Kreayshawn’s White Girl Mob & The N-Word
Columnist Brandon Soderberg on why white rappers shouldn't use the N-word.
Rule number one for white rappers, and shit, man, white people in general: Don’t say the n-word! Just don’t. Not exactly sure where this white-rapper compulsion to utter “nigga” comes from, but the latest violator of what should be a pretty obvious rule is V-Nasty. She’s a member of the White Girl Mob — a group that revolves around Oakland MC Kreayshawn, who’s responsible for the viral hit “Gucci Gucci,” which is nearing nine million views on YouTube.
Kreayshawn has stated that she doesn’t use the n-word in her raps (although she did tweet it), and according to a rant on her Tumblr, intends to separate herself from V-Nasty: “[V-Nasty’s use of the n-word] has taken a huge toll on what I been trying to do and what I been trying to push. I hope soon people will see the difference between us even though we are still close friends doesn’t mean I use it too or defend it in anyway.”
A video from a few months before, though, finds Kreayshawn drumming up a dumb-assed defense of her n-bomb-spouting friend: “[V-Nasty] says it all the time and that’s just because she grew up all different. Like she goes in and out of jail for armed robbery all the time and like, you know, her mom calls her that.” This hedged stance might wash, except for the fact that the only reason any of us are even privy to V-Nasty’s raps is because Kreayshawn has given her something like a co-sign. She becomes responsible for V-Nasty, whether she wants to be or not.
V-Nasty has been unapologetic — her raps are littered with “nigga,” and two weeks ago, she released a video directed at her “haters.” The video is reminiscent of a bad Mad TV skit — it’s too over-the-top and offensive for a bad Saturday Night Live skit — and she unflinchingly explains that we don’t know where she’s been, or what she’s like, and as a result, shouldn’t be commenting. White people lamely showing their asses isn’t anything new, but it isn’t often that somebody gets in your face with this level of mindless arrogance. And usually, rappers don’t jump to their defense.
VladTV.com asked the Cool Kids about Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci,” and the group’s Chuck Inglish defended V-Nasty with a strange sort of misreading of ’60s satirist Lenny Bruce’s “Are There Any Niggers Here Tonight?” stand-up comedy bit. Inglish says that “we can’t hold onto racial stereotypes,” and that, instead, the goal is to “just not give it no value no more.” Bruce’s point when he hurled racial epithets at his audience was slightly different. “It’s the suppression of the word that gives it its power,” Bruce said. He was not calling for a wonderful world where we all run around calling each other “niggers” and “kikes,” but a world where we confronted those words and the meanings behind them, and as a result, the words steadily lost their power and went away. Inglish is doing the opposite, obfuscating the word’s meaning as much as possible.
Bay Area rapper Mistah Fab takes an even more loathsome stance when defending White Girl Mob. In this video, he tells viewers that “it’s 2011″ and that “no one gives a fuck about [the word “nigga”] anymore.” Fab also plays the authenticity game, adding that “[V-Nasty] just got out of jail for robbery,” and then throws in some pseudo-conscious junk about people robbing and stealing and selling drugs to their community, but getting mad about white people saying “nigga,” and that sounds good and all — yeah, don’t sell poison to people — but really is unrelated to the issue. A maddening SF Weekly cover story on Kreayshawn further perpetuates this excuse. “In the neighborhoods where they [White Girl Mob] were raised,” the article explains, “[“nigga” is] used casually, without regard for the skin color of the person on the receiving end.” The piece even downplays the majority opinion that white people saying “nigga” is unacceptable.
But there’s a big difference between some weird community anomaly and an untested rapper whose white figurehead is signed to a major label. The White Girl Mob takes on a different context when they’re pushed to the public at-large. The Mob’s appearance comes at a very weird time for American racial politics. Recession talk and rising unemployment rates have instilled in white Americans a renewed sense that, you know, stuff sucks for them too. That, of course, means that it really sucks for people of color, as a recent study showed. It’s this attempt to co-opt the “struggle,” coupled with White Girl Mob’s smug, proud ignorance, that aligns the crew not with the progressives of the hip-hop generation — including our president — but with another white mob: the Tea Party.
Like the Tea Party, White Girl Mob runs on divisiveness. Even their name invites differentiation, suggesting an active disconnect from the rest of hip-hop culture, even as they cherry-pick signifiers to bolster their shaky authenticity. “Gucci Gucci,” and its limp follow-up “Rich Whores,” are both pseudo-classist critiques of wealth and conspicuous consumption that smack of privilege. Kreayshawn may not say “nigga,” but she lacks empathy for hip-hop’s upward mobility narratives, replacing them with a thrift-store chic that’s as clueless and up-its-own-ass as Michelle Bachmann’s contrived small-town Iowa values.
Here, the argument is that by simply mentioning a difficult Oakland upbringing and an attempted armed-robbery charge, this white female rapper has the right to say the word “nigga.” Like, there’s a form you fill out, and if your authenticity points hit a certain score, you get an n-word certificate. Does Mistah Fab take back his co-sign if it turns out that V-Nasty didn’t do time for armed robbery? SPIN actually looked into the criminal record of V-Nasty, born Vanessa Reece. According to an officer at Alameda County Jail in Santa Rita who handles media queries, Reece has been in custody twice, most recently for 179 days (here’s a video of her presumably getting out). Attempted robbery was the charge, though the sergeant could not confirm whether or not she was armed.
Not that it matters anyway. As a construct, the authenticity argument just doesn’t work. Plus, there’s actually a Kreayshawn-directed video of V-Nasty wandering around Oakland, where she’s confronted by someone about her egregious language, which should dead the idiotic myth that no one in the community is concerned with such things. Or maybe that’s guy’s really just “an outsider.” None of this should have to be explained, but “nigga” is a word that was born out of a desire to combat the hatefulness of “nigger” — it’s cultural, and that’s why black people, from any social strata, can say the word without question. It has nothing to do with the all-inclusive “struggle,” so White Girl Mob’s dive to the bottom of the white-trash heap in search of a hood pass is completely beside the point.