Students outraged by freshman’s rapper persona

by Katherine Burns / Beacon Staff • April 23, 2015

Several students expressed anger online this week after a freshman student rapper gained attention on social media for lyrics some listeners found offensive.  

On March 4, disc jockeys at the student radio station WECB denounced, on their Facebook page, the music by a white male student who performed under the pseudonym Trinidad J.

“It was a moral obligation,” one of the WECB hosts, Ebrima Manjang, a freshman visual and media arts major, said in an interview. “If you see injustices, you have to call them out.”

The songs included lyrics some listeners felt were misogynistic and racially charged, including references to the Holocaust and the N-word.

The other host, freshman visual and media arts major Antoine Timbers, said the pair hoped the issue would result in more awareness about racial slurs, and why they are not appropriate.

Trinidad J gained further attention when senior Nyla Wissa, the president and founder of Flawless Brown, the theater troupe for women of color, posted his music on her personal Facebook profile and mentioned in the comments that she had contacted President M. Lee Pelton about the student and his music.

“I pay $60,000 every single year to go to that school, and if I don’t feel like I’m safe on my campus, then that’s a huge issue to me,” Wissa, who is black, said in an interview.

Wissa, a performing arts major, said she reached out to several administrators, including Sylvia Spears, the vice president for diversity and inclusion, and Dean of Students Ronald Ludman.

Spears met with both parties to mediate a conversation on April 22.

The student behind Trinidad J declined to comment for this article, but publicly addressed the controversy on April 18 on a personal Facebook page named Sebastian Crank.

In the post, he wrote that Trinidad J is a character he created when he was 16 as “a form of comedic satire impersonating other rappers in our society who behave very similar to Trinidad.”

Manjang and Timbers said they didn’t think this student’s brand of comedy was successful.

“The joke is only funny when the person you’re making fun of laughs with you,” Manjang said.

The student wrote on Facebook that while he thought he had made his satirical intentions clear, he realized he was misunderstood.

“In the past few months, Trinidad J has offended a large amount students at Emerson College, who have now gone public to accuse me of being misogynistic and racist, among other things,” he wrote. “For those of you who I have offended, I apologize. I did not mean to offend or hurt anyone of the Emerson Community, and my offensive music was not directed towards anyone or any culture. I am sorry.”

Several students who commented on Facebook in support of the student declined to comment for this article.

The student said his music does not reflect his true feelings, and that he has removed the Facebook page and music associated with the character.

“I do not want to feel unsafe at this college,” he wrote, “and I do not want any others to feel unsafe either.”

 

Correction, April 23: An earlier version of this article stated that Timbers said he and Manjang wanted to educate people on the use of racial slurs, and why they are not appropriate. In fact, Timbers said more generally that he hopes this issue helps to educate people about racial slurs—not that he and his partner wanted to teach people themselves.