Redbone – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Did your favorite rapper just reference a woman as a “redbone” in a track? What does that mean? Is it a racist term? This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The expression “redbone” refers to a woman of African-American descent with a light skin tone. Specifically, it relates to women with a reddish-brown skin tone. It’s similar to the term “yellow bone,” which means an African-American woman with the lightest skin tone possible.

Rap music popularized the expression, and the person responsible for its first use is an African-American. Therefore it would be incorrect to call it a racist term. However, “woke” people advocate that the term is offensive to African-American women and should be considered hate speech.

Example Usage

“I have a thing for redbone women. I love the color of their skin tone, it looks so exotic, and it drives me wild.”

“It’s interesting that you and your sister are so different. You have a much lighter skin complexion. Have people ever called you a redbone?”

“Do you know what a redbone is? It’s an African-American person with a light, reddish skin tone.”

“I was listening to this track by Lil’ Wayne, and he’s talking about a redbone. What on earth is that? Is he talking about a Native American person or what?”

“My mom is white, and my father is black. People say I’m a redbone because I have a light brown skin tone, but I don’t care what labels they place on me.”

“Why would you call a person a redbone? That sounds terribly racist. I feel like someone should charge you with hate speech.”

“Do you know the difference between a yellow bone and a redbone? The yellow bone has the lightest skin tone of African-Americans.”

“Yellow bone, redbone. It all sounds like a load of racist garbage to me.”


The expression “redbone” originates from the Southern United States in areas around Louisiana. The Cajun community would use ‘redbone” to describe women of mixed heritage, typically with Caucasian and African-American parents.

The rapper “Lil’ Wayne” popularized the expression in his 2012 track, “No Worries,” where the rapper utters the phrase as follows.

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

Lil’ Wayne uses the word to describe a woman of mixed heritage. According to the details of the song, she has a light, reddish skin tone that the rapper finds attractive.”

The term spread around the hip-hop community, with many other rappers using it in their lyrics. An example is Donald Glover, aka “Childish Gambino.” His track “Redbone” from his 2016 studio album “Awaken, My Love” broke multiple chart records.

BBC Radio 1 DJ, Annie Mac, was the first to play the song on air during her “Hottest Record” segment. The song talks about Gambino’s suspicions of his girlfriend’s loyalty. “Redbone” received nominations for Album and Record of the Year, Best Urban Contemporary Album, and Best R & R&B Song. Redbone won the Best Traditional R&B Performance at the Grammys that year.

Phrases Similar to Redbone

  • Yellow bone.

Phrases Opposite to Redbone

  • White.
  • Black.
  • Brown.
  • Asian.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Redbone.

Ways People May Say Redbone Incorrectly

The word "redbone" is not suitable for use by anyone outside of the African-American community. Like "yellow bone," it is somewhat of a racist term, even if it has origins in the African-American community. People from any other race may not use the word, or they could be charged with hate speech by the other person.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Redbone

You can use the expression "redbone" to describe an African-American person with a light skin tone that leans toward a reddish color. You can use the term if you have an African-American heritage. The phrase describes men and women and children.

However, it is a slang expression and doesn't appear in any formal language or conversation. If you use the term in, it's usually with a positive connotation and a reference to the other person's skin tone.

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