The N-Word in Hip-Hop

I’ve been listening to one album nonstop lately: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly.

Here’s a disclaimer: by no means am I an expert in hip-hop.

Hip-hop is such a polarizing topic. People will get into fights over this shit – which MC is better, East Coast vs. West Coast, is this rapper underground enough. It’s similar to jazz, Kobe Bryant, and craft beer – a casual conversation about it can quickly escalate into a heated debate.

With my limited knowledge of hip-hop and rap music, I feel like Kendrick Lamar is the most significant rapper since the late Tupac Shakur. Sorry Jay-Z fans, don’t stone me. I didn’t think Kendrick would follow up good kid, m.A.A.d City with an album as brilliant as this, but that’s what the greats do.

As much as I enjoy Kendrick’s music, I still face this eternal dilemma: he says the n-word a whole bunch.

I understand rappers using the word, but what is an Asian guy like me supposed to do when he comes across a rap song like Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Ni**as in Paris? Guess I’ll just bounce to the music, silently.

I, myself, don’t get offended when people hit me with racial slurs. I equate someone coming up to me and calling me a gook the same as if that person were to call me a jerk. It’s just a word to me. I find making generalizations based on ethnicity to be far more insulting. Tell me I have a micro-penis because I’m Asian; yeah, that’s way worse.

But, when it comes to the n-word, I’m on the outside, so it’s not my call. I get it though; this is such a complex issue that there are so many differing opinions about the use of it. Who fucking knows.

However, the question still remains. Would it be okay to say the n-word to music if we were in a safe place? It seemed to work out for the girls in White Chicks (one of the funniest movies ever, by the way):

For what it’s worth, my favorite take on this issue so far comes from Chris Rock.

The key is probably to not offend anyone. People talk shit about other races all the time. That’s fine, I don’t think that makes someone racist, because usually it’s just a joke. If the shit talking comes from a place of superiority and hate, then there’s a big problem. I do think society can be way too sensitive about race at times. Am I going to get enraged when Sarah Silverman says an Asian joke? Should I wag my finger at her and tell her that she can’t say that because she’s not Asian? I say who cares, just make the joke funny and it’s all good.

I doubt this issue will be completely solved in any of our lifetimes. Race relations in this country will continue to be complicated, confusing, and complex for the next hundred years. All we can do is cultivate our personal tolerance and acceptance of each other. We may as well embrace each other’s cultures while we’re at it.

I mean, shit, I live in LA, the city where we learn to hate everyone equally. That’s what I call #tolerance.

– Chris



  1. Personally, I don’t use the n word. I always say if you at it around them why can’t they say it to you. Your using it teaches them to use it. Calling me the n word wouldn’t insult me at all no matter your race. If you want to insult me you’ll have to come better and harder than that. Use that word toward my mom or grandma just run for your life, lol. Chris Rock-hilarious and I don’t know this Kendrick Lamar guy I keep mixing him up. Or maybe he’s the guy on his cover sitting on a building lol idk l. Great topic

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Also, you’re right I’m not racist but I say a lot of things about other races, joking like all *insert race* does this or that and laugh because no one is watching so I know people say things about Blacks heck we are usually the topic of a race war. It’s pretty old now though. I feel we’re all one race just different complexions blood is the lifeline and all is blood is red talk about family line 😘

      Liked by 1 person

    2. After I read your comment, I thought about how comfortably I’ve used the word in front of my white colleagues. Comfortably and frequently. You are so right and I definitely need to stop using it as it DOES teach those around me to use it. I think that the conflict with the use of the word for me and also for many others is that we are not exactly sure HOW we feel about the use of it. Because there are so many stipulations that determine whether I become offended by it, its hard to set boundaries. There is also the double standard with this also that you spoke about. I crack a lot of race “jokes” myself so I don’t dare show offense when the same is done to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting topic. I don’t like the word Nigger or Nigga. Although the NAACP tried to bury the words a few years ago, it’s never going to die. However, I don’t know too many people who say it in a jokingly fashion that are not black. Many black folks feel that we are cool, but if you were to say “What’s up my Nigga?” You need to be checked. I get it. I don’t say what’s up my Nigga to anyone so that is my reality. I have friends of all different races and if we were talking and they were like these “niggas were acting up”, I doubt I would feel some way. It’s never happened. It’s such a derogatory term and in line with b*tch that I can’t wrap my mind around the utter disrespect such terms bring. As my kin folks say “Them fighting words”


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