Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bad-ass nigger n.

[bad-ass adj. (2) + nigger n.1 (1)]

(US black) an aggressive, tough black man who rejects the constraints and humiliation of the role the white authorities have selected for him.

[US](con. 1920s–30s) J.O. Killens Youngblood (1956) 23: He heard a loud-mouthed cracker say — ‘Here’s that baaad nigger. We git through with him his pee gon be like water. We sure got what it takes for a bad-ass nigger’. [Ibid.] 37: Joe looked down into Mr. Pete’s fat face. Where had he heard those words before? Bad ass nigger. Smart ass nigger— [...] Control yourself Joe. Don’t get in no trouble with white folks.
[US]Andrews & Owens Black Lang. 24: Ass has three or more distinct meanings in the phrases A Good Ass, The Bad Ass Nigger, The Big Ass Man, and The Fine Ass Broad.
Coombs & Fry Socialization in Drug Abuse 118: Negroes may refer to him as ‘a bad-ass nigger.’ And Italians call him ‘a guy with a pair of balls.’ But across the boards, he is a stand-up cat.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 228: bad-ass(ed) nigger 1. Troublemaker. 2. Fighter. 3. Hot-tempered person. 4. General reference to a male who mistreats or demeans another, especially a female.
J. Lansdale By Bizarre Hands 15: Here I’m still the nigger, but I’m THE NIGGER, the bad ass nigger, and no matter what these peckerwoods call me, they know it.
[US]R.P. McNamara Times Square Hustler 39: Oak is a badass nigger who looks like a fuckin’ oak tree.
‘Ed McBain’ Eight Black Horses 3: It’s the bad-ass nigger you gotta watch out for.