You know America’s turning cold again when Ice Cube freezes over. Like a thermostat set to gauge the temperature of our racial transgressions, gangsta rap’s first political provocateur got triggered this past Friday night; it took the abuse of one of his favorite words to resurrect his former self.
When Bill Maher sparked outrage one week prior by jokingly referring to himself as a “house n*****” on his 13-year-old HBO talk show Real Time With Bill Maher, hip-hop’s response ran the gamut. Chance the Rapper called for the show’s immediate cancellation, while Killer Mike, a recurring Real Time guest and a successor to Cube’s righteous rage, claimed he found the impromptu wisecrack funny — and, more importantly, the least of black America’s concerns.
But it took the rapper most responsible for making the n-word a celebrated part of today’s lexicon — as a founding member of incendiary ’90s rap group N.W.A. (you know, as in N***** Wit Attitude) — to turn Maher’s wrongheaded usage of the word into a “teachable moment.”