The Biggest N-Bomb Controversies In History

July 16, 2013  |  
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We have had a long, tumultuous relationship with the n-word in the United States. And each time a celebrity lets their racism slip publicly, the debate pops up again. Here’s a review of some of the biggest n-bombs in history and what the fallout says about when it is and isn’t OK to use the word.


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Jennifer Lopez

Do latinas get a pass? Back in 2001, Lopez said “ni**s” in a remix of “I’m Real.” Ja Rule wrote the lyrics for her, but when the song dropped, a New York radio station called for a boycott against her.

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Do white and black rappers have license to use the n-word? Back in 1998, Eminem rapped “All the girls I like to b@#e have big butts/ No they don’t, ‘cause I don’t like that n***er s**t/I’m just here to make a bigger hit,” but even after The Source released the video in 2003, folks kept buying his albums.

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Mel Gibson

Do talented racists get away with more? When the world found out that Mel Gibson told his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva that he hoped that she would get “raped by a pack of n*****s” in 2010, it didn’t take much out of his stride. The talented actor and director went on to star in several big budget movies. He’s even rumored to be staring in The Expendables 3. Would his career have continued to go on swimming if he were as marginally talented as Paula Deen?

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Charlie Sheen

Is the n-word offensive if you use it against someone white? During a fight back in 2005, Charlie Sheen called his ex-wife Denise Richards a n***er. It was apparently the worst insult Charlie could think of. As far as we know, Charlie didn’t lose any job opportunities or supporters after dropping the bomb. 

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Paris Hilton

Today’s technology makes it hard to drop an n-bomb on the sly. Back in 2007, someone caught Paris on camera expressing herself in the club. While she and her sister danced to Biggie’s “Hypnotize,” Paris shouted out, “Were like two n*****s.” And on the same tape, she uses a few more slurs for Jewish and Asian people.

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Duane Chapman

When it comes to racism, things said behind closed doors tend to get a pass. When Dog The Bounty Hunter’s son Tucker started dating a black woman, Duane lost his cool. He dropped quite a few n-bombs in a private conversation to his son. And then Tucker sold a tape of that conversation to the National Enquirer. But after suspending his show for a few seasons, his employers and the rest of the nation seemed willing to extend an olive branch.

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Michael Richards

Can any n-bomb be forgiven? Few of us will forget the day in 2006 when Michael Richards melted down in a comedy club. Not only did he drop a few n-bombs, he said this: “Fifty years ago we’d have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your a**.” Michael apologized later in hopes of saving his career, but we don’t know if you can come back from something like that.

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Not every brother gets a pass. Back in 2007, Nas wanted to name his upcoming album N***er. On it’s cover, he planned to feature a picture of himself with whip marks on his back in the shape of an “N”. But Def Jam made him drop the title.  Nas refused to rename the album which remains untitled today.

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Jesse James

Sometimes an n-bomb is just a sign of a larger problem. Shortly after Jesse James was outed for cheating on Sandra Bullock, he made the news again. This time it was for asking his ex-wife Janine Lindemulder for a paternity test because “I was told that you slept with a n***er.” After that revelation, a host of people — including James’ own mother — piped up to talk about just how racist James really is.

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John Mayer

Is there a such thing as a “n***er pass”? John Mayer claimed to have one (because black people love him so much) in 2010 during an interview with Playboy.  But in almost the same breath, he called his private part a “white supremacist”  so we’re not really sure what his position on race relations is.

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Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Does being drunk excuse a slip-up? The “Tudors” star had one too many while waiting for a flight at JFK Airport. When flight attendants banned him from boarding his United Airlines flight, he started shouting the n-bomb at them and a few of his fellow passengers.

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Axl Rose

Do white people get a pass because black people say it? Axl Rose thinks so. Back in 1998, he released the song “One in a Million” that contained these lyrics: “Police and n***ers, that’s right/Get outta my way/Don’t need to buy none of your gold chains today.”

When questioned about it, Axl said:

“Why can black people go up to each other and say, ‘N***er,’ but when a white guy does it all of a sudden it’s a big put-down? I used the word  n***er because it’s a word to describe somebody that is basically a pain in your life, a problem. The word  n***er doesn’t necessarily mean black.”

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Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow crossed a line when she tweeted “Niggas in Paris for real” in response to a photo The Dream snapped of her on stage with Jay-Z and Kanye. After the backlash, Gwyneth said she was allowed because it was the name of the song — even though she was referring to the “niggas” on stage in the picture.

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John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Is it OK to use the n-word as a political statement? In 1972, John and Yoko released a song called “Woman is the N***er of the World”. John and Yoko said it was supposed to be a feminist statement about how women are the “slaves of the slaves” but British record companies pulled all of the copies from the shelves anyway.

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Patti Smith

Not everyone gets in trouble for dropping n-bombs. In 1978, Patti Smith released “Rock N Roll N***er”. It’s all about how Patti wants to be an outcast, just like a n***er. Here’s a sample of the lyrics:

“Jimi Hendrix was a n***er.
Jesus Christ and Grandma, too.
Jackson Pollock was a n***er.
N***er, n***er, n***er, n***er,
n***er, n***er, n***er.”

Despite it’s liberal use of the n-word, it became a hit, was remade by Marilyn Manson and featured in Natural Born Killers.

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  • Marcie Daniels

    being white I don’t drop the “N-bomb” one time while fighting with my (black) ex whom I have a child in common, I called him “N***er” although at the time I hated him for lots of things, I felt so horrible having called him that (although n***a was a word he used everyday) I had to say I was sorry. When an old friend of mine called my child an “adorable little niglet” I decided to punch her and our relationship was strained. I don’t care if black people want to use the word between themselves and their buddies. However NO white people should use it, their excuse “well black people say it” is NOT justification for using it, and the dude below me said it best… “Well… How on earth do we expect anybody else to respect us when we, clearly, think so little of ourselves by, too, using the word so brazenly?” Agreed to an extent Clark, but I take black people just as serious as a Hispanic, Asian, Gays..whoever. Though I understand not all white folk are like myself, and maybe they want to look stupid..? Just a thought 🙂

    • shellyTheGreat

      I appreciate your honesty. This is a huge reason why I will never be involved with a non-black man…they will always look at you as a n*gger no matter what, and it will eventually come out.

  • KJ23

    I used to be very liberal with the word myself (as a black woman) but once one of my white friends said it when I got older, and it did something to me, that’s when I decided to stop. The thing that always bothered me is, why some Caucasian people are so determined to say it, then use the excuse of “well Black people say it.” If people are upset at it, shouldn’t that be enough for you not to say it? Some people just seem so invested in saying that word at all costs… Like almost gleeful in using it.

  • Realityh03$Anonymous….ohwait

    Wasnt the Source Benzino’s magazine? Or was his XXL? Either way Benzino’s mag only did that cause he was mad that Em was so successful and giving them bogus ratings and his albums were all flops and still gave his stuff great ratings.

  • Beejcee

    I agree with Clarke, I don’t think anyone should have a pass. My parents didn’t use it, as a parent I don’t use it, it is not a family word to me, not endearing in the least. That being said, this article does not give NAS a pass nor Eminem. Not sure I understand why JaRule, Kanye and Jay-Z get one. Thanks for the explanation.

  • Clarke

    Well… How on earth do we expect anybody else to respect us when we, clearly, think so little of ourselves by, too, using the word so brazenly?

    If this word does symbolize ‘restoration’ and ‘pride’ within the minds of some deceived Black people, what else are we going to help proudly restore in the future? – Trans-Atlantic Slavery? Overt Racial-Segregation? The Jim-Crow Laws? Lynching?

    This is a word in which was legal in this Country, a mere 52 years ago, in order to demean, degrade, disparage and dehumanize my people. It carries hundreds-of-years of Racist, White, Contempt and was the foundation for which my ancestors and forefathers were outwardly seen – nothing. Therefore, for the life of me, I cannot support anybody who abuses this word. Irrespective of where it was birthed, the contexts in which it was used in, or what it originally represented and was applied to, post- 1700, the word became derogatory and is still used to profoundly offend and insult today.

    If my Grandparents (of whom lived in North-West Mississippi the majority of their lives) were still alive and were to see and hear the many ‘Black people’ who excuse this word today [as a sign of ‘reclamation’ and how we have altered the suffix of ‘er’ into ‘a’ in order to, somehow, neutralize the negative aspect and accentuate a thoroughly illogical positive one] would break down in tears – because, either way, the word plays out against a large background of sub-concious, internalized racism. It needs to be eradicated from our psyche.

    I absolutely, both, loathe and despise the “N-Word” and am extremely vocal in voicing my opinion whenever I am to here somebody, especially when they are around me, use it.

    • Eva

      I’m so proud of you… I absolutely agree. Absolutely. Wonderfully written and explained.

    • Fair and Balanced

      I agree with you 100% stay strong.