The word is ugly, it has a long a gruesome and unforgiving history. However, somehow the word has found it’s way into the most attention grabbing, and influential genre in American music. Many have referred to the usage of the “N-word” as a form of reappropriation, but that initiative has since been lost amidst marketing campaigns, and not giving a f-word.
The dialogue continues with rapper Nav from Toronto, Canada who recently caught the attention of internet bloggers, for his overuse of the N-word. As one blogger put it, Anupa Mistry, “pop music has transmogrified to the point that a non-black artist, co-signed by one of the biggest black pop stars in the world, can openly use racial epithets in his work.”
Various artists over the past few decades have given the green light to their non-black followers to use the word. In recent years, artists such as School Boy Q and Tyler The Creator have openly invited their non black fans to use the word, and it seems this relaxed perspective from black artists with regard to the use of the word has become the norm.
The use of the word transcends pop culture and has even infiltrated politics in recent years. Recall comedian Larry Wilmore’s comment during former President Obama’s last White House Correspondents’ Dinner when he wrapped up his speech with the unforgettable statement “you did it, my nigga.” Although many rap artists, and clearly those involved political dialogues, are comfortable with casually using the word does not mean it’s acceptable.
There still exists those representatives of the black struggle who see that there are detrimental consequences behind allowing the word to become standard. Chris Rock has made attempts in recent years to use the word less, because he feels it gives racists validation to use the word. Before Rock came forward with his stance, 2-Pac made it clear, simply put, if you’re not black don’t use the word.
That’s a fair assertion when considering the history surrounding the word. There are so called exceptions with regards to who outside of the black community can use it. Nas sums it up during the last verse on his single “Ya’ll My Niggas.” “Oppression couldn’t escape us through the ages, we changed the basis of derogatory phrases, and I say it’s quite amazing, the use of ghetto terms developed out own language, no matter where it came from, now people are mad if they ain’t one.”
Indeed “everyone is mad if they ain’t one” when it comes to being “cool” and trendy, but when it comes to seeking employment, higher education, home ownership, and other socio economic gains, everyone runs from it.
Nav is using the word simply to sell black music as have many artists before him. No one can stop him or anyone else from using the word, but the history of the word will never go away, even if people choose to ignore it because it’s embedded in the DNA of those descendants of slaves. Respect the healing process, the word is sacred and should be left to those who deal with the pain and devastation associated with the word.