The N-Word & Punjabi Music – The Onus Is On Western Artists!


The Punjabi music scene is growing daily and becoming more varied. One niche part of the scene that has grown quicker than others is the Punjabi rap scene. We now have more youngsters than ever listening to Hip Hop and rap music from our communities across the globe. These new rap music fans have bought into the Hip Hop lifestyle, culture and way of life. Though one aspect that also seems to have transcended into Punjabi music is the use of the N-word! Is this justifiable?

In urban neighbourhoods across countries in the west Asian families have lived side by side with West Indian, African and African Americans. The pockets of the population have been segregated from larger white communities and the bond between different sets of people has bounded communities.  As such, cultural exchange has emerged naturally over decades, one that exists across local business cooperation, community organizing, cuisines and street language. Yet boundaries have always existed. No Asian 20 years ago would have used the N-Word and other communities would have not used the P-Word. So what changed?

Firstly it is not just South Asian artists who have been called out for this, Fat Joe, French Montona, DJ Khaled and Fat Joe have all had questions asked of them reference the use of the N-Word.

The difference between those artists and Punjabi artists (especially ones from India) is they do have an appreciation of what the N-Word means and it’s troubled past. Unfortunately for the Desi scene it just seems to be a throwaway term that adds nothing to their art and surely raises questions about the songs from India being racist!

Anupa Ministry in 2017 stated: I’m definitively of the opinion that it’s not a word non-black people should use, particularly when, like in Nav’s music, it feels extraneous and a juvenile attempt to signify belonging that could be better expressed by someone whose livelihood trades in words. 

The Punjabi rap market is attempting to be the American rap scene and forgetting its very own roots. The bling, gangster vibe, drug references and macho element of the new rap scene have seen Punjabi rappers asking the public to see them in the same light as their black peers. In the west, Asian rappers are bought up in mixed environments and we can see why the word is used by some. This does not make it right.

How would we as the Asian community feel if black rappers used the P-Word on a regular basis? Not just used it but aimed it at Asians in their raps? Would we stand and take it? Would there be a backlash? We are pretty sure there would be! Perhaps within their inner circles and among their black friends, they are able to use the word without consequences. But, let’s leave that there.

In her book Bhangra and the Asian Underground, San Francisco State University professor Falu Bakrania theorized that, in the U.K., “dominant notions of Asian and black men construct them relationally, wherein the Asian is seen as being effeminate and the black as hypermasculine. Although South Asian men have not been constructed unilaterally and transhistorically as effeminate, in urban youth culture in Britain black masculinity remains a prominent signifier of hipness.” In North America, where the white mainstream inhales any trace of black cool, we suggest that Punjabi rappers are not immune from Bakrania’s analysis

Anupa Ministry – Giving Punjabi rappers a pass is faulty because it ignores the massive problem of racism directed at black people by South Asians both in the diaspora, as well as in countries like India where African students are routinely assaulted. This is a distinct cultural legacy, something that carries through an overwhelming majority of South Asian households, which have been established by colonization and perpetuated by American white supremacy. Using the N-word in their music is the Punjabi rap games way of suggesting proximity to an experience that ultimately isn’t equivalent.

Punjabi artists in the west should be leading the change to lessen the use of the N-Word! By not doing so songs like this will continue to set the scene back!

The onus is on western Punjabi rappers to stop using the N-word. It is only when they stop doing it will people in India stop using it. You only have to go to YouTube and see how Africans singing Punjabi songs have videos labelled as N***a singing or N***A dancing. Western artists using the N-Word are to blame for this! Punjabi rappers are giving the N-Word a weird kind of ‘cool credibility’ and Indians are running with it!

This needs to stop! This week has seen a Punjabi song removed from YouTube because of its racist content. The song was titled N***A Jatt! That song was produced and released in India by an artist who has never set foot abroad – Artists in the west made him think to call the song that was ‘cool’!

Producers from India who think the N-Word is cool are dropping it into songs because they know no better!! This years’ biggest Punjabi song to date starts off with the N-Word! Let’s reign it in people, let’s stop blaming people in India for something artists in the west have made absurdly ‘cool’!

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