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.