Chet Haze, known to his parents and the DMV as Chester Hanks, just released a song called “Juice” which, aside from having a chorus led by the phrase “Got my bitch/she fuck with bitches, too,” is also liberal with its use of the N-word. And, no, he’s not strategically deploying the world “nonagenarian.”
As you’d expect, Mr. Haze has gotten a bit of flack for it from, well, the internet who — perhaps rightfully — wonders what Giant Brass Balls store caters exclusively to rich white celebrity spawn.
And, because we live in an age where everything needs to be responded to via social media, Chet took to Instagram (in a since-deleted post on his now-deleted account) to respond:
“If I say the word nigga I say it amongst people I love and who love me. If I say “[fck] yall hatin ass [nggaz]” it’s because that’s really how I felt at the time. And I don’t accept society getting to decide what ANYBODY can or can’t say. That’s something we call FREE SPEECH. Now I understand the older generation who grew up in the Jim Crowe era might have strong feelings against this. And that’s understandable… But what I’m saying is this is 2015… And even tho we are still far from where we need to be and black people are still being literally KILLED by a RACIST and [fcked] up system… We have also reached a point where the word can no longer have a negative connotation if we so choose. And who is to say only black people can use it? The way I see it, it’s a word that unifies the culture of HIP-HOP across ALL RACES, which is actually kind of a beautiful thing. It’s a word that can be used out of camaraderie and love, not just exclusively for black people. What’s the point in putting all these built up “rules” about it. It’s time to let go. You can hate me or love me for it, but can’t nobody tell me what I can or can’t say. It’s got nothing to do with trying to be a thug. It’s about the culture of the music. And that’s all I have to say about that (no pun intended) lol. It’s all love. Some people will get it, some people won’t. Either way, Ima keep living my life however the [f*k] I want. ALL LOVE.”
Okay. Does he have a legitimate argument, that words in and of themselves don’t have power, save the power that we as a society give them? And if we all just, tomorrow, decided as a species, that the word nigger wouldn’t make anyone flinch, wouldn’t cause tempers to flare, wouldn’t conjure centuries of subjugation…wouldn’t this be a better place? Yes. impossible as that might be to achieve. Still, as hate can be bred into a culture, so can it be bred out of one.
Is hip-hop inclusive? Sure, much as hip-hop might like to send Macklemore to fend for himself Beyond the Wall, it is also cognizant of the need to allow him to remain under the big tent. Though it was born in the Boogie-Down Bronx, hip-hop belongs to the world. Pretending it doesn’t would be futile.
Will someone have to be the first person to do this? Absolutely. But here’s the thing: That someone isn’t Chet “Haze” Hanks.
The name Claudette Colvin might not be immediately familiar to you. She doesn’t have a holiday named after her, nor is she in the running to be on the face of any American currency denomination. But she was the first black woman to be arrested for not giving up her seat on a segregated bus, beating Rosa Parks by a full nine months. But Colvin was a teenager at the time, and had allegedly gotten pregnant before she was married, so the Civil Rights leadership on Montgomery, Alabama decided they needed a better face for the movement. A face that could withstand the slings and arrows that would come with being a touchstone and, potentially, a martyr. Enter Rosa Parks.
History is not charging Chet Haze with being this man, because he can’t be. You can’t look down from your gated community of impeccably manicured shrubberies atop the mountain and attempt to affect change.
The struggle is what makes it real, what makes it last. And if you ain’t ever struggled, ever, you better sit the fuck down.
Marc Bernardin is the Deputy Editor of Playboy.com.