Drake - Take Care

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?

  • CanYouAllHearMe

    In hip hop the words gangsta and real dont mean what they mean in the real world

  • dmassaca

    very good read..&like i expected,not many responses @ all.. but if it was some BS about some reality shit or rap beef. There would  be 1000 comments

  • Casor_Greener

    We can’t make it cooler until REAL MEN start raising the majority of our children.  Too many of our youth are being raised by “real nikkas” and it’s destroying our people.  We have the lowest education rates, standardized test scores, graduation , etc and it ain’t ALL on the white man.  It starts with our parents! Yeah we got a  lot of ratchet chicks too but the main households I see are single mothers with some low life father sitting up somewhere behind on child support.

    Yeah I said it. ONE MILLION

    Might I add that someone can be both. We just way have WAY too many of one kind.

  • if u do songs w tyga & gayne then u cant b very real- sorry

  • its called playing it safe

    when real men are being lynched and thrown in jail for standing up, black women grew scared of real African men because they knew subconsciously that our oppressors would eventually kill them so each generation got softer and softer

    boys growing up without a father saw male strength in the weak men that society allowed like your pimps and drug dealers…. as strength when we got sick of watching other black men keep there head down and take the bass out there voice when talking to men that didnt look like us.

    boys who grew up with fathers either had strong fathers who they watch fight society or a father who conformed to society and lost the respect of there boys

    Tupac tried his hands at displaying “manhood” through thug life until society hi-jacked that and made the thugs into homo thugs by turning these young men out in there penal system

    real niggas is the same, just a form to try and gain strength as a real man.  im at work and was telling a women who have a son the way i plan on raising my son when he’s born and she told me oh your gonna raise him to militant.  your gonna raise him rebellious……….now this women dont speak for the masses of black women just like the stereotypical image of black men society like to shove down our throat isnt how your average black man operate or think.  

    but when you take the rebellion and the fight out of the man
    and he dont have revolutionary thought or leadership
    when he dont see his children as the next generation to stand up and fight this fight our ancestors fought etc etc
     then whats left are boy that grow up pretending to be the best man they can be
    and its safer to be a real nigga or your super gangsta nigga then a real man.  there was a reason our oppressors brung the pregnant black women and that mans children out to watch him or one of us beat and or kill that man to kill the image of a black man

    if that makes any sense

    • immackulate

      aye B that shyt didnt make no kind of sense at all … and i aint trying to be no azzhole

      • Jay

        probably bec ur stupid..look how u spell shit. ha it dont take an educated person 2 understand what this post is saying or implying. u read but u dont understand.

      • Casor_Greener

        man stfu!

      • immackulate

        look SHYT HEAD (and i spell SHYT like that becuz if i spell it the GRAMMATICALLY correct way it wont allow me to post my comment SHYT HEAD) I DIDNT UNDERSTAND DUDES LOGIC ABOUT WOMEN BEING AFRAID OF “REAL” MEN BECAUSE THEY WERE BEING LYNCHED … thats what i didnt understand and therefore it threw off the rest of the comment because if a WOMAN is a fraid of a REAL man than she herself is NOT a real WOMAN ….

      • Jay

        and this is comin from someone who grew up in broke down neighborhoods and low income families. yah i grew up like that but im also very smart when it comes 2 numbers and the world. street smart = good… book/street smart= a whole nother level of person

      • immackulate

        street smart / book smart go hand in hand AINT one better than the other … get you some experience in life first and you might understand that

      •  lol

        well the short version is to be a black man or a real man or a African in america will get you killed in reality.  to be metrosexual, homosexual, soft, weak, Bisexual, uncle tom, cooning, not rocking the boat, timid etc etc will get you promoted in america.

        during the times of slavery the oppressor of africans MADE the children of african people watch as they beat, raped, castrate etc etc there africa male figures.  the pregnant black women had to watch this too and that fear was put in the mother and transfered to the babies.  thats why when a male child stand up or want to lead the 1st thought subconsciously is someone is gonna kill him.

        if you talk to “radical” then someone might do something to you. so that fear keeps boys from being the men they are supposed to be.
        same way you have so call gangstas who can ride to your house and gun down a black male with AKs but when the police come they DROP they guns and run. its FEAR…… so nowadays some black men rather be safe and “stay out of trouble” teach they sons to obey so called authority etc etc out of FEAR something might happen to him.

        a real man isnt fearful and thats what scares our oppressors.
        look at black men and women fomr the 90s, 80s, 70s, 60s and keep going back and LISTEN to how they spoke and the strength as you go back in time, and look at us now that we “progressed” in this “society”  we are not what we once was   

      • immackulate

        no need to LOL – simple and plain the 1st paragraph didnt make any damn sense AT ALL


        dont think in the slightest that women were afraid of REAL BLACK MEN
        look at the daughters sister Shabazz and Corretta Scott King raised … very strong independent intelligent women – for instance, MY MOM DIDNT RAISE ME TO MAKE EXCUSES or BLAME THE WHITE MAN for anything although she did say A BLACK MAN WILL HAVE TO WORK 2X AS HARD TO ACCOMPLISH HIMSELF unlike my white counterparts

        LOL at you for thinking you was putting SOMEBODY onto something

      • immackulate

        hold on myG … im’ma get back to WHY i didnt understand until you clarified a few things in a minute

    • Jay

      good post. and something that probably needs more attention in the world because i been sayin the same shit for years. im glad someone finally came out and said it that has an audience.

  • Jay


  • look i’m tired of people alway’s commenting on the word nigga look real nigga can be used onbly in 1 way alot people use it and dont know what it mean’s real nigga you straight no and’s if’s but’s aboutplain and simple damn whats so hard 2 understand

  • illymac

    a real man is a man who
    keep it real to his family,
    community, and self..

    thats like the nation of islam..

    then U have the soljahz being the friut of islam..

    the street dudes in the end are soljahz..
    real men and real niggaz..
    we respect each other..
    the street orientated shit been going on for so long that,
    now days its like we cant have one with out the other..

    we just need to school
    our kids on how to carry themselves
    when they are not in our presence..
    trust them to make the right decisions..

  • Real nigga is just a street term that’s been around for ages.  What qualifies someone as being real?  Someone who takes accountability of his actions and doesn’t try to pass the buck on someone else.  Someone who doesn’t judge the man, but the content of the character of the man.  Someone who leads by positive example, not by what’s popular at the moment.  But in the end, what qualifies someone as real is the ability to stay true to himself and everyone around him, don’t try to portray a certain image that you yourself don’t truly believe in, always be the same person you were from the beginning.  That qualifies you as a real PERSON, not nigga.  Love black people……Hate niggaz!

  • I think in most cases “real nigga” is used to describe what it is to be a real man in the streets and you can see by the attributes, strong (physically and mentally) fearless, fresh, has a lot of money, authoritative etc and thats whats being sold to us through Hip Hop! like its cool to be that guy “real nigga”

    But Nobody sheds enough light or highlights(or encourages) what REAL MEN do (especial Black Men) Being Responsible is not something thats considered cool (at least by the media or in Hip Hop) it doesnt matter if you work for minimum age, if you are self reliant, financially, seek knowledge through higher education, pay your bills, it doesn’t matter if you working minimum wage jobs, help improve the lives of others around you, (taking care of your women and children) neighbor etc..thats what being a REAL MAN! is..you don’t have to be Hard,thuggish looking, rebellious for no reason just take care of your self and people around you and most importantly seek God’s help and direction first!

  • Numbuh Four

    Good read. It does get tiring hearing your peers boast about this undefinable level of prestige, known as being a “real n*gga”. At the end of the day, it’s simply a popular phrase with no definition, waiting to be twisted into some strange and conceited form of self promotion by the urban community.

    Despite joking around with the phrase (and other equally frivolous sayings) from time to time, I see absolutely no reason to promote oneself, or others for that matter, with a term that seems more demeaning and less supportive of ones’ positive qualities. It’s a term that has always been associated with the negative aspects of the hip hop culture. All in all, I don’t advocate the usage of the term as a serious form of prestige. Does that make me a “b*tch n*gga”?

  • ladynamor

    Obama is a real nigga to me, swag in his walk, bass in his voice, listen to rap, smked weed and the smartest man in the building. Not upholding to what everyone elses definition of a real man is, just doing shit and not thinking about none of this shit.

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  • Lavio00

    It’s more convenient to take the easy route than the hard route. To be ignorant, lazy, full of prejudice and full of yourself is much easier than to take responsibility, be humble, a role model and open minded. Actually, the latter takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of effort. Many would say that in our most primal and primitive states, we are the former. Meaning, a real nigga is someone who acts out in a way that is the most primitive that a human being can be. In such, you’re being as real as you can be.. “No frills, no if ands or buts, no trying and no effort put in”. Basically, if you ARE putting in an effort and if you ARE doing your best to be a man and not a real nigga, then you’re not in your natural, primitive state of being. And to the “real nigga” folks, that’s not very attractive. So in essence, a real nigga is someone that acts like a primitive being, and its addherents find some beauty in that because to them, a primitive way of being shows a real way of being.

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  • rep87

    Negitive talk and images being force on the youth today how about positive images for a change it dont take nothing to act ignorant but an efford to be Intelligent !

    • atlantahiphopshop


      • immackulate


  • nino970

    real niggas should strive to be real men

  • angela Young

    Real nigga is simply that… nigga with real in front of it. …Basically the same as Real man to some. Using the word nigga is an endless debate that will go on until the end of time.  As oppressing as some may feel the word is …it is used to refer to men and woman and oddly in this generation I have even heard it used to refer to white people. How can we teach our young men to be men and not real niggas…. I dont think the focus should be so much on the words themselves… you run the risk of  losing the attention and maybe the respect  of the youth which will ultimately leave them unwilling to communicate with you.  Trying to change them will lead to more rebellion… giving them alternatives and helping them to see other perspectives is the answer. If I tell you not to use the term real nigga or criticize you for doing it… the term becomes more alluring.
    However, if I tell you or show you a different way of living/thinking, or I show you that you have options in life… u may be less likely to become a statistic or non productive member of society.  Your focus needs to be on the way of life…not the word.

  • Pharaoh Corner

    Do we hear asians refer to oneanother as real chinks, or White people refer to themselves as real Whops, no we black people are so fuckib backwards…………smh
    wtf is  real nigga , simple ass shit smh

  • Fedupwss

    As a woman of a deeper shade of brown i can honestly say we as black folk are judged so much harsher than other races and so we embrace negative stereo tpyes to take the edge off off the blow when we are confronted with the reality of how are white brothers and sisters view us in light of how far we have come as a people in terms of race relations and civil rights. How do we get past the fact that this has gone main stream, well we bring n@#ga, c#&%k, s%&c and all of the others into the steam and teach other races how to do the same . We have enough rappers of color to do this. And if they choose not to then why should our cultural sterotypes be the only ones highjacked. Say whats really real my n%%%s.

  • Guillaume Pilon

    whats the point of being real and being street  ??????

    • immackulate

      to keep the WHITE MAN on his toes lol – “NAH IM JUST PHUCKING WITH YOU”


  • black_messiah9000

    It’s an idiotic term. Plain and simple. People try to defend it by associating it to “culture”. That is bullshit.

  • Bumpy Johnson

    being a Real Nigga is a street thing…these rappers f***ed that term up heavy on the mainstream….if you dont live a gangsta’s paradise ( peace to coolio ) dont say your a real nigga…..being a real man in your world is actually better so be that.