The iPod in question.

At a recent family reunion I fell into a conversation with a distant relative, a 14-year-old girl who is the stepdaughter of one of my cousins. She was sitting at a picnic table by herself, bored, and listening to an iPod. Since everyone was ignoring her, to be polite I sat down and asked what she was listening to. She took off her headphones and let me hear for myself.

I put the headphones on, and what little faith I had in humanity vanished.

The first word to assault my ears was “nigger,” and within the next 60 seconds “nigger” was repeated at least ten more times, along with a variety of other degrading and offensive terms.

It wasn’t some racist anthem; instead, it was a rap song by a black group, so use of the N-word was thereby “acceptable” I suppose, at least according to modern social standards.

(And I apologize for having to actually spell out the word “nigger” repeatedly in this post, but there’s no way to write an essay on this disturbing topic without confronting it head-on.)

I shouldn’t have been shocked; though I generally don’t listen to rap, I’ve heard snippets here and there and read a few things about it over the years, and know that “nigger” — or more commonly “nigga” — is not off-limits when it comes to lyrical content.

But I had naively assumed it was a rarity, perhaps to “push the envelope” or to show how badass the rapper in question was. Yet the song I was listening to seemed to be composed almost entirely of “nigger”s with just a few other words thrown in. I looked at the screen and saw that the song was called “B-Town’s Greatest” by a group named “The Pack.” Before I discuss the significance of all this, it’s essential that you listen for yourselves, which you can do thanks to the magic of YouTube:

For those too afraid to listen, here are the lyrics [inaudible parts in brackets]:

The Pack — B-Town’s Greatest

Nigger this for my boss niggers,
B-Town where they do, nigger.
SSB to the WSB, nigger.
Seventh Street, nigger.
Fuck all the ho’s
My niggers blow trees,
You already know, nigger.
B-Town boss up, bitch.
What do you mean?
You fuckin’ bitch.

Being in the gang blowing purple like a nigger,
On the scene bitch,
driving by, talking like I really wanna.
I don’t really give a fuck,
stretching out for [no stain kitty] ho’s.
[And lyin'] dressing nice, bitch,
you know you comin’ with me
Niggers [off a Sunday] grab a [rip]
Check your ass for you.
Make it so she do it right,
holding down the back four.
[Like it] in the town,
’cause niggers always crackin’ daily.
Nigger get your head bust,
niggers be packin’ daily.
Always on the [grind],
have a track meet for all the women,
’cause I stay hot,
eating food like it’s Thanksgiving.
Bust a couple [knots],
with my niggers purple [...].
Smoking grapes every day,
purple boys is all I’m living.
If you wanna [ask a boy],
dick is all I’m gonna give ‘em.
Get a new bitch every day,
just like a [stand] Christmas,
get a new broad every day,
just like I’m [saying wishes].
Nigger in the B-Town,
they say “Boy you’re pimping vicious.”

…and so on.