by | Feb 9, 2003 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Editor’s note: This column contains words that could be offensive. But the Free Press thinks they’re important to understand the columnist’s view.

But enough about war. Let us turn to a truly serious issue: whether Ozzy Osbourne deserves a Pepsi commercial.

This is a burning controversy. Why, as you read this, a boycott is being called, down in Atlanta, to keep people from buying Pepsi products — not because the foulmouthed Ozzy was hired as Pepsi’s new spokesperson, but because a foulmouthed rapper named Ludacris was dumped.

I am not kidding. According to the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network — a group founded by rap mogul Russell Simmons — “this boycott is being called in response to Pepsi dropping Ludacris . . . and picking up the Osbournes, who are no less vulgar.”

In other words, Pepsi thinks Ozzy’s $#@%! doesn’t smell, but Ludacris’ $#@%! does.

Now. In case you don’t know the players here, Ludacris is a rapper of some renown. Many kids like him. His lyrics are, shall we say, not in the Doris Day category. A sample, from his tune entitled — and folks, feel free to sing along — “Get The F— Back.” F— that!

Get the f— back!

Luda make your skull crack! Ah, love songs.

From rap to rock

Osbourne, meanwhile, is a burned-out rock star from the ’80s who was rediscovered as a blithering idiot, pushed into the national spotlight, and transformed into a multimillionaire. People watch Ozzy and his dysfunctional family on MTV, and they laugh at his ineptitude, along with his incessant profanity.

A sample of Ozzy’s lines:

“Where the f— is the f—— dog, Sharon? I mean, I’m the Prince off—— Darkness!”

Ah, drama.

A few months ago, when Ludacris was Pepsi’s man, the bombastic Bill O’Reilly took the soft-drink maker to task. He read some Ludacris lyrics on his TV show. He called Pepsi immoral. He, too, demanded a boycott.

And, like many corporate entities, fear of controversy led Pepsi to cave in. Not a sense of morals, mind you. If Pepsi had that, it wouldn’t have hired Ludacris in the first place.

No, Pepsi was worried about customers. So it dumped Ludacris and called his brief stint “a mistake.”

Which didn’t make Simmons very happy. After all, he controls a stable of rap artists, and they could make some major money with Pepsi-sized endorsements — not to mention mainstream exposure. Never mind that tunes like “Move, Bitch”
(another Ludacris love song) might not be something we want kids who drink Pepsi checking out. Simmons, like most businessmen, is about the money. He saw it slipping away.

And when Pepsi hired Osbourne, he hit the roof.

Who does the right thing?

The accusation, of course, is racism. White profanity is OK, but black profanity is not. Simmons believes that this is an important issue, and that it warrants a boycott. The heat is on from the rap community.

Which leads me to one thought:

How do I get off this planet?

What have we come to when a battle rages over who is more vulgar, the black guy or the white guy? What is Pepsi thinking in the first place? This is less about racism than it is about stupidity. You make one terrible choice. You fix it. Then you make another.

Is it so critical to reach the teenage dollar that anything goes? Does it really matter which star is drinking which soda anyhow?

Isn’t there anyone in the whole Pepsi organization smart enough to say, “Let’s save our money, avoid this whole celebrity thing, and go back to a bunch of happy faces hoisting their Pepsi cans”?

Apparently not. What’s sad here is that nobody seems to question the whole idea of vulgarity as entertainment. A boycott. Another boycott. Black versus white in the race to be vulgar.

You gotta admit, Pepsi got one thing right, even if it spelled it wrong.

Ludicrous is the word.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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