Donna & Yoh in Conversation: Rick Ross Saying "Faggot"

We discuss Rick Ross' use of "faggot" in Meek Mill's "What's Free."
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Well, Rick Ross said "faggot." 

In the spirit of discourse, journalism, and general inquisitiveness, DJBooth's own Donna-Claire Chesman and Yoh discuss the use of the word, empathy and education, and what it means to always be striving for more in a society with social media and takes on takes on takes.

The full conversation follows below.

yoh [11:09 AM]

Hi Donna! Thanks for taking the time to have this conversation with me. Over the weekend I thought a lot about Rick Ross and his verse on Meek Mill's "What's Free." Overall, he's still capable of stringing together compelling verses over a decade into his career. What keeps the verse from being another good-to-great guest feature is the F-bomb he drops near the end. Were you surprised when you heard it?

donnacwrites [11:11 AM]

Absolutely, for a few reasons. One, there are so many other words in this language for an elder statesman like Ross to choose from. For anyone to choose from. Two, this is far from the first time Ross has had lyrics backfire on him in this way. This makes me worry that he either is not thinking or fundamentally thinks it is okay to use the word "faggot" in a verse since he knows what it means to get backlash for lyrics. Part of me, though, wasn't surprised at all. That disillusionment just comes from a general exhaustion. A very "Oh, of course" feeling.

yoh [11:24 AM]

It's a huge problem when offenders of language continue to repeat problematic patterns. Ross should know better. I can't believe he didn't consider the potential backlash attached to that lyric. It's an ongoing issue in any medium where words are weapons that slurs tend to be used as a way of punching down without considering the ramifications of who you are offending. It's bigger than 6ix9ine, and someone of Ross' stature and acclaim should realize this. As a hip-hop elder statesman, as a business owner, as a face and name in the community, there's no excuse. Why do you think it's so hard for artists to understand that audience and intent of language should be considered when choosing their words?

donnacwrites [11:27 AM]

It has to be an issue of empathy, right? The word does nothing to Ross, and therefore he goes forward using it as he pleases because it causes no harm to him. There is also the truth that we are just recently, in mass media, getting into the nitty gritty of why you can't throw the word "faggot" around. It's the same reason why we saw mixed responses to Eminem calling Tyler, The Creator a faggot, but would have resoundingly ousted him had he used the N-word. That's not to place value statements on either word, as there's a long history of violence and oppression attached to each. But it really is just empathy and education. The depth of pain that comes with being called a faggot is lost on Ross, and Em, and the like, and only recently are we demanding our artists be more empathetic. Not even role models, just empaths.

yoh [11:37 AM]

I agree wholeheartedly. Empathy and education are exactly why I wanted to have this conversation with you. Frank Ocean was onto something when he sang, "Wish we'd grown up on the same advice." Getting everyone on the same page about anything, language included, isn't an easy task. But we increase the chances by having dialogue in hopes that our seeds of knowledge grow into understanding. Do you believe that backlash can penetrate an artist's ego? Ross and Eminem are stars, hugely successful, and are able to live in ivory towers of their own creation.

donnacwrites [11:40 AM]

Maybe this says something about me, but I don't think that general backlash will ever scale the ivory towers those two find themselves in, but what the backlash does is start conversations between friends and in journalism that the general public can benefit from. The goal should never be to single out a symptom of something, in this case, Ross is a symptom of myriad systemic failures, and try to solve that or change that person's mind. The goal should always be to hit at the bigger thing and to see what change we can affect now. Prove ourselves right type beat.

yoh [11:52 AM]

Brilliant, as always! The change we can affect now is just one domino that will hopefully be the chain reaction to a future where these conversations won't be needed. I have one more point I would like to raise. Do you think songs with offensive language age well? I know this is putting you on the spot—no room for any research—but I think about Rocko's "U.O.E.N.O." and how such a big record isn't present in 2018. There was like 100 different remixes of that song, yet, I don't hear it in DJ mixes, played in clubs, or on the radio. It could be the times; plenty of big records don't age well, but not many big records have a guest verse from Rick Ross creepily insinuating date rape. Even with the acclaim around Jay's verse, I wonder how easily a song that should be timeless can become timely because of offensive lyrics.

donnacwrites [11:55 AM]

I think JAY-Z is Rick Ross' saving grace. If we want to make value statements: we love Jay more than we hate homophobia, and that does not necessarily bother me. I loved Jay's verse, too. I hated Ross' verse. The two can exist at the same time. Will I be throwing on "What's Free" during my rare times socializing? Probably not, but will I be raving about that Jay verse? Yes. I think this is the easiest song to excuse for the "like what you like" crowd that ignores our social responsibility as consumers. The way capitalism works, our consumption always sends a message I wish more people thought of. So to your question, they don't age well because we are trending toward being more and more responsible as consumers. So if someone could just rescue that Jay verse, that would be swell.

yoh [11:56 AM]

BOOM!

To piggyback on what you said about empathy and education, we've all been educated on the weight of the N-word. It's been a word of discussion since I've been alive. There's no excuse of ignorance when you consider how polarizing the N-word is. They literally tried to bury it at one point in time. Not figuratively, but literally put the word in a casket. Of course, there's still so much conversation and controversy surrounding it, but there's a stronger consensus of who should and shouldn't be using it. So much of that comes from constant dialogue. The F-word is reaching a similar spotlight now, a centerpiece of discourse in context to homophobia, and we'll eventually see that weight respected.

donnacwrites [12:09 PM]

Exactly so. I think we are at an interesting moment where social media has become a fascinating civil rights tool. There's a take for every take, and what that leads to is teachable moments abound. Often at the expense of others, but sometimes out of the kindness of people willing to do emotional labor, we see that Twitter can fundamentally educate and sway public opinion. Wanna Thompson comes to mind as someone who knows how to use Twitter to educate, then take that moment and turn it into journalism. We are very much so in throes of it, but by the nature of getting better as a people, we will always be in throes of it.

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