What do Eminem, Necro & Riley Cooper Have In Common?
If you haven’t already heard, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper used the word “nigger” at a Kenny Chesney concert last month and was recorded. In an unprecedented move, the NFL has yet to suspend him and has allowed the team to discipline him with an undisclosed fine. He has since apologized and will undergo sensitivity training. The NFL players are predominately black and while most of Riley’s team have forgiven him, it’s sure going to be interesting to watch his performance on the field this season. How long will he last before he gets laid out on the field?
Hip Hop is a representation of the generation who came after the civil rights movement. It’s a generation that has learned to embrace the distinct cultural differences of other races for a common cause or like of musical tastes. We know the NFL locker rooms blast explicit Hip Hop before and after games. Many of today’s artists use the “N-word” freely and white listeners repeat the lyrics in the presence of their black and Hispanic friends. Should we be shocked that a white man also feels free to use the word after hearing it so many times?
In 1992, Necro and his brother Ill Bill perform in NYC in front of a mostly black and Hispanic audience. If you listen close to the audio, he drops the word “nigga” and gets a few WTF?’s from the crowd. They were caught off guard because it was rare for a white rapper to have enough skill and confidence to pull that off. The brothers were given a pass that night because the crowd was feeling their lyrics, delivery and stage presence. We know that the context of the word “nigga” is totally different when used among black people. It can be used as a term of endearment or used to describe anyone from any race. When someone from another race says it in a derogatory manner it’s offensive. That being said, could you imagine a white man doing that on stage during the 60’s in any context? Can you imagine a black rapper on stage in front of a crowd full of Jews spitting Jewish epithets in a joking manner?
Let’s not kid ourselves and think that the word “nigga” isn’t used frequently behind closed doors. Benzino spear-headed an attempt to assassinate Eminem’s character by revealing tapes from 1988 of the rapper using the word “nigga” and disrespecting black women. The initial response from other black rapper’s in the industry was one of disgust. The backlash may or may not have led to Em’s increased usage of drugs. At one time, it looked as if his career might have been near the end. As time went on and Em’s partners 50, Dr. Dre and the Interscope machine kept putting out hits, the storm blew over and things seem to have been forgotten.
In our lifetime, there won’t be a day when it’ll be okay for anyone to use the words “nigga” or “nigger” without offending someone. It’s an unwritten rule. As strong as our attempts to diminish its hurt is, the history of the word will always be more powerful. What are your thoughts?