Music Business

White Rappers & The N-Word Conundrum: 4 Case Studies

"You're talking to the wrong white man, my friend. My people were the white man's nigger when yours were still painting their faces and chasing zebras."

- Herman 'Hesh' Rabkin (Jerry Adler), The Sopranos

Freshman year of college. One of my good friends was a white kid who loved Jay-Z like crazy. He knew every song, owned every album, and once built an academic thesis around a Jay-Z quote. So, one day we're sitting in his red Ford jamming The Blueprint for absolutely no reason other than we just wanted to sit in the parking lot and jam The Blueprint.

Like I said, this guy adored Jay-Z. Anyway, "Takeover" comes on and we're both rapping along. The Jay-Z vs. Nas beef is arguably the greatest battle in rap history. The genius of that beef was that both MCs started out with jabs and gradually progressed to haymakers. Jay teased Nas on the original version of "Takeover." Nas teased back on the "Stillmatic" freestyle. Then the body shots started pouring in.

Anyway, we're sitting in this guy's red truck outside the parking lot bumping "Takeover." Jay starts off shouting out his weed carriers: "Memphis Bleek, we runnin this rap shit/ B. Mac, we runnin this rap shit/ Freeway, we run this rap shit..." We're both rapping along to every word, heads bobbing. Once Jay is done saluting everyone who's allegedly running this rap shit, he dives into the first verse, starting with the usual chest-thumping:

"The takeover, the break's over, nigga."

I'm not sure how I heard it over those ear-splittingly loud speakers, but I somehow heard my boy drop the N-bomb. The record immediately came to a screeching halt in my mind. The look on my face was not a look of disappointment. I wasn't angry. In fact, I'm not even sure I cared.

The look was more like he had come to my house and peed on my carpet. It just didn't sound right, and my expression immediately communicated this. I can't even tell you why, but it just didn't feel right. Obviously, the racial slur has a painful history and still spells hatred for the African-American community today.

But that's not why it bothered me. I mean, this guy didn't even say "nigger," he said "nigga." I just remember feeling utterly disrespected, even though I had clearly said "nigga" a la Jay-Z on "Takeover." My boy saw the look on my face and promptly apologized for dropping the N-bomb. Then, I felt bad for feeling disrespected.

When it comes to the N-word, context is everything. But even that can be tricky. To some, it's a term of endearment. To others, it still conjures images of people dangling from ropes. The word will never be 100 percent acceptable, not even among black folk. Nas already tried that. Ehnn... didn't happen.

It's a complete no-no among white rappers, but that hasn't stopped a few from dropping it anyway. Here's a few white rappers who found themselves in hot water for dropping the N-bomb.

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