MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It's one of the most degrading and controversial words in the English language. But is there a double standard on who can say it?
We're talking about the n-word.
The beat, the flow and the lyrics all make hip-hop and rap music enticing to fans of all ages and races. But when rapper Kendrick Lamar pulled a white fan on stage to perform one of his songs and she said the n-word, he shut her down and told her to bleep out that one word.
Rap enthusiasts Denzel Arnold and his friend CJ are the voices behind the 'If We Being Real' podcast. They talk about all things hip-hop including the n-word, which is used over and over again in many songs.
"It took me making it to college to stop saying it. It took me going to college before I did that. Before that, I really didn't think to hard about it. It's just normal every day talk. You walk up to your homie and you say, 'What's up my 'n****r!," Arnold said.
When blacks use the word to refer to other blacks, he says it's less offensive and is sometimes even meant as a term of endearment. But make no mistake, the n-word is a racist slur that hurts.
It comes from a time in America when blacks were treated less than human, lynched and beaten. The label meant they were inferior to whites.
"It took older people pulling us to the side and teaching us the history behind it for us to even know something was wrong with it. Because just hear it so much. You don't think anything of it. That's just how you talk," Arnold said.
That accepted cultural use of the language landed a black and white student in hot water at a Collierville High School. They admitted to spelling out the n-word on a desk but said they had no intentions to harass or intimidate.
"When a white student or any other student from an ethnic background uses it, we become offended by it. But we ourselves have perpetuated it," Pastor Linwood Dillard, with the Citadel of Deliverance, said.
Pastor Dillard says hip-hop music is partly to blame for the overuse of the n-word. Just because you hear it lopped in lyrics doesn't make it okay to say.
"I think that a number of things that we are seeing in our society and culture are leading to our children and young people being desensitized," he said.
Hip-hop and rap are a big part of the skate world. We met two best friends, one black and one white. Both like the music, but only one of them will recite the n-word in the lyrics.
"I just don't say it. I just don't say it. I'll say anything else but that," skateboarder Austen Gilbert said.
"So it doesn't really bother me if it's music. I mean, every new age rapper, that's all they say. Who really cares?" another skateboarder said.
Some people care, whether it's used as a way to spew hate or not.
"When my daughter saw it. No matter what the motivation was based on, her understanding of history caused her to understand that this is nor right," Pastor Dillard said.
He wants racism education in schools but says the first lessons on this should be taught at home.
"I believe that parents should in their own way share the history behind the word and their children about racial respect and unity," the pastor said.
Some hip-hop artists have chosen to steer clear of the use of the n-word. But that's more of an exception that the norm.