Jay Brannan sings the n-word

Last week I went to the Jay Brannan show at the Highline Ballroom on 16th Street. It was a fun show, complete with great performances of “Housewife” and “Soda Shop” and Jay’s (mostly endearing) talking-too-much routine.

Toward the end of the show, Jay busted out with a cover of N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton.” (See the video and Logo’s glowing review here.) Although I was surprised to hear him say the “n-word” twice, unflinchingly, during the song, the cover was nicer than it could have been—it was actually quite a beautiful rendition, and it didn’t really even seem like he was making fun of the song or gangsta culture.

He could have left it at that, and I might not have thought too much about it.

But right after the song ended, he had already started defending himself. “Now, before you all email me to complain,” he started; and went on to explain that he was just covering a cover of the N.W.A. song by Nina Gordon. “If you don’t like the lyrics… I didn’t write them!”

Then he said something like, “Before you say that I’m making fun of black culture…. I think I know some black people who would take issue with you equating black culture to gang violence.” The audience clapped at this, but I was left uncomfortable. It’s an interesting point, but did he really just pull the “I have black friends” card?

I was also left wondering if Jay really would have felt comfortable doing that song if there were many (or any) black people in the audience.

All that aside, I did really enjoy the show. He did a very nice cover of my favorite Joni Mitchell song, “All I Want.” And he was decidedly cute and gay as usual. I think he should tour with Girlyman.

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2 Responses to “Jay Brannan sings the n-word”

  1. Abbi Says:

    Hmmm…i’m not quite sure if he was playing that card that you mention. At least it didn’t seem like your typical “i have lots of black friends” comment. But you do raise a good point about him using the n-word in front of a mostly white crowd. I wonder why he felt the need to say it was a cover of a cover, as if it was okay since it wasn’t his idea.

  2. Jay Brannan Sings the N-Word at Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture Says:

    [...] by Guest Contributor Joanna Eng, originally published at DJ Jojo [...]

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