“I was around some of my friends, and we just … we say dumb stuff together,” Wallen told Strahan. “And it was — in our minds, it’s playful … that sounds ignorant, but it — that’s really where it came from … and it’s wrong.”
The rising country star immediately issued an apology after the video went public.
“I’m embarrassed and sorry. I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back,” Wallen said in a statement at the time. “There are no excuses to use this type of language, ever. I want to sincerely apologize for using the word. I promise to do better.”
But there was still backlash, including his label suspending his recording contract indefinitely, radio pulling his music, his disqualification from some music awards shows and fellow artists like Maren Morris condemning the incident.
Wallen told Strahan it’s not a word he’s used frequently in the past, but had used it around certain friends prior to that night in January.
The artist said he didn’t have a clear understanding at the time.
“I think I was just ignorant about it,” he said. “I don’t think I sat down and was, like, ‘Hey, is this right or is this wrong?'”
Since then, Wallen said he’s tried to better educate himself and has had conversations with the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC), an organization created to battle racism in the music industry.
And he told Strahan he understands why the word is so hurtful to Black people.
“I don’t know how to put myself in their shoes because I’m not, but I do understand,” Wallen said. “Especially when I say I’m using it playfully or whatever, ignorantly, I understand that that must sound, you know, like, ‘He doesn’t understand.'”