Hip Hop and Philosophy: Rhyme 2 Reason

By Derrick Darby; Tommie Shelby | Go to book overview

12
“For All My Niggaz
and Bitches”: Ethics
and Epithets

J. ANGELO CORLETT

Dave Chappelle infuses hip-hop music and culture into each episode of his successful TV program. Many people in the U.S. are repelled—even frightened—by what they and their children witness on MTV, BET, VHl, and other TV channels, which show young African Americans wearing glistening jewelry, scantily clad young black women gyrating to the beat of music in videos such as Nelly's “Tip Drill,” and comedians such as Chappelle using terms such as “bitch” and “nigga” as if they were proper names. Some moral condemnations of hip-hop music videos and comedy might be explained by shallow and morally suspect puritanical influences (aversions to cursing, for instance), yet there are numerous philosophical issues raised by hip-hop music and comedy that deserve serious attention. On this track I'll put the spotlight on some of the ethical issues raised by the use of epithets such as “bitch” and “nigger,” an especially controversial topic both outside and within the hip-hop community.


The Ethics of Using “Bitch” and “Nigger”

Hip-hop lyrics and comedy are replete with words such as “bitch” and “nigger,” which are normally considered pejoratives in U.S. society. And this prompts some critics to deem them morally perverse. Of course hip-hop music and comedy vary profoundly in how they present themselves to us. They don't always use what Too Short would call “cusswords.” Yet what makes many people in U.S. society uncomfortable about some

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