Last week Trinidad James found himself in the midst of the controversy surrounding a viral clip showing a University of Oklahoma Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house mother repeating the N-word several times as his 2012 single “All Gold Everything” played in the background.
Immediately following the backlash, the former Def Jam Records signee said via an email statement to The Huffington Post: “I don’t condone racism. I do not respect SAE. Book me for a frat show at a non-racist frat.” On Monday night, James followed up his statement by speaking with CNN’s Don Lemon in a panel featuring HuffPost Live host Marc Lamont Hill and conservative commentator Ben Ferguson, where the trio discussed the usage of the N-word.
“We use the word because that’s how we came up,” James said in response to Ferguson’s thoughts that rappers are hesitant to stop using the word because of the potential loss of sales or “street cred.”
“People came up using the word in the wrong way, we came up using the word as, ‘How you doing, my nigga,’” James said. “And when somebody say, ‘my nigga,’ that means, ‘Bro, you’re my friend.’ I will call you, ‘Ben, my nigga.’ And when I call you that you do not feel that I hate you. It’s love.”
Ferguson went on to say he believes the N-word is “divisive,” and that Trinidad’s use of the word was the reason he was being featured on the CNN segment.
Lamont Hill disagreed by stating the burden shouldn’t be placed on the rapper, but on the 78-year-old woman saying the N-word on the clip, and dismissed one of Ferguson’s arguments.
“The N-word isn’t divisive, white supremacy is divisive. Slavery was divisive. That’s the problem,” Lamont Hill said. “And maybe, just maybe, it’s not white people’s position to tell black people what to say. I might see Trinidad James on the street and call him ‘my nigga.’ You know why? Because he is my nigga.”
“And the difference between Trinidad James and you,” he continued, “is that Trinidad James has to deal with the same oppressive situations. He was born into a world where anti-black racism prevails. He lives in a world where police might shoot him on the street no matter how much money he has. We share a collective condition known as ‘nigga.’ White people don’t.”