Inquiring Minds

Can Non-Black Rappers Use The N-Word In Their Music?

Some rappers happen to be thoughtful, intelligent people. Every Monday (that isn't a national holiday) Rocks Off will have some of them here discussing issues relevant to their culture.

This Week's Panel: Chuckway, Paul Wall, Fat Tony, Yung Redd, Coast

Not Invited: The Rev. Jesse Jackson

This Week's Prompt: Last week, radio talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who is white, got into a dispute with a caller, a black woman married to a white man, about why it was or was not okay for white people to use the N-word - specifically, the form ending with an "a" as opposed to the universally reviled "er" - if black people say it all the time. Dr. Laura cited the word's use by black comedians, but it lends itself well to a discussion about rappers of any color.

All types of logistics and qualifiers could be brought up here, but mainly the question is this: Is it okay for non-black rappers to use that word in their music? For the sake of this discussion, let's address inherently non-aggressive uses of the term.

Also, are there different boundaries for different types of non-black rappers? Like, can a Latino or Puerto Rican rapper say it in his song and it be less incendiary than if a white rapper does? (We'll call this the "Fat Joe vs. Eminem Corollary.") How does that work? Or should just no non-black rapper ever say it, ever? Or is it cool if every non-black rapper says it, always, so long as it's within a song and not blatantly offensive?

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Shea Serrano