Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Dart Adams presents Black Zombies: The Controversy Surrounding Nas' "Nigger" Album

This situation surrounding the new Nas album is odd to say the least. First of all, people were taken aback to find out that Nas was going to name his 2008 album “Nigger”. If you were paying attention he originally going to name his 2006 offering “Hip Hop Is Dead: The Nigger”. Anyone who made a knee jerk reaction to the title of this new album before doing any legwork or getting any information on it first gets the gas face.

Right before the album was about to drop he removed the song “The N” from the album and decided that he would save his “Nigger” theme for his next album. The title of this album should’ve surprised no one, especially the executives at Def Jam. That didn't stop them from ultimately caving to outside pressure and forcing Nas to deliver the album sans the word "Nigger" on front. We all know what the album is really called anyways so who really cares?

Is the word “nigger” really that shocking to hear or offensive anymore? I mean people that aren't even Black claim that the word makes them “uncomfortable” and all but why? If you’ve ever bought a Rap/Hip Hop album I’m sure you’ve heard the word before. If you’ve been to a Hip Hop show chances are you may have heard the word before. Remember that scene between Romany Malco and Kevin Hart in "40 Year Old Virgin"? Did you laugh or were you apalled and offended at their usage of the "N word" ? Ever laughed during an episode of "The Boondocks"?

We live in a world where Busta Rhymes will do a show to a packed audience of 30,000 and he’ll scream out “Where my niggas is at?” and the entire crowd will make noise even though only about 25-30% of them are of Black or Latino descent. I didn't see Busta get offended, stop the show and chide the "non niggas" in the crowd for making noise so I guess it's whatever, right?

I grew up in Boston and I’ve been all over the northeastern US and I’ve been among White kids, Latinos and Asians that grew up in the inner city and refer to themselves and their friends of the same ethnicity as “nigga” and are called “nigga” as well by their Black and Latino friends and peers.

If you’ve ever seen a comedy routine by a Black comic then chances are that depending on what channel you saw it on he probably used the “N word”. From Richard Pryor to Eddie Murphy to Martin Lawrence to Chris Rock to Dave Chappelle to Jamie Foxx to Katt Williams I'm sure you sat through a "niggafest" or twenty in your lifetimes.

It’s even began to pop up in porn over the past couple of years which is both funny and disturbing in my opinion. I mean, how can I even get offended over a White female porn star getting piped by a gang of Black dudes using the N word when she’s previously had sex with a bunch of Black dudes over her career? Which brings me to another point regarding the word and it’s usage.

You can even have the word “nigger” or it’s derivative “nigga” spoken and used all over an album. You can even have the word or it’s deravitive on the back of the album where it has the tracklisting but it can’t be on the front of the album. Talk about hypocrisy!

In a world where Michael Richards, Dog The Bounty Hunter and Charlie Sheen are caught either on video or a taped phone conversation using the word are we really still that shocked and unnerved by it as a nation? I mean really? If the word “nigger” is really so offensive to non Blacks then people would abandon displaying the confederate flag in public. I find that act 1000x times more offensive than the simple utterance of the word. It tells me that the person who says “nigger” isn’t alone and everyone in the area who allows that flag to fly feels the same way as that one narrow minded, ignorant individual.

If N.W.A. can have a career that exploded due to the fact that with each album the more they said “nigga” on an LP, the better the album sold and the more popular they became then why can’t Nas make an album examining the word and the stereotyped pervading Black culture (the word "nigga" is still there..just backwards!)? Is Paul Mooney allowed to make a career out of it but Nas can’t make this one album? Is Dave Chappelle allowed to do so but not Nas? Is Katt Williams allowed to do so but not Nas?

H. Rap Brown wrote a book entitlted “Die Nigger Die”. John Lennon made a song called “The Woman Is The Nigger Of The World”. Richard Pryor made albums called “That Nigger’s Crazy” and “Bicentennial Nigger”. Patti Smith made a song called “Rock N’ Roll Nigger”. If John Lennon. Yoko Ono and Patti Smith can understand the meaning and usage of the word “nigger” in the context of their own music then how come Nas is getting grief for using the same creative and artistic license in 2008? This isn’t America is it?

How people can get all up in arms over Nas’ album or the subject matter when people in other genres of art and entertainment can freely explore the word in their own way boggles the mind. Did we forget about Randall Kennedy’s book “Nigger: The Strange Career Of A troublesome Word” that dropped back in 2002? If he (Kennedy), a renowned scholar can explore the history of this word then surely Nas can through music, right? It would only make sense considering that he’s a talented and intelligent Black wordsmith and he’s one of the most well regarded artists of the past 15 years.

This album is not a publicity stunt. None of us that were alive back in the 60’s or 70’s that grew up with Hip Hop culture believe that. None of us that were alive when Apartheid was still in effect and Nelson Mandela was still locked up on Robben Island believe that. Those of us that used to get in trouble for coming to school rocking “Divest From South Africa” or Inkatha Freedom Party T-shirts believe that. None of us that remember a time when if you saw a brown face on TV you celebrated believe that.

The word “nigger” is a hurtful word that was created to demean a person and make then feel less than human or insignificant. Knowing the history behind the word and it’s usage make it the nuclear bomb of slurs. The problem is that if you try to cover it up and forget it you are in effect giving that ugly word more power.

When you examine the word and it’s usage and history and context the power that word once had dissolves. Every time I’ve been called “nigger” in my life it affected me in some way, shape or form. I’ve had a wide array of responses ranging from full on rage leading to violence to complete shock and disbelief to me laughing it off and continuing to keep it moving. It all depended on the timing, usage and the context at that particular moment.

In July 2008, Nas is deciding to do what no one else has the balls to do and make an album with real meaning regarding a word that has a prime place in American history whether or not America wants to realize it. Some of us use it daily. Some of us absolutely hate the word and want nothing to do with it. Either way it’s not going away so we might as well suck it up and face it head on.

There is a nigger today. There was a nigger yesterday, and there’ll be a nigger tomorrow! © Gylan Kain



Berto said...

You make some very, very salient points. I remember when I was first getting into hip-hop, I was uncomfortable when I'd hear guys like Mos Def and Common toss around the word "nigga" like it's nothing, but I guess I've come to grips with its ubiquity. Based on that alone, I think it's a bit of a double-standard to say Nas can't name his album "Nigger" (though I still think what he did at the Grammy's was a little bold).

Yellow Rebel said...

You know at the end of the day I feel like the solution to this all is just drop a solid album.

deap said...

ok Dart, you commented on my displeasure of the CD, now i think its only fair i point out a few details you seem to be overlooking.

First it wanst non-blacks that didnt like the "nigger" name. If you read, it was Jesse Jackson and the NAACP ("The title using the 'N' word is morally offensive and socially distasteful," Jackson said in a statement. "Nas has the right to degrade and denigrate in the name of free speech, but there is no honor in it. Radio and television stations have no obligation to play it and self-respecting people have no obligation to buy it. I wish he would use his talents to lift up and inspire, not degrade, making a mockery of racism."

The NAACP also had words to offer concerning the album title, claiming that the idea showed a lack of creativity and was only reinforcing the word.).

Interesting that you only talk about non-blacks disapproving of the use and yet thats not the case. Most white people dont like it, not because its "uncomfortable" to them. More because it causes a divide in race relations. This can cause discomfort because the MAJORITY of the public doesnt have racists ideals. People are much more docile then ever before. Protests, and picketers have decreased dramatically from past years.

I also find it interesting that your lumping latinos with blacks as if they are somehow related. Leave the east coast and go to the South West. Its a whole different story my friend. Why are we leaving out the Native Americans who are the ONLY people that have legitimate complaints about the GOVT.

How you can compare comedians using the "nigger" word in a joke vs Nas using it as a racial divide. If you want to believe it or not, it does cause divides.

That white woman in a porn is just tacky and tasteless, nuff said.

As far as Michael Richards, Dog The Bounty Hunter and Charlie Sheen, they were criticized all over the media for their use. It wasnt like it was approved and justified as your trying to do in this case. They were looked down for their comments as should anyone else. Yet its ok to be racist against whites if your black? THAT is "hypocrisy". Do we not remember Chris Rock saying he didnt care if a Russian being oppressed in his own country comes to America he would still want to punch him because hes white!? could you imagine if any white man said that on ANY media venue? your kidding yourself if you think it wouldnt be splashed over every news channel in country.

The term being used in a negative light should be frowned upon by ALL races and the black leaders agree. Is it bad that white people are trying to shun such a negative term? Is it bad that white people would like to put slavery behind them and move on? I dont know any white person currently thats owned as slave and i dont know any black person that has been a slave.

Just because Dave Cha-p and Katt Williams do it, make it right? Racism will never go away if we keep bringing it back up and dwelling in the past. It just seems the majority of your justifications are based on things that were prominent 20 years ago. THAT was when America should be shunned. NOT now for trying to move past the racial separation. Does that mean racism doesnt exist, no. Does it mean I agree with the confederate flag, no. Your seeing this from only 1 side and not viewing this in its entirety.

You commented on my post that i just didnt understand. wow you really should make such bold assumptions. just because i see racial unity being resolved in a much less offensive way doesnt mean ive never experienced it.

Covering it up and forgetting about it doesnt make it "stronger" you dont hear Jews calling each other "Kikes", or Latinos calling each other "spic" or any other racial groups for that matter. Dropping the word from the lips of our youths, PROPERLY educating on unity, and not "forgetting" but moving beyond is exactly what this county needs.

Just because this is America and theres freedom of speech, should we allow our kids to drop F-Bombs because Richard Pryor did it?? I think not. "It all depended on the timing, usage and the context at that particular moment.".... well if it wasnt abused to freely by everyone, this would be a non-issue. Can words like "honkey" and "gook" be used in different context and timing? NO.

Acceptance of a derogatory comment is not an option and im shocked you would think this way. I think your comments on this topic are very opinionated and less factual.

Im multi-national, so please dont assume ive no clue what im talking about and dismiss me as you did earlier. Ive dealt with racism from whites and blacks alike. Neither one is better than the other. Its not the use of the word that bothered me as much as the contradiction of his lyrics and serious lack of production. He talks about how rough blacks have it.... ummm i know plenty of poor white people living in horrible neighborhoods that get cross looks from police and security alike. MODERN AMERICA is based on social and economic status. If your rich and black you will get your golf tee-times just as quickly as any white would.

Had Nas spoken about racial unity (beyond the one song at the very very end), i may have had a different opinion on this cd. However, with the content being more about how the govt hates black people, its a tired topic that has proven itself to be silly. I didnt see any of these powerful black men with money rushing to the aide of Katrina. Where was Nas and P-diddy filling up sandbags at? Where are they for the flooding now? Its so much easier to talk big from your mansion then it is to LIVE in the trenches still.

I know your pissed off with my displeasure of the CD, but it wasnt just some white kid without knowledge. Your assumptions and criticism thrown my way, were wrong, invalid, and had no substantial facts to base your attack. Again, im not saying racism doesnt exist.... but let some white kid walk down the inner streets of DC, Detroit, Chicago, or NY.....Ive seen first hand just how racial a group of black kids can be.... just as stupid.

my point is this.... PROPERLY educate, teach kids right from wrong, teach kids unity, and things will get better. Continue to excuse racial comments based on "context" is just treading water and going nowhere. Sorry to blow up your comments, but having dealt with a lot of this first hand myself, I see growth in a different light.

pz Dart. even though we dont agree, i wont attack you personally and still have nothing but respect for you. hopefully your adult enough to reciprocate that.

Dart Adams said...

@ Deap: I addressed the Black people/so-called Black leaders and folks who had that corny burial for the word "Nigger" in the title of the post. THEY are the Black Zombies I'm speaking of.

Since most of my regular readers already know my stance on those people I launched into the meat of my post and the real focus: Those who don't understand why Nas would even venture to make this album in the first place and can see no way it can be done in an artistic manner.

If you don't like the album, that's fine with me. Just don't attack it and say that Nas' message had no real merit or that there was NO MESSAGE. That I take issue with. I still think you didn't "get" the album. But if you got it but didn't agree with how he went about it then you should've posted THAT instead of what you wrote on HHB.

That's all.


deap said...

you are correct. i could have and maybe should have handled it a bit more professionally. im just sick and tired of (what i think) is the same boring drama. I just felt Nas could have approached his message in a much more positive way.

as you said we agree to disagree and ive no love loss for ya man. hope you dont hold my opinions against me and we can continue where we were before this began!

Dart Adams said...

@Deap: We're cool but Danksta needs to grow up on the real.