Black Culture Is Not Your Prop

In the world of hip hop, authenticity is the name of the game. It’s about telling your truth, representing your roots, sharing your unique story. Born from the Black American experience, rap music is inextricably tied to the struggle and resilience of a people who’ve been through hell and back. So when I see Japanese rappers imitating the style, the slang, the very essence of this culture - and then casually saying “nigga” like it’s just another lyric? I can’t help but call bullshit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for cultural exchange. Music has the power to transcend borders and bring people together. I’ve witnessed the global impact of hip hop firsthand, from the streets of Atlanta to the townships of Johannesburg. But there’s a clear line between being inspired and biting someone else’s style. Between paying respect and playing dress-up.

I’ve given Japanese rap a fair listen. Sure, some of these guys have skills. They can construct a decent verse, ride a beat. Artists like Awich have undeniable talent. But far too often, it feels like they’re just going through the motions. Copying and pasting the surface-level elements of American rap without truly understanding or respecting the roots.

And nothing makes this more glaringly obvious than their flippant, casual use of the word nigga.

Let’s break it down. For Black people in America, this word carries the weight of centuries. It’s a racial slur that was used to oppress, to degrade, to strip us of our humanity. But it’s also a complex in-group term, a way for us to take back the language of the oppressor and flip it into something that belongs to us. When we use it amongst ourselves, it’s loaded with a shared history and a deep sense of solidarity.

But when I hear it carelessly thrown around by Japanese rappers who have never experienced the pain and struggle that gives the word its power? It’s a gut punch. It’s a sign of the ultimate disrespect and ignorance.

This isn’t about being the language police or gatekeeping art. It’s about understanding that some things can’t be borrowed or appropriated, no matter how much you love the culture. The word “nigga” is not a fashion accessory you can put on to look hard. It’s not a catchphrase to spice up your sentence. It’s a symbol of the Black experience, a testament to our resilience in the face of relentless adversity.

So to the Japanese rap community, I say this: By all means, be inspired by hip hop. Respect its origins, learn its lessons. Tell your own stories, rep your own cities. Bring the energy and the artistry. But recognize that you’ll always be guests in this house. You can’t just raid the fridge, put your feet up on the couch, and claim it as your own.

And for God’s sake, leave the word “nigga” alone. It’s not yours to use, not now, not ever. It belongs to the people who have lived the struggle, who carry the scars. You can study the culture all you want, but you can’t inherit the pain. You can love our culture. You can be inspired by our music. You can even make a career out of it. Plenty have before you. But you will never be Black. You will never understand our pain, our struggles, our triumphs. Not truly. It’s not in your bones.

Show some fucking respect. We don’t wanna hear you say “nigga” no more. I guess some shit just cringeworthy, it ain’t even gotta be deep.