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Nas On Gwyneth Paltrow’s N-Word Controversy: “Some People Get A Pass”

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(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

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No longer centered around nigg-a or nigg-er, the N-word controversy opened up anew on Twitter. When singer-actress and Jay-Z pal, Gwyneth Paltrow, sent out her now infamous “N****s In Paris for real” tweet last week, she set Twitter timelines ablaze and divided the hip-hop community. Now Nas has bypassed the Twitter machine to give a full-throated co-sign of Paltrow’s right to use the word.

“I would slap the s*** out of somebody for Gwyneth Paltrow,” Nas told CBS Local exclusively. “She’s the homie she’s cool. Gwyneth gets a pass. Real people get a pass we know what this s*** is. We don’t interrupt Italians when they say ‘Wop’ to each other. They gonna punch you in the mouth if you interrupt that. Don’t interrupt us. We pick and choose.”

Nas acknowledged that other black people might feel differently, but still stood by his statement. “Some might not feel the same way,” he said. “Some of us will get angrier about it than others but some people get a pass. The people that I know who are cool and real n****s, Gwyneth Paltrow is a real n****, that’s my homie. That’s how I’m on it. Some people get a pass.” [See video below]

Nas, whose new album Life Is Good is due out July 17, is no stranger to the N-word controversy. The rapper known for his political statements attempted to introduce 2006’s Hip-Hip Is Dead and 2008’s Untitled with titles like Nigga and Nigger respectively. When his label resisted, he relented but continued to use the N**** messaging.

HIP-HOP RESPONDS

Nas isn’t the only prominent member of the hip-hop community to take a stand. Russell Simons, who once called on radio stations to ban the word, addressed the controversy with an editorial on Tuesday (June 5).

“I have to throw my hand up and stand up for Gwyneth. I know her intentions were not to be offensive … she was just proud of her friend, Jay-Z. My words are in defense of her,” he wrote.

“I don’t have a permanent answer to the n-word controversy that appeases everyone. I remember when I tried to fix it and said we should maybe beep that word and a few others on the radio, Oprah quoted me as if I said not to use the n-word. However, for the record, I have NEVER told any artist not to use that word or any word in my life and I never will; a poet can choose their own words to describe whatever they want in their art.”

Q-Tip, however, disagreed with Rush. As part of A Tribe Called Quest, Tip released the controversial song “Sucka N****s” in 1993. On the song, he rapped about the word’s transformation from nigg-er to nigg-a, from a slur to “a term of endearment” among black youth. With the dustup surrounding Paltrow’s message, Tip voiced his disapproval in a series of tweets.

“There’s a scope of black folk that exist beyond the ones that she partied with in Paris who are still dealing w the complexities of their circumstances. black folks that dont know about giving a white person a ‘pass’ …”

Aside from Gwyneth’s use of the word and its context, Tip took aim at her unapologetic stance.

“Listen Rush Simmons, Toure, and all Black folk who are sympathist to this gwen paltrow n***a thing,” he tweeted. “She may not have meant harm, sure it was in the heat of the moment but that fact that she showed not 1 IOTA of an apologetic tone, given the historical weight of that word is not responsible of G Paltrow’s part.”

PALTROW IN PARIS: THE N-WORD WOES

Paltrow’s “N-Word-Gate” began last week (June 1) when Jay-Z and Kanye West lit up Paris with a Watch The Throne performance that included mega-encores for their hit song, “N****s In Paris.” A-listers from the world of music and film were in attendance. But it was actress and singer Gwyneth Paltrow who caused the biggest stir.

Paltrow, who is a friend of Jay-Z, has frequently appeared at the rapper’s shows, even surprising audiences by taking the mic at times. Last week, while sitting with Beyonce and Kelly Rowland at the Watch The Throne concert in Paris, the Avengers star sent out a tweet that some fans thought crossed a line.

She sent out the message with a picture of Jay-Z and Kanye West on stage. The comment, with the picture as context, blew up on the internet. It sparked a debate with some people blaming Jay-Z and Kanye West for using the lyrics and others accusing Paltrow of crossing a line.

Singer-songwriter Terius “The-Dream” Nash took Paltrow’s side in the controversy. He first claimed that it was he who sent out the tweet. “Fyi Sorry for the Fonfu I typed Ni**as in paris for real from Gwens Phone my bad I was Fkd up please excuse it! We were lit!”

As the controversy continued, The-Dream seemed to back off the claim that he was responsible. But he continued to support Gwyneth, taking heat from his Twitter timeline for his stance. For her part, Paltrow has been quiet. But with her most recent tweet (June 3) on the subject, she defended her use of the word without addressing the “for real” context or accompanying picture.

Despite Paltrow’s silence, the responses from rap notable such as Nas, Q-Tip (and more) ensure that the hip-hop community will gladly step up to fill the void. And Twitter guarantees there will be room for debate.

-Erik Parker, CBS Local

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