I’m writing this blog FULLY ON MY OWN ACCOUNT.
And I’m really not even going to get into the topic now cause this might actually be the busiest day of my life. People who know me know how I feel about the use of the N-word (I don’t use it and am not for it). I also consider myself to be an expert on the word in an ACADEMIC sense (not in a real life sense because people don’t use that word to address me so I could NEVER be a real expert on the topic). But I am very familiar with all the arguments for and against the use of the word
That being said, people’s lack of depth have REALLY surprised me.
I understand the lyrics to Nas’ new song are real controversial.
THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE! Art is SUPPOSED to provoke thought. Its meant to elicit emotions and discussions. That’s one of the main points of art and that’s general knowledge.
So its really surprised me to see some of the personal attacks on Nas. Granted its an emotional topic, therefore personal attacks are to be expected (that’s what people resort to when they get emotional). However, some of the attacks really show the lack of depth of some of the people I’ve previously considered to be intellectuals
The word “N*gga” is part of the current language NO matter how you feel about it. And CLEARLY its a point of confusion for a lot of people. It brings about mixed feelings in many, particularly the younger generations. Many people feel very torn about their OWN use of the word and experience an inner-conflict about it
Is putting a song out there that brings about a much needed discussion on an emotionally-charged word that’s a source of confusion for many, but is a staple in American pop culture, really grounds to throw such heated one-sided personal attacks upon an artist
Some people really are lacking depth right now. If it was controversy without social commentary, I’d understand. But its not
I’D LIKE TO POINT OUT: U ALL LET JUST ABOUT EVERY F*CKING MAINSTREAM ARTIST OUT THERE USE THE N-WORD ON EVERY ALBUM AND GIVE THEM FREE PASSES. HOW MANY OF THE HIP HOP ALBUMS OUT RIGHT NOW CONTAIN THE N-WORD??? SO WHEN AN ARTIST BRINGS THIS ROUTINE PRACTICE FRONT AND CENTER AND DRAWING REAL ATTENTION TO THE ISSUE, U ALL ARE GOING TO ATTACK HIM AND HIS WORK???
That seems hella backwards to me
Nas chose that album name for a reason. And he chose to record that song for a reason. And while I understand the perils of bestowing legitimacy upon the word and perpetuating the use of the word (especially when people tend to listen to the hook rather than the lyrics), I can’t believe how quick some are to dismiss his work without acknowledging the social commentary value present within it (the POINT of it).
Do you all really think the song is as straight-forward as the hook makes it sound????
Do people really not see the social commentary aspect to words:
“They like to strangle Ni**ers/blame a Ni**er/shoot a Ni**er/hang a Ni**er/still you wanna be a Ni**er too?/True.”
“We all black within/ We all African within/Some African’s don’t like us no way/A killin happened in Johannesburg yesterday.”
In a song where he’s using a term that many argue agaisnt by saying its a form of self-hate??
People say they want deeper music…… But when deeper music is provided… sometimes people miss the message unless its crystal clear. And a message thats too clear detracts from the artistic value of artwork, no? It leaves no room for interpretation.
It’s apparently okay for every other hip hop artist on the radio (including the “conscious” variety) to throw the term around for sh*ts and giggles, like its NOTHING and NORMAL, PERPETUATING ITS USE MORE AND MORE EVERY DAY, but when a real artist uses the term to make people think and to draw attention to the amount of confusion and mixed emotions (INCLUDING SELF-HATE AND INTERNALIZED HEGEMONY) related to such a term, THEN its time to attack
I’m disappointed. And that’s coming from someone who’s against the use of the word
I have Jay-Z’s “I would write it if you all could get it….” going through my head right now…… Maybe J is right in that its much easier to talk about f*cking girls and buying cars nowadays than it is to be an actual artist who addresses social issues in conceptual ways…. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t right? Who’d want to be an artist under those conditions? Certainly not a real artist. And Nas is actually a REAL artist. He’s not an activist who uses his music to put forth his message. He’s an artist who uses his political beliefs to inspire his art. Could he have chosen a more important social issue to focus on? Maybe. But its HIS art, HIS call. Could he have done it in a different way? Again, HIS art, HIS call.
Thoughts on NYOIL’s article:
(some of my thoughts on NYOIL’s article. I don’t believe in personal attacks, so its really basic and I didn’t address the concept-stealing argument because… really? c’mon…. As far as the rest):
That’s a cute conspiracy theory on NY Oil’s part, but you don’t have to be an industry insider to know the sort of resistance that Nas’ album faced, including being threatened with LOWER sales due to corporate retailers refusing to carry an album with such a name. A good amount of what was written in that article is plain bullsh*t. But its plain from his past work that NY Oil tends to be more divisive (and enjoys trying to attract his fair amount of controversy and attention) than solution-oriented. He’d rather attack other artists because he doesn’t feel they are able to “articulate” their points well, rather than focusing on the source of that problem (the maybe more pertinent point, that the artist dropped out of school when he was basically a child). But its easier to try to drag other artists and other successful black men through the mud than focus on finding real solutions.
I wonder if NYOil took half as many steps before releasing his “They Should All Be Lynched” video as Nas took before releasing this album to try to make sure that he acted in the most responsible way possible while releasing an album with such a controversial title.
I think its ironically interesting that this critique was written by an artist who’s popularity largely arose from a video advocating that a majority of mainstream hip hop artists should be “lynched.” He chose the word “lynch” on purpose. Lynch- a weapon used by whites to murder and oppress black people through history. And he decided to advocate for the use of such a weapon by black people against…. black people. Mainly because of the negative stereotypes such artists were perpetuating………
Kind of adds to the complexity, no? Because the debate on the use of the N-Word often touches on the intersection of race, class, culture, conformity, paternalism, and wanting to be white/the desire to be accepted by white people. Regardless of where you stand in the above categories, the presence of such themes in the debate on the use of the word is undeniable.
And if you’re thinking, “Huh?”, well, I’ll include a couple of excerpts of notes/research from MY PERSONAL NOTEBOOK, written a couple of months ago (whether u agree with them or not, they’re still arguments that people make and being that a lot of the youth use the word freely, I think that people who are against the use of the word, myself included, would be remiss to ignore them, whether you see internalized hegemony seeping out of them or not):
-“Using the word is a way to break free of those who share an aversion to too much realism. Kennedy says of Richard Pryor’s use of the N-word “He seemed radically unconcerned with deferring to any social conventions, particularly those that accept black comedians as clowns but reject them as satirists. Nothing more vividly symbolized his defiant risk-taking spirit…..”
(A PARALLEL TO HIP HOP! The U.S. and the black leaders accept hip hop artists as clowns but reject them as satirists. Why aren’t they focusing on the fuckin minstrel shows?? Why are they spending their energy on Nas’ use of the word n*gga instead? Aren’t all the clowns hurting society a lot more by perpetuating horrible stereotypes of black people than Nas is by creating thought-provoking art??)”
-“Some also use it as a way to set themselves off from the Blacks who refuse to use it. To proclaim oneself a n*gga is to identify oneself as real, authentic, uncut, unassimilated, and unassimilable- the opposite of the Negro, someone whose rejection of ni**er is seen as part of an effort to blend into the white mainstream. Using the word n*gga, is a way to keep it real.”
-“A popular saying in the 70s was “Never give up your right to act like a ni**er”. Which meant that black people shouldn’t be afraid to speak up loudly and act out militantly on behalf of their interests.”
-“The saying “stone ni**er” was also popular at the time. Which meant a black man without pretensions who was unafraid to enjoy himself openly and loudly despite the objections of condescending whites or insecure blacks.”
-“Some say it because it’s a shorthand way of reminding themselves and everyone else precisely where they perceive themselves standing in American society. Bruce A. Jacobs says, “To proclaim oneself a ni**er is to declare to the disapproving mainstream, ‘You can’t fire me. I quit.'” So its popular amongst the poor black youth who are resentful of white society. To growl that one is a “n*gga” can feel bitterly empowering.
Janice is a human rights activist who works in entertainment in the Los Angeles area. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School. (pictured below on panel with M1 from Dead Prez/Harvard Youth Summit)