Hip Hop and The N-Word
Many nights during my gigs, I am only the black person in the establishment. Many times during these nights, patrons request hip hop.
An old friend stopped by my gig last Wednesday, an African-born white guy named T-Bone.
“You know,” I told him. “I feel funny when I hear these rappers use the n-word. It ain’t as if I’m offended. It’s embarrassing.”
“You should be embarrassed,” said T-Bone.
“Listening to it with other black people, I thought nothing of it. Now, when I hear it among a whole bunch of white people, I think different.”
“Sometimes people need to think about the image they project.”
Years ago, I remember Sean (a black friend) constantly using the n-word around white people. When it was just him and me present, I told Sean I didn’t think that was wise. Months later, an incident involving him and one of our white friends proved me right.
“Me and him don’t hang out no more,” said Sean. “He called me a nigger.”
This was a guy I witnessed Sean using the n-word around.
I believe because he heard Sean using it, our friend thought he had a free pass to use the word himself. (Oh yea, I stopped hanging around that dude too.)
I ain’t gong to front. I’m guilty myself. Back in the nineties, I’ve had plays produced in which black characters constantly used the n-word. I always thought the usage appropriate for the characters, especially juvenile inmate characters.
Now, as I witness white people listening to rappers using the n-word, I wonder if including the usage in my plays was a wise choice.
I think most black rappers don’t even think about a white audience. Most create music mainly for black consumers. Yet, if they did thought about a white audience, I wonder if this would curb n-word usage. I wonder how rappers feel when learning white kids repeat their lyrics word for word, including lyrics using the n-word.
Despite requests, it may be wise for me to quit playing music containing the n-word. Who knows? I just might be another uptight forty-something, sounding like someone’s dad instead of sounding like a cool and hip DJ.