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John Mellencamp Says Rappers Shouldn’t Use the N-Word: They’re “Selling Out What the People Stood Up For”

Back in 2001, John Mellencamp released “Cuttin’ Heads,” an unlikely team-up with hip-hop icon Chuck D. The singer-songwriter reflected on some of the song’s more contentious lyrics in a new episode of Bill Maher’s Club Random podcast, explaining why he doesn’t think rappers — even Black ones — shouldn’t use the N-word in their songs.

“Me and Chuck D did a song 20 years ago,” Mellencamp recalled of his collab with the Public Enemy leader. “We were talking about the N-word. We were talking about how it’s not supposed to be used… That’s what I have against — not against, but why I’m not a big fan of rap music. You guys are selling out what the people stood up for and fought for, and you’re making money off of it selling it to white kids? I don’t like it.”

He continued: “And so Chuck D and I did a song… I wrote the song and, then he rapped in the middle of it, and he just said ‘die, N-word, die.’ That’s right.’”

Mellencamp and Maher then went on a rather uncomfortable debate about if, and how much, life for Black people has improved in the US over the past few decades. “I wrote a song that I never recorded because I thought it was wrong,” Mellencamp added. “But it was called ‘From the Fucking Cotton Fields to the Playing Fields.’ My point is that, yes, so what [if Black people’s lives are better now]? Us white people love to have Black people entertain us.”

“There is 1% or 2% of Black people in America who have a better life,” Mellencamp continued. As evidence, he relayed an incident involving a friend of his son who was Black and killed in Los Angeles.

You can watch Mellencamp’s full interview on Club Random below; the quotes above begin around the 27-minute mark.

Next month, Mellencamp will perform alongside Neil Young, Willie Nelson, and more in Indiana for the 2023 iteration of their charity concert event Farm Aid. Grab tickets here.