Nas’ NIGGER Video

So the controversial new song from Nas’ highly anticipated album is out–called “Be A Nigger.” I haven’t really formulated my analysis on this one, but I would love to know what you think about the video and/or the song.

2 thoughts on “Nas’ NIGGER Video

  1. “I wanna make the word easy on mutha—-as’ ears,” he explained. “You see how white boys ain’t mad at ‘cracker’ ’cause it don’t have the same [sting] as ‘nigger’? I want ‘nigger’ to have less meaning [than] ‘cracker.’ With all the bullsh– that’s going on in the world, racism is at its peak. I wanna do the sh– that’s not being done. I wanna be the artist who ain’t out. I wanna make the music I wanna hear.
    “We’re taking power [away] from the word…”

    – Nas

    I’m going to start my comment off with a story. I’m white. I grew up in a school district that was 85%-ish black. Around 4th or 5th grade (before 6th), I took the bus to school because the district closed the school close to my house down to use for office space. On that bus, the other kids and I spent a fair number of those rides to school insulting one another. On several such rides, the term used to insult boys and girls alike was “Nappy Headed “. No one on that bus had any idea what that meant; we were just kids. After middle school, I never heard that phrase used again…until a few years ago when a shock jock got fired from a radio station for using it on the air. Hearing it took me back to that bus, and I thought, “That’s racist? Shit, I’m really g.d. glad I never used that phrase after middle school, because I had no idea. I thought it was just some stupid shit kids said to one another.” Contrast that to the word “nigger” where I would have gotten my ass kicked if I ever uttered that word on that bus.

    It makes me wonder, now, if kids today have any idea what the word nigger means given how freely it’s used. Is that really what Nas wants? On one hand, I think his goal is somewhat noble: Removing the power that a word has over masses of people. Nas is right in that there is no word in the English language that has the same sting for me. I think we can all agree that words, any words, having power over a person is generally a bad thing. Nas’ point seems to be that we don’t need to let mere words have any power over us. I agree with that sentiment.

    On the other hand, do we really want to remove power from the word? After viewing the powerful imagery Nas used to depict the absolute worst moments of racism in American history, I’m not sure he really wants to either. “Still want to be a nigger?” is a powerful line in that song, which almost contradicts his quote. That line says to me: “All you people throwing around the term nigger have no idea what the fuck you are saying. This is what it means to be a nigger”.

    So I’m left feeling confused as to what Nas is actually trying to do with this song. Is he trying to desensitize the listener, or is he actually mocking people who so carelessly fling the term around? Both?

    One thing I don’t think was a good artistic choice was using imagery to compare the atrocities of decades past to today. I guess it’s arguable, but I don’t think anything going on today compares with the mass lynchings of the south. Unless that was his point (which it didn’t feel like it was).

    Either way, I don’t think we should desensitize the word, lest someone grow up in ignorance. I also don’t think there should be a few people that determine who can and cannot use the word, and in what context it should be used. That’s a form of censorship…censorship through intimidation. Let people say whatever they feel like, and you can judge from the context and tone that person’s character.

  2. Can’t we all just get along
    Words may show a man’s wit but actions his meaning.
    Benjamin Franklin

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