A Chinese rap group called Number 4 guest starring on the radio show “Sway in the Morning” was quickly called out by the hosts of the show for their use of the “n-word” in a freestyle rap. However, the unfortunate event turned out to be a complete misunderstanding due to language barriers.
In an interview with radio personality and producer Sway Calloway, the three members of Number 4 break out into a freestyle performance in Mandarin and their local dialect mixed in with some English phrases.
Around the 7:05 mark, one of the rappers, who is also the CEO of the group, says the word 那个 (“nàge” or “nèige”) in the middle of his freestyle rap, which is pronounced almost identically to the n-word. After the group finishes their performance, Calloway calmly tells the group, “I know you see a lot of Black rappers say that, don’t do it.”
With so many non-black artists appropriating Black culture and using the n-word in their music, it’s understandable why the hosts of the show would be quick to shut down this disrespectful behavior. However, it turns out this was not one of those instances.
The members of the Chinese rap group were quick to reassure Calloway, explaining, “There’s a word, ‘nàge’ or ‘nèige’, that means ‘that’.” The word 那个 (nèige) is often used as a filler word in Chinese and can be similar to saying “umm” or “uhhh” in the English language.
Upon this revelation, the room broke out into a chorus of oohh’s and laughs as a female host joked, “I jumped a little bit, I was going to hit you but I didn’t know…”
This is not the first time language barriers have led to misunderstandings between the two communities. In the Korean language, 내가 (“neh-gah”) meaning “I” and 니가 (“nee-gah”) meaning “you” can sound very similar to the n-word as well, which can often lead to uncomfortable situations.