Let's Get what now? Original version of badly-aged Black Eyed Peas song a viral hit despite "censorship"

Before the hip-hop band Black Eyed Peas dropped "Let's Get It Started" in 2004, which won them a Grammy, they released a different version of the song a year earlier. That original version had a, well, not-so-great title, one that would would likely put them in the crosshairs of cancellation these days. The original song was called "Let's Get Retarded" and was even included in their Elephunk album, though it has since been scrubbed from Spotify and other music streaming services.

This "dirty" version of the song has recently been making the rounds and shocking people on TikTok, where the group currently has 1.2M followers.

So, why did they change it? And how did such a song see the light of day as recently as 2003?

Piecing together information from the internet, it's not totally clear. But here is what was learned:

The Black Eyed Peas did re-record the song for a 2004 NBA Playoffs promo. The reworked "Let's Get It Started" played repeatedly during the broadcasts, which catapulted it to fame. This "clean" version was used on the radio and won the group their first Grammy.

The song is on the Barbershop 2: Back in Business soundtrack as "Let's Get Retarded" but when it plays in the 2004 movie's opening credits, it's been changed. In the final credits, it's listed as "Let's Get Censored."

It's also on the Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle soundtrack, and is used in this scene:

While it's clear that the use of the 'r-word' is no longer socially acceptable, there was a time when people, particularly of a certain age, used it without batting an eyelid. But that was well before the aughts.

For some perspective, in 2003 – the same year the original song was released – a survey conducted by the BBC named "retard" the most offensive word relating to disability, closely followed by "spastic."

The phrase "Let's Get Retarded" reportedly stems from West Coast slang, and it was intended to mean "let's go wild on the dance floor," akin to other colloquial phrases like "Go Dumb" and "Get/Go Stupid."

Black Eyed Peas Wiki:

The phrase is chanted at clubs and dances and used in everyday slang, but the word "Retarded" is offensive to people who see it as put-down of those who are mentally challenged, even though the first line of the verse says "In this context, there's no disrespect."

In 2004, Tony Peyser, a Los Angeles Times writer, called bullshit:

In the opening lyrics of "Let's Get Retarded," the Black Eyed Peas insist, "In this context, there's no disrespect." ("Retarded" appears to have been redefined as dancing or acting crazy.) Sorry, but that fish is 3 days old and I'm not buying it. It only reveals that the band knew what it was doing was dicey and was trying to establish wriggle room.

…Perhaps the good folks at A&M; could film public service spots to run on MTV where the otherwise socially conscious Black Eyed Peas could explain that making fun in this way is not a great idea.

No such PSA, or apology, could be found.

Also in 2004, a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece about the song offered this cringeworthy headline, "'Tard and Feathered." It's behind a paywall but another site sums it up:

The publication history of Bridget Johnson, the article's author, consists mostly of usual conservative make-work rags (National Review, Washington Times, etc.) so I shouldn't be surprised that she "figure[s] there's always a lobby of politically correct police that is the catalyst in these situations," the "situation" here being the removal of an ableist slur in the title of a pop song. Johnson contacts Arc of the United States (formerly Association of Retarded Citizens), an intellectual and developmental disability advocacy group, to ask if they had issued a public call for the change, as they had in other similar situations. Arc replied that they had contacted the Peas' record company, but never got a response. The rest of Johnson's article, as you may expect, asks why we, as non-disabled people, are all so sensitive and politically correct about this issue anyway, since she knows a few retarded people who don't care about the term. There's the obligatory listing of other terms the PC police just won't let you say anymore, and a jeremiad on how inadequate the term "intellectually disabled" is when you want to describe your friend's ugly outfit as "retarded." The article which uses "politically correct" or "PC" 16 times in 1,800 words, stinks as an opinion piece, and it also fails to provide insight into why the title was changed.