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Morgan Wallen used N-word in a 'playful' way, but says he was 'wrong' in first interview

·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
·3 min read
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Morgan Wallen sat down with Michael Strahan on Good Morning America where he discussed his use of a racial slur and the repercussions that followed. In the country star's first interview since the scandal, Wallen apologized for using the N-word, explaining he was "ignorant" to think he could say the word in a "playful" way.

Morgan Wallen reflects on his racial slur scandal, five months later.
Morgan Wallen reflects on his racial slur scandal, five months later. (Photo: Getty Images for ACM)

In January, Wallen was caught on tape saying the N-word and other expletives outside of his Nashville home. The footage was leaked to TMZ weeks later. The 28-year-old said on Friday's show had "some longtime friends in town" the night the video was taken, revealing at one point he was on "hour 72 of a 72-hour bender."

"How did this happen, out of nowhere?" Strahan pressed. "You just refer to someone with a racial slur?"

"No, I don't think it just happened. I was around some of my friends, and we just, we say dumb stuff together," Wallen replied. "And it was — in our minds, it's playful. I don't know, that sounds ignorant, but that's really where it came from. And it's wrong."

While Wallen denied using the N-word "frequently," he admitted to saying it around a "certain group of friends." As for this particular incident, the musician was talking to a friend's girlfriend, asking her to to take care of the guy because he was drunk. Wallen said he did not mean the term in a "derogatory" way. 

Strahan asked Wallen what made him think the word was ever an "appropriate" word to say. 

"I'm not sure, I think I was just ignorant about it," Wallen replied. "I don't think I sat down and was like, 'Hey, is this right or is this wrong?'"

Strahan gave the singer a mini-history lesson, revealing he has been called the derogatory term before. "Do you understand why it makes Black people so upset?" the anchor asked.

"I don't know how to put myself in their shoes because I'm not, you know?" he began, "But I do understand, especially when I say I'm using it playfully or whatever, ignorantly, I understand that that must sound, you know, like, 'He doesn't — he doesn't understand.'"

Wallen said he spoke with the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) after the controversy, an advocacy organization formed to address systemic racism within the music business, plus prominent Black members of the industry, like, Kevin Liles, Eric Hutcherson and BeBe Winans.

The singer also addressed personal issues. 

"I went and checked myself into rehab," he told Strahan. "For 30 days, I spent some time out in San Diego, California, you know, just tryin' to figure it out why am I acting this way? Do I have an alcohol problem? Do I have a deeper issue?"

Wallen was suspended from his record label in the wake of the scandal and deemed ineligible at multiple awards shows — but album sales skyrocketed. Dangerous: The Double Album, which was released on Jan. 8, spent 10 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. It's the highest-selling and streaming album of the year. 

"Before this incident my album was already doing well," Wallen said. "It was already being well-received by critics and by fans. Me and my team noticed that whenever this whole incident happened that there was a spike in my sales. So we tried to calculate what the number of — how much it actually spiked, you know, from this incident. We got to a number somewhere around $500,000, and we decided to donate that money to some organizations, BMAC being the first one."

Yahoo Entertainment reached out to BMAC for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Strahan asked Wallen if he believes there's a race problem in country music.

"I mean, it would seem that way, yeah," Wallen replied, adding, "I haven't really sat and thought about that."