My 16-year-old son and I are at odds.
I blame Gucci Mane. And Kendrick Lamar. And Kanye West.
My son loves their rap music and walks around singing the lyrics to their songs. When he takes a shower, he blasts rap music. At first, I didn’t mind because the beat is catchy, and I want him to encourage him to have his own taste in music.
But here’s why we are at odds. These are the lyrics to Gucci Mane’s song, “Last Time” (one of my son’s favorites).
Nigga with an attitude, this shit gettin’ easy to me
The last time I drunk some lean I was out of my mind
Tried gave me 20 years and that’s a whole lotta time
A married woman divorce her husband to spend the weekend with me
He think it nasty when she squirt but that shit sexy to me
The last time I took some molly, took a gram and a half
Niggas think they know ’bout Gucci but they don’t know the half
See I’m an ex-X popper and online shopper
Niggas thought I was a clone, they heard me speak proper
Convicted felon worth 10 million, I’m a well known robber
Like Shawty Lo I got 10 children, yeah, Lo my partner
These are not exactly the words you want your 16-year-old son walking around singing. I hate songs that have the word bitch in them and MANY rap songs do. However, my biggest beef is with the word “nigga.” I have noticed that tons of rap songs have that word in them. So, you have a bunch of teenage white boys rapping along to hip-hop songs and saying the n-word. The more they sing it, the more they think it’s okay to say it. In my eyes, it’s not okay. I have let my son know that LOUD and CLEAR. We all know that word has heinous origins and while the “a” at the end instead of “er” may be an attempt to reclaim the word and casualize it, in my eyes putting an “a” at the end doesn’t make the word less revolting when being sung by a white boy.
My son says he likes the beat and the vibe of rap music and he prefers hip-hop artists to pop artists. He friends do, too. They seem to know almost every word to every song by popular hip-hop artists. In the last few years, rap has permeated the mainstream and even pop music stations play rap music in between top 40 hits.
When we’re together in the car, I listen to rap with my son. Some of the lyrics are insightful and moving. The beats are catchy. But the cursing! I can’t stand it! Sometimes when a song is too explicit, I will insist my son skips to another song. Why do rappers have to use such vulgar language and why the n-word?
I am told that cursing is part of the rap genre and hip-hop artists are singing about where they came from and how they were raised. I get that. I read one teenager’s argument that profanity makes rap what it is. Again, I get it, but I don’t have to like the cursing, especially when my kid is singing along.
I wonder how it feels as a rapper to look at into the crowd at a concert and see teenage white kids among the sea of black fans singing your lyrics and hearing “nigga” coming out of their mouths like no big deal.
As a parent, how do I instill my son with a sense of historical perspective about this derogatory word while letting him enjoy and embrace a music genre becoming popular among his friend group? There is no easy solution from my seat in the car and my son isn’t happy that I have banned him from saying any form of the n-word.
If you’re going through this battle over rap lyrics with your teenager, what approach have you taken?