The Meaning of Redbone: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of redbone? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word redbone, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the term redbone mean?

According to Urban Dictionary and Daily Rap Facts, the term redbone is used to refer to a light skinned African-American person who has light skin with red undertones. This is usually used to refer to an attractive black woman who might be mixed-race. Someone who is considered a redbone has red or pink undertones, compared to the term yellowbone, which is used to refer to a light-skinned black or mixed-race woman with yellow undertones to her skin. A yellowbone is usually considered the lightest of light-skinned black women. This term has been used by many different rappers, including Lil Wayne, childish Gambino, Big Sean, Rich Homie Quan, The Game, Frank Ocean and more. This slang term is commonly used by hip-hop and rap artists in numerous different songs. This term will most frequently be used by a black person talking about another black person, and is rarely used by white people.

There is one alternate definition of the term redbone, which is nearly obsolete due to the popularization of the slang term. According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary, the term redbone can also be used to refer to different breeds of coonhounds that have a solid, dark red coat. These dogs are usually agile, speedy, and originate in the United States. 

What is the origin of the term redbone?

The term redbone originated in Louisiana. Here, it was used as a Cajun term for a mixed-race woman. The rapper Lil Wayne has popularized the term redbone. The most popular usage of this term is in the 2012 Lil Wayne song “No Worries,” in which he raps the below phrase:

“Yeah that’s Tunechi right there, Redbone mangos right there.”

In this context, he is using the term Redbone to refer to an attractive medium to light-skinned black or mixed-race woman. This term has also gained popularity form Donald Glover, also known as Childish Gambino. According to Story of Song, he has a track called “Redbone” from his 2016 album Awaken, My Love! This song has broken multiple different chart records. This track was originally released by Annie Mac, a BBC Radio 1 DJ in her segment “Hottest Record.” In the song, Gambino addresses his suspicions about his lover and her loyalty to him. According to Grammy, the song “Redbone” was nominated for Record of the Year, Album of the Year (for Awaken, My Love!), Best R&B Song, and Best Urban Contemporary Album (for Awaken, My Love!) The track won the award for Best Traditional R&B Performance. 

This song features heavy usage of the term stay woke, which is used to encourage listeners to have political and social awareness. This song was produced by Ludwig Göransson, who states that the song began with childish Gambino on drums and was heavily influenced by the 1970s psychedelic funk band Funkadelic. A selection of lyrics from the song are below, from Genius

Daylight

I wake up feeling like you won’t play right

I used to know, but now that shit don’t feel right

It made me put away my pride

So long

You made a nigga wait for some, so long

You make it hard for a boy like that to go wrong

I’m wishing I could make this mine, oh

If you want it, yeah

You can have it, oh, oh, oh

If you need it, ooh

We can make it, oh

If you want it

You can have it

But stay woke

Niggas creepin’

They gon’ find you

Gon’ catch you sleepin’ (Oooh)

Now stay woke

Niggas creepin’

Now don’t you close your eyes

Too late

You wanna make it right, but now it’s too late

My peanut butter chocolate cake with Kool-Aid

I’m trying not to waste my time

If you want it, oh

You can have it, you can have it

If you need it

You better believe in something

We can make it

If you want it

You can have it, aaah!

How can the term redbone be used in a sentence?

The term redbone is most commonly used to refer to a light-skinned African-American or mixed-race woman who has red or pink undertones to her skin. This word can also be used to refer to the Childish Gambino track of the same name. However, this term is most commonly used by people to discuss black or mixed-race women with light to medium red-toned skin. In this example, Ray and John are discussing a woman that Ray met on an online dating app.

Ray: We’ve been talking for a couple weeks, and we’re supposed to get dinner on Saturday.

John: Nice! Is there a picture I can see?

Ray: Sure, here she is. 

John: Wow, she’s really pretty. Is she full black?

Ray: I dunno, she might be mixed, we haven’t gotten into that.

John: Yeah, she’s probably a redbone. She’s beautiful, dude. Congrats..

Ray: Thanks! I’m excited to meet her.

In this contect, John uses the term redbone to refer to the woman that Ray is going to go out on a date with. She has lighter skin, so he wonders if she is mixed-race.

Overall, the term redbone is used to refer to a light-skinned attractive black woman who has red undertones to her skin. This term is often used by rap artists and hip-hop artists in numerous different songs. The term was first popularized by rapper Lil Wayne, and further rose to popularity by the Atlanta-based rap artist Childish Gambino, also known as Donald Glover. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/redbone
  2. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=redbone
  3. https://dailyrapfacts.com/11375/what-is-a-redbone/
  4. https://storyofsong.com/story/redbone/
  5. https://genius.com/Childish-gambino-redbone-lyrics
  6. https://www.grammy.com/grammys/artists/childish-gambino/18365