In a recent concert, Kendrick Lamar allowed a white fan to rap along to his 2012 single “M.a.ad City.” The fan enthusiastically recited the chorus of the track, including the N-word.
Kendrick stopped the song and explained to the fan that she does not get to say that word, before kicking her off the stand. This sparked a discussion surrounding the usage of the n-word in rap music. Most of the conversation consisted of black people explaining to white hip hop fans again why they cannot use the n-word. Though, a small group of people suggest that the n-word should be retired from hip hop for the sake of white audience. Now, I’ve mostly ignored the conversations stemming from this incident, because it should be understood by now who can and can’t say the word. However, this is one particularly horrible hot take that needs a response.
The n-word was originally used as a term to dehumanize black slaves. Black people reclaimed the term as a way to take back the power it held over us.
It is apart of our culture and a symbol of black resistance against our oppression. So, if we want to put it in our music, like rap and hip hop, then we have every right to do so. This is our language that we express in art that we created. No one has the authority to tell us how we do that.
Point blank, black people do not know owe it to any other groups to cater black music to them. We specifically do not owe that luxury to white people. Rock N Roll was crafted by black artists such as Little Richard and Chuck Berry in the mid 20th century. Yet, Elvis was crowned as the king of Rock. Why? Well, once Rock music started to become more popular, white investors realized that they could profit from it. Though, just because they wanted black art, did not mean they wanted black people. They pushed black artists out of the genre then replaced them with white artists that they could market to a white audience. Since black artist barely had human rights at the time, they could not fight back. This is one of many instance of black art being whitewashed. Black people have created a majority, if not all of, American music, but only get credited for a handful of it. And now, we’re supposed to make rap and hip hop easier with them in mind? No, we do not need to make room for white people. They have already made room in our art even though they were never welcome.
If a black rapper wants to say the n-word, they can. If they do not want to say it, they can. But, no non-black groups get to say whether they can say it in their music. That is our word. This is our music. We can do what we want with it.