Monday, November 22, 2010

Who Can Say It and Why?

Listening to the radio yesterday, Jennifer Lopez’s song “I’m Real” featuring Ja Rule came on. Having listened to it all through out junior high school I knew it word for word and was jamming until the second verse sung by Jlo.

“Now people saying what’s the deal with you and so so , I tell them n__as mind they business but they don’t hear though…….”

Then there was a bleep. Not so obvious if you have never heard the song before, but noticeable to those who knew the original version. The entertainment media went into a frenzy over a famous and well respected artist who was not African American using the N-word. The back lash she received from hip hop and African American communities was volatile yet forgiven. Civil rights activist and the African American communities wanted her to apologize for using the term. BET, MTV, and popular radio stations across the country threatened boycott of the record if she did not edit the song or remove the word all together. Though several people were in an uproar over it many came to her defense. One being Ja Rule, who helped write the song and is African American in hip hop, said that he had no problem with “Latina” using the word. Even though I was shocked along with others from my generation, we had reasoned that because she was dating P Diddy at the time so the term couldn’t have been derogatory. It would make no sense to her career if that was her intention, because at the time she was going for the urban, hip hop image and audience. What is interesting about this ordeal is that JLo, at least to my knowledge, has never come out and formally apologized for saying it(not suggesting she has to) and the record went on to be a hit on hip and R&B charts. The controversy seemed to be forgiven and forgotten about without any public acknowledgement.

I do not think that she was directing it at African Americans; she used it because it was a slang word of expression to describe groups of people in general; whic is used frequently in hip hop and R&B. Most mainstream rappers use the term, but it is the color of their skin that validates whether or not they can use it.It's not right for anyone to use it, as Oprah Winfrey made it clear in 2009 when she lashed at Jay-Z for using the term. Eminem, who had tracks using the N-word long before he became a celebrity was leaked by a popular hip hop magazine. Eminem at the time was a huge figure in the hip hop African American community and had many relationships in it. However when this came out, he panicked and quickly apologized for using the term, claiming he was young and dumb for using the N-word. Now here we have the ultimate hip hop star who can not use the word without suffering huge back lash and a loss of respect in the industry. It is curious how race censors what is said in popular culture and how it is received. Not to condone the use of the N-word by anyone, JLo got more of a break because she was a Latina. I believe though Eminem was more “urban in market” than JLo he was White, and not a minority that used the word. It is something about race that gives a status and a story that is either accepted or rejected by the public. Had Eminem, not apologized and was backed by Dr. Dre and other popular hip hop figures, I think that he would have lost a large amount of respect in the industry because of his race despite his talent. Whereas, JLo upset people for a while and eventually let it go.

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