Tag Archives Lil Wayne

Is Everyone Saying “N***a” Now?

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Who should be "allowed" to say the "n-word"? It seems people of all races are throwing it around these days. Read more in "Is Everyone Saying N***a Now? on The Girl Next Door is Black | Lil Wayne Unplugged
Lil Wayne at MTV Unplugged
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“If you having a good time, I want you to say, ‘Hell yeah, niggaaaaaaaaaa!”

“Hell yeah, niggaaaaaaaaaa!” the crowd screamed back at Lil Wayne.

I scanned the stadium of concert goers: a sea of young, white and light faces surrounded me, bopping their heads to the beat, hip-hop hands swaying in the air, phone cameras recording and repeating at Lil Wayne’s command,

Helllllll yeah, niggaaaaaaaaa!!

I looked over at my friend, who, like me, hadn’t joined the crowd.

“What the hell?” I mouthed at her, as my face contorted itself into surprise and disapproval.

This was the situation at a concert I attended in Orange County, California (“OC”) a few years ago. Orange County’s black population is similar to Utah’s in number. That is to say: nearly non-existent. Still, I didn’t expect to be such an obvious minority at a hip-hop concert headlined by black artists. I know white suburban teenagers are now the largest consumers of hip-hop, and Orange County is like one giant suburb, so really I shouldn’t have surprised me. But, there’s what you know and what you actually see for yourself.

____

Last year while in San Francisco’s Mission district with a friend, we overheard three teenagers shouting in conversation:

“Did you hear what I said?”
“Daaaamn, fool!’
“Yeah, that nigga’s cray.”

They all laughed.

My friend and I turned to each other, the same “Did you just hear that?!” looks on our faces. None of the teens were black.

“Huh,” I exhaled. “So, that’s what’s going on now?”

It’s time like these when I feel my age. I resisted the urge to use my budding “kids these days” voice or wag my disapproving finger while giving them an impromptu history lesson on the “n-word.” They weren’t using the word in a hurtful manner. The way the kid said it, the word carried the same weight as someone saying “snow is white.”

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard a teenager cavalierly use the word “nigga.” I’ve heard it from the mouths of black, white, Asian and Latino people. People who no doubt count themselves among a large and diverse group of hip-hop fans.

I’m not sure how to feel about this.

____

No matter how many times I hear people attempt to explain that using the derivative “nigga” is a way of reclaiming the word, stripping it of its power, I can’t buy into that argument. It is a word based in hateAs long as there are people hatefully hurling the word at black people with intent to wound and stake their superiority, that word is still mighty powerful. Even seeing it written stirs up emotion. If other black people choose to use it, that’s their prerogative. It’s not for me. Honestly, I don’t know that I will ever feel comfortable hearing any form of the word escape the lips of someone not black, outside of an academic discussion, and even then I may involuntarily wince.

It was less than 10 years ago when my youngest sister’s white classmate mean-girled her and nastily declared,

“No one wants to sit next to her because she’s a nigger.”

It hurt me to hear of the incident because I’d hoped, naïvely, that by the time my youngest sister reached the cruelest years of school, that kind of prejudiced language would lose favor with her generation. Just thinking of the experience still angers my sister. The girl made her life “a living hell.” I had hoped she could avoid some of the race-related pain her older sisters and parents endured growing up. Unfortunately, the power of the word persists.

Who should be "allowed" to say the "n-word"? It seems people of all races are throwing it around these days. Read more in "Is Everyone Saying N***a Now? on The Girl Next Door is Black | Green Stop Sign Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance | source

The incident at the Lil Wayne concert forced me, once again, to face the cognitive dissonance of my hip-hop fandom.

I recognize that by listening to certain hip-hop artists, attending their concerts or streaming their music, I’m part of the problem. Just as I wish that magazines would quit covering Kim Kardashian’s every move and cleavage-baring ensemble, yet I’ll still click on a link to see her latest fashion atrocity, thereby reinforcing her (perceived) popularity.

I listen to hip-hop despite the liberal use of “nigga” in many songs and the fact that I have issues with the themes (violence, misogyny, celebration of drug slinging) and language (bitch, ho, THOT) in some songs and videos. Last year, popular rapper Rick Ross came under fire for the lyrics in his song “U.O.E.N.O”:

Put molly all in her champagne / She ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that / She ain’t even know it.

– Rick Ross, U.O.E.N.O

His lyrics seem to describe drugging a woman by secretly slipping molly in her drink and then having sex with her. Many felt his lyrics diminished the seriousness of date rape and even glorified it. He claimed his lyrics were “misinterpreted.” The lyrics disgusted, but did not surprise me. This isn’t the first time he’s penned sickening verses. I’m not the biggest Rick Ross fan, or a fan at all really, but I can’t pretend his “Blowin’ Money Fast” doesn’t get me pushing out my lips and nodding my head.

Who should be "allowed" to say the "n-word"? It seems people of all races are throwing it around these days. Read more in "Is Everyone Saying N***a Now? on The Girl Next Door is Black | 50 Cent with two Guns
50 Cent from his video “Shooting Guns”
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How do you reconcile liking music that at times is regressive, offensive and sexist with your personal values and morals?

It’s easy to take the simplistic view: “Why not just stop listening to it?’

The problem is, I grew up on this stuff. It’s part of my history, it’s part of my culture. Rap and hip-hop evolved from the forms of music my parents exposed me to. Those same soul, funk and R&B songs from the ’60s, 70s’ and 80s’ that P Diddy – and later other hip-hop producers, following his lead – made a career out of samplinlaying rap verses atop and producing hit after danceable hit. Songs released during my formative high school and college years.

Of course, Diddy’s lyrics are practically granny-safe compared to some of today’s artists like Eminem, Juicy J or Schoolboy Q. Jay-Z and Kanye West had to go and release a song titled, “Niggas in Paris,” causing panic and confusion among many when singing it aloud in mixed company.

I can’t help but grin thinking of the self-aggrandizing lyrics rampant in many a verse of today’s rap, that give me a brief feeling of extra bravado. You know what I mean. It’s that extra swag some dudes seem to think they have as they blare T.I. from their cars.

I also appreciate the talent of true lyricists who can write and spit an impressive collection of words strung together in clever ways. If you’ve ever tried rapping, even just karaoke, you know it’s not easy, especially freestyle. It requires talent, confidence and showmanship.

At the core, I listen to hip-hop for its high energy. I just plain enjoy listening to music I can dance to. I’ve had many a solo dance party in my apartment, turning my living room into a club floor, free of groping hands and spilled beer.

There’s also a bit of, “If I have to take a stance against everything in the world that’s morally tainted, what will be left to enjoy?”

Not all hip-hop artists use misogynistic language or praise illegal activity. There’s a long list of “conscious” rappers making music, some of whom struggle to sustain careers if they don’t break into the mainstream – where the real money is. I listen to a handful of these rappers and it’s always a pleasant surprise to discover a hip-hop artist who really has something to say. Even Lil Wayne – for all his rapping about smoking weed, sipping sizzurp and his affinity for lady parts – is actually quite witty.

Who should be "allowed" to say the "n-word"? It seems people of all races are throwing it around these days. Read more in "Is Everyone Saying N***a Now? on The Girl Next Door is Black
As film has it’s “popcorn flicks”, so does music | source

Every so often we come across art laden with poignancy that moves us. I think that’s a beautiful, but uncommon experience. Just as there are “popcorn flicks”, Oscar-winning films and myriad film categories in between, the same goes for hip-hop. I don’t need profundity from everything I listen to.

Last month I went to a Wiz Khalifa concert with my middle sister. When Wiz shouted to his fans, “Say ‘Dat’s my niggaaaaa.'” My sister glanced at me with a questioning look and a smile. She knows how I feel about this. I rolled my eyes and shook my head.

I asked my sister after the concert, “Is this one of those things where this is just how it’s gonna be? And I can either choose to adapt and accept it or be that annoying grumpy old person?” She shrugged.

It’s complicated being a hip-hop fan.

How I Learned to Love My “Thick Thighs”

I’ve been thinking about my weight since I was 13.

One day I ate everything I wanted with abandon and the next, the size of my thighs were cause for angst.

Jane Fonda Workout Record Video Body Image Acceptance
She wore the tights / leg warmer combo like no other
Photo cr: Jacob Whittaker, flickr.com

Thirteen is about when I started working out. My mom had a catalog of Jane Fonda videos from the 80s and I was Jane Fonda’s devoted follower. Those videos work!Jane still looks hot today. It’s unreal. I also became a fan of Joyce Vedral and her fat-burning workout. I thank her to this day for my interest in being fit and toned.

Once, upon being presented with “soaked in the deep fryer” chicken for dinner, I whined to my parents with dramatic horror:

Fried chicken?! Oh.my.God. Do you know how much fat and salt is in that, mother?!

(I learned from watching white teens on TV that if you are angry with your parents you refer to them – with the disgust only a teen can muster – as “mother” and “father”. See: Brenda Walsh). My mom would reply with something like: “You don’t like it, you can get a job! Sit your butt down at this table. I don’t have time for this. And do not take the Lord’s name in vain.”

“Mo-ther! I am not eating this!”

In college I gained the “Freshman 15.”

I’m short, so even an extra five lbs becomes noticeable. That first year, I steadily free-fed on dorm food – bovine-style. My frequent meal-buddy and I would even stow away bread rolls and whatever else we could easily hide for later consumption. It felt deliciously decadent to have dessert with every meal. Then, the summer after my freshman year, I looked at myself in the mirror one day and my rounder image horrified me. My face was fat(ish), like a burnt chipmunk. I was wearing a crop top with a fat roll muffining its way out. Who was this schlub?! Well it had to stop.

I went on a superdiet.

Cows grazing, Rosengarten, The Dolomites, Italy by ** Maurice ** Freshman 15 College Weight Gain
This was me, my Freshman year of college.

I greatly reduced my caloric intake and worked out like I was training for The Olympics. My weight quickly came down, and down, and down, until I looked like a chocolate Tootsie Roll pop. I’d gone too far. I lost my butt. As the ever-wise Lil Wayne says about women with no ass: “You ain’t got shit.” Or as his labelmate, Tyga raps: If you ain’t got no ass, bitch, wear a poncho.” When the ass goes, you’ve overdone it and misogynistic men won’t give you  a second glance. What will you do with your life then?

The problem is that even though I was too thin, I received a lot of compliments about my size: from men (“hey baby!”) and women (“please share your secret!”) alike. I learned: skinny = validation.

When I graduated college I was ill-prepared for the shock of the real world. I went from constant partying studying and working, to what seemed like days and days of endless, routine boredom. I came to understand that this is called “working for a living.” The novelty of ordering office supplies for my desk quickly wore off and the reality of working in corporate America set in: this shit is boring.

So, I ate and my weight crept up.

One evening I went out with my roommates for a much needed bout of drinking and dancing. While walking into one of San Jose’s “clubs” (the city was boring as all hell) I bumped into a cute, slender Asian girl about my height. Having already thrown back a few, I gushed to her: “You’re so cute. You must be a size three. I used to be a size three.” She looked me over – I was probably no bigger than a size six – and with her voice dripping in bubbly judgement replied:

What happened to you?!

Her reaction stunned and hurt me. It also saddened me that a size six is considered worthy of disgust. I should have been fine with my size. I was healthy and within the right range for my height. But, by this point, my body image was so distorted, I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. I also wasn’t getting the skinny validation I’d gotten in the past.

Then followed an intense battle between my body, my mind and my other mind.

My body insisted on stowing away fat for the winter that never comes in my part of California. My mind wanted to eat everything in sight to soothe my boredom and loneliness. My other mind wanted to be thin.

I started bingeing and purging. I’d go crazy eating cookies, chips and soda in one sitting, feel ill and disgusted with myself, and then run to the bathroom to throw it up. I only did this for a short time. It’s not effective and it’s too much damn work. Do you know how much work it takes to stick your fingers down your throat and force yourself to vomit? Who has the time? People are starving all over the world and I’m eyeing food with a mix of lust and hatred. It’s also bad for your teeth and I like my teeth. Not to mention, if anyone catches you in public, you have to explain why your feet are facing the wrong way in the bathroom stall. Either you are barfing or you have a secret penis. My dance with bulimia ended within a couple of weeks, never to be revisited again.

Popcorn and Sour Patch Kids, photo by naydeeyah on flickr.com Favorite food combos sweet and salty together
I love you all!

A few years later, I was in Los Angeles. I’d started dating an actor (warning: don’t do it). He said to me one day while we were phone-flirting:

You got some thick thighs, I like that.

Well, I sure as hell didn’t like that! Thick?! Why the hell had I been going to the gym?! He meant it as a compliment, but I took it as a reason to go annihilate myself at Bally’s.  I replied with a hesitant “Uh, thanks.” That relationship crashed and burned miserably (I said not to date an actor).

Another couple of years later, I’d worked my weight down to my “normal” (for me) size. I went to visit my feisty grandma. She took one look at me and said matter-of-factly “Keisha, you’re too thin. Men like women with a little extra padding.” I’ve heard more than enough times from others that men like more “cushion for the pushin’”. Grandma knows. My grandma is no “oh my, golly gee, let me bake you some cookies” granny. She tells it like it is, she keeps it real and you can bake your own damn cookies. I laughed and told her how awesome she is.

Then I got into a serious long-term relationship.

For at least a year, I maintained my weight. Boyfriend liked my body and the “thick” thighs were just the right size. Then came year two. Happily in love, I spent less time at the gym and more time, well…none of your business. By year three, I’d grown faaat. I mean, actually fat. I was clinically overweight. I had never weighed so much in my life. I  comforted myself with the thought: boyfriend will still love me anyway, right? But, I didn’t love me.

I had to buy a whole new wardrobe. Not only did I feel bad about how I looked, I felt bad physically. My body wasn’t used to carrying so much extra weight. I didn’t know how to dress for my new size. What looked good on me? So, I tried to lose weight. Then boyfriend and I broke up. That was the kick in the pants I needed to get my fat ass back in the gym. It’s the depression weight loss plan.

I couldn’t shake the weight, no matter what I did. I figured it was because I was nearing that age where people say your metabolism slows. Since, I was also having problems sleeping and breathing properly, I visited a specialist to check things out. He said to me,

“You’re too heavy! That’s why you can’t sleep.”

That was his expensive doctorly wisdom: you are a fat bitch. Well, fuck you very much doctor dickhead. The issue did turn out to be medical and once pinpointed, the weight started to come off. I’ve been able to maintain a reasonable weight (for me) since then.

I straddle two worlds: one black and one mainstream.

In the “black world” depending on who you ask, I am either “just right” or “too thin”. One of my younger sisters is very slender. She once had a black boyfriend tell her she was too skinny and that she needed to start eating some cornbread. I marveled at this. A free pass to pig out on cornbread? I’m sold! Does he have an older brother?

In the “white” or “mainstream” world, the view of what constitutes thin has shrunken over time. In Los Angeles, some women probably think I’m “big.” To those types, if you’re larger than a size two, you’re a tub o’ Crisco.

I would love to say that I no longer care. That I don’t think about my weight and that I don’t have days when I just want to say “Fuck it all, I’m going to eat some motherbleepin’ ice cream and then a big ol’ tub of movie popcorn and be fat and happy!” But, that’s not the case. However, after several low-carb diets, starvation diets, weird heart patient lemonades, and flirting with bulimia, I’ve learned to allow myself to enjoy food. I can eat well and be healthy. I’ve also learned to appreciate my womanly figure, including the “thick thighs”, and pay less attention to my clothing size.

What happened to the days when women with a little bit of belly fat were thought of as gorgeous? Can we go back to that? To the figurative days when having extra pounds meant you were fortunate enough to have plenty of food to eat? We aren’t meant to starve ourselves into stick figures. Life is meant to be lived and food is part of living (and too damn good to be chucking in the toilet). So, live, eat, and love your body!