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Trinidad James Can’t Save CNN’s N-Word Debate

Continuing take the “info” out of “infotainment” and just make it pure entertainment is CNN’s Don Lemon.

Monday night on his show CNN Tonight, Lemon sat down with rapper Trinidad James to discuss the N-word in light of the SAE fraternity racist chant debacle. What “All Gold Everything” James has to do with some frat boys singing a ditty straight out of the Antebellum South, is not readily apparent. (Apparently the SAE den mother was caught on camera-phone “rapping” in the style of James’ signature hit. I suppose that clears things up, but not really.)

James, who is endlessly charming, held his own with Lemon, but the real non-news show stopper was the debate that unfolded between James, Professor Marc Lamont Hill and token white conservative Ben Ferguson.

Most of Ferguson’s anti-N-word counter points all boiled down to something along the lines of but how does this affect the white people and why can’t we say it? James, unsurprisingly, tried to make a case for the N-word as a nonracial term of endearment (if he says it). Hill was incredulous most of the time, tripped up by Ferguson saying that the N-word had “become” divisive. Just now? When SAE said it? Or when James rapped it? It became divisive? I’m not shocked that Hill’s brain broke at that point and was unable to move on.

Deadspin’s The Concourse had this to say of the not very useful, but every entertaining exchange:

Ferguson spent most of his talking time chiding and even yelling at his black co-panelists (and, more broadly, black people) for their use of the word “nigga.” The GIF at the top of this post captures what took place right after Ferguson engaged James, saying, “I’ll be honest with you. I think you know that we should probably get rid of the n-word, but in reality, I think many rappers are afraid they will lose out on money and sales and street cred if they don’t stop using the word.”

Ferguson then got to his main beef with the word. No one should be able to say “nigga,” he says, because it is divisive, and because it’s unfair to white people that blacks can say the word. Soon after, Ferguson accused James of making money off saying “nigga” in his songs, rather than the songs themselves.

“I’m making money off of doing music,” a delightfully charismatic James retorted. “I’m making money off of doing music and being creative, sir. I’m not making money just because I use the n-word. Nobody goes to the store and buys albums because it’s full of the n-word. No sir.”

Watch the debate below: