version.
Taylor revealed that she didn’t approve of the lyrics in the song, but Kanye went on to release it anyway. Her fans were outraged at Kanye’s boldness, adding a deeper and more public detriment to the shaky relationship between the two stars that Kim Kardashian felt the need to get in the middle of.
“Things Get Worse”
A 2009 reference track of an Eminem record called “Things Get Worse” put the rapper under fire for lyrics that were in support of Chris Brown’s reported assault on Rihanna. On the leaked song, which surfaced in November of 2019, Em rapped, "I’m not playing Rihanna where’d you get the V.D. at?/Let me add my two cents/Of course I side with Chris Brown/I’d beat a bitch down, too."
In a statement sent directly to XXL following the incident, Dennis Dennehy, a spokesperson for the Detroit rapper, revealed that Em’s verse was recorded in 2009, for his Relapse album, but was later scrapped and reworked for B.o.B’s song of the same name.
“This is a leak of something that’s over 10 years old," Dennehy explained. "After Eminem recorded it, he scrapped it, and rewrote it. Obviously he and Rihanna have a great relationship."
Since Eminem recorded those lyrics, he and Rihanna have collaborated three times and even went on tour together. Once again though, that was before this song surfaced.
Drake and Future
Earlier this year, in an Instagram live session hosted by OVO Mark and Drake, an unreleased Future and Drake song was played and later leaked onto the internet. While most fans were excited to hear the OVO/FBG duo back together, they also peeped Drake’s bars about Kylie Jenner. "Yeah, I'm a hater to society. Real shit, Kylie Jenner that's a side-piece. Yeah, I got 20 muthafuckin' Kylies,” Drizzy rapped on the track while Future emphasized the statement in the form of an ad-lib.
Fans were upset at Drake for rapping about a 19-year-old Kylie at the time the song was released, and for disrespecting his collaborator Travis Scott’s girlfriend. So Drake apologized via his Instagram story. "It's a song that leaked three years ago and got scrapped shortly after. Last thing I'd want to do is wake up having any friends of mine feeling disrespected so I just had to say that to start off the day," he wrote.
On June 23, an alternate version of Conway The Machine's "Bang" was leaked online, featuring an old Eminem verse where shots are fired at Joe Budden as well as Diddy's media company Revolt. "Y’all are like a fucked up remote/Now I get it why our button’s broke/’Cause you pressing him but do nothing though, especially when it comes to punches thrown," the Detroit rapper rhymed.
After the verse went viral, Revolt quickly responded to Slim Shady on Instagram and Twitter writing, "Fuck you too Eminem," before releasing an official statement to Billboard where they questioned Em’s intent and called his verse a “distraction.”
Shady soon responded with a statement of his own. "I never meant for that verse to be heard, I was heated in the moment and thought better of it and decided to pull it back," he wrote on Twitter. This was surely a rare acknowledgment and apology from Em.