Top 10 Musicians Whose Lyrics Got Them In Trouble

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Top 10 Musicians Whose Lyrics Got Them In Trouble

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Owen Maxwell
These songs stirred the pot of controversy. For this list we're looking at the artists and bands whose racy words got them in trouble with the public and censors. Our countdown includes Kanye West, N.W.A., Britney Spears, and more!
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Top 10 Musicians Who Got In Trouble Over Their Lyrics


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Musicians Who Got In Trouble Over Their Lyrics.

For this list we're looking at the artists and bands whose racy words got them in trouble with the public and censors.

What’s a song with lyrics that raised your eyebrows to your hairline? Tell us in the comments!

#10: Kanye West

Kanye’s beef with Taylor Swift goes all the way back to 2009, when he took away the 19 year old’s microphone to voice his own opinions as she accepted her first MTV Video Music Award. Seven years later, he was still going at it, this time asserting in his song “Famous” that Taylor would have sex with him - you know, if he wanted [sarcastic] - and that he “made that bitch famous”. The media and Taylor herself called out the lyrics for being misogynistic, and she subtly denounced his attempt to take credit for her career at the 2016 Grammy Awards. The controversy continued when Kim Kardashian released a recording of Taylor allegedly approving the lines; however, a longer recording suggested that Taylor hadn’t agreed to being called “that bitch”.

#9: Robin Thicke feat. T.I., Pharrell

It didn't take long for Robin Thicke's “Blurred Lines” to become more famous for being creepy than catchy. The lyrics “I know you want it / But you're a good girl” and “I hate these blurred lines” were blasted as promoting “rape culture”. The backlash even led several school boards in the United Kingdom to ban the song from events. Pharrell Williams initially defended the song as empowering thanks to lyrics like “That man is not your maker”, but later disowned it. Meanwhile, Thicke threw wood on the fire by telling GQ that the song tried to “do everything that is completely derogatory towards women” … before claiming he’d just been impersonating Ron Burgundy.

#8: Jay-Z

Released in 2017, Jay-Z's 'The Story of O.J.' looks at race and racism in America. In the lyrics, the rapper urges his listeners not to throw away their money, and to make smart financial investments as a way to “buy the neighbourhood”. As part of this theme, he posed the question: “You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America?” It ignited a debate on social media over whether the line was anti-Semitic, and the Anti-Defamation League expressed concern “that this lyric could feed into preconceived notions about Jews”. Jay-Z defended the line as an “exaggeration”, with the underlying message that the Jewish people “got it right”.

#7: Britney Spears

Unlike many controversial songs, Britney Spears' 2009 song 'If You Seek Amy' was criticized for appearing family friendly … while being anything but. Though Spears' track doesn't have any lewd lyrics on the surface, if you say the title out loud, you’ll see it’s not as wholesome as it seems. The song's innocent guise allowed it to sneak by censors, which meant plenty of radio play. Parents across the U.S. were so outraged that they threatened radio stations with indecency complaints. Many stations were forced to make their own edits for fear of losing their license, as well as paying fines. Britney was even asked to release her own edit to defuse the situation.

#6: Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne’s song "Suicide Solution" didn't trigger alarms upon its release in 1980, but stirred up controversy five years later when a teenager took his own life while allegedly listening to it. The parents of John McCollum filed a lawsuit, claiming that their son had been listening to Osbourne’s album “Blizzard of Ozz” at the time. "Suicide Solution" is the last track on Side One of the album and contains lyrics that describe the first word of the title as “the only way out”. Osbourne has claimed that the song is about the dangers of alcoholism; as alcohol is a solution scientifically speaking, Ozzy believes the lyrics were misinterpreted...

#5: Nirvana

Though Nirvana had previously gained attention for their cover art, their 1993 song 'Rape Me' became divisive, due to the song's title and chorus line. Kurt Cobain defended the song, stating that it was meant to be empowering to survivors. In his own words, the message was intended as: “You’ll never kill me. I’ll survive this”. Regardless of their intent, Walmart forced Nirvana to change the track's title to 'Waif Me' on CDs of 'In Utero'. At the same time, they also removed images of fetuses from the back cover of the album.

#4: Eminem

Eminem worried his ex-girlfriend when he recorded 'Kim'. But 1999’s 'My Name Is' led Eminem's mother to take legal action against him. Debbie Mathers filed a slander lawsuit against Eminem due to the line “I just found out my mom does more dope than I do.” Ms. Mathers also voiced her anger at lyrics like “How you gonna breastfeed me, Mom?! You ain't got no tits” in her 2008 book about her son. Debbie Mathers’ lawsuit sought $10 million in damages but settled for $25,000. Mathers only received $1,600 of that settlement, and the lawsuit later got a call out in Eminem's 'Without Me.'

#3: Body Count

Ice-T plays a detective on 'Law & Order' these days, but in the early '90s he was most famous for releasing 'Cop Killer' with Body Count - a protest track responding to police brutality. Many criticized it for going too far. Naysayers included members of the police and then president George Bush Senior. Charlton Heston even demanded that Warner Bros. drop Body Count from their label. Although he claimed the song to be a character piece, Ice-T eventually bowed to the pressure and re-released the album without the song.

#2: 2 Live Crew

While a song like 1989’s 'Me So Horny' seems childish and ridiculous now, it was once a crime to even sell it - at least in Florida. The track is filled with sexual imagery and lewd samples from the movies 'Full Metal Jacket' and 'Which Way Is Up.' In fact 2 Live Crew's album 'As Nasty As They Wanna Be' contains as many as 116 references to genitals. One Florida prosecutor found it so offensive, they successfully had the album ruled as obscene. The ruling led to the band's arrest for performing the tracks, and several record vendors charged with selling obscene materials.

Before we get to our top picks, here are a a few honorable, or in some cases dishonorable mentions:

The Rolling Stones
"Let's Spend the Night Together" Got the Band in Trouble with Ed Sullivan & China

Offset
The Rapper Claimed that His Diss Against “Queers” in “Boss Life” Was Really About “Lame” People

Guns N' Roses
"One In A Million" Sparked Accusations of Racism, Homophobia, & Nativism

#1: N.W.A.

After being harassed by police outside of the studio, N.W.A. were inspired to record the anti-cop anthem to end them all: 1988’s "F*ck Tha Police". As 'the track quickly gained attention for promoting violence against authorities, N.W.A. received a letter from the F.B.I.. The song was even banned from their supporting tour, with cops regularly lecturing them about it before shows. When the band performed the song in protest at a Detroit concert, the set was shut down immediately. The track was even banned on Australian radio.
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