Dear Caucasoids: Please Stop Using the N-Word, Especially When Ironically Covering Rap Songs.
Welcome to a brand new segment here at Popular Opinions called Dear Caucasoids where I write an open-and-shut letter to white people as a whole. This should be fun.
If there’s one thing I have never done in my rap career, it’s say the N-word. In fact, long before I was rapping, I knew this was one thing never to do. As a caucasoid (white person / milkhead) myself, I’m all too familiar with the very few words I’m not allowed to ever say ever for any reason. Being someone who has always considered racism alongside Farmville and Mafia Wars as social networking hobbies that don’t interest me in the least, I’ve never really minded that these very few words were off limits. No matter how cool it was to hear them on record, I understood a thing or two about American history and was big enough on social graces to never slip on down to the o-asis and use it under any circumstances.
So imagine my surprise when fellow Caucasoid Nina Gordon (of Veruca Salt) released her cover of N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” this week and, well, make it to the 11 second mark.
Yes, white people ironically covering rap music in another genre is nothing new. In the Mid-90s, both nu-metal pioneers KoRN and New York punk band H20 had minor hits with covering Ice Cube’s “Wicked” and “It Was a Good Day”. At the turn of the century, punk act Dynamite Hack scored a record deal with website-turned-television-show-turned-record-label farmclub.com with their cover of Eazy E’s “Boyz in the Hood” and failed mathematician Ben Folds had viral success with Dr. Dre’s “B****** Ain’t S***.” Then there’s The Gourds’ not-Phish cover of Snoop’s “Gin and Juice” and Tori Amos’ not-not-pretentious reinterpretation of Eminem’s “97 Bonnie and Clyde.” For whatever reason, possibly because they’re iconic or just really good, it’s only Cube and Dre affiliated works that get the “oh man, how about this?” treatment. The actual (re: not cute) irony here is that these are two artists whose most famous works often reflected the struggle of being a minority and yet the popularity of these covers are perpetuating a subtle institutionalized racism through familiarizing a far-too-impressionable white audience with casually dropping N-bombs.
Of course, the most popular defense of Gordon’s cover is that people are being too sensitive over what are “just lyrics” and that Gordon herself should get a pass because she isn’t being “hateful.” Thing is, it’s not “just lyrics.” Take the N-word out and it’s just a lame cover. With the N-Word present (we would have known what song it was without it, there is a clean version she could have opted for. At least say “brother”) it becomes a moment of racism. There’s no doubt in my mind she wasn’t calling anyone “n*gger,” but with the n-word’s history, particularly with how it is used in that song, it’s incredibly socially irresponsible to do it, especially for an audience that isn’t a “hip hop” audience who now might think it’s ok to say it. It isn’t. Look no further than the countless “Boyz N the Hood” YouTube covers to see oblivious mimics by the dead-eyed dozens.
Let’s compare this to the Will Ferrell SNL sketch where he’s Robert Goulet selling his rap album. The difference between that and these jokey covers is that, while Ferrell is in character dropping N-bombs left and right THE JOKE IS that Robert Goulet is deluded and out-of-touch enough to think such a casual use by him (a caucasoid) is OK. That’s what makes it funny. The Nina Gordon/Ben Folds covers, however, aren’t as a character. They’re being themselves and giving the covers no other context than “I’m a white person saying the N-Word over soft music, isn’t that hilarious?”
Sure, I’d be as thrilled to say the ONE word I’m not allowed to say as much as the rest of you, but it’s not my/our place to determine what that word means. It’s never been hurtful to us. It’s not up to us to say when it’s OK. We can’t make that call, particularly when re-appropriating something like “Straight Outta Compton” for a gag that winds up (even unintentionally) being an arrogant act of white privilege. Also, it’s a joke that has been done and is no longer funny so please stop. K, thx.
We give Lame Youtube Covers a One Out of Five.
So until next time…let’s agree to agree!