There may not be a word more controversial than the one which I'm about to expound upon. I will not say it specifically, so as not to offend anyone, but I'm sure we all know what it is. And if not, you will by the end of this article.
It originated from the Latin root word, "niger", which means the color black. It grew from this root into a Spanish/ Portugese neutral term to refer to black people, "negroe". Eventually, as more and more people moved to America, the word moved with it, and with this migration came another variation of the word. This variation being the one we know today.
When slavery started to become abundant in the newfound American colonies sometime in the seventeenth century, slave owners started to call their laborers this new variation of "niger", in a derogatory manner. The word had come to refer to an ignorant person, and considering the vast white supremacist attitudes back then, most people found calling black people "ignorant" acceptable.Drop the “-er” & add an “a”, then fast forward three-hundred-and-something years, and black people across the United States are using this word as an endearing term. This is much to the dismay of these young people's elders, who remember the times when it was a term to put their people down.
So, how did this word undergo such a radical transformation? Well, it was much thanks to rap music. The term was probably buried deep somewhere in our history, and, much like many other forms of racism, the rap industry decided to bring it to the public's view.
Although it is unclear which rapper was the first to say it, Ice Cube - the father of gangster rap - is often credited as the one to do so. In his song “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It”, he lets us know that hefirst heard the word in 1971. In ’71, Ice would have been 2-years-old, and him hearing this at such a young age just goes to show how ever-present it was in his - and most of the African-American society’s - life. So, it’s only natural that an art form driven by African-Americans would find this word being used often.
The crew Ice Cube was famously involved with even placed the word explicitly intheir collective rap moniker. Other hip-hop legends also advocated & advanced the use of the word, most notably through both [2Pac’s](http://rapgenius.com/albums/2pac/Strictly-4-my-n-i-g-g-a-z) & [Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s](http://rapgenius.com/albums/Ol-dirty-bastard/Nigga-please) second studio albums, where the word in question is blatantly in the titles; and through Nas’s controversial [“Untitled”](http://rapgenius.com/albums/Nas/Untitled) album, originally intended to be [titled otherwise](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Untitled_Nas_album#Title_controversy).
However, there are certainly hip-hop legends who also *disagree* with the use of the word.
Yasiin Bey - formerly known as Mos Def - recognizes the word as a way that a whole race is characterized, even if it [goes unspoken](http://rapgenius.com/Yasiin-bey-mr-nigga-lyrics#note-206804). He finds the engraving of the word in American culture indicative of the [subtle racism](http://rapgenius.com/Yasiin-bey-mr-nigga-lyrics#note-104874) that may go unnoticed. Kanye West famously interpolated the [perspective of a racist white man using the word](http://rapgenius.com/Kanye-west-jesus-walks-lyrics#note-18075) to commentate on the generalized misconceptions held by those white people who *do* still use the word. Wale responded to controversial comments made by Michael Richards with an [assessment on the connotations of the word](http://rapgenius.com/Wale-the-kramer-lyrics) and also the labels that often come along with the word.
As Americans, and as world citizens, we are progressively becoming more and accepting and “color-blind”, so to speak. If we can fully realize that concept, I believe that this word will lose all negative power it has ever had. However, we are not to that day yet. Racism is still alive, even if we don’t really notice it. Segregation still is a driving force, even if only in one’s subconscious. The use of the word as an endearing term has already taken away much of its negative connotation - similar to a schoolchild accepting a crude nickname a bully may have given him on the playground, and later becoming successful known as that name, flipping the joke on the bully. Most of us hear the word in an every day context, either in music, on the internet, or amongst our friends; and it’s typically not used in a negative manner either. But the history behind the word and (unfortunately) the remaining ideologies of a number of people in the world prohibit the word from being fully accepted culturally as *positive*. And that may never happen. But it may.
- RapGenius Moderator Screv6-
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