Recently I’ve begun to think differently about censorship in music. This is a bit of a shock to me as I’ve always been a girl that prefers the explicit versions of songs. Maybe it’s maturity, but I’m starting to believe that some words should be concealed, in particular, words that could be considered racist if used by the wrong person. This all began a few weeks ago as I witnessed an argument over Twitter between Grime artist Wiley and a sixteen-year-old girl from Ireland. The girl had criticised Wiley for a verbal attack on Tinchy Stryder, but their debate escalated until, out of nowhere, she used the N word to insult him.
Like most Twitter beef, it had all blown over a few days later, but it led me to question the state of censorship today. Like the little girl from Ireland, I am white, but unlike her, I was brought up in a racially mixed area in London alongside people of all colours and creeds. While people defended the girl because of her age, I am unconvinced that naivety can be used as an excuse. I was eight years old when I bought my first Hip Hop single and I have been a dedicated fan ever since. My parents didn’t sit me down and explain race in the same way sex was explained, but they informed me that there are many words out there that cause offence and you should not use them. As a result, I have never used any words that I know to be racially offensive to other races.
In no way do I condone the use of the N word unless you are black, something that many white Hip Hop fans (particularly male) seem to ignore. If you understand the history of the word and how it was adapted to openly criticise racist America, you shouldn’t really want to use it anyway. There have been times when I’ve been around people who used it as casually as if they were saying ‘dude’ or ‘mate’ and after a few hours of hearing it every five minutes, I start to feel a bit awkward in my white skin.
Today, genres like Hip Hop and Grime, dominated by black musicians, are gaining mainstream success. But the speed at which this has happened means that fans may like the artist, but due to the area they live in they are ignorant about race. Therefore people adopt the slang and dress without ever understanding the lifestyle the genre was born out of. Musicians should also remember that their ‘fans’ could possibly include individuals who deny that they are racist with flimsy excuses, but then pull out the racist slurs whenever they are on the losing side of a fight with someone of another ethnicity. We’ve all come across one of those haven’t we?
I’m not saying that all music should be censored within an inch of it’s life, I just think that artists should be aware that by using the N word, a child in the outer Hebrides may feel that it’s ok for them to use it. This isn’t racism; this is ignorance, although the difference between the two is a constant debate.