Author Topic: Black rappers that use 'the n word'  (Read 4269 times)

Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« on: September 09, 2020, 10:39:27 PM »
Do you think it's okay for black rappers to use the n word? Do you think there are nuances to the debate?

For instance, I think that John Lennon and Yoko Ono calling women 'the n**** of the world' is a far more justifiable use of the n-word than Future saying, in his collab with Drake, "Hunnid thousand for the cheapest ring on a n**** finger, lil' bitch, woo." One seems like an artistic decision to be deliberately shocking and provocative to make a political point, and Future and Drake just seem to be using it because... I don't even know why.  But I would prefer it if they didn't.

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Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2020, 11:17:59 PM »
A pair of non-black people equating two unrelated struggles with a word they've no right to be using does not exactly scream "justifiable" to me. More like shortsighted and edgelordy, or at the very least, a way of thinking which has aged dreadfully. Using shock tactics like that to bring attention to a worthy cause just makes you look ignorant. If you tried that nowadays you'd be laughed at, and for good reason.

That isn't to discount the abject monstrosities of either racism or misogyny, but they're not the same thing, and that logic is not much different to the way uneducated people will use Hitler or Nazism as being analogous to absolutely any other form of oppression.

And no, I don't think there are nuances to black people using the word, and even if I did, I wouldn't have a chair in the debate because I'm not black. You're more than welcome to have a try at telling black people when they can and can't use the word, though.

Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2020, 11:51:09 PM »
And no, I don't think there are nuances to black people using the word, and even if I did, I wouldn't have a chair in the debate because I'm not black. You're more than welcome to have a try at telling black people when they can and can't use the word, though.

Surely you can privately have an opinion about it? I'm not sure I would go around bringing up this subject around black people uninvited.

And of course there are nuances. What about the famous Chris Rock routine, "I love black people, but I hate n******." Nuanced!

Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2020, 12:16:54 AM »
I think if the slur refers to you, you can use it however you want. If Future wants to release a song that's just his slurry autotuned voice listing every racial epithet applicable against black people then that's his business. If that makes white people like me uncomfortable then frankly, good, why shouldn't it? I'm all for oppressed groups reclaiming language for themselves removing as much of the sting as they can. If you can turn a word that was used during the subjugation of your ancestors into part of a song that helps make you money then more power to you.

John and Yoko's example is cringey and badly written, a terrible lyric. MES asking "where are the obligatory n*****s" at the beginning of The Classical while many still feel squeamish about it (and Mark omitted that line in rare post 80s performances) is at least making a point about tokenism. There's a Quietus article on the subject where John Doran lengthily states his lack of a right to have an opinion on this which he has chosen to express through an opinion piece then asks some non white people what they think: they're quite ambivalent Fall fans. Unusual exercise with typical British attention to the wrong details.

Jesus Hates Faggots by John Grant is unusual in that on one hand it's a queer man using a slur that has been aimed at him to make a point about homophobia and it's very effective til he overdoes it by including slurs aimed at other groups.

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Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2020, 12:39:32 AM »
Surely you can privately have an opinion about it? I'm not sure I would go around bringing up this subject around black people uninvited.

I don't think it's wise or healthy to have a private opinion about anything, least of all racial issues as prickly as this which, subjectively speaking, are none of my business. It's not my word to use, and it's not my place to say when and where a black person can use it.

What about the famous Chris Rock routine, "I love black people, but I hate n******." Nuanced!

You're kind of proving my point by posting a clip of a black comedian performing a routine aimed solely at black people. Any tensions within the black community and black people's reclamation of the N-word are not things that non-black people are in any position to debate, since that very same word and the very same reason that tension within the black community even exists are both because of the awful way white people treated black people. The white media's appropriation of black culture, especially in music, is responsible in part for pitting black people against each other and effectively trying to let a problem sort itself out. It's this subtle systemic abuse of black people masquerading as inclusion which perpetuated the myth that black people are lazy, unintelligent thugs. Tragically, there are some black people who were brainwashed by those myths and allowed them to become a reality. The way Rock addresses that the media isn't the problem in this clip is, to my knowledge, effectively his way of telling black people that they can do better and to not let themselves be marginalised any further.

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Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2020, 12:59:21 AM »
I think if the slur refers to you, you can use it however you want.

More or less this.

Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2020, 01:29:55 AM »
It's a very American thing, and personally if you're not in America a lot of it is intent.

I'll give an example. An elderly arch-conservative senator here in Tasmania used the 5-letter N word to describe US Justice Clarence Thomas on radio. Purely just to describe the colour of his skin. Now to me, I'm happy to ignore it because of intent, (of course, not using it myself).

One I trip over a lot is "Retarded" - which was (correctly) being replaced with the correct term for the illnesses that cause people to have learning and developmental problems, but still was a derogatory term for being stupid "like them". I don't associate the word with that, but I still use it as an insult on occasions.

South Park did a good episode on this, but one final anecdote, on Tony Martin's Get This Radio show in 2009, they interviewed like a 8 year old at school. He used the phrase "That's a bit gay" in a derogatory form. Now to me like, this kid has picked it up context free, since from when he was born it wasn't used widely as a insult to homosexual men?

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Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2020, 09:31:32 AM »
I’m sure black people will stop using the n-word if they realise white people find it offensive.

Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2020, 09:41:05 AM »
I'm not 'telling black people not to use the n-word'. It's okay for you to have some opinion about whether you'd prefer it if Drake and Future don't lazily use the n-word. It's not like I've got Drake on speed-dial so I can tell him what he's doing wrong as a musician.

I guess also, I don't have so much of a problem with Public Enemy doing it as part of their subversive challenging of social norms and aggressive commentary on a racist society. Drake doing it 35 years later in a pop song is not subversive. Or offensive, or challenging social norms. Or any of the other justifications that people might've made 35 years ago.

Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2020, 09:52:58 AM »
A pair of non-black people equating two unrelated struggles with a word they've no right to be using does not exactly scream "justifiable" to me. More like shortsighted and edgelordy, or at the very least, a way of thinking which has aged dreadfully. Using shock tactics like that to bring attention to a worthy cause just makes you look ignorant. If you tried that nowadays you'd be laughed at, and for good reason.


FWIW, Lennon claimed it was justifiable as he got special written dispensation from the black community via (black) congressman Ron Dellums to say it (see 1.50 ish onwards here): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5lMxWWK218

Yeah I know it's basically just 'some of my best friends are black' with an official bow on top and I agree it wouldn't stand up today with the more nuanced intersectional discourse going on, but I think it's worth mentioning to show there was a bit more consideration given to his use of the word at the time beyond just 'ooh I went and said it, does it offend you yeah??' shock tactics.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2020, 10:16:25 AM by ajsmith2 »

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Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2020, 10:38:32 AM »
Jesus Hates Faggots by John Grant is unusual in that on one hand it's a queer man using a slur that has been aimed at him to make a point about homophobia and it's very effective til he overdoes it by including slurs aimed at other groups.
That last verse makes me a bit uncomfortable too, I suppose that's the idea. I saw him play it live last year and he skipped 'the N word' but I think the rest of it was unchanged.

The Mollusk

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Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2020, 11:03:24 AM »
FWIW, Lennon claimed it was justifiable as he got special written dispensation from the black community via (black) congressman Ron Dellums to say it (see 1.50 ish onwards here): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5lMxWWK218

Yeah I know it's basically just 'some of my best friends are black' with an official bow on top and I agree it wouldn't stand up today with the more nuanced intersectional discourse going on, but I think it's worth mentioning to show there was a bit more consideration given to his use of the word at the time beyond just 'ooh I went and said it, does it offend you yeah??' shock tactics.

It still rubs me up the wrong way, much in the same way it did when the BBC did it recently. Just because they asked for permission like the golden children they are, that doesn't excuse it. All it does is prop up another misconceived notion: that one black person is able to speak for all black people. I mean, that is a racist thing to do, and as I said previously it only makes Lennon look ignorant.

It could probably also be argued that, in these two examples, the people being asked for permission were either in a position of authority or were victims. Isn't that just white people falsely appropriating black empowerment in order to get away with using the N-word? Comparatively, would it be acceptable if Lennon just asked some random black person he bumped into down the shops?

I'm not 'telling black people not to use the n-word'.

No, of course you're not. You're simply saying that if it were up to you, black people's use of the word would be limited to your own set of standards. Well, that's alright then!

I guess also, I don't have so much of a problem with Public Enemy doing it as part of their subversive challenging of social norms and aggressive commentary on a racist society. Drake doing it 35 years later in a pop song is not subversive. Or offensive, or challenging social norms. Or any of the other justifications that people might've made 35 years ago.

Can you tell me why you think every use of the word should be subversive or challenging social norms? For decades, the word has been used by black people in various contexts, one of them being a casual term for addressing other people like "dude" or "buddy". In a drawn-out way, every use of the word is subversive because it is a reclamation of the word from non-black people and is a (relatively very small, but nevertheless valid) statement of self-ownership.

Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2020, 11:47:12 AM »
No, of course you're not. You're simply saying that if it were up to you, black people's use of the word would be limited to your own set of standards. Well, that's alright then!
It's okay to have opinions on things. In that Drake and Future song I mentioned in my OP, I also don't like how they rhyme every line with 'bitch, woo' or 'shit, woo'. Two of the things I don't like about that song is the lazy use of a racist epithet and the crappy rhyming scheme. Nobody's interested in discussing the crappy rhyme scheme but the use of the n-word is still a controversial complaint.

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Can you tell me why you think every use of the word should be subversive or challenging social norms? For decades, the word has been used by black people in various contexts, one of them being a casual term for addressing other people like "dude" or "buddy". In a drawn-out way, every use of the word is subversive because it is a reclamation of the word from non-black people and is a (relatively very small, but nevertheless valid) statement of self-ownership.

To be honest I think it's dumb for it to be a synonym of 'dude' or 'buddy'. I know a lot of South Asians use 'p*ki' in the same way, like they've reclaimed it, but they don't use it in polite company. If there was some hit song that was beaming 'p*ki' into our kids' ears then I would hope they were making some kind of anti-racist political point.

I'm not saying every use of the word should be challenging social norms or subversive and I'm not saying that Drake should be banned from using the n-word unless he's got a good reason for it. But I do think that it's okay to criticise a pop song for kids for using the n-word in a meaningless way. It isn't the equivalent of 'dude' or 'buddy'.

If Barbara Streisand or Leonard Cohen started using 'k*ke' in their next pop hits, I would criticise them if I didn't think they had a good artistic reason for doing so. I don't think Future or Drake have got a good reason for using the n-word. If you don't have a good artistic purpose behind your lyrics, surely that is a valid criticism of a rap song?

Really, too, a bunch of white people will use the n-word because Drake and Future used it. If we think it's bad for white people to use the n-word, and Drake and Future's reason for using the n-word is non-existent, then surely we can say that the harm of Drake and Future using the n-word is outweighed by the positive reasons for doing so.

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Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #13 on: September 10, 2020, 01:08:03 PM »
Surely you can privately have an opinion about it? I'm not sure I would go around bringing up this subject around black people uninvited.


you brought it up uninvited here. why do you assume there are no black people using this forum?

The Mollusk

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Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #14 on: September 10, 2020, 01:10:43 PM »
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I also don't like how they rhyme every line with 'bitch, woo' or 'shit, woo'. Two of the things I don't like about that song is the lazy use of a racist epithet and the crappy rhyming scheme. Nobody's interested in discussing the crappy rhyme scheme but the use of the n-word is still a controversial complaint.

...

If you don't have a good artistic purpose behind your lyrics, surely that is a valid criticism of a rap song?

This is a rhetorical question, but what is "good artistic purpose"? Contextually, there's no real limit to what any one person can say or do with their art. If you think it's lazy then fair enough, but that is more a criticism of the song in general, and the N-word doesn't really factor into that argument. The song might be rubbish but they can say whatever they like, and since they're black, the N-word is included in that remit.

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To be honest I think it's dumb for it to be a synonym of 'dude' or 'buddy'. I know a lot of South Asians use 'p*ki' in the same way, like they've reclaimed it, but they don't use it in polite company. If there was some hit song that was beaming 'p*ki' into our kids' ears then I would hope they were making some kind of anti-racist political point.

It is an anti-racist political point, as I said in the part of my post you quoted directly above. Reclaiming those words is effectively saying "this is one thing white people aren't allowed to own, I'm taking that" and every subsequent use of those words is a tiny way of reinforcing and normalising that, which I have no problem with.

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Really, too, a bunch of white people will use the n-word because Drake and Future used it. If we think it's bad for white people to use the n-word, and Drake and Future's reason for using the n-word is non-existent, then surely we can say that the harm of Drake and Future using the n-word is outweighed by the positive reasons for doing so.

That's their own problem. It's not my problem or your problem or black people's problem. If people are informed and educated properly they'll understand the difference. Pop music shouldn't walk on eggshells just because some people are too ignorant to see that. The same argument could be made for over-sexualisation in pop music. "This pop star sends a bad message out by wearing revealing clothing and perpetuating that women are just objects to be desired." No, it's more like female empowerment, since women can wear whatever outfit they feel comfortable and confident in.

I think part of this argument stems from how times change and what is acceptable in a pop song/video now compared to then. But in this particular example, the Future song you're referring to has a clean radio edit which omits the N-word as well as the swears, and that same standard has been in place since at least 1999 with Still D.R.E. when all instances of the N-word, including Snoop Dogg audaciously saying it right at the start, were cut from the clean version. The only difference now is that the official video for the Future track on YouTube is the complete uncensored version of the song.

Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #15 on: September 10, 2020, 01:15:23 PM »
I got told off by a white friend in the US for using the term "wigger" once (feeling it was derogatory towards certain white people so was OK). Realised I would probably never use it around black people and that she had a valid point.

Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #16 on: September 10, 2020, 02:11:16 PM »
you brought it up uninvited here. why do you assume there are no black people using this forum?
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Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #17 on: September 10, 2020, 02:44:35 PM »
you brought it up uninvited here. why do you assume there are no black people using this forum?

that's not what I meant. I mean I'm not gonna segue into a discussion about it next time I find myself talking to a black person face-to-face. However, now you are all invited to tell me, a white person, whether you have a problem with black pop stars using the n-word for no clear artistic reason. 

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I got told off by a white friend in the US for using the term "wigger" once (feeling it was derogatory towards certain white people so was OK). Realised I would probably never use it around black people and that she had a valid point.

I got banned from some internet website for arguing that wigger is just as offensive as the n word. Which it is, etymologically, and by definition. Ironically, I had the chance to bring this up around black people but didn't. I felt like it wasn't my place to tell them what they should be offended by, but I think that describing a person as a 'white n*****' because they act in a trashy ghetto manner is saying that n*****s also act in this manner, and it's therefore offensive to black people - even when a black person says wigger.
 

It surprises me that nobody has anything bad to say about the n-word being used for no reason in pop songs. The list of things that I dislike about that Drake / Future collab is huge, but 'pointless use of the n-word' still makes the list. Perhaps if I liked the song I could overlook it a little bit more - like it's not a massive problem that would get in the way of me enjoying a banger.

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Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #18 on: September 10, 2020, 03:04:09 PM »
It's odd that this has come up now, as just the other day my brain decided to remember the Swedish rap-metal band Clawfinger, and an early song of theirs with a similar premise to the OP.  Of course they meant well, but aside from the iffiness of a bunch of white Europeans aiming to police the language of black Americans, it really didn't help that they called it that word.  Or that the chorus of the song was just that word repeated many times.

It was their debut single and reached no. 4 in Norway.

Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #19 on: September 10, 2020, 03:09:50 PM »
I am not sure what "clear artistic reason" means. Isn't having lyrics reflect how people talk artistic?

Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #20 on: September 10, 2020, 03:16:20 PM »
It's odd that this has come up now, as just the other day my brain decided to remember the Swedish rap-metal band Clawfinger, and an early song of theirs with a similar premise to the OP.  Of course they meant well, but aside from the iffiness of a bunch of white Europeans aiming to police the language of black Americans, it really didn't help that they called it that word.  Or that the chorus of the song was just that word repeated many times.

It was their debut single and reached no. 4 in Norway.

First band I saw live, supporting Rammstein! They had to clarify it was an anti-racist song when they played it. The premise of the song is that black people should stop calling themselves the n-word.

"Take a look at yourself, and your history
You don't look like a god-damn n****** to me!"

This was like 20 years ago, too.

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I am not sure what "clear artistic reason" means. Isn't having lyrics reflect how people talk artistic?

It's hard for me to see the art in Future's lines. I don't even think it's like Tracey Emin's bed, asking us to question how we view art. I think they're just shitty lines. A rap verse about n****s and bitches where every line ends with 'shit, woo' or 'bitch, woo' is just bad art.

Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #21 on: September 10, 2020, 03:42:17 PM »
I am not sure how anyone other than the people who are the victims of a pejorative are entitled to tell them how to use it. It is interesting that you equate it with the word "bitch" and assume they are using it in a negative sense. Often it is just a synonym for "mate" or "brother", in the same way that you might call your friend a fucker or something, where you both know what the meaning is. It isn't for anyone else to judge how appropriate or artistically valid it is

Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #22 on: September 10, 2020, 03:47:11 PM »
I am not sure how anyone other than the people who are the victims of a pejorative are entitled to tell them how to use it. It is interesting that you equate it with the word "bitch" and assume they are using it in a negative sense. Often it is just a synonym for "mate" or "brother", in the same way that you might call your friend a fucker or something, where you both know what the meaning is.

cmon I know what they mean when they use the n-word and I know he's not using it in a derogatory manner. Like I said, this 'reclaiming the n-word' has been going on for longer than I have lived on the planet. Future and Drake is not the first time I've heard the n-word in a rap song.

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It isn't for anyone else to judge how appropriate or artistically valid it is

That seems to be the consensus here. Which is weird. I can judge literally everything about a song, except for their use of the n-word? This is somehow something that I ought to avoid making any statement about?

Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #23 on: September 10, 2020, 03:58:06 PM »
You can make any statement you want, but that doesn't mean you aren't open to being criticised for commenting on things you have no real jurisdiction over

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Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #24 on: September 10, 2020, 03:59:35 PM »
I find this such an extremely obviously bad take?

Is this something you feel specifically towards the n-word or is it all reclaimed 'slurs'?

Does it make you uncomfortable if I call myself a tranny

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Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #25 on: September 10, 2020, 04:00:18 PM »
That's their own problem. It's not my problem or your problem or black people's problem. If people are informed and educated properly they'll understand the difference.
I agree. My only question is whether the rap singers - being the ones who tend to use the word most in pop culture - are, or should be, part of that education.

I read a news thing a while back, in which a rap singer (I think it might have been Kendrick Lamar) invited a white girl onstage to sing along with him. In the course of doing so, she ended up saying the word, which earned her a very public castigation. I can't remember any other details about the story, so I wouldn't draw any solid conclusions from it. I don't know if she was some arsehole revelling in her presumed licence to say the word, a naive pillock, or maybe just starstruck and overwhelmed. It obviously needed addressing, once the word was said, but why did it get to that point in the first place? Had the rap singer in question made it clear that the word was off limits, either directly to the young woman, or via his lyrics? If not, it does strike me as being a bit like entrapment.

It's not a million miles from the endless debate over violence in films.

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Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #26 on: September 10, 2020, 04:05:48 PM »
I agree that if you're not black, you basically have no place saying whether or not black people have the right to use the word to casually describe each other. That being said, I've often thought that if black people themselves had stopped using the word decades ago, it would have been more or less consigned to the historical dustbin full stop, and that would have been a good outcome. I've never heard it used out in the wild by a white person, even those who would use slurs to describe Jewish people, Pakistani people etc, such is the egregiousness of the word, so it's an ironic shame that it's only being kept in the public consciousness by the very people the word is designed to hurt. This way, much like "queer" racists and homophobes can use it and say "what's wrong with it; it's only what they call themselves."

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Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #27 on: September 10, 2020, 04:11:44 PM »
I've often thought that if black people themselves had stopped using the word decades ago, it would have been more or less consigned to the historical dustbin full stop
I'm not sure that's true. Other black epithets don't have the same level of exposure, but I've still heard shitheads use them out in the world.

Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #28 on: September 10, 2020, 04:13:57 PM »
I find this such an extremely obviously bad take?

Is this something you feel specifically towards the n-word or is it all reclaimed 'slurs'?

Does it make you uncomfortable if I call myself a tranny

you can call yourself whatever you like. If Black Dresses used that word in one of their songs then I would know that they were doing so for a good reason. It seems to be like Drake and Future are just using it to fill up some space, like there was zero thought about it.

If I had a mixed race kid then I would prefer it if they didn't call themselves or their friends racial slurs. I've seen loads of pakistani people in particular calling each-other 'the p word', and while it's their business what they call themselves and what they get offended by, I don't think that it's helpful for society that this word is fine when a pakistani says it but is unconscionably offensive when a white person says it.

Claude the Racecar Driving Rockstar Super Sleuth's mentioning of the Kendrick Lamaar incident with the white girl he invited up on stage to rap along to his song, and then castigated for successfully rapping along to his song, is a good illustration of the issue. I don't think the young girl who got globally humiliated thinks that black people are inferior. I guess, despite all my years on this planet, I still remain unconvinced that this young girl did something terrible by rapping along to a Kendrick Lamaar track.

My own personal views on the subject were that a few years ago I would've thought you were a fucking moron if you got offended because I rapped along to Forgot About Dre. I am now more sympathetic towards those who would be offended, like it's not my place to tell them what they should and shouldn't be offended by. Yet I don't think I'm all the way there yet, I don't think that a white person rapping along to Tupac in the car by themselves is committing some sin by not self-censoring.

I've spent most of my life thinking, "it's fine if I use the n-word in this non-offensive context." And I'm a progressive, university-educated, inquisitive leftie. It's only now I've got more engaged with progressive movements that I'm trying to understand and appreciate that black people think it's not fine for me to rap along with Tupac. And I am entirely a hand-wringing Stop the War Coalition vegan Corbynite. You reckon that the overwhelming majority of yts are ever going to think that rapping along to Drake is bad? Some middle-class Tory kid from Margate who uses words like 'virtue signalling'? Cos they listen to Drake, too.

I guess I'm sounding like an old rightwinger here, but if the word is that bad, then don't use it in a pop song for children.

Re: Black rappers that use 'the n word'
« Reply #29 on: September 10, 2020, 04:18:01 PM »
I'm not sure that's true. Other black epithets don't have the same level of exposure, but I've still heard shitheads use them out in the world.

the people who would use words like c**n etc are already hardcore racists. The number of people who would use the n-word in some ironic way vastly surpasses those who would use c**n or compare black people to monkeys or whatever. And pop culture is to blame.

20 years ago, every rap song used the word 'f*ggot', as did South Park and other adult TV shows. And all us kids at high school used it all the time, too. Nowadays I bet f*ggot is used incredibly rarely as an all-purpose insult among highschoolers.  Everyone eventually agreed that it was a bad word and stopped using it. If pop music is full of the n-word then you can't be surprised if kids use it.

And you can't simultaneously have a problem with kids using it, and not have a problem with the reason they're using it.

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