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Addressing the n-word in Def Jam Rapstar

12:00 PM on 04.13.2010 // Ben Perlee

Hip-hop isn't exactly a genre known for clean language and family-friendly images. While Konami, Def Jam, 4MM Games and Terminal Reality are using radio edits for all of the songs and music videos in their upcoming rap/hip-hop game, Def Jam Rapstar, the truth is that many songs are more explicit than we realize. 4MM, who is doing most of the development, is a little more accepting of this graphic language, choosing to print the leading letter followed by a dash for most foul words.

This was fine in most cases, except one: the n-word. As a white male, this is a word I am just not comfortable saying, and seeing it in songs, even just alluded to with "n-----," was one unexpected stumbling block. I performed T.I.'s "Live Your Life," and while the song has a positive message and less swearing than many others, the n-word caught me completely off-guard. What would I do? What should I do?

I brought this question to Jamie King, the Chief Creative Officer for 4MM Games, and while he recognized the problems, he explained that it's up to individual feelings and preferences:

We don't have ownership, as [white people], of that word. I think that word does come up, and that is perhaps a word where, with the radio edits, there is an opportunity to not say it. We certainly don't make it a central part of the story or the career mode. That is a very personal decision in that point and time, regardless of race, creed and color as for how you use that word in the context of the song. Obviously, these artists are using it; they've empowered it and own it. To just shy away and be frightened doesn't mean we should abuse it, and hopefully I think we've treated it in a respectful manner the way all these artists and their content in their work would expect us to.

So what do you think? Will you be saying swear words when you play Def Jam Rapstar, even the especially loaded n-word?



Ben Perlee,
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