Hip-hop is totally mainstream in 2012. But it wasn’t always that way. In it’s early days, the entire genre of hip-hop music was considered underground and made primarily by and for black Americans. Fast forward twenty years or so and people of all races and ethnicities are fans and performers of this form of self-expression.
It’s amazing to see how hip-hop has transitioned into its place in the mainstream and to see so many different people embrace it. It has exposed people to a different America, complete with slang many people were not familiar with. And it is often comical to see non-blacks reciting hip-hop songs and incorporating these slang words into their everyday lives.
However, there is one word that will always be fraught with controversy, especially when someone other than a black person uses it in any way or form, the N-word. In recent years there has been so much discussion amongst blacks as to whether this word should be forever removed from our vocabulary. Bill Cosby is against the use of the word, and the NAACP “buried” it in 2007, with a funeral and everything.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are people that believe that in using the word, we take away the power the word has when used by non-blacks, turning a negative into a positive. The debate about the word will likely continue, especially as hip-hop artists continue to use the word in their music and hip-hop music remains in the forefront of the music industry.
And the latest person to find themselves thrown into the mix is Gwyneth Paltrow, who tweeted “Ni**as in Paris for real @mrteriusnash (the dream) tyty, beehigh” with a photo of her on stage with Jay and Ye. Here’s the tweet. When artists make songs like Ni**as in Paris, their non-black fans worldwide have a decision to make about whether they will say it or not, which is well depicted in this Grantland article.
The thing is, she tweeted the song as it is listed on the album. So, really, is there anything wrong with that? If we’re being picky, she called them “ni**as” when she said “ni**as in Paris for real”, but I think it’s safe to assume that is not what she meant. Our society today is extra sensitive about everything, and this instance is no different. Gwyneth has never shown any indication of being racist, and I don’t think this tweet is reason enough to drag her character through the mud.
I think if we are living in a time where hip-hop is now mainstream music, then we have to be somewhat lenient with people and their use of the N-word. I do not condone the use of the word by non-blacks, but in this situation, Gwyneth Paltrow used the word as it’s displayed on the album. Kanye West and Jay-Z just made the lines that much more blurred, and we have to somehow find a way to navigate through this. Perhaps in the future, the N-word will be removed from all people’s vocabularies, but for now, we must remember this is a sensitive subject and tread carefully.