Real N*ggas, What's Up?


“I’m the realest n*gga alive! Ain’t no n*gga realer than me! I was a real n*gga then, and I’m a real n*gga now. Always been a real n*gga, gonna die a real n*gga! Real n*ggas recognize real n*ggas! And shorty right there, he gonna grow up to be a real n*gga!”

-Credit: the culture

While listening to Drake’s “The Motto” (a song in which my wife enjoys roller skating to, backwards, I might add), as I hear him say “real n*gga, what’s up,” I pondered to myself the meaning of the phrase “real n*gga.”

Though it befuddles me to say how or why, I’m certain that there is a distinguished difference between being a “n*gga” (like Gwyneth Paltrow tweeted a couple of weeks ago) or a “real n*gga” (like Gwyneth Paltrow was defended as being by Nas after her tweets, a couple of weeks ago).

Obviously, this wasn’t the first time that I’ve heard this term expressed in our culture. Drake was not the first to say real n*gga. So this is not an attempt on my part to attack Drake or his music for saying real n*gga. I actually like Drake, but that’s neither here nor there. Instead this is my efforts to dialogue and bring perspective to a commonly used term in the culture of Hip-Hop – “real n*gga.”

Admittedly, I’ve said it myself, countless times along with the music. I also know that, as strange as it may sound, it seems as if one foolishly takes pride in being identified as such. However, how do we truly define being a “real n*gga?” Then answer me this – does a real n*gga share the
same characteristics as being a real man? Furthermore, would we agree or disagree that too many of our males are dying being real n*ggas, and not enough are growing up to be real men?

And lastly, with celebrating Father’s Day just recently, I ask, would you rather your son grow up to be a real n*gga or a real man?

Disclaimer: As I write this, it is not my intent to preach. I am not a preacher. At least not ordained or called – yet. However, I am a teacher in the true sense of the word. I would not be lying if I told you that’s how I have made my living in well over a decade. With that being said, I will also be the first to tell you that even the best teachers don’t know everything, but they will never stop learning as they continuously seek new information that will make them more
formidable in their position to help improve the lives of those they’ve been entrusted with. I’ve been entrusted with the lives of our youth. And you have as well. So, let us at least think about what we’re doing.

As I always do, I engaged a group of middle school male and female students in a conversation about Hip-Hop culture. On this particular day, I asked them were they familiar with the term that Drake used in his song, “The Motto”? Obviously, they said they were familiar with. Not surprisingly, though, they also said they heard the term used well before hearing Drake’s song. They said it’s commonly used in their presence in their neighborhoods. Some even went as far as naming “real n*ggas” they know personally. When asked how we define such, these were the most common responses: straightforward and honest, he ain’t scared of nothing, get money, provide for his family (though it may be with illegal proceeds), keep it one hunnid (their spelling, not mine), loyal, respected, stay fresh, and don’t snitch.

When asked how they define being a real man, coincidentally, their definitions were eerily similar; however, they did distinctively see a difference in the two. One is more street oriented than the other, according to their definitions. And though there were many terms associated with being a real n*gga, there was one obviously and noticeably missing. That term being responsible.

Sadly, as our discussion continued, what I learned from the mouths of our children is that many of our boys are dying to be identified as real n*ggas, while being utterly clueless to what it means to be a real man. A real man is responsible for himself and others. A real man selflessly put his family first. A real man is community oriented. A real man respects others and, in return, warrants the respect of men. A real man carries himself in a dignified manner. A real man believes in someone greater than himself. A real man serves and protects his own. A real man doesn’t abandon his children.

People become what they see and can identify with. Where are our young men seeing and interacting with real men? Unfortunately, we obviously haven’t made ourselves magnificently present in our homes and communities, where we’re most needed. We’re definitely not in the
school system, teaching, counseling, advising, or administrating.

So, in 2012, I extend a challenge to all of us, which is, how can we make becoming a real man cooler to our youth than wearing the dishonorable badge of dying a real n*gga?