I’m a Nicki Minaj fan. I’m not a super fan — I didn’t follow her when she was still underground and all that — but I enjoy her music and vibe with her "no BS" attitude.
This past weekend, Nicki fired back at Farrah Abraham, a Teen Mom cast member, starting yet another celebrity Twitter feud.
As bad as it might be to say this, I loved it. Nicki Minaj has been known to call out what doesn’t sit well with her. Her clapbacks directed at MTV, Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus this summer were widely seen. She spoke about demanding her orgasm and explained why modern cultural appropriation can be upsetting for black women.
I admire her fearlessness. I appreciate that she has expectations and does not settle for less. I love that she lets no one slut-shame her. She’s like my inner voice. She says what she feels and she states it eloquently. She has a platform and uses her celebrity to discuss the things that matter to her. She might not be the queen of feminism — that title would go to Audre Lorde, bell hooks or Angela Davis, of course — she’s opinionated, interesting and doesn't let anyone silence her. It’s nice to hear celebrities with that much influence speak about things that matter.
You might not agree with me, but at a time when people deny the existence of male privilege, tone police like there’s no tomorrow, pretend they’ve never heard of cultural appropriation and tout the idea of “reverse racism,” Nicki Minaj is often just what I need: a courageous black woman who won't let anyone or anything stop her. She’s quick, witty and tough — all qualities that make for a great superhero, as far as I'm concerned. ...
At her concert a few weeks ago, Taylor Swift, a Horcrux for white mediocrity, invited new hip-hop sensation Fetty Wap on stage to perform his hit record “Trap Queen” with her. This just added another item to the long list of things Taylor Swift has done to annoy me.
Unfortunately, because of Twitter, Vine and Instagram, sites that thrive off of exposing the bizarre happenings of the celebrity world, I bore witness to this performance. Despite Swift singing loudly and off-key and dancing awkwardly (as she does at every awards show), my main concern was Fetty Wap’s presence at her concert in the first place.
Hip-hop and the blackness associated with it is tokenized in white pop culture by artists who otherwise ignore the complexities and challenges embedded in black culture. Swift is an obvious example of this harmful trend.
She wants a peek inside of the fun of hip-hop and rap, but shies away from the social, economic and political realities expressed within the music. Swift uses her veil of "I’m-just-an-innocent-white-girl-with-a-guitar-and-a-basic-singing-voice" to shield herself against conflict and controversy with the creators of the same black music she uses as a prop at her concerts. Last year, she took pictures of Jay-Z and Beyoncé at her birthday party, seemingly in an effort to ratchet up her cool points. Yet in 2009 Swift played victim to Kanye’s epic interruption speech at the VMAs, where he hinted at the racism that allowed Swift to beat Beyoncé for the Video of the Year award. Swift wants Beyoncé as a “friend,” but would never publicly acknowledge how her own privileges, afforded to her through whiteness and white femininity, hurt black female artists such as Beyoncé. In fact, Swift is clearly still preoccupied with the “Imma let you finish...but” moment, as she whined about it again at this year’s VMAs when she presented Kanye with the Video Vanguard award. It’s like the girl can’t let anything not be about her.
Leading up to the award show, we all saw how Swift incompetently handled Nicki Minaj’s criticism of MTV for not nominating her viral video “Anaconda” for Video of the Year. On Twitter, Minaj asserted that black women are often under-recognized for their art, particularly when compared to white women who get famous from mocking our culture. Instead of using Minaj’s expression of her concerns as a teaching moment, Swift became defensive and called for some sort of shared sisterhood — a tactic white feminists often use to undermine black women when we bring attention our oppression.
Again, the annoyance I find with all of this is that Swift lives for the culture and music that black people create, yet couldn’t give a damn about our problems. Swift bobs her head to Kendrick Lamar’s albums, publicly proclaims her affinity for his music and even invites him to give a guest verse on one of her songs, but does not utter a word about the tragedies and hardships outlined in his lyrics.
Greg Tate, an African-American academic who writes about traditionally black music and the patterns of appropriation calls this phenomenon “everything but the burden.” Essentially, white people love to take on the rebellious and enjoyable aspects of black culture but leave the struggle and pain that created those feelings behind.
The Fetty Wap incident took this to an entirely new level. This time, Swift was not just rejecting the burden, she was mocking it. Dancing and singing with Wap on stage to “Trap Queen” deftly underscored her fetishization of hip-hop culture and the blackness that undergirds it. Swift has probably never been to the trap and likely did not even know what the term meant until the popular song brought the phrase to the mainstream. Could Swift define any of the lyrics and references in “Trap Queen?” Does she know what “cooking pies" is and what Wap means when he says he introduced his girl to the "stove?"
I cringe even picturing her saying “bando” out loud.
A song like “Trap Queen” includes almost no aspects of a world that Swift can likely identify with or understand. So when she performs it on stage with its curator, the whole thing looks like a weird attempt to get Wap’s magical blackness to somehow rub off on her and permeate her vast whiteness. She uses Wap as a tool to appear hip — but still innocent. Still innocent enough to play the potential victim (both figuratively and literally) of a black man like Fetty Wap, if he were to ever interrupt her on an awards show stage or, heaven forbid, did not want to be her friend.
And therein lies the problem. Blackness is not a costume or a prop. It is not an elixir for lameness that white people can take in doses when they want to have fun. Being black has real consequences and comes with challenging lived experiences. So, if a person like Swift wants to interact with it, she better respect and try to understand it instead of treating the music and culture like a play thing.
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There were a lot of things that annoyed me about the VMAs this year; Miley Cyrus wearing dreads, Iggy Azalea performing, the list goes on. But the most upsetting and problematic thing was Rebel Wilson making a joke about police brutality.
For those that were fortunate enough to not watch the ceremony this year, Wilson came on stage wearing a police uniform. It was there and then that I knew I wouldn't like what was coming next. Instead of making a positive statement regarding police brutality, Wilson instead decided to make a joke on how she doesn't like police strippers. Then she proceed to take off her jacket and had a "F*** Tha Stripper Police" t-shirt. Of course, the joke didn't stop there and she even mentioned that "I hate this injustice, hence the shirt."
There are many things that made me uncomfortable with this joke. The fact that Wilson had the audacity to make the joke in the first place when almost every day another person of color is left dead on the streets. The fact that MTV thought it would be okay to have this joke aired live on their awards show. And the fact that people in the audience were laughing made everything even more unsettling.
The blatant disregard for Black bodies in this country is disgusting.
I have several questions for Rebel Wilson, MTV and the people laughing. Would you do the same if the parents of Mike Brown were in the room? Tamir Rice? Rekia Boyd? Aiyana Jones? Trayvon Martin? And the list is much longer and keeps growing. Would you do the same on the streets of Ferguson? In the midst of a Black Lives Matter protest? Honestly, would you?
The VMAs disgusted me in ways I couldn't even imagine. An awards show I used to love because of all the performances and corny but funny jokes it provided wound up leaving me angry. As I sit here angrily typing, trying to funnel all this anger into a semi-eloquent article, I fight back the tears as I think of those who have been killed. I fight back the tears as I realize all those that can still be killed. I fight back the tears knowing that one day something could happen and I wouldn't see my friends or family again. I fight back the tears knowing that one day I might not come back.
Police brutality is no laughing matter. As you laugh and joke, another person of color has been shot to the ground. would you laugh about that?
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The VMAs have always been a place for statements and entertainment. Amber Rose and Blac Chyna took the opportunity to make a statement on the Red carpet with graphic dresses.
In addition to being super feminist, they were also in the same building as KYLIE JENNER, NOTORIOUS FOR CULTURAL APPROPRIATION AND MEDIOCRITY.
In addition to being amazing, they'll be starring in their own television show, set to air later this year on MTV.
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The time has arrived for another MTV Video Music Awards and, as per usual, it was messy — like a real mess. Each year something happens that leaves us either gasping or debating whether or not to turn off the television and this year was no different. Below you will find a list of 14 moments from this year's VMAs that left us either shaking our heads or grabbing our seats!
1. When MTV aired a "White Squad" commercial...
2. When Nicki Minaj brought Taylor Swift on stage during her performance.
3. And then CALLED OUT MILEY CYRUS WHILE ACCEPTING AN AWARD.
4. And Miley looked like she was about to sh*t herself.
5. Justin Bieber crying.
6. Kanye getting LIT.
7. Like REAL LIT.
8. Kylie Jenner's "look"
9. Miley Cyrus being the host.
10. And everything she did — from her culturally appropriated hair...
11. to even using the term "mammy" during the award show.
12. When Iggy attempted to rap once again.
13. When Kanye gave his sermon...
14. And finished by announcing he's running for president in 2020 (wheeet?)
What moments caught your attention during the VMAs tonight? Let us know in the comments below.
Tomorrow night, Kanye West will receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the MTV Video Music Awards. While the relevance between MTV and music videos is debatable, this is one of the highest honors one can receive in pop culture today.
The first winners were David Bowie and The Beatles (at the time it was called the Lifetime Achievement Award). In the years since it was named after Michael Jackson (in 1991, he won the award in 1988) — it has been bestowed upon other pop cultural icons including Janet Jackson (1990), Madonna (1986), LL Cool J (1997), Hype Williams (2006) and Beyonce (2014). So it really is only fitting that Kanye receive one at some point.
Much has been said about him as an artist of late (musical artist, not clothing-and-shoe-designer artist). However, if you look at his entire body of work you cannot deny his talent and legacy to the world of music. So as MTV goes down the Ye memory lane, so do we to take a look back at our favorite versions of Kanye that we’d love to give an award to. In no particular order...
"Through the Wire" bridged a classic old-school track, with simple beats and hard-hitting lyrics. We felt for him and were all rooting for him to heal well and give us more. If he could be that talented in that state, what more was he capable of with the ability to actually open his mouth?
Imagine doing "five beats a day for three summers." How many people (other than those chronicled in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers) are that dedicated to perfecting their craft. The College Dropout was an exceptionally good album — selling khakis instead of drugs made him accessible and relatable to a whole group of people. It also gave us several classics that still go today.
Black Greek Kanye
Whether PWI or HBCU, "Broke Phi Broke" is a frat that all of us current or former students can definitely relate to. #PassTheRamenNoodles
Before there was Drake got huge, 808s & Heartbreak was the ultimate hip-hop emo album. Heartbreak never sounded so good. The auto-tuned-up Ye poured out liquor and his demons on this album. Some labeled it soft, but always the trendsetter, he lead the pack on the resurgence made popular by Zapp & Roger.
Musical Imagery Kanye
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is my personal favorite Kanye album and I consider this the best work of all of his albums. It has everything an album could have — it pleases the true hip-hop heads, gives you a little bit of pop culture, some social righteousness, a dash of grown and sexy and that swag that you associate with Kanye. I’m team Kanye and believe that the Grammys got it wrong that year.
BFF (aka smiling happy) Kanye
Jay and Ye. The dynamic duo from 200-how long. Women celebrate their sisterhood all the time, so there is something about the BFF relationship between these two black dudes that warms my heart. Kanye never smiles as wide as when he’s around his dude.
Kanye gave us Yeezus in 2013. It was avant-garde. It was edgy. It was different. It was... interesting. This definitely wasn't your old Ye. This was have your daughter baptized where Jesus was Ye. Sell the people a white tee for $200 Ye. As he grew and changed, so to did his music. But that’s the evolution of any artist, over a decade later his style and subject matter would differ from when he first started.
As we all take a trip down memory lane and play Songza channels that remind us of his production skills — we'd gladly go back in time to give those versions of Kanye awards that we (and probably he himself) think he deserves.
The VMAs premiere this Sunday, August 30 at 9/8c on MTV.
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In a recent New York Times interview, Miley Cyrus discussed this Sunday's upcoming VMAs as well as the past controversy surrounding the announcement of the awards show nominees over the summer. While the mainstream media attempted to paint the situation as a petty feud between singer Taylor Swift and rapper Nicki Minaj, their exchange ignited, yet again, a much-needed discussion about white feminism and the continued exclusion of black women from activist circles. "You made it about you," Cyrus said to Joe Coscarelli of the New York Times about Minaj's words. Cyrus further attempted to continue the conversation by offering guidance to the rapper by saying, "If you want to make it about race, there’s a way you could do that."
Of course, Cyrus's interview embodies the core tenements of white feminism: centering oneself in the middle of the discussion and attempting to police black women's diction while benefiting from the artistic and activist work they do daily. But her words (or lack thereof) also highlight something deeper and exceedingly common across American culture. Cyrus asserts that she "know[s] the statistics" and "what’s going on in the world," yet, she remains silent.
Cyrus, like many white liberals, maintain that they are socially conscious despite their complete lack of awareness of racial politics.
Something that's not discussed as vehemently is the racism and ignorance that exists on the left. So often, white liberals get a pass for their racial illiteracy. They absolve themselves from their part in white supremacy because they do not actively participate in the racism flagrant across Southern politics. Because they tend to vote on major issues with actual logic and facts versus anemic and so-called moral values, white liberals tend to deliberately dislodge themselves from racism. But their somewhat enlightened voting record does not absolve them from their active participation in white supremacy.
After Bernie Sanders was interrupted by activists Marissa Johnson and Mara Jacqueline Willard, there was a negative reaction from the left. While most denounced their disruptive actions, writing them off as unnecessary and disrespectful, many completely wrote off the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Their actions caused thousands of white liberals to vocally write off a movement born out of years of violence and domestic terrorism. What these phony allies do not understand is that movements like this, movements that are in direct confrontation with a system that America was founded on, require boisterous disruptions. They require holding up a highway during rush hour, to interrupt presidential candidates; because without these excessive intrusions, and due to the fact that white people regularly ignore the voices of black people, we suffer in silence.
Cyrus's intentional silence on the brutal and rampant killing of black bodies throughout the country reflects her real lack of concern and racial awareness. She can prance on television advocating for female public nudity, but she has nothing to say on the violence against black bodies. But Cyrus's actions and words reflects the culture wherein she is present most, one that frequently appropriates black culture but remains silent about the violence from the state black people are forced to experience from the cradle to the grave.
Being a white liberal does not automatically make a white person "woke." It does, however, automatically maintain a white person immune and ostensibly unconscious to the real and violent effects of white supremacy.
white silence is white consent.
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As Nicki Minaj began to expand on her commentary about the lack of VMA nominations for "Feelin' Myself" and "Anaconda", mainstream media took the usual route of reducing her comments to a "Twitter spat" and painting her in a negative light. Taylor Swift, demonstrating vapid mainstream white feminism at its finest by inserting herself into the conversation, only further derailed the reporting of her comments and ultimately centered the conversation about herself instead of Minaj.
In a response to a fan expressing adoration of her confidence, Minaj highlighted the fact that black women's contributions to pop culture are rarely rewarded.
Of course, before we could sit on this and discuss this actual problem that sits at the intersection of feminism, black women's agency, the perpetual fetishization of black women in the music industry and more, Taylor Swift inserted herself:
And the derailing and diminishing of Nicki's original discussion began...
Ryan Seacrest posted an original headline that stated Nicki Minaj was taking jabs at Taylor Swift, but she was never discussing Taylor Swift to begin with. Taylor inserted herself as you can see here:
Taylor went even further to extend an opportunity for Nicki to join the stage with her. (As if Nicki needs that or asked for it...) She, too, is missing the point and needs to have a seat:
By Taylor offering her two cents that no one asked for, their conversation was described as a Twitter beef by many popular news outlets and Nicki Minaj was associated with every negative connotation and image possible. Twitter users captured these "receipts" before they were deleted like Ryan Seacrest and Entertainment Weekly's tweets. Several prominent black female Twitter users reacted below:
Minaj went on to highlight how Seacrest was wrong for the headline he originally used and brought up the comparison of her accomplishments as an artist of color, compared to Taylor Swift and others, using the launch of Tidal (which was met with much criticism that Jay-Z eventually addressed) as an example:
As with much slander against Black women, unless these large publications are called out, particularly by someone of prominent stature, they will not acknowledge their mistakes or reverse what they have done. Janet Mock, renowned trans advocate, author of Redefining Realness and host of #SoPOPular on MSNBC called Entertainment Weekly for their negative portrayal of Nicki in their original tweet below:
Entertainment Weekly issued a statement and apology a few hours later for their initial coverage of the piece:
Of course, this isn't the first time a black woman made a comment that exposed an issue and was dismissed as an "angry black woman" in the media.
Several black women on Twitter attempted to discuss concerns about Nicki's comments, highlighting the violent implications of being seen as an "angry black woman."
EBONY.com senior editor, Jamilah Lemiuex, and Brittany Packnett, protester and organizer from Ferguson, commented on the connection between the murder of Sandra Bland and Nicki's comments.
What has been most interesting to me in the past 24 hours is that people are operating in the same way that white supremacy and patriarchy do, diminishing and dismissing her comments, further detracting from Nicki's core argument about the erasure of black women's contributions to pop culture.
One common sentiment is that "Feelin' Myself" was a TIDAL exclusive, so that's why it was not considered VMA eligible. I need receipts. My concern is not that her "TIDAL exclusive" video is not considered eligible for a VMA nomination simply because it was on TIDAL. I'm calling a flag on the play, because other artists, including Taylor Swift herself, have migrated their content from other digital platforms to TIDAL and have not suffered. I am certain that if these artists were concerned that their content existing on TIDAL would affect nominations from award shows such as the VMAs, they would not be using it either.
Other comments that I have read so far allude to the elephant in the room when it comes to Minaj and other artists like her. Nicki Minaj is not seen as a respectable black female artist in pop culture, and that is why you're not willing to come to her defense. She is not the type of black woman you're willing to stand behind. You don't understand how "Anaconda" shattered the respectable viewing lens we have of agency in hip-hop videos where video girls are normally silent and scantily clad. She knowingly and proudly proclaimed a desire for a spotlight and an anthem for curvy women to twerk to. To some, that's demeaning. And to many curvy women, including myself, it is empowering. "Anaconda" itself samples Sir Mix-A-Lot's song that bashes commonly-adored flatter posteriors and includes him repeatedly saying that he prefers big butts. Nicki took ownership of that very imagery every step of the way. Much like the backlash against Janelle Monae for taking a new direction with her latest record, "Yoga," you are being selective with what kind of feminism and what kind of black woman you want.
Blavity contributor Victoria Massie discussed the impact of silencing Nicki's sentiments coupled with the overwhelming influence of patriarchy and white supremacy and worded it perfectly:
"Pitting Nicki Minaj against Sandra Bland is a false dichotomy because both represent the very literal snubbing of black excellence. Maybe it is more palatable to see this in Bland because one of the ways we have grown accustomed to talking about how we are silenced [is] through police brutality. We see the revolutionary dimension of her righteous rage as she loudly and proudly articulates her rights and her unwavering fight for them to an ego driven and unnecessarily emasculated police officer. But so too was Minaj. She was making a broader point about the systemic ways black artists, especially black women, are denied their due for their influence in cultural production. However, white supremacist respectability blinders seduce us to not see the similarities. We continue to feed the formula of divide and conquer even though we should be bringing Bland and Minaj together in a fight that is both-and."
At the end of the day, both "Anaconda" and "Feelin' Myself" broke records and "stopped the world." As mentioned in this Saint Heron article, "Anaconda" broke viewership records for Vevo with 19.6 millions views in 24 hours. Nicki Minaj deserves respect and there's no reason that "Feelin' Myself" should have been snubbed completely at the 2015 VMAs. Our agency and voices as black women should not be silenced or erased in any sphere.
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Modern feminism has been a problematic movement since its inception. Starting in the first-wave, an overwhelming number of white women have discarded women of color in an attempt to create and maintain a world that benefits their own. While many believe this myopic ideology is becoming extinct, it seems to be ever-present, running rampant throughout mainstream white feminism.
In a string of tweets, Nicki Minaj charred MTV and the entire music industry for their lack of recognition of black female artists and their influence over the industry. After Taylor Swift attempted to "defend herself" from what she saw as an attack on her nomination, she utilized her recently learned feminism to criticize Minaj for her what she assumed to be divisive tactics. Those who have been curious as to whether or not Swift's feminism was spoonfed to her by problematic white feminists have their theories confirmed — it was. Her condescending response and quickness to center herself in a struggle black women are facing exemplifies the biggest problem with white feminism — the lack of intersectionality.
By definition, feminism focuses on social, political and economic equality for all women and men; that includes black women. While it might seem redundant to insist upon black women's place in feminism, it is necessary because of the constant denial we face.
The "isms" affecting black women are, at minimum, dual: sexism and racism.
So often, black feminists are urged by white feminists to check their race at the door, with white feminists insisting that sexism trumps racism. They are told that because of that, black women should direct most of their energy to fighting the patriarchy. However, black women are unable to physically divorce their identities. When we walk down the street, people don't just see a woman, they see a black woman. Because of that, we must fight against white supremacy and the patriarchy, two systems affecting both our pay and the stereotypes surrounding us. Despite the literature written on intersectionality, white feminism frequently overlooks the struggles black women face, showing minimal solidarity. Instead, they insist on branding feminism as something that is wholly theirs, void of major critique on racial injustice and racist discord.
Let me be clear, I don't think Taylor Swift is racist, I think she is a white feminist.
Taylor Swifts tweets are real examples of why #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen is not only needed, but relevant. White feminists seem to be more interested in freeing their nipples than a black woman's right to inquire why she is being arrested. As a collective unit, mainstream feminists don't vocally advocate for the right for black girls to live. Instead, they seem to be in a frenzy over the release of Amy Schumer's new movie.
Many have called for Swift's critics to lighten up, suggesting that there is no such thing as a perfect feminist. They are right, there is no such thing as a perfect feminist. However, being a "bad feminist" does not mean that you are allowed to ignore the struggles of black women. It does not mean that you can center your feelings in a discussion about a racist system that you benefit from. It does not mean that you can ignore the rampant police brutality aimed at the bodies of black women.
You don’t get to pick and choose which things you want equality in. If you are going to label yourself a feminist, you must advocate for equality for all, regardless of race.
This means freedom from homophobia, xenophobia, racism, sexism and classism. This means that you must push back against narratives that have a tendency to paint white women as victims and black women as jezebels, regardless of their crime. This means that you must advocate for the livelihood of transwomen who are so often overlooked by mainstream media because of transphobia.
We didn't ask for these systems of oppression to be created. But you [white feminists] asked to be a part of a movement that, by definition, is supposed to fight for all types of equality for all women. So stop being choosy of what you speak on and start embodying what feminism is all about.
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