The Controversy Behind Guns N’ Roses’ ‘One In A Million’

There have been numerous songs that resulted in big backlashes within the rock scene, but there’s one that is now considered to be the most popular one; ‘One in a Million‘ by Guns N’ Roses. The song came out in 1988 and even though decades have gone by, it still stands as an example of the internalized racism and homophobia present in some bands.

Axl Rose doesn’t have a very clean reputation when it comes to social issues and politics. In fact, he would initiate highly offensive rants during concerts and there was a point that he actually argued he was ‘pro-heterosexual’ and condemned LGBTQIA+ members and allies. Well, then it shouldn’t be surprising that he was the one who penned GN’R’s most controversial song.

Why Is One In A Million By Guns N’ Roses Offensive?

So, there are two reasons why it’s offensive. On the one hand, it’s racist and on the other hand homophobic. There are a lot of things that can be said both about the inspiration behind the composition of the song and the arguments made in support of it but the following lyrics are the gist of why a big percentage of people hate that song.

The lyrics read:

Police and nig**rs, that’s right / Get outta my way / Don’t need to buy none of your / Gold chains today.”

The track was released in 1988 and Rose had said that it was inspired by his experience of getting hustled in a Greyhound bus station when he first arrived in Los Angeles. The fact that the lyrics have been written following a real-life experience makes the lyrics even more problematic.

Firstly, using racial slurs is a considerable offense but was probably not a huge deal in Indiana where Axl Rose grew up and approximately 90% of the population is white. However, coming to Los Angeles, Axl should have realized that it is indeed very wrong to use slurs or joke about people’s ethnic origins while being racist.

Later on, Axl sings:

Immigrants and faggots / They make no sense to me / They come to our country / And think they’ll do as they please / Like start some mini-Iran / Or spread some fucking disease.”

These lyrics shout nativism and homophobia as they not only endorse the idea that immigrants come to the United States and don’t abide by the rules and cultural norms, but also that homosexual people roam around and ‘spread some f*cking disease.’ At this point, you should be able to see why this song has become such a hot topic.

Are Guns N’ Roses Still Performing ‘One In A Million’?

When asked about the lyrics, Axl Rose had first claimed that he has the right to use the slur ‘nig**rs’ as black people use it too. As for homophobia, he’d claimed that he’s pro-heterosexuality and then softened his stance by telling the Rolling Stone that he’s fine with people doing what they want ‘as long as it’s not hurting anybody else and they’re not forcing it upon me.’

Axl’s last discussion on ‘One in a Million’ was back in 1992 to Rolling Stone and said:

“The racist thing is just bullshit. I used a word that was taboo and I used that word because it was taboo. I was pissed off about some black people that were trying to rob me. I wanted to insult those particular black people. I didn’t want to support racism.

When I used the word faggots, I wasn’t coming down on gays. I was coming down on an element of gays. I had just heard a story about a man who was released out of the L.A. county jail with AIDS and he was hooking. I’ve had my share of dealings with aggressive gays, and I was bothered by it.”

The discussion around the song went on for a while, but eventually, in 2018, Guns N’ Roses announced that ‘One in a Million’ wouldn’t be included in a 2018 box-set reissue of ‘Appetite for Destruction’ and Slash had said that it was a collective and easy decision.