Vernon Reid and Axl Rose: Slur Wars

Regarding the Living Colour/Axl Rose conflict mentioned in Steve Hochman’s Sept. 23 interview of Living Colour:

I don’t know that the problem is. When it comes down to it, Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid and Rose (of Guns N’ Roses) seem to have very similar views regarding the use of slurs in songs.

In the Sept. 21 issue of BAM magazine, Reid is asked about his appearance on a Public Enemy song titled “Sophisticated Bitch.” He says that although he finds the word offensive, he “knew where the song was coming from” and “didn’t think it was supposed to be about all women, but a slag at a particular type of person in the community with a particular type of mentality.”

Although I also find the word offensive and think it is overused/misused, I agree with him.


This is basically the same argument people like Rose, Ice Cube and Ice-T have used when questioned about racial/sexual epithets in their lyrics.

Reid has stated that he doesn’t like it when a person of any race is the target of such words, but, as in the Times interview, Rose is the only person I’ve heard Reid refer to by name.

I know it would be difficult for Reid to understand where Rose was “coming from” when he wrote “One in a Million.” If Reid could, maybe he wouldn’t believe that the racial and sexual slurs used in that song were directed at all African Americans or gay people, but rather “a particular type of person in the community with a particular type of mentality.” I think that Reid and others should try to put this song in perspective before making such harsh judgments about its writer.



Redondo Beach