John Mayer is now facing uncomfortable questions about a Playboy interview from 2010, one that delved heavily into racial issues.
As John Mayer steps back into the spotlight and prepares a new album release, an interview from more than a decade ago is rearing its ugly head. The interview with Playboy, published on May 1st, 2010, finds Mayer delving into a range of racial topics, specifically those centered on African-Americans, and at one point finds Mayer uttering the n-word. The interview itself is still online, and finds the racial slur fully spelled-out within the article.
Leading up to that section, Mayer explains that he can easily be considered a ‘douche bag,’ but that this also explains his appeal to black people. In response to the question, “If you didn’t know you, would you think you’re a douche bag?” Mayer says,
“It depends on what I picked up. My two biggest hits are ‘Your Body Is a Wonderland’ and ‘Daughters.’ If you think those songs are pandering, then you’ll think I’m a douche bag. It’s like I come on very strong. I am a very…I’m just very. V-E-R-Y. And if you can’t handle very, then I’m a douche bag. But I think the world needs a little very. That’s why black people love me.”
Asked to expand on the ‘very’ self-description, Mayer launches into this (note: the n-word appears in full in the Playboy interview):
“Someone asked me the other day, ‘What does it feel like now to have a hood pass?’ And by the way, it’s sort of a contradiction in terms, because if you really had a hood pass, you could call it a n—-r pass. Why are you pulling a punch and calling it a hood pass if you really have a hood pass? But I said, ‘I can’t really have a hood pass. I’ve never walked into a restaurant, asked for a table and been told, ‘We’re full.'”
That segues into an explanation by Mayer of how his “struggle is similar to one black dude’s”.
“What is being black?” Mayer continues. “It’s making the most of your life, not taking a single moment for granted. Taking something that’s seen as a struggle and making it work for you, or you’ll die inside. Not to say that my struggle is like the collective struggle of black America. But maybe my struggle is similar to one black dude’s.”
In response to the question ‘Do black women throw themselves at you?’ Mayer describes how he has a ‘David Duke cock’ when it comes to black women.
“I don’t think I open myself to it. My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock. I’m going to start dating separately from my dick.”
The decade-plus-old article predictably drew some negative reaction after its first publication. But it was then largely forgotten.
After getting roundly criticized for using the slur, Mayer quickly apologized. “Re: using the ‘N word’ in an interview: I am sorry that I used the word,” Mayer tweeted. “And it’s such a shame that I did because the point I was trying to make was in the exact opposite spirit of the word itself. It was arrogant of me to think I could intellectualize using it, because I realize that there’s no intellectualizing a word that is so emotionally charged.”
Mayer also pledged to tone down his future interviews and not ‘be so raw’. “While I’m using today for looking at myself under harsh light, I think it’s time to stop trying to be so raw in interviews,” Mayer continued. “It started as an attempt to not let the waves of criticism get to me, but it’s gotten out of hand and I’ve created somewhat of a monster. I wanted to be a blues guitar player. And a singer. And a songwriter. Not a shock jock. I don’t have the stomach for it.”
That largely put the matter to bed, back in 2010, though Mayer’s recent performance at the Grammys reignited the debate.
The blowback started on Twitter, with many fans and onlookers completely unaware that the interview had taken place. “Somehow, John Mayer’s career has gone largely unscathed, with no reconciliation between the man who wrote ‘Waiting on the World to Change’ and the one who compared himself to the grand wizard of the KKK,” wrote Popdust writer Langa. “But after his performance at the Grammys, Twitter started the long-delayed conversation about Mayer’s past.”
The Twitter ‘conversation’ wasn’t always polite. “I just read the John Mayer playboy interview today, so if I don’t text back, it’s because I have been throwing up ever since,” one person tweeted.
“Let’s talk about that Playboy interview @JohnMayer QUICKLY,” another blasted.
“Ah, just casually reading one of the most enlightening Playboy interviews confirming that John Mayer is, in fact, a racist douche,” another wrote. “Besides all that, I have so many questions like… why were Black women brought up so unprompted?”
Others defended the interview, in part because it’s more than ten years old.
Back in 2010, Mayer walked it off after an apology, something that may not have been possible in 2021. Just last month, country superstar Morgan Wallen was filmed uttering the n-word outside his residence in Nashville. Wallen also issued an apology, but not before getting banned by nearly every radio station in America. Wallen was also canceled by Spotify, Apple Music, Sirius XM, Pandora, William Morris Endeavor, and the Country Music Awards, among others.
Since the incident in early February of this year, Spotify has partially reinstated Wallen to a number of country playlists, and a sprinkling of radio stations have reincorporated the artist into its on-air playlists. But Wallen remains ineligible to receive a Country Music Award, despite record-setting album sales this year. He also remains missing from Spotify’s top country playlist, Hot Country.