Nigga Or Nigger
by Davey D
The most interesting facet of this last poll was the number of people who
are growing tired of hearing the word 'nigga' being bantered about.. I
recall growing up in the Bronx and constantly having that word being tossed
about by the roughneck Irish kids who resided near Van Courtland Park,
Johnson Ave in Riverdale, Washington Heights and South Broadway in
Yonkers.. There were many a days that some serious racial confrontations
broke off-usually as a result of that N word being thrown about.. It
surprises me how candidly the word gets used today.. especially by those
who aren't Black..Like KRS-One says.. 'Now we got white kids calling
themselves nigga'... What hurts even more is you have this ridiculous
assertion being spouted by some brothers who will point out that there's a
big difference between the word 'Nigger' and 'Nigga'. Hence when I was
growing up I was being called 'Nigger' which is offensive.. but when some
white or Asian kid comes rolling up to me today talking about 'What's up my
Nigga'? I should embrace him because this kid is down with hip hop
culture... Even sadder is you have some brothers who take this word and
flip it so that it empowers them..So now nigga is a good thing... We've
internalized so much negativity it's ridiculous..
This sort of mentality reminds me of the way some of us celebrate the
success of a hip hop concert...
Here you have kids running up and saying things like "Man there was only
one fight during the concert'.. or 'Only one person got shot'.. Normal,
civil, intelligent behavior is so rare nowadays.. that we actually give
props to something that should be an everyday occurance..What compounds
this situation even more is that we have some very prominent individuals
within hip hop who have literally 'blessed' the word nigga.. I recall
arguing with non-Black collegues about the offensive qualities of that
word... only to have some local and sometimes nationally known artist roll
on the set and say.. "Dave is on some Black power/ Malcolm X shit....we're
all niggas in this bitch"..
I recall the saddness I felt when Notorious BIG
made a station ID for two the station's djs a few years back.. He gets on
the mic..and says 'You're checkin' out my Niggas Trace and Franzen on 106
KMEL'...He saw no problem with the fact that these djs weren't Black.. and
that by saying the word in that context he was giving liscence to all sorts
of folks to use this word.. At the time a lot of my co-workers thought it
was cool..After all all sorts of rappers would come up and use the word and
allow the word to be used around them.. Thank God my old PD [Michelle S]
disallowed that ID to air.. But what about in other instances? Def Comedy
Jam, and all sorts of places give liscence for the word to be used.. It's
gotten to the point now where radio edits for songs still contain the word
while reversing words like 'Faggot' dyke' 'fuck' etc.. Even here on the net
and on the message boards of the website.. How many white kids from far off
places like London, Sweden, Germany and even Kentucky have found it to be
either cute or an affirmation of their hipness to refer to themselves and
everyone else as nigga...
There's an old saying that goes 'What you say or allow to be said about
you is what you will become'.. Too many brothers within hip hop have
allowed themselves to become that 'ignorant nigga' that so many whites once
did and still think of us... Going back to my last newsletter where I spoke
about the power of words..I'm amazed and motivated to follow the lead of
other ethnic groups who vehemently step to folks who put forth offensive
material.. For example, let's take a look at the Jewish community.. After
all the crazy stuff they've been through, many within that community ain't
letting stuff slide.. There seems to be an attitude that says you will not
mis-characterize our people.. Puffy put out a song called 'It's All About
The Benjamins'.. In the the original 12" he says the following line:'...
Who's gonna believe you?/ You should do what we do stack chips like
Hebrews'.., Now on the both the radio and non radio edits of that song the
word' Hebrew' is deleted out... It's not reversed or anything like that..
It's completely omitted..The word 'Fuck' and other curses are allowed to
stay on the non radio edits.. mix... So why not Hebrew?... Because they do
not want the world to rehash and reaffirm a stereotype about them being
My feelings on this is as follows.. I'm not sure if Puffy removed the word
on his own.. or if someone within Arista records removed the word.. Or if
the Jewish community step to him.. All I know is that Puffy uses the word
Nigga in all sorts of songs.. But won't go there when it comes to dissing
the Jewish community.. Why? because folks from that part of town ain't
going out like that.... Meanwhile brothers is killing each other on record,
calling each other nigga this and nigga that on record etc... It's all the
result of ignorance and to a large degree internalized hatred.. It's ironic
in many of Puffy's songs.. He and Mase can step to and regulate on 'Niggas'
who get out of hand.. But they can't 'stack chips like Hebrews'.. I wish we
as a people were as diligent...
Another community that doesn't allow too many mischaracterizations is the
Gay & Lesbian community.. If you start dissing them..they will extract some
extreme punishment.. I recall a few years back when Cypress Hill headlined at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco... One of the opening
acts had a hype man who started yelling trying to get the crowd hyped..
'What Are You men or Fags? I recall him yelling... The next day over 75
phone calls came to the radio station demanding that we remove Cypress Hill
from our playlist.. There were at least ten djs from our station who
attended the concert that night and who saw and heard Cypress not be
offensive.. But word had spread within the Gay community that Cypress Hill
were the culprits and hence they were off limits. The pressure mounted...
It wasn't enough that the group wrote a letter and apologized for any
offensive behavior that took place during their concert.. The Gay community
mounted so much pressure that we didn't play their music for more then a
year.. That meant they were even off limits during the mix and rap shows..
Again.. B-Real can use the N word all he wants in his songs.. He can light
a few joints.. But he best not go around dissing gay folks.. or he'll
pay...And in this case he did..
Another artist who learned the hard way was Def Jeff.. About 10 years ago
while performing in SF.. He yelled out 'All the people who don't have AIDS
be quiet'... Def Jeff hasn't been back to perform since then.. He's had
some hot records...but club owners throughout the Bay Area wouldn't book
him... If memory serves me correctly our good friend Turbo B from the group
Snap made some disparing remarks about Gay folks and his career took a
serious nose dive..
Records like 'Dre Day' which was featured on The Chronic lp were played
everyday on commercial stations.. Here it was ok for Snoop and Dre to rap
about smacking someone's girl.. and putting a gat in someone's mouth.. But
when it came to the part about someone's mom being a 'Frisco Dyke' that
word was flipped around or eliminated completely.. I ain't mad at
that..Again you have a group of people who ain't going out like that...
Yes, I realize that Gays often call themselves Queer and Fag.. But you
ain't rolling through the set and publicly gonna do this..
The point I'm making with all this is that this word 'Nigga' has been used
to the point that folks feel like it's a part of hip hop and Black
Culture..Yes, I realize that we've used this word forever within our
community.. But never before in such public arenas.. I'm sure Jewish folks
have remarks that they say within their own communities as do Gays.. But
they ain't giving the public a liscence to step that way..At least not to
the same degree that we as Black folks have... Like I said the word nigga'
is a word that gets blessed by some of our brightest and most visible
artists.. Not to pick on Puffy.. but right now he's the largest one out
there.. I recall going to his concert in San Jose and watching him get 15
thousand people to raise their hand middle finger and say 'Fuck You
Bitch'... Right afterwards L'il Kim came out and got everyone to yell 'Fuck
You Nigga'.. The majority of that audioence was non-Black.. It sure was
strange hearing a whole bunch of white and Asian kids..some as young as 10
yelling 'Fuck You Nigga'... But hey we're in the last days...and Jerry
Just one last thought.. I'm not in anyway trying to equate the word Nigga
with Black folks.. But the reality is when that word is used the image that
pops up is a Black Face.. It's the streotype of us in all its fullness.. As
a result we continue to suffer from the negative streotypes often
associated with that word...
We will have a newsletter depicting all the latest haps coming out
tomorrow.. In the meantime let me know what you think..firstname.lastname@example.org
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