Jay-Z Thinks Hip-Hop Transformed the N-Word Into an Empowering Phrase
In 2009, Jay-Z famously sat down with Oprah and discussed the use of the N-word in hip-hop. Now, nearly 10 years later, the rapper is once again discussing word's place in hip-hop and arguing that the genre has transformed it.
Hov was the latest guest on David Letterman's new Netflix series, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, and was again asked about the word's use in rap music. "When someone has used a word to down your entire culture, what hip-hop did is take that word and flip it, use it as a word of empowerment," the 4:44 rapper says.
"There's gonna be people that disagree and agree with this, which is fine… Some people are highly offended from another generation because they believe that it's the last word that people heard before they died," Jay added.
While the "Bam" rapper knows people have strong feelings about the word, he argues that it's actually the intent behind the word, not the word itself. "People who are inherently racist will just replace it with a different word or a different way to express racism," the rapper said.
Elsewhere in the interview, Jay recalled his time in sixth grade English where he gained his love for words. "I just loved her class so much, reading the dictionary," the rapper said of his former teacher. "My love of words—I just connected with her."
The rapper also revealed how his love for the teacher and field trip to her house almost had him ready to pursue a career as a teacher himself. "She took us to her house on a field trip. She had ice in her refrigerator way back when no one had it. I thought, 'Oh man. I might be an English teacher.'"
Jay-Z's comments about the N-word today, don't differ much from his feelings about the word during his 2009 interview. At the time, the rapper told Oprah, "We weren't so close to the pain. So in our way, we disarmed the word. We took the fire pin out of the grenade."
The rapper's full interview on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction is streaming now on Netflix.
See Photos of Jay-Z's Different Looks Over the Years