MC Serch launched The Serch Says Podcast earlier this year and he’s already had a handful of intriguing guests such as Method Man, actor Jon Cryer and now, W. Kamau Bell.
The comedian and host of CNN’s United Shades Of America sat down with the 3rd Bass legend (via video because, social distancing) and chopped it up about a variety of topics, including being a family man and the use of the n-word.
During the conversation, Serch recalled a moment when he was speaking at Dillard University in New Orleans. As part of his dissertation as the ad-hoc professor, Serch played them a 2016 song by Oakland-bred rapper V-Nasty called “On The Hood” without showing them the music video — and was astonished by one of the attendees’ reaction.
“Every other word out of [V-Nasty’s] mouth was the n-word,” Serch recalled. “And I remember looking in the back row, and there was a young black woman singing every word, knowing every word. And when I cut it off I said, ‘How many of you are offended by the fact that V-Nasty, this white chick from Oakland, is using the n-word?’ And there was some, surprisingly not all, but some of the students raised their hands. And when I said, ‘How many of you just accept it as a temperature of the culture?’”
Serch continued, “The girl in the back not only raised her hand but enthusiastically raised and waved her hand. And so I said, ‘OK, I gotta ask you, young lady, why why are you so enthusiastic?’ And she said, ‘Cause I fucks with V-Nasty! I know where she comes from. She could be white, purple, brown, whatever. I would rep my hood the same way she reps her hood.’”
The Hip Hop vet then admitted he was blown away by the fact she accepted this very taboo use of the word. It’s not a secret White people are traditionally looked down upon for using the n-word in any of its incarnations, but the White Girl Mob rapper got a pass.
“I was so astounded by how comfortable she was by a White woman using the n-word because she didn’t see her as white,” he added. “She saw her as a product of the environment. And that product of the environment had no color. She was dealing with what she was dealing with in her neighborhood.”
Bell replied, “I think black people can recognize the difference between, ‘You grew up around that, and you are of that, and so you are repping where you are from, so you put this on as a jacket.’ I mean, you know this! I don’t need to tell you about authenticity and how it can transcend color. I think about Moshe Kasher a lot. When I met Moshe — Moshe’s from Oakland and he is of Oakland, and he also looks like a white hipster — but he can go Oakland on you real quick. That’s where he grew up and those are the people he knew, you know what I mean?”
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Serch then posed the question, “Have you gotten to a level where there’s a certain amount of expectation that this is what a level of normalcy is when it comes to appropriation of the n-word? Do you just say, ‘Meh, it’s not hateful, it’s not being said’ — it’s just, like, literally at this point people calling each other their homeboy or their homie?”
Without missing a beat, Bell contended he wouldn’t be necessarily shocked but would take into consideration the timing and who was saying it.
“I think everything can be done well, and everything can be done poorly,” he said. “Just because you drop the n-bomb doesn’t mean I’m gonna go, “What?! Whoa!!” And also there’s a time and place for everything. I don’t want to turn on the news and hear Anderson Cooper dropping n-bombs.”
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Serch replied, “But he’s not of the culture,” to which Bell continued, “That’s what I mean. There’s certainly people I don’t wanna hear it from, some people I accept it from, and some that you’re just like, ‘I’m not sure’ and you just have to piece it together on your own.
“It’s that thing where people go, ‘How come some people can say it and some people can’t?’ That’s just how life works. Some people can do some things and some people can’t.”
But Serch was quick to point out back in the ’70s and ’80s, there was absolutely no wiggle room.
“It was a flat-out no,” he said. “It didn’t matter where you grew up. If you were White and you used that word, it was a beatdown. It didn’t matter what hood you rested in. It was a straight beatdown. Period, end of conversation.”
CNN’s new season of the United Shades of America airs at 10 p.m. ET on Sunday (July 19). Meanwhile, The Serch Says Podcast goes down every Wednesday from 10 p.m. to midnight ET.