Hip-hop star on SAE house mom video: ‘It’s a rock and a hard place’
NORMAN, Oklahoma — Trinidad James isn’t mad at Beauton Gilbow.
The rapper’s hit song can be heard playing in the background as Gilbow, the house mother of the University of Oklahoma Sigma Alpha Epsilon house — known as Mom B. — repeats the n-word seven times on camera.
It appears overboard considering that the hook of the song, “All Gold Everything,” use the word only three times per succession. Gilbow has been bombarded with claims that she’s just as racist as the fraternity members caught singing a racist song on a bus last weekend.
It’s an allegation she’s firmly denied, and the Atlanta rapper who wrote “All Gold Everything” is willing to give her a pass, though he wouldn’t condone her use of the word. He doesn’t hate her, though.
“I’m not going to be that person,” he told CNN. “It’s a rock and a hard place. I can’t be as upset at that lady. I’m upset at the fraternity because what they’re saying is a chant that’s just completely disrespectful to the black race. As far as that lady goes — man, that’s an old lady, man. Let that lady be.”
The Trinidad-born rapper, whose real name is Nicholas Williams, said he doesn’t like giving interviews about race and the n-word because his views are complex and hip-hop stars can be hypocrites when it comes to the topics.
“It’s hard to ridicule somebody for something that you continue to use in your music,” he said. “Every (hip-hop) artist is using the n-word in their music — hit records with the n-word in it. You can’t be upset when somebody says it. You can’t. It’s hard to differentiate when you can use it. If we don’t want the word used and the word holds such a negative connotation, then we shouldn’t use it at all, period.”
He compared it to children hearing their parents curse, “and they told you not to curse. You wanted to curse. You cursed.”
‘Humanly impossible’ to be upset
Context matters, he said. If you’re using the word in a negative way, talking down to someone or being sarcastic, that’s wrong.
“But if it’s somebody that you’ve been rocking with or we’re listening to music or whatever, I can’t be upset,” he said. “It’s humanly impossible for you to be upset at a different race saying it when you’re saying it in your music. That’s crazy to me.”
He has a different take on the fraternity members caught clapping, pumping their fists and chanting, “There will never be a ni**** SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me.”
“I don’t respect that at all. What kind of world are we living in here?” he asked.
He took it personally, he said, because he and other hip-hop artists travel the country to perform for fraternities, and to know any fraternity member would harbor such vile feelings toward him “burns my heart.”
As fellow Atlanta rapper Waka Flocka Flame noted when he canceled an upcoming show for the University of Oklahoma SAEs, Trinidad James said people of all races attend his concerts and have a great time together.
“These fraternities are places that us as hip-hop artists, we come and do amazing shows for these fraternities, like I just did Texas Tech, I just did Texas A&M, Delta Chi, Sigma Chi, and those guys were great. And I’ve done a show actually at Oklahoma last year,” he said. “So to see that that chapter feels that type of way toward the black race, it hurts, man. It sucks.”
If you don’t like me, don’t book me
He even takes a special pride in performing in front of these audiences, he said.
“We go really hard for these college kids. I didn’t go to college, so for me, I feel really good when I can make kids who are doing the right thing and going to college … have a good time because college is so strenuous on the mind and it’s so hard when you’ve got to pay tuition and books, trying to survive as a young adult, so that’s why we try to come and make sure the kids have a great time. If you go look at the shows, it’s an amazing time.”
As far as the chances that he’d ever perform in front of Oklahoma’s SAE chapter in the future, forget about it, he said. He doesn’t care if they were resurrected as an all-black fraternity, he said.
“I don’t want nothing to do with that because that’s ridiculous. I feel like anything they do now is just to cover it up and make it look better,” he said.
And while it’s disturbing to see young people voicing racist leanings, Trinidad James said he’d prefer to know where someone stands over being misled. Fraternities considering booking him in the future can keep that in mind, he said.
“I would rather you didn’t even book me for the shows. I’m not no hired monkey,” he said. “Just don’t be cool with me. Don’t talk to me. If you feel that way about me that you would want to hang me from a tree then don’t talk to me. I would stay away from you because obviously my skin color offends your life.”