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I’m Black, I rap, I’m Under 40, And I Don’t Use The Word “Nigga”

              I haven’t felt as embarrassed as an African American as I did when I heard comedian Larry Wilmore call President Barack Obama “my nigga” at The White House Correspondence Dinner. Don’t get me wrong. There have been many moments that I have considered low points for our culture but this was the lowest. The only thing that is more offensive to Wilmore’s ignorance is the response by people who have no problem with the use of the word because it’s just “Keepin’ it 100” or “Keepin’ it real.” Yes, Wilmore kept it real—real stupid. For anyone who says that this is just a natural term for us to use and that we’re used to it,” let me explain the three reasons why they’re wrong.

Nigga is not a term of endearment

Let’s really “keep it 100.” I am a rapper. I also have been “hip-hop” since birth so I am no newcomer to hip-hop culture. It’s the soundtrack of my life and so I will always love hip-hop. Anyone who listens to hip-hop knows full well that in our music, the term “nigga” is used more negatively than positively. Even Tupac who stated that “NIGGA” meant “Never Ignorant Getting’ Goals Accomplished” rarely used the term “nigga” in an endearing way. Sure there are verses where rappers talk about rollin’ with “my niggas” or bringing their “niggas” through the door once they became successful. In reality however, the overwhelming use of the term “nigga” is negative as in “niggas hatin’” on each other or “killin’ niggas” as well as their kids and other family members. Whenever I hear a term like “brother” being used in rap, it is indeed use positively as it should be. We cannot believe the terms “brother” and “nigga” to be synonymous and anyone who says “nigga” is used as a term of endearment particularly in our mainstream hip-hop music is just wrong. Don’t believe the hype.

Acceptance of the term nigga is not generational

A few years ago, rapper and mogul Jay Z appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and they had an honest debate about the word “nigga.” Jay Z made the argument that many users of the word use. He said that it’s generational and that the overuse of the word has taken the power out of the word. He also said that the intent behind the word is important, a point to which I agree. The fact of the matter however is that many black people younger than Jay Z do not use the term “nigga” and find it deplorable. I am younger than Jay Z and Nas and many rappers who rose to prominence in the 1990s and the 2000s. I work with youth across the country and run into students from kindergarten to college who deplore use of the word. It is also clear by Wilmore’s use of “nigga” that there are people of Oprah’s generation and older who are quite comfortable with the word. To accept, however, that people of my generation and younger have just accepted the term is flat out wrong. I am a Jay Z fan and even wrote my doctoral dissertation on Jay Z but on this point, I couldn’t disagree more with him.

White people still own the word “nigga”

There is always a debate about whether white people can use the word but we cannot reclaim a word we never owned. The argument is a waste of time. Not only can white people use the word, they still own the word. Some believe that Kendrick Lamar’s explanation of “nigga” coming from “negus” in ancient Africa. Please. I doubt Master John was thinking about ancient Africa while whipping his slaves. White people still use the word on a regular basis. I am a professor of cross cultural communication at American University. When I discussed hip-hop and the term “nigga” to my 70 plus majority white students (many wealthy) I asked them if they repeat the word “nigga” when singing their favorite rap songs. They all honestly raised their hands. I was not mad because they were just being honest but it revealed to me that an endless debate over use of the word is pointless because we live in a society where historical context doesn’t matter and all students on college campuses hear the word every day in music or from their black classmates.

At the end of the day, we as black people have lost the ability to make a case for the termination of “nigga.” I’ve heard some gay people refer to each other as “faggot.” I believe that there are Jewish people who may refer to each other as “kikes”, Latinos who refer to each other as “spics” and maybe even some Chinese people who use term “chink.” The difference with these groups is that they have not mainstreamed the most derogatory terms into global lexicon. Rapper Drake is half Jewish but you would never hear him utter the word “kike” in his music. Michael Jackson, probably the most not-racist person in history had his album pulled and was roundly condemned by his “friends” like Steven Spielberg because he used the word “kike” in his anti-racist song “They don’t care about us.” That should have made the message very clear to black people: degrade yourselves all day but as soon as you go beyond the plantation, expect to be whipped back into form.

As KRS-ONE so eloquently put it, “That mic you speak through/goes from here to Mogadishu/and how you represent us is the issue.” Across the globe, from Japan to Israel, we have made it acceptable to use the term “nigga” without providing any context because too many of us don’t know the context. I’ve been called “nigga” in Senegal and South Africa by people who thought they were being cool. I’ve watched Japanese sitcoms where they call each other “nigga.” At the same time the word becomes globalized, the #blacklivesmatter movement and the overall fight for black dignity has not. People want to dress in “our” clothes and play “our” music but take it all off when they go home. They want everything but the burden. All Larry Wilmore did was make the word acceptable for an entire new generation of black and non-black people to get comfortable with the word by referring the first black President in that way. There is nothing funny about that and as Joe Madison said, he tainted the legacy of the first black president and, as Reverend Al Sharpton said, it was at best tasteless. We can and need to do better.

Oprah Winfrey and Hip-Hop

 

Oprah Winfrey has come under attack from some members of the hip-hop community for not supporting hip-hop in favor of her majority white, older female audience. Ludacris believed that when he was on Oprah as a cast member for the Oscar-winning film Crash, Oprah should have dealt with him as the actor and not the rapper. He also asserted that the show was edited to remove some of his comments in response to Oprah and Sandra Bullock's comments concerning pejorative misogynistic lyrics in hip-hop. 50 Cent stated that Oprah pretty much caters to older white women and so it is actually in his best interest to be at odds with Oprah.

The only issue that was more annoying to me than the comments of these two rappers was the response from Oprah Winfrey. More or less, Oprah stated that she listens to Jay-Z, 50, Kanye West and others and that she loves hip-hop. That would have been fine. But she went the extra mile to state that she has 50 Cent's In Da Club playing on her I-pod. This was entirely necessary.

As far as I see it, Oprah owes no explanation to the hip-hop community. She should not have gone out of her way to state that she actually listens to rappers with misogynistic lyrics. She would not have had artists like Kanye, Luda, and Jay-Z on her show if she did not support hip-hop in some way, shape, or form. How many heavy metal acts do you see on her show?

Rather, Oprah should have used this opportunity to give praise to rappers who do represent positivity. Why not use the platform she has constructed to express support for artists in hip-hop who are not misogynistic or vile with their lyrics? Even one of her favorite artists, Kanye West stated in his lyrics: If I can go through all of this and still be breathin'/bitch bend over I'm here for a reason. Oprah, who just had her magnificent Legend's Ball honoring black women, does not have to express her support solely for hip-hop artists who put this type of work out.

Given that hip-hop is primarily purchased by the sons and daughters of Oprah's audience, Oprah could single-handedly change the direction of hip-hop if she said for example, I'm also a fan of Will Smith, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Omékongo. Forgive me for the selfish plug, but honestly, I am one of thousands of MCs and poets who are intentionally choosing not to spew lyrics that condemn our women, and celebrate drugs and violence. A move like this could have the same effect on music that Oprah has had on literature. Instead of telling Luda that he is smart enough not use foul language in his work, why not support the artists who are smart enough to not degrade their people and actually do not degrade their people. How hard would that be?

At the end of the day, I will obviously stand with Oprah. No single person alive has worked harder to show images of positive black people. She is a woman of action. No one could have put together the Legend's Ball quite like she did. I look forward to see who will organize something similar for black male icons. Her humanitarian heart pumps life into communities globally and locally. I really cannot imagine a world without Oprah. In all reality, the hip-hop community needs to do more to honor her and not vise versa.

How Could Oprah Open A School In Africa???!!!

 

Actually, the school is in South Africa. It's a country. It's in Africa, the continent. Oprah can open the school in South Africa because she can do whatever the hell she wants to. If there is one person in America who has deserved the right to not be questioned for her humanitarian deeds, it is Oprah. Why she has not yet received a Nobel is beyond me. Whether you agree with her politics or guests, you cannot deny that the world is a better place because Oprah was born.

Let's look at the facts. In Oprah's press conference on the opening of her Leadership Academy, she responded to critics as to why the school was opened in South Africa and not the U.S. She stated simply that in many inner city schools, many students are more concerned with getting IPODS and sneakers as opposed to South African students who were more concerned with getting school uniforms and school supplies. This happens to be 100% true (not: I said "many students," not "all"). I work in American inner city schools and have traveled to schools extensively in South Africa and can validate her testimony.

Moreover, to question why Oprah would put up $40 million for a school on soil other than America is ludicrous. What individual has given more to American schools than Oprah? The list is not large. This woman has given millions to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. After Hurricane Katrina, BET had a telethon where rappers, actors, and R and B singers raised over $11million that was given to the Red Cross. This was a great effort on the part of the celebrities and they need to be commended. However, the money went to an organization that was later found to be siphoning funds from money given for Katrina relief efforts.

Oprah, on the other hand, was much more hands on. She put up $10 million of her own money and built actual homes for people on her own street, Angel Lane. As she said, she was tired of just writing checks and not really seeing where the money goes. As she did with the homes post-Katrina, her Leadership Academy is hands on. It's her money. How many cars, houses, and college tuitions has she paid for in America? Let us not be misguided in our frustration. We should turn our anger towards our government, which is investing more in Iraq and Afghanistan than on education reform in America.

Of course, I won't even begin to mention the misdirected attacks she has taken from the hip-hop community for believing in her words that "you don't have to bitch and ho me down to make good music." please read the full article below for that. This misdirected disdain for Oprah is completely counterproductive. If we are truly interested in human progress, we would realize that improving the education in any country helps improve the education of all humanity. Oprah being African-American is also improving the negative perceptions that many in African countries have of African-American women, based on the degrading hip-hop videos that they see from America. As one parent of a Leadership Academy student said, "I didn't know angels were black." Does that not say it all? Thank you Oprah.

Dark Girls (a poem)

 

Dark girls, the center of the world

Wish you knew how precious you are, a black pearl

Insults they hurl, your heart in whirl

Hatin’ on your hair straightened or curled

Hatin’ on your skin while they wear tannin lotion

Hard to see you pretty face on television

Your own people hatin’ cause they don’t understand

You get more appreciation in foreign lands

My eyes pourin’ man, want you to overstand

You perfect as you are sister don’t give a damn

About the people who think that your lips too big

Rock that natural you don’t need no wig

Your hips birthed nations yet you face discrimination

People dissin’ you just don’t have the motivation

To get their lives together so they’re pickin’ on you

Don’t let ignorance distract you from doin’ you

 

See they don’t put you on TV cause they scared of your features

Lovely chocolate-coated body, no need to bleach ya

Skin you’ll never win changing your complexion

Your darkness is a gift, a true reflection

Of the original woman who gave birth to us all

The world starts and ends with you so you need to stand tall

Dark woman in the White House, see your time is now

Shinin’ brighter than a lighthouse, when I see you I bow

To your greatness hope you take this as a gesture of love

Forget the jesters out there clownin’ you because

Hurt people hurt people, they don’t love themselves

Even your parents couldn’t see the beauty that they held

But it’s all good sister, we’ll make this right

The only person I know who shines in day AND night

So let me be your knight just protectin’ my queen

Dark girl, the brightest thing that the world has ever seen

What Oprah’s Lifeclass teaches us about being present

 

Over the past month, I have been watching Oprah Winfrey's show entitled "Life Class," where they have been looking at the issues of absentee fathers and the children they leave behind. One of the key points made in the specials was that a father can be present but not really present in the lives of their children, which can be just as bad. 

The shows had me thinking about all of us. What can you do to be more of a presence in the lives of those around you? Do you plan meetups with your friends and family just to sit down and be on your phone the entire time? Do you avoid talking to people who could really benefit from hearing your voice and just send them text messages? In your relationship with your spouse or significant other, are you celebrating them or just tolerating their presence or being indifferent to their wants and needs now that you're together and you think the courting process is done?

No matter where you are in life, you and I know that you can do more to be a better presence in the lives of those around you. If you are an absentee parent, you need to do whatever possible to go back and reclaim your child or children. Your presence should really be a present to those around you, not a curse. If you know this applies to you, then you have much more work to do! Get to it!

 

Navy Yard shooting should make you value life more

Whether it's the tragic shootings at the Navy Yard; the innocent bystanders shot by police in New York; the bombing that may happen in the city you live in right now in your own country or anything else; the phrase "You're still here" should mean more to you every single day you wake up. In this often volatile world that we live in, you never know when your number is going to be called. That is not a reason to live in fear. It is a reason celebrate life each day! Count every day you are here as a blessing and you will see a difference in your daily attitude. We were all put here to enjoy life, not suffer through it. Make each day your best and then make it better for someone else. You never know, your kind actions may even prevent someone from committing the next atrocity. Spread love and the world will follow your lead!