To Let Him Say the N Word or Not?
Trill or Not Trill?
I am the resident hip hop professional on my campus.
The first event I ever hosted on my current campus was a Kanye West listening party in which talked about the socioeconomic representations found on Cruel Summer. The next month I followed that up with a hip hop cypher. We brought together all of the student MC’s for a dope experience that we’ve been doing ever since. Last year, our first ever Hip Hop Educational Week was celebrated. Whenever the young hip hop heads want to perform or express themselves, I look for any possible way to get them a stage. This next issue had me thinking.
As I’ve said, if a kid wants to rock, I’m all for letting them rock the mic. So, when this student approached me, there was one small dilemma. He’s a pretty popular MC on campus, mainly because of his lead single. It’s a song, as he told me that the streets want. By streets I assume he meant the campus but what do I know? I’ll say this, as this student spoke to me, two different people came over and gave him a dap, while mentioning his song as part of the greeting. They know the record.
So here’s my problem. His lead single and the song that has the streets and cafeteria buzzing is entitled “Young Nigga Ballin.” Not only is that the title, but it’s the hook and repeated over and over and over. My response to the young rapper was that he could perform a in showcase sponsored by my office. The only caveat would be a language restriction. Curing or use of the N Word would be not be allowed. A screw face would follow. When he asked me why, I let him know that some of his language would be deemed offensive to some people. As an institution of higher learning we seek to raise the bar and provide events that educate even while they entertain. We want to reach the entire community. That reason was of no major concern to him. Our showcases take place in the lobby of the student union building. I let him know that when you perform there, we’ve got to be considerate of everyone. He got that but wasn’t satisfied.
On one hand, I hated to restrict his lyrical freedom. I was a young MC before and have been on stage when an administrator had to cut the mic off because of profanity. I wasn’t cursing but the moment I saw my fellow rapper hit the mic, I knew after the 11th curse and 9th use of the word nigga, that it was a wrap (pun totally intended). Another part of me couldn’t get why the student refused to censor some words for the sake of performing. If I was a hungry, up and coming artist, I’d go in with the restrictions.
From an administrative and educational perspective, I wanted to find ways to help him understand the importance of being able to spit in various ways. Two of his fellow MC’s shot me the same request and they prepared a set without any foul language. They killed it. When I told him about this group, he was shocked but still didn’t care. He referenced Bobby Shmurda having a hit single called Hot Nigga. My response was that Bobby Shmurda performed that song on both the late night Jimmy’s and did so fully censored. He was unmoved. It’s college. Where’s the freedom, he said. Honestly, I wanted this to be a learning experience but I was also telling him no, because my boss wouldn’t have it. Thus, another internal dilemma. If the Dean or Vice President walked by, their first question would be, who allowed this kid on stage. We don’t have an particular policy written that discusses language censorship or restrictions.
My final suggestion, was encouraging the student to find a club or organization to help him out. I introduced him to the president of a group called FLOW (Future Leaders of Writing). They host open mics and are all about creative expression. By working with one of the clubs on campus, he’ll have more leeway and artistic freedom. I want to see this student perform but it won’t be under my professional watch.
Trill or Not Trill?
Would you have let him perform?
Do circumstances differ between an aspiring artist and established one?
How much do you think we should restrict students in their language use?
Stay trill, folks
MrJeffDess is a writer, professor, public speaker and emcee of Haitian descent. He is an author of 4 books of poetry, including his latest, Deconstructing Ratchet. With over ten years of performing and student affairs experience under his belt MrJeffDess continues to strive towards helping students reach their highest potential. For booking information, contact MrJeffDess at firstname.lastname@example.org