Attention white people: Kendrick Lamar doesn’t mind if you rap along to his music, but please, keep it respectful.
The artist and recent Pulitzer Prize-winner performed at the Hangout Festival in Alabama over the weekend where he graciously invited a few fans on stage to help him rap some of his biggest hits. Unfortunately, things took an uncomfortable turn when Lamar pulled a young, white fan named Delaney out of the crowd to help him sing his 2012 track, “m.A.A.d city.”
Delaney got through the first verse okay before seemingly forgetting to censor the lyrics, repeatedly using the N-word while rapping with Lamar. The artist stopped the performance midway through to call out the young woman’s offensive slur, though at first, she seemed confused as to why Lamar was stopping the performance.
In a video taken by a fellow concertgoer, the woman can be heard asking Lamar, “Am I not cool enough for you? What’s up, bro?” after he cuts the music off. The rapper tries to explain that she needs to “bleep one word” from the song while performing it before the young woman offers an apology, claiming she didn’t know she had uttered the word.
In the video, the crowd can be clearly heard taking offense to Delaney rapping the N-word, which prompts Lamar to quickly shut things down. The rapper even asks his fans if the young woman should be allowed to stay on-stage, which is met with loud booing and plenty of “Nos,” but ultimately, Lamar is nice enough to give the girl another chance.
The video caused a bit of controversy on Twitter with people quickly defending and blaming the young girl for her misstep. On the one hand, because a song like “m.A.A.d city” involves heavy use of the racial slur, it seems odd that Lamar chose a white woman to hop on stage and help him sing it, especially if he wanted the person to self-censor themselves.
On the other, Delaney should’ve known better than to utter the N-word on stage no matter how excited she was to perform with Lamar. While it’s the artist’s choice whether or not to use that kind of language in his work, it doesn’t make it okay for white fans to appropriate a word that has such a divisive, ugly history rooted in slavery and oppression. Luckily everything worked out in the end and Lamar seemed to have a good time performing with the young girl for the crowd, but maybe this will serve as a lesson for next time.