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


What Type of Asian Guy Am I?

Well ain’t this some shit.

I recently came across a YouTube video by the FungBros titled 15 Types of Asian Guys. Hmm, well let’s see what these dudes have to say, I thought.

First of all, along with being a Millennial and adjusting to the constant advancements in technology and the resulting shifts in social norms, I am an Asian-American. My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Korea (South Korea. If I’m ever asked again which Korea, north or south, I may hit this person). I was born in Los Angeles and have lived in Southern California my entire life.

But here’s the problem: to Whites Blacks Hispanics Americans, I am Korean Chinese Asian, and to Koreans, I am American. So what the fuck?? It’s as if Korea and the U.S. are picking teams for kickball and neither country wants to pick the American-born Koreans. This struggle for identity is real and something that I feel constantly, and it definitely plays a part in defining the type of “guy” I am.

Back to Asian guys. Here’s the clip:

The clip is pretty amusing and well-made, yet it left me with an odd, slightly unpleasant feeling.

One may think, 15 types? Why so much? It’s rather necessary to have this many types because Asians in America are, for the most part, segregated. Central and South Americans share a common language whereas Asians do not, and this language barrier is why I think a lack of unity among Asians in the U.S. exists. I can’t understand a lick of Vietnamese, and a Thai person wouldn’t understand any Korean – unless he/she is into Kpop and Korean dramas. So naturally there would be many different types of Asian guys.

After writing down the list that the FungBros created, here’s what I’ve concluded about myself:

  1. Hip-Hop Asian Guy
  2. Nerdy Asian Guy
  3. Thug Asian Guy
  4. FOB Asian Guy
  5. White-Washed Asian Guy
  6. Bad Ass Asian Guy
  7. Young Business Professional (YAPPIE) Asian Guy
  8. Party Asian Guy
  9. Fitness Asian Guy
  10. Hipster Asian Guy
  11. Hustler Asian Guy
  12. Rich Asian Guy
  13. AZN Asian Guy
  14. Underachiever Asian Guy
  15. Church Loving Asian Guy

Of course, my knee-jerk reaction is to discount generalizations, but there is some truth to this list. In my experience with Asian guys (and being from SoCal, I’ve had a lot), much of this has to do with life stage. At some point, I probably would have been a Party Asian Guy or a Fitness Asian Guy; it just depends on what we’re into at the moment. This comes back to the identity struggle: we’re trying to find ourselves in a country where we experience a lack of acceptance even though we’re a member just like everyone else.

A list like this can also be problematic because of its stereotyping nature. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most non-Asians in the U.S. think almost all Asian guys are nerds. Do we need another list to further typecast us? Maybe it’s not a big deal; these guys were just joking around, after all. I just hope non-Asians don’t view this clip and actually believe that all Asian guys fit into these molds.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on Asian guys. Are we all great at math? Do we all love sneakers? Are we all either super soft-spoken or batshit-crazy gangster, with nothing in between? Do we lack the qualities of leaders? Are we just weird?

By the way, there’s also a video for 18 Types of Asian Girls– equally amusing, equally well-made (since Asians are so tech-savvy), and equally unintentionally somewhat offensive.

– Chris.