Why John Mellencamp Doesn’t Think Rappers Should Use the N-Word
Rocker and sociopolitical firebrand John Mellencamp shared his thoughts on modern-day racism and his disdain for hip-hop in a new Club Random With Bill Maher interview, explaining why he doesn't like rappers flagrantly using the N-word in their music and profiting off of it.
Mellencamp Addressed N-word Usage in 2001's 'Cuttin' Heads'
Mellencamp referenced his 2001 song "Cuttin' Heads," featuring Public Enemy rapper Chuck D, to make his case. The song tells the story of a white man named Poppi who married a Black woman and struggled to come to terms with the racism he witnessed as a result. In his verse, Chuck D condemns the use of the N-word: "'Cause I connect the word with pain / Now some smile when they scream the name? ... Agitating adjective / What gives? / Die N-word die / But I wanna live."
"We were talking about the N-word. We were talking about how it's not supposed to be used and how it's not supposed to be ... I mean, that's what I have against — not against but, you know, why I'm not a big fan of rap music," Mellencamp said. "You guys are selling out what the people stood up for and fought for, and you're making money off of it selling it to a bunch of white kids? I don't like it. It's wrong."
Listen to John Mellencamp's 'Cuttin' Heads'
Mellencamp Says Racism in America Is 'Not Any Better' Than Decades Ago
Mellencamp also argued that racism in America has abated little, if at all, since he was a kid. When Maher pressed him for an example, Mellencamp recalled: "I have a 29-year-old son. One of his best friends was Black. They went somewhere in Los Angeles. The guy got in an argument with this little skinny Black kid, waited for him to walk outside the bar and ran him over and killed him. How much more of a fucking example do you want?"
The "Pink Houses" singer further insisted that life in America is "not any better" for Black people now than it was decades ago. "I wrote a song that I never recorded because I thought it was wrong, but it was called 'From the Fucking Cotton Fields to the Playing Fields,'" he said. "So my point is that, yeah, so what? Us white people love to have Black people entertain us."