Few stories this year have been as baffling as the aftermath the picture above and its enclosed caption caused. First there was R&B crooner The-Dream jumping in front of a bullet for his close friend Gwyneth Paltrow as he claimed the tweet was from him.. Then there were the slew of urban intellectuals coming out of the woodworks to give us another hundred reasons why we need to have a funeral for the N-word. Although, the song “N*ggas in Paris” has been in constant rotation since the winter, they have only used now as an opportunity to say the song title is socially irresponsible.
They were rebutted by black media figures like Russell Simmons who said not only was he unfazed by the tweet and would never ask Jay-Z or any other rapper-poet to change the words they choose to describe their experiences and emotions. Uncle Rush’s interpretation of the song is one of triumph. Here are two black males’ both from single parent households in major cities. Both expected to become nothing more than statistics. One a reformed drug dealer; the other a former Gap employee. Two men who on the back of hard work, dedication and shameless self-promotion have catapulted themselves not only to the top of the Hip Hop game but into the ranks of the social elite. The song is a celebration. “N*ggas in Paris” balling so hard that they have an Academy Award winning actresses on stage with them IN PARIS as they perform the song 11 times. Now if that is not an accomplishment, please forgive me for my ignorance.
There are a lot of shots being fired around social networks these days. Some at The-Dream for thinking people actually believe that he mistakenly tweeted the picture from Gwyneth’s Twitter account, some of them at Kanye & Jay for making the song in the first place and most of it at uber upper-class Gwyneth Paltrow for thinking because she is Jay-Z’s homegirl she gets a pass on using the N-word. These strong reactions from people inside and outside of the Hip Hop community underscores the fact that this country is far from being racial reconciled, even if it has a Black President.
Hip-Hop intellectual Toure dismissively called it “fauxtroversy.” Nas, who is coincidentally writing his autobiography with Toure agreed in a recent interview. The Hip-Hop legend said he gives Gwnyeth a pass because of their relationship:
“She’s the homie, she’s cool. Gwyneth gets a pass. Real people get a pass… Some of us [African-Americans] will get angrier about it than others; but some people get a pass. The people that I know who are cool and real n****s, Gwyneth Paltrow is a real n****, that’s my homie. That’s how I’m on it. Some people get a pass.”
Q-Tip was not happy with Nas for giving out N-word passes like they were an international flight. He lashed out on Twitter saying, “Listen Rush Simmons, Toure, and all Black folk who are sympathist to this gwen paltrow n*gga thing. She may not have meant harm, sure it was in the heat of the moment but that fact that she showed not 1 IOTA of an apologetic tone, given the historical weight of that word is not responsible [on] G paltrow’s part.” In retrospect, an apology would have been nice, but instead the Oscar Award winner said the equivalent of ‘what’s the big deal?’ Shortly after the public outcry began Gwen said via Twitter, “Hold up. It’s the title of the song!”
Not only does this bring into question whether or not The-Dream was the originator of the tweet, it is also insensitive. A sincere ‘my bad’ would have probably been a better look for the actress. Some people are rightfully offended by the tweet but she does have a point, it is after all the title of the song. The song is not N-word in Paris, it’s “N*ggas in Paris.” Unfortunately you cannot pronounce the asterisk. Although the first word of the title is one steeped in 400+ years of racial subjugation and nooses, is it any worse than saying “Rack City” or “B*tch Please”?
Seems like we are much less concerned with the word b*tch then we are with the word n*gga. You are seen as a social network superhero if you swoop in to take shots at a White actress for using the N-word. If you are a guy who does not listen to Drake because of how frequently he uses the B-word you are seen as irrational. If you are a woman who complains about it you are whining. Seems like we are more than a little consistent as a Culture. However, I digress.
The word N*gger is the one of the most versatile phrases in the English language. It can be a term of endearment in the mouth of a brother, a term of hatred in the mouth of enemy or an accusation of inferiority in the mouth of a racist. It can be debilitating, it can be uplifting. It can, like any word, be anything you want it to be. At the end of the day Gwyneth might have been ignorant, she might have been inconsiderate but she was certainly not malicious. That intent needs to be remembered, even if you do disagree with her. People in general, but us as Hip Hoppers, in particular, should be less easily outraged by one harmless Twitpic and more vocal about the verbal assaults male rappers batter women with on a daily basis. Word.