When singing (or in this case, rapping) along with Kanye, do we say a certain racially insensitive word or do we censor ourselves?
Valid arguments were made for both sides.
Saying the N-word
Pro: Remaining true to Kanye’s artistic vision, saying his words, each of them, exactly as he intended, even the ones that might not be so artistic.
Con: Inciting a full-scale race riot and/or getting our arses kicked.
Not saying the N-word
Pro: Showing our support at the ugliness of the word, the hatred of a term filled with venom.
Con: Drawing even more attention to the word as a mostly white audience goes mute, leaving only Kanye to say it, thus inciting a full-scale race riot and/or getting our arses kicked.
We ultimately decided to self-censor, but we also faced another dilemma: what word do we say in its place? Sure, Kanye helped us with “Now I ain’t saying she’s a golddigger, but she ain’t messing with no broke, broke,” but there was nothing to save us from Jesus Walks’ lyrics in which restless (N-words) might snatch your necklace or jack your Lexus before being told who Kanye West is.
Rap music is all about the rhythm and flow of the words, so it’s not really possible to just replace the N-word with a more politically correct term – “Now I ain’t saying she’s a golddiger, but she ain’t messing with no broke African-Americans.”
I feel like this is a real problem for white rap fans.
Eminem doesn’t drop n-bombs. Chamillionaire also stopped cursing — and his records don’t feel like they’ve been toned down.
But megastars like Kanye and Jay Z haven’t. Not to mention that even if they did, there’s a long legacy of music that we aren’t going back and re-cutting, like some rap version of George Lucas, trying to uncover the “original artistic vision”.
I’ve personally started using ‘brother’ in my head since it’s the most reasonable approximation that doesn’t destroy the continuity (“Where’d you get the beauty scar, tough guy? Eating pineapple?”), ends in -er, and it’s not terrible for rhymes that require the hard ‘g’ sound. Plus, in “Golddigger”, you get a nice consonance on the ‘b’: “I ain’t sayin’ she a golddigger, but she ain’t messin with no broke brother”.
I do think this is interesting, because racism is an issue that’s gone on for generations, and I wonder if things like Kanye saying “okay just this once” is a way of breaking the ice and improving the social (not economic) situation. It’ll be interesting to see how this progresses over the next 40 years.