Black Rappers And The Use Of The N-Word


The N word is a popular topic here, and its making a return! This time we’re addressing it in rap music. Because lets face it, the rap genre uses it the most. We’ve gone over it a million times, “who can use the N word?”  The answer will always be black people and only black people.

Now that we’ve overplayed that record, lets move on to why we’re allowed to use it and others are not. (You’d think that this would be common sense but we’ve learned that common sense isn’t so common after all.)

In her article “A Guide To (Not) Using The N Word,” Theoretical Linguistics major Aliah Luckman breaks this down through an example:

“Women have succeeded in using “bitch” in various registers to express different meanings, including an address of endearment or familiarity. When used by men however, the word is offensive in all registers because historically, it has been used by men to belittle and degrade women.”

She even took it to twitter to further prove her point.

The point: A word or term that is used to attack or belittle a targeted group is allowed to be used within said targeted group. Used otherwise, it becomes offensive (especially  when used by the oppressor). The concept is no different in regards to the N word.

How does this correlate to rappers and the N word? Well at this point we can agree that rap music has a huge influence on the use and normalization of the N word. It’s also the reason why the question “but what if it’s in a song?” is so common among white people and non black people of color.

So picture this: you’re at a rap concert, Black people, White people, Asian people, Hispanic people, they’re all there! That’s great. So everyone is having a nice time, everyone is pumped, singing along and then — oh no. That word is coming up. Next thing you know you’ve got an arena full of non black people screaming the N word into your ear. The issue is that only one demographic should be allowed to use it.

The issue is that black rappers aren’t addressing the fact that non blacks are using the N word at their shows.

Think about it, rap fans are hearing everyone condemn the use of the word if its not being used by black folk — they’re hearing it from everyone except their favorite rapper.

A lot of rap fans listen to the genre, because it empowers them in a sense. A large portion of non-black suburban teens and young adults love it because it’s popular, they feel cool, they’re loving that hood aesthetic as they rap along. They’re throwing up their gang signs and grilling their teeth. Not caring at all about the reality of the lyrics. And that’s the only thing that they get out of the music.

Imagine how many fans a rapper could lose if they condemn the act. People come to concerts to have a good time, not to get political. But imagine the impact if a rapper came out on stage, and right as they’re about to start their show, they tell their audience to be mindful, to skip over the N word as they preform. They’ll be shocked at how they can still enjoy a song without disrespecting a group of people! Who knew!

Rappers like Kendrick and Jay Z have touched on their use of the word in their music. For them it’s a reclaimed word. It’s a word that only black people can reclaim, and until black rappers start stressing that at their shows, we won’t be making any progress any time soon.

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