Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Of N*ggas, Mice and Men: NYOIL vs. Nas


NYOIL Video Courtesy of Rafi/Oh Word

Have you ever thought about why the word n*gga ignites
an unbelieveable amount of controversy? (no randy kennedy).

It ranks right up there with OJ and Bill Clinton.

The word n*gga is complicated because our relationship
to this country is complicated.

Think about it, who else, other than African Americans
can say that they are this countries oldest residents
BUT most recent citizens?

Our relationship to this country is complicated
so our relationship to our language, the words
in our language, will be complicated as well.

Think about it. Folks love to say that Black people are
lazy, but if we
were, why were you brought here to work
for free?

I began thinking about these issues while reading
Robbie's piece on NYOIL's song What up MY
, and Nas's song You Can Be a N-gger Too.

There is a major issue and a minor issue going on here.
The major issue is whether Nas has the right to take poetic
license with the word N*gga. This tension has always been
apparent in art. *Richard Wright thought Zora was too
n*ggerish (I couldn't resist yall) and many folks think that the
Holocaust should not be made fun of, while others think that
its a perfectly accepable form of entertainment (The Producers
anyone?). NYOIL speaks at Unkut about Nas, the song,
and N*ggas in general
. He writes,

Does he realize that when Robert Schwartz decides to stop being a nigger all he has to do is change his look. maybe trade in the bapes and backpack put on a suit and he’s right and exact. When Robert Yung decides he’s no longer a nigga he can be whatever an person of Asian decent can be in the country stereo types not withstanding. When Robert Rodriguez decides to stop being a nigger he can become a proud man of Latin descent. However for Robert Jenkins who’s grandparents where NIGGERS, blown over by fire hoses and beat within an inch of their lives, when the term meant what it will
always mean despite his attempts to make it a term of endearment
I don't agree with all of it because it fails to grasp the nuances
of our history here. HOWEVER, its nice to see cats trying to
struggle with material publicly. Its almost like a piece
of '89 stopped by and said hi.

The first question is whether Nas is biting NYOIL?
The second is who made the better song?

Based on the comments section, the conclusion is that
based on both the hook and the beat the songs are
substantially similar, but Nas's is better.

The responses are interesting in that they range from
"NYOIL is just a mad rapper", "Nas is just going to make
another mediocre album", "NYOIL is right, Nas has been
everything that these records labels have wanted him to
to be" to "Nas is just being playful with linguistics" and
"Why didn't nobody trip when Old DB came out with N-gga
Please". (My response to the last one was, Ol D B wore his
ignorance like a badge. Big Baby Jesus. Come on Ock?
We weren't surprised or conflicted over him naming an album
N*gga Please. It was par for the course).

The most poignant moment in the post is when NYOIL asks
Nas "When is he going to stop being a N*gga and start being a

I would take it one step further and ask when will all of us
will stop being a man, woman, n*gga, Black, White, Mexican,
Asian, and start being a, capital H, Human.

*In particular, a number of those that were associated with her in the growth and influence of the Harlem Renaissance were critical of her later writings, on the basis that they did not agree with or further the position of the overall movement. One particular criticism, much noted, came from Richard Wright in his review of Their Eyes Were Watching God.
". . . The sensory sweep of her novel carries no theme, no message, no thought. In the main, her novel is not addressed to the Negro, but to a white audience whose chauvinistic tastes she knows how to satisfy. She exploits that phase of Negro life which is "quaint," the phase which evokes a piteous smile on the lips of the "superior" race." [9].


T DOT said...

and start being a, capital H, Human.

*stands up*


M.Dot. said...

Yes man.

Thats Grace Boggs, courtesy of Birkhold, I am still new to the idea. Feel me.

When you look at it like that it makes HUMANITY not Whiteness, Blackness, or Immigrantness. Feel me?

Anonymous said...

thanks for putting that out there.

too bad i can't stay for more of your lengthy writings. but i do want to initiate the connection.

Bay to BK, you know I just met a gang of heads just moved from BK to Bay. They operate the Brooklyn Circus. bout to be a store on Fillmore in May or so.

I forget how I even clicked you (maybe searching for Badu and Roots for the 2nd show at Paramount), but damned if I do like how deep you get into the issues.

and I'll have to check that Roots jam.


Model Minority said...

Say word.

The Brooklyn Circus Sounds like Uber Fun....

you know I just met a gang of heads just moved from BK to Bay.
Say word....Filmo & what?

Didn't EVEN KNOW THERE WAS A ROOTS/BADU SHO...the fuck in the TOWN...OMG...I should be like the Ambassador of that ish...lols.

Glad you liked it around here...I am having an..ahem...week...don't be a stranger...

neo said...

Both songs were coming from diff angles imo..

Nas's was everyone wants to be a n***er and have that appeal but no one really wants to be one..though halfway through the second verse, Nas lost focus and began rapping about something else..

NYOIL on the other hand to me was saying, "you call me n***er how would you like it if I called you something equally as derogative?"

Personally, I've never felt uplifted or whatever by the N-word..I think its a word that just reeks of too much negative history to connote anything positive. I personally don't like the fact that ppl still use that word but that's me..its on the same level as "kaffer" and other choice words used to denigrate blacks in other parts of the world...not as easily accepted over there like here..

Model Minority said...

.its on the same level as "kaffer" and other choice words used to denigrate blacks in other parts of the world...not as easily accepted over there like here..

Interesting. Blood, I remember reading Kaffir Boy. That blew my byrd back....man...I think I was 14. Geez. Eternal Nerd Origins.

neo said...

LOL @ "Eternal Nerd Origins" sounds like the title of an ep or suin..

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