I must say off the bat that I really hate the n-word. It is not a part of my vocabulary, and I hate to hear it uttered.
About a week ago, an acquaintance of mine (who happens to be white) told me about a hip hop song that he heard and he wanted to know if I had heard it. I wasn’t too sure if I knew the song, so he began to recite the lyrics for me.
He started to say “…my n$gga….hey n@gga…” I was a little shocked to hear him throw that word around. Once he saw the look on my face, he knew that I didn’t appreciate the use of the word.
Even though I realized that he did not intend to offend me, I still felt the need to tell him that I do not like that word, and I didn’t want to hear it.
When I finished talking to him, I realized that I wasn’t really that angry with him, I was more concerned with the fact that we’ve made the use of that word acceptable. It is spewed out in many rap songs and it is very much a part of “urban” dialogue in any “urban” movie. It is so common that people of all races feel comfortable using the word. They might think that since the word is thrown around a lot, that it is stripped of the negative connotation. Is this a good thing? I don’t think so.
Hearing the n-word used by someone that isn’t black will always come off as racist to me. I guess that comes from being the only black girl in some of my classes when I was younger. It was the one word that my classmates knew was the cruelest word that you could say to me, so they refrained from using it towards me.
Even though some say that the words n*gga and n%gger have different meanings (one is said to be harmless and not meant to be malicious, the other a racist term), I will always see them as words of hate, regardless of spelling. The n-word wasn’t created to instill black people with a sense of pride and community, it was used to demean, degrade and oppress black people. And for that reason, I will not use that word.
Alicia Keys was recently in the T Dot promoting her Unplugged album. She had interviews on a couple of radio stations, and on various television shows. I seriously contemplated leaving work early so that I could catch a glimpse of her at MuchMusic’s Much On Demand, but I begrudgingly stayed at work.
I’ve only recently become a big fan of Alicia Keys. I enjoyed her music when she first came out 4 years ago, but it was her second CD that made me a full-fledged fan. Her lyrics definitely struck a chord with me. I felt like she was singing about things that I was going through. “If I Ain’t Got You,” “Diary,” “Karma,” and “You Don’t Know My Name” are my songs!
I was able to catch her Unplugged special on TV a couple of weeks ago. It was so refreshing to hear a singer than can actually sing. She sounded as good live as she does on her albums. She puts all the new r&b singers to shame. Yes, I’m talking about, Ashanti, Teira Marie, Rihanna and Ciara. They sound okay on their CDs and they can sell the image, but can they sing live? (Some of their live performances prove that they can’t) To me, the true test of a singer is if they have no problems singing live. (When you see the Alicia Key’s Unplugged special, you will see that she passed that test!) If you can’t perform live (listen up, J Lo), that means that you can’t sing! Singers should be able to connect with the audience just by singing a few notes. Unfortunately, inadequate performers that are attractive are the ones that get the most exposure.
Think about it. When is the last time that you heard tracks from powerhouse vocalists Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, India arie, or Floetry? They are all amazingly talented singers, but they have been pushed to the side so that they can make way for sub par singers that fit a profitable image. Read: You must be a pretty, half naked girl to make it in the business. It is clear that it isn’t about the music anymore; it’s about how much money an artist can generate. If you are attractive and can hit a few notes, you can be signed to a label.
On the flipside, even though Ms. Keys is extremely beautiful, she has proved to us that real singers still exist. She belts out her songs effortlessly and she continues to grow as an artist.