Countless celebrities have sparked controversies by using the N-word in some capacity—in song lyrics, as a racist put-down or to childishly mock others. When A-list actress Gwyneth Paltrow tweeted the N-word on June 1, 2012, responses were mixed. Some African Americans wanted an apology. Some thought that Paltrow deserved a pass. After all, the “Shakespeare in Love” star tweeted the epithet as part of the song title “N---as in Paris” by rappers Kanye West and Jay-Z, a friend of the actress. What’s more, Paltrow happened to be in Paris watching the rappers in concert when she tweeted “N---as in paris for real” as the caption to a photo of her with Jay-Z, wife Beyonce and singer Kelly Rowland. She wasn’t using the slur independently but simply to reference a rap song featuring the term in the title. Does this fact let Paltrow off the hook for her tweet? A variety of entertainers in the hip-hop world have weighed in on the controversy.
Nas Says Paltrow Should Be Given Pass
Rapper Nas, who infamously tried to name a previous album N---er, rushed to defend Gwyneth Paltrow after he N-word controversy. He told a local CBS affiliate, “I would slap the s--- out of somebody for Gwyneth Paltrow. She's the homie, she's cool. Gwyneth gets a pass.” Although he noted that some African Americans do have problems with the N-word, he declared that it was fine for Paltrow to tweet the slur for some reason. “The people that I know who are cool and real n--gas, Gwyneth Paltrow is a real n--ga, that’s my homie. That's how I'm on it. Some people get a pass."
Russell Simmons Supports Actress
Music mogul and hip-hop legend Russell Simmons also had no problems with Paltrow tweeting the N-word. In fact, he said that it didn’t cross his mind to take offense at the actress tweeting the controversial song title. “I follow Gwyneth on Twitter and when I saw her tweet about the ‘N----s in Paris’ show in Paris, I said, ‘Damn, everybody is there but me,’” Simmons remarked. “I have to throw my hand up and stand up for Gwyneth,” he continued. “I know her intentions were not to be offensive ... She was just proud of her friend, Jay-Z.” Simmons also shed light on why rappers Jay-Z and Kanye West gave their song such a problematic title. “It is clear that these two poets are celebrating the fact that they now travel the world and are literally ballin’ in Paris, and it started as a badge of honor, something to be proud of, something to poke their chests out at. Because for them, when they were kids, Paris was a million miles away and now it’s a private jet ride.” He wrapped up his take on the song by revisiting the Paltrow controversy, applauding the actress for tweeting about how hip-hop is “taking over the planet.” He said, “She didn’t mean any harm.”
Q-Tip Says Paltrow Should Apologize
Rapper Q-Tip of legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest refused to let Paltrow slide on the N-word. Q-Tip wrote a song on Tribe’s Midnight Marauders album called “Sucka N---a” that breaks down the racist history of the N-word and how it’s come to be used as a term of endearment. He sent out a series of tweets on June 6, 2012, concerning African Americans who defended Paltrow’s use of the word. “listen rush simmons, toure, and all Black Folk who are sympathist to this gwen paltrow n**ga thing,” he began. “She may have not meant harm. Sure it was in the heat of the moment, but the fact that she showed not 1 IOTA of an apologetic tone, given the historical weight of that word is not responsible.” He added that Paltrow should have issued an apology to anyone she offended. He noted that while Jay-Z and Co. may not have minded her N-word tweet, other blacks felt differently. “There’s a scope of black folk that exist beyond the ones she partied with in paris who are still dealing w the complexities of their circumstances,” Q-Tip tweeted.
Singer The-Dream Says Paltrow Faced Catch-22
Singer The-Dream was with Paltrow in Paris when she sent out her controversial tweet. He even tried to take credit for the controversy, arguing he sent out the tweet from Paltrow’s phone, but he later backtracked. The-Dream said that rappers who use the N-word have created a dilemma for their white listeners. “We created a song and titled it like that…,” he said. “It’s like a catch-22, it’s like a trick, like ‘Yeah we’re gonna say it and we’re gonna sell it to you, but you can’t really use it and you can’t say it.” He went on to defend Paltrow, arguing, “I know what she meant; I know what she didn’t mean.”
“Ni--as in Paris” Producer Hit-Boy Speaks Out
Producer Hit-Boy was present when Paltrow sent out her tweet. “I was right there with The-Dream and Beyoncé and Gwyneth and all those people, and we were just having a good time,” he said. As for the song title—Hit-Boy said, “The song is called what it’s called — long as it’s not in a disrespectful way, honestly, I don’t really mind it. …I don’t know who’s really responsible, but they [the rappers] just meant [for people to] enjoy that moment. We named the song this and we knew people would call it that, so it is what it is.”