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The title downplays the true severity of the word if you take it out of context and for those who I may offend reading the title or any part of this blog I do apologize and I don’t mean any ill will. I just think in this day and age, this topic needs to be broached more and more. Especially given the content it is used.

Picture my surprise on a road trip one day going a fair distance from one town to a another. Several people are in the vehicle, myself, and three others. One I do not know very well and the other two are great friends. Now when individuals of different origins go on a road trip, you can imagine the choice of music that is being listened to in a car. It was a rather eclectic selection of Alternative, Rock, R&B and of course Hip Hop. Now a song of hip hop origins is being played by a white male in the car at this time. The track is from Jay-Z’s latest efforts, The Blueprint 3 and it was called D.O.A. I’m a fan of the song, but anybody that listens to it, or more notably the “R” rated version to the song, they will know it has the “N” word included as most hip-hop songs in this day and age has.  Now as he sings along, apparently memorizing every word verbatim in the front seat, myself and my friend (she is of African Canadian descent) beside me in the back seat notice he is making a valiant effort to not say the “N” word during the song.  My friend chuckles beside me to herself, no doubt appreciating the effort made but at the same time wondering like I am: If she wasn’t in the car, would those words have been “edited” out of his rendition of the song?  Even if you’re in the comfort of your set of friends, does the idea that you are not offending somebody outright still make it right?  I think that’s still a significant question that should be asked among your set of friends to get their perspective.

To be clear, I don’t believe that word should be said in ANY situation.  To me it’s as simple as that. Now do I listen to music that has the word in it? Yes I do so let the hypocrite whispers begin. But if it’s any consolation I really wish the word wasn’t used as often as it is. I reallly wish artists like Common and Mos Def for example would not use that word especially.  Their music which is already so inspiring would be so much more without it. Do I believe that black people as a whole have the right to say that world given the use of the word in a NEGATIVE connotation in 400 years of oppression from white people? I don’t know. That’s really not for me to say, but I would think it doesn’t help them in any way.

The article that inspired me in question talks about a similar scenario I had referred to earlier and the awkward moment that ensued. This lead me to ask that question: What do you think of what is arguably the most controversial word in our vocabulary today and it’s use in pop and/or underground culture?

Here’s another thought to put things in perspective: Eminem, who is the greatest selling hip hop artist in history, who is a white man, raps about every and anything under the sun, from rape, murder, drugs, guns, abuse…everything. But you would not catch the N word coming from his mouth ever. He actually did rap negative racial slurs in a rap song he made 10 years before his career actually started and there was a big uproar in the hip hop community more than ten years after the fact. I believe the word or the meanings behind the word still hurts and is still oppressive no matter what connotation it is used in. What do you think?

-Vic De Zen

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