Monday, September 26, 2011
Is Hip Hop Winning?
The last few weeks walking through Times Square in New York City I have been in earshot of young White men who either refer to other White friends in their presence as the "N" word or other people as such in conversation. I passed a group of guys that had a Black person in their midst and the word flew loose and free amongst them. I looked at the Black guy and through the smile on his face I saw someone who was clearly uncomfortable hearing the word, but not angry enough to call them out on it.
Welcome to the 21st century and generation Y. I know the history of the use of the "N" word and the negative connotations that it represented. Some of these kids grew up on Hip Hop as it is currently constituted and don't have, dare I say, become immune to the use of the "N" word. The use of the word in Hip Hop has been critiqued ad nauseam with some of the more popular Hip Hop artists reasoning that they have taken the negativity out of the word by using it regularly to address themselves, sort of like a term of endearment.
Me, personally, when I used the word in my lyrics back in the day I was using it as a negative about another person (as in ignorant Black man - not knowing how nice I am as an artist or not acting intelligently in public). I never called myself the "N" word because I felt I was an educated Black man, but when another Black person addressed me as such I did not take offense because it was usually in jest (i.e. you crazy, n****? or "n****, you musta lost your mind).
Lord knows what White people still say about Black folks in the comfort and privacy of their own home, but when I hear 20-something year old Italian guys calling each other the "N" word like it's part of their natural vocabulary, I realize that Hip Hop did this. If the artists are fine calling themselves the "N" word why can't every other race do it? It's cool, right?
Is this what Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Run-DMC and other pioneers envisioned when trying to get Hip Hop its proper respect?
KRS-One said it in a rhyme years ago, but now White folks calling themselves n***** is a pandemic.
Hip Hop has gone global in popularity, but is Hip Hop really winning?