Popular Nigerian-American hip-hop artist Jidenna has started a firestorm on Twitter over hoteps.
He tweeted, “Hoteps are one of my top 5 enemies” on Nov. 29. The next day he tweeted, “White supremacists & hoteps have a lot in common including anti-semitism, homophobia, anti-feminism, & rape culture denial. Both treat blk women like Earth’s #1 disposable, matriarchal bitch but only 1 does so while calling them queens. We can do better.”
The tweets caused Black America to pull on Twitter.
The word “hotep” is an Egyptian word that means “at peace.” It’s often used in Egypt to ask “What’s good?” But the word’s definition has morphed in the U.S.
It’s used frequently by Black Americans who happen to be more Afrocentric. It has also developed a negative connotation.
Over the past decade or so, the working definition of “hotep” has become an all-encompassing term describing a person “who’s either a clueless parody of Afrocentricity…or someone who’s loudly, conspicuously and obnoxiously pro-Black but anti-progress,” The Root reported.
Others argue that the word “hotep” shouldn’t be used as an insult. Those who use the word negatively “either do not know what the term means or they know and are deliberately trying to demean African history and culture,” according to Huffington Post contributor and author Dwayne Wong (Omowale).
Wong refuted The Root’s definition of the word, saying, “some of the writers at The Root are especially at fault for helping degrade the term hotep.”
“As African people, we have been subjected to having our history and culture degraded, distorted, and destroyed for centuries now,” Wong wrote. “The people who have bastardized what ‘hotep’ means are contributing to that problem.”
Wong claimed instead that “the term ‘hotep’ should be associated with its rightful origin, rather than being used in a derogatory manner. The real hoteps were great thinkers and great rulers, not the fools and frauds that some of us are trying to associate the term hotep with,” he wrote.
A 2016 op-ed piece in AfroPunk also complained about the misuse of the term “hotep.” Using it as an insult, The Race Card wrote, is anti-Black.
“The term connects Afrocentricity, one’s emphasis on African culture, to chauvinism. It utilizes a Black person’s pursuit to understand African culture and ultimately the understanding of self as a foundation for the insult. Would a ‘hotep’ joke be funny without references to the ankh, Maat, incense and African clothing? The joke cannot exist without taunting Blackness,’ the op-ed stated. “In its nature, the word ‘hotep’ is anti-Black. It is a historically positive African word changed into a negative insult that is used to degrade Black people with Afrocentric symbology.”
Jidenna was born in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, to a Nigerian father from the Igbo tribe. Jidenna grew up in Nigeria until he was 6 years old, when the family returned to the U.S., according to Legit.
Signed to Janelle Monáe’s Wondaland Records label, Jidenna released two singles — “Classic Man” and “Yoga,” a duet with Monáe — in 2015. His debut album, “The Chief” was released in 2017 and peaked at No. 38 on the Billboard 200. His song “Classic Man” was nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 2016 Grammy Awards. Jidenna received an award for Best New Artist at the 2015 Soul Train Music Awards.
Jidenna’s hotep tweets triggered swift response on Twitter.
Activist and filmmaker Tariq Nasheed, tweeted, “A lot of these non-FBA tethers use ‘hoteps’ as a code word 4 Foundational Black Americans who are conscious. Thats who their criticism is directed towards. This is a way to deflect from the fact that they come from countries that still do things like forced female circumcisions”.
Filmmaker-photographer Stepping Razor tweeted, “Hotep” has taken on a completely new meaning. It’s a way for people to call Black folks ‘n*ggers’ and get away with it. Classist and racist”.
One user tweeted, “I’m down with #ADOS, but this dude don’t get to take shots at my Hoteps, my Muurs, or my Israelites without a response.”
Another lashed out, “Why are you so hotephobic bruh what’d we do to you?
One tweeter tried to school Jidenna by writing, “You are misinformed, my brother. Hotep means peace. Ur energy should be directed at the US govt that locks up 1.2 million Black men  and creates death and destruction all over Africa  to facilitate the theft of African resources.”
Another user fiercely defended hoteps by posting, “Be advised: Anyone that propagates the idea that Hotep is in ANY WAY a negative term, is an enemy of the advancement of BLK society. Screenshot this, I predict it will matter later.”
This is not the first time Jidenna has come under fire. He has spoken out against what he perceived as attacks against him because of his light-skin. During a 2015 interview with Vlad TV, the artist said that as a light-skinned Igbo man, he is often the target of armed robbers in Nigeria, where people perceive him as wealthy.
“Our family was light. Therefore when we go to our village, and when I actually buried my father, I had to bring a lot of AK47s. I had to employ military commandos… Because when you’re light-skinned, you’re a heavier target for being kidnapped,” he said. “You’re seen as more valuable. You’re seen as white, therefore you have money. You’re American, therefore you have more money. If you have more money you’re easy to kidnap, and if you’re easy to kidnap we’re going to get you. So for me being light-skinned in Nigeria, in our family, it was difficult.”
These remarks drew criticism from Nigerians online, who complained that Jidenna painted Nigeria in an unflattering and untrue light as violent, dangerous, and money-obsessed, The Huffington Post reported.
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Jidenna responded to the backlash with an open letter to Nigerians, writing, “I am, always have been, and always will be proud of my Nigerian heritage.”
He added, “My comments about skin tone were related to the notion of perceived wealth and value, not my personal beliefs. My point was never to imply that biracial or ‘light-skinned’ people are the only ones or the most targeted group of people kidnapped, or that I myself was wealthy at the time. Rather than focus on my perceived value, let us continue to focus on the value of Nigeria.”
In a 2019 interview with The Breakfast Club, he said “… the reason why Nigerians are known for scamming is not because we are bad people. It’s because we’re smarter than a lot of people,” The Guardian reported.
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