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'Queen' And The Hypocrisy Of Nicki Minaj's Feminism

Through projecting and proclaiming her spot in the rap game while tearing others down, Nicki Minaj’s 'Queen' rollout and aftermath have been anything but royal.

Through projecting and proclaiming her spot in the rap game while tearing others down, Nicki Minaj’s 'Queen' rollout and aftermath have been anything but royal.

 

Webster’s Dictionary defines feminism as the advocacy of women’s rights based on the notion that both women and men can be equal in all aspects. A woman, man or whatever gender a person identifies with—who believes they are a feminist—not only fights for the political, social and economic equality of the sexes, but also does not discriminate, pass judgment on or belittle others—especially other women.

There’s comical irony in the fact that Nicki Minaj’s fourth studio album, Queen, appears to be rooted in the grounds of empowerment, despite the New York-bred rapper and her band of followers the Barbz throwing their fair share of ninja stars towards young women who dare critique her. Additionally and unsurprisingly, Minaj sends shots at her female rap contemporaries in an effort to secure her status on wax.

On the Swae Lee-accompanied “Chun Swae,” Nicki revealed that the album was called Queen not to uplift others, but to uplift herself, as she’s the self-proclaimed queen of the game. “You're in the middle of Queen right now, thinking ‘I see why she called this sh*t Queen, This b**ch is really the f**king Queen,’” she maniacally cackles.

While the latter declaration is probably true to her and her fans, it’s not surprising in the slightest that her album features numerous attempts to reclaim her title by berating other “b**ches,” “c***s” and “h**s” in the rap and hip-hop realm. Despite the high point of having a Foxy Brown feature on “Coco Chanel,” there are multiple songs and lyrics perceived as digs at fellow femcees like “LLC” and “Hard White” (plus, Foxy is likely the only female rapper Nicki hasn’t ever had a problem with).

More recently than ever, Minaj’s insecurities with herself and other women seem to be oozing out, likely due to the extreme onslaught of attention-grabbing female rappers emerging in conversations. Her public display of what she believes “Queendom” is seems to be compromised whenever these insecurities come into play.

Not only has she shown time and time again that she’s not above tearing women down when critiqued or questioned, she also encourages others to do the same. “Queen Radio”-Beats1-celebrity-empowerment-powwow-and-female-musical-guests be damned. This album could have stuck better had she attempted to uplift other women in some way instead of projecting and proclaiming the same “I’m the best” notion she always projects and proclaims as a means of validation.

"Every two years I get told about some new female rapper,” she told TIDAL’s Elliott Wilson during a recent CRWN interview. “To me, it's silly to compare me to women because there's no woman that can put up the stats that I've generated."

In May of this year, Minaj detailed on Twitter that the inspiration for her album was Princess Diana, whom she said she admires. “Queen THE ALBUM ~ It’s the strength that causes the confusion and fear,” she wrote of Diana, who in her lifetime displayed grace and courage in the eyes of adversity while helping many others. However, Nicki’s brash behavior on social media shows that feminism is the last thing on her mind.

We were forewarned by her Minajesty's rap world nemesis Remy Ma about her behavior. During a visit to The Wendy Williams Show last year, she explained that the musician was doing “behind-the-scenes” shady dealings to keep Remy out of the public eye shortly after the Bronx rapper dropped her scathing Nicki-pointed diss track “shETHER."

“When you’re trying to stop my bag, when you’re trying to stop me from taking care of my children, then I have a problem with that,” Remy revealed. Musicians such as Azealia Banks, Miley Cyrus, Lil Kim and more have also voiced their disdain with the femcee in the past.

“[Nicki] did what she did, and until she’s ready— hopefully God puts it on her mind to do the right thing, ’cause she knows what she did,” the Queen Bee said of Nicki in a recent interview with LA’s Real 92.3. "Once that happens, hopefully everybody would stop asking me [about her].”

As it’s been documented all-too-well in the news, culture writer Wanna Thompson tweeted a constructive critique regarding the desire for more mature music from Minaj back in June. Later on, Thompson notified the Twittersphere that she was sent a vicious DM from the rapper, and received a barrage of threats from her band of loyal followers.

“Eat a d**k you hatin’ a** h**,” wrote the “Barbie Tingz” musician in the DM, before listing songs in her catalogue with more adult vibes. “...Just say you jealous. I’m rich, famous, intelligent, pretty and go! But wait, leave my balls. Tired of you sucking on them,” she continued. The standom’s threats were reportedly so bad that Thompson was forced to put her Twitter profile on private.

Sure, the age-old adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” applies to anyone who makes comments about someone else behind the shield of a computer screen. However, for someone as successful as Nicki Minaj is, what good comes from being immediately defensive once any sort of critique comes into play?

Among the Minaj-written clapbacks found under photos on her Instagram towards women who dare to make negative comments about her? “Must suck to be so jealous, miserable, insecure and ugly;” “you too pressed, too mad, too ugly & forehead too big;” and “you look like a raccoon with a receding hairline.”

The feminism she wants to portray seemingly becomes a facade when she resorts to childishly belittling other women based on their appearance and success as means to validate her fame, fortune and talents. A true feminist wouldn’t turn feminism on and off like a lightswitch when it fits a narrative.

Nicki’s issues with being critiqued don’t just come into play when other women criticize her. In a recent interview with Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex, Nicki stated that whenever she’s criticized for her work, she immediately jumps on defense, regardless of who is the critic.

"I'm never mad when people give me constructive criticism..I accept things like that," she told the host. "I have an issue when the criticism seems like it's personal or from a bad place, and since I know so many things that are going on behind the scenes that other people don't know. I know there's a lot of people getting paid to voice those opinions." Earlier this year, she also told fans in a now-deleted tweet to “Go beat dat ni**a like he stole smthn” in reference to a young man named Jerome Trammel who called her lyrics “hypocritical.”

Minaj resorting to being childish and cruel towards others when critiqued makes her seem incredibly phony, especially when she tries to promote empowerment from time to time. Because of her insecurities, she tears others down in order to build herself up, something that’s been occurring for quite some time, but has taken a head during the Queen era. Critiques and competition come with the territory of being in the industry you chose.

Earlier this year, Minaj announced a joint tour with Future to support the Queen album. It was later revealed that controversial Brooklyn musician Tekashi 6ix9ine would be joining the NickiHndrxx Tour as an opening act for select dates. Wouldn’t you think that if there’s an album coming out called Queen, that the musician attached to said album would want to bring another femcee on board, and not a young man convicted of and potentially awaiting sentencing for using an underage girl in a sexual performance?

“You can say whatever you wanna say about [Tekashi], I saw something in him that made me really like him,” she told Rob Markman in a Genius talk during the wee hours of Aug. 16. “I’m paying it forward...he’s not perfect, he’s not...the most lyrical person, but there’s stuff that’s dope about him.”

Despite his "talents and personality," this is a slap in the face.

It’s a slap in the face to female rappers like Maliibu Miitch, Asian Doll and Kash Doll, budding superstars who likely would have jumped at the chance to go on tour with a musician who has applauded each of them in the past.

It’s also a slap in the face towards her female fans as a whole. Tekashi is a pretty popular act (so I’ve heard), and by bringing him along, it proves that Nicki is more invested in money and publicity than she is about protecting young women, given his conviction of using a minor in a sex act. Granted, she’s had other women open up for her on tour in the past, such as Dej Loaf and Tinashe, but if she were to leave a seat at the table open for a female artist to join her on the road, this fall’s NickiHendrxx surely would have been the best opportunity.

While she hasn’t been the poster child for feminism, Minaj has had a few moments in the past where she’s made attempts to uplift other women. During her sit-down interview with Zane Lowe of Beats 1 at the top of this year, she praised the work of Azealia Banks and Cardi B. Then, of course, 2014 gave us her body-positivity anthem, "Anaconda."

“I wanted to say, ‘Hey ladies, you’re beautiful,’” Minaj told ABC News of her high-charting hit and its underlying meaning of body positivity amongst the voluptuous women of the world. “Hopefully, this changes things and maybe it won’t change things, but I love it.” Lastly, in 2015, Nicki spoke out against the media when she believed she was shut out of the MTV VMA category for “Video Of The Year” because of her undeniable thiccness.

“If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year,” she tweeted. Given her platform, it’s fine for Nicki to be empowering through body positivity and to speak out about issues that black women in particular face in many industries. However, it’s not okay to pick and choose what type of feminist to be when it’s convenient, and it’s especially not okay to tear down someone less successful (or someone you don’t know) whenever you feel threatened.

Being as transcendent and important an artist as she is, Nicki Minaj should be above the petty social media nonsense by this point in her career. However, no superstar, regardless of the success they’ve accumulated, should be above uplifting and supporting women to be their very best. There’s far more to feminism than empowering others to embrace their sexuality, and if she’s going to base an entire album on the power of “queendom,” she ought to practice what she preaches.

READ MORE: Is Nicki Minaj Being Held To A Different Standard Of Artistic Growth?

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Jay Z at the Roc Nation and NFL Partnership Announcement at Roc Nation on August 14, 2019 in New York City.
Kevin Mazur

‘Inspire Change?’ NFL's Super Bowl PSAs Only Inspire More Skepticism

It’s been a few months into the NFL’s controversial “Inspire Change” initiative, a promotion by the league to highlight the Player’s Coalition and its work to address social issues. “Inspire Change” officially launched last year, (to “nurture and strengthen community through football and music,” said official statements) with the league’s partnership with Roc Nation expected to guide much of the outreach and voice.

"With its global reach, the National Football League has the platform and opportunity to inspire change across the country," Jay-Z said via press release back in August. "Roc Nation has shown that entertainment and enacting change are not mutually exclusive ideas -- instead, we unify them. This partnership is an opportunity to strengthen the fabric of communities across America."

The first “Inspire Change” ad featured the Botham Jean Foundation, and focused on the Jean family and their reaction to Botham’s 2018 death at the hands of Dallas police officer Amber Guyger. Jean’s murder, in which Guyger shot the 26-year-old as he sat in his apartment after saying she’d believed it was her own, drew international attention. The subsequent trial and conviction of Guyger drew derision and criticism after the former officer was sentenced to ten years (with parole eligibility in five) amidst hugs from the prosecuting judge and official statements from the family that focused on forgiveness.

“He just loved people and he was very particular about the company he kept. So I felt he was not in harm’s way,” his mother, Allison Jean, says during the video.

The NFL debuted the Jean ad online in late January to a mixed reception, and a new ad was shown during Super Bowl LIV. In the new ad, former 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin is heard speaking about what happened to his cousin, Corey Jones, on the night of October 18, 2015. That night, Jones was shot and killed in Florida by a plainclothes police officer as Jones was stuck on the side of the road with car trouble.

“I was still playing with the 49ers and my wife walks up after the game and told me that my cousin Corey had been killed. Corey broke down on the side of the road and a plain clothed police officer pulled up. Then this guy starts screaming. All you hear from there is three shots.”

Both ads focus on family and loss: the first clip features footage of Botham Jean’s brother hugging his convicted murderer in court as Jean’s mother and father talk about forgiveness. In the second ad, Jones’ father tearily asks “Why? Why’s my son gone today? Why?” The human toll of these crimes is front-and-center, but as far as the institutions that have created this reality for so many non-white people in America, they’re comparatively peripheral in these clips. The word “police” is never uttered, and while the tagline is “We’re all in this together,” there is nothing on screen to suggest racism is the common enemy. It’s cozy to posit that “we” are the solution, but what’s the point if I don’t have the fortitude to declare that you are the problem?

When Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL was announced just before the start of the 2018-2019 NFL season, many saw it was a mogul putting business before social justice. After all, the league had kept Colin Kaepernick on the sidelines for three years, and Jay supposedly supported Kaep and his protest—so why get in bed with the league that had effectively blackballed the quarterback? There didn’t seem to be any benefit in Roc Nation partnering with the NFL—outside of the NFL being able to save some face after losing some fans because of the treatment of Kaepernick. Working with a mogul who, in recent years, has become a symbol of Woke™ Celebritydom, could go a long way towards softening the league’s image as one that defers to good ol’ boyism. The most skeptical saw the initiative as a chance for the NFL to score cool points while using Jay-Z’s brand to do it. And with these new ads, those cynics have been proven right.

The hope behind these ads is that they will inspire the more ambivalent or right-leaning members of the NFL’s viewing audience to take up the cause that the league itself effectively punished Colin Kaepernick for protesting. That side of the NFL’s audience has made it clear that it does not commiserate with Kaepernick or his cause, but these ads are supposed to be what sways them. These ads are supposed to start a conversation. Roc Nation also pressed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to commit $100 million to social justice outreach, and Jay-Z has emphasized that he did not do this deal for anything other than a chance to use the platform to raise awareness on the issues.

It’s a stance that Jay has been voicing since that first announcement in August. “As long as real people are being hurt and marginalized and losing family members, then yes, I can take a couple rounds of negative press,” Jay said this week in an interview with The New York Times. He also said that he feels for what’s happened with Kaepernick (a workout this fall turned into a debacle for all parties involved), but he feels that what Roc Nation is doing is pushing things forward.

“No one is saying he hasn’t been done wrong. He was done wrong. I would understand if it was three months ago. But it was three years ago and someone needs to say, ‘What do we do now — because people are still dying?’

“We didn’t say, ‘Let’s go make some money off the N.F.L.’”

Nonetheless, the NFL’s “Inspire Change” campaign feels more like a big-budget facelift for a league that still struggles with who it is and who it wants to sell itself to; as opposed to a lucrative corporation finding its conscience. In 2016, famed director Spike Lee was hired as a “consultant” for the NYPD when the department wanted to create initiatives to “build trust with minority communities.” Roc Nation’s cosign amidst the “Inspire Change” campaign feels like a similar maneuver from the NFL. These ads stoke emotion without indictment, evoking the murders of Botham Jean and Corey Jones at the hands of police officers, but focusing on sentimentality and not how and where reformation is needed. Jay has become someone who wears his “activist celebrity” tag on his sleeve, but how do moguls truly benefit causes? From his role in Barclays Center and the gentrification that accompanied its opening, to his deal with Barneys--can he truly occupy both worlds? Jay-Z wants Roc Nation's work with the NFL to push people to act, for everyone to see themselves in these victims. But the NFL can’t soft soap this and expect anyone to take any of this seriously. You can’t truly “inspire change” with post-woke pandering—or by helping conglomerates save face.

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Shakira performs onstage during the Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Shakira's Cultural Homages During The Super Bowl Halftime Show Deserve A Standing Ovation

Now that the glitter and fireworks have settled in Miami after Jennifer Lopez and Shakira's Super Bowl Halftime performances, the ladies are getting their just due props for incorporating Latinx, Arabic, and black/African culture into their sets.

Shakira's homages were the most prominent Sunday (Feb. 2) with many mocking her "tongue-wagging" which was a nod to her Lebanese roots. Known as zaghrouta, the act is one of celebration and joy often done to express gleeful emotions at weddings and graduations. The 43-year-old (Sunday was her birthday) was born and raised in Barranquilla, Colombia, by her Lebanese father and Spanish/Italian mother. The singer, whose name is Arabic for "grateful," has talked about her mixed heritage and how it played a big role in her music and performances (think her iconic Bellydancing or her punk-rock era).

“I am a fusion. That’s my persona. I'm a fusion between black and white, between pop and rock, between cultures — between my Lebanese father and my mother’s Spanish blood, the Colombian folklore and Arab dance I love and American music," she told Faze Magazine in the early aughts. "I was born and raised in Colombia, but I listened to bands like Led Zeppelin, the Cure, the Police, The Beatles, and Nirvana. I was so in love with that rock sound but at the same time because my father is of 100 percent Lebanese descent, I am devoted to Arabic tastes and sounds."

 Zaghrouta was heard loud and clear during her performance of the 1998 classic “Ojos Así," which is also one of the few songs in her catalog to feature Arabic on it. She also tapped Afro-Colombian dancer Liz Dany Campo Diaz to help incorporate champeta into her performance. A dance from her hometown, the moves are traced back to African ancestors. It also has a similar groove to South African pantsula dance routines which some may remember from Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)" music video.

Btw this dance is called Champeta and it is originated in Shakira’s hometown of Branquilla Colombia! It’s respected for its footwork and it’s an important part of Colombian culture 💃🏼 pic.twitter.com/JtcLsl9sm9

— SHAKIRABOWL2020 (@Exmotions) February 3, 2020

The singer also danced to another Afro-Colombian routine called mapalé, importantly at the start of her performance. The moves (including the beautiful sea of Afro-Latinx dancers) was a sight to see at one of the most-watched shows all over the world.

The initial eyebrow raises of a Colombian pop singer at the Super Bowl Halftime Show made sense but the singer was thoughtful in the songs she picked (her 2008 World Cup hit "Waka Waka" (This Time For Africa)" is a remake of the 1986 song "Zamina Mina" by Cameroonian makossa group Zangaléwa) and even more mindful in her riffs (she repeated with passion the "no fighting" lyric during her performance of "Hips Don't Lie"). In all, Shakira's set will be one hell of a cultural study in years to come.

Jennifer Lopez also made subtle political statements during her performance. Her set was a pleasant blend of her Vegas and "It's My Party" tour sprinkled with some of her newfound pole skills from her performance in Hustlers. Swing Latino, a competitive world-champion salsa group from Colombia returned to the stage with the singer as they previously were special guests during her "Party" tour dates. It took her On The 6 single "Let's Get Loud" to new heights as the group brought together swing dancing, a very Americana dance, and salsa on the stage.

 

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A post shared by SwingLatino | official account (@swinglatino_cali) on Feb 2, 2020 at 7:56pm PST

A treat for pop culture fanatics, J. Lo's five outfits were customed made by Versace which we can give a smirk to. There's also the undeniable presence of Parris Goebel, who choreographed Lopez's entire Super Bowl performance. The two met back in 2012 when Goebel worked on her world tour and the American Idol season 11 finale where Lopez sang her 2012 hit, "Dance Again."

But it was the presence of her daughter Emme Maribel Muñoz singing with her that captured the audience. What many did miss was how the 11-year-old along with other children, appeared in silver cages, pointing towards the immigration and family separation policies the country has enforced at the southern border. "Let's Get Loud" then collided with a cover of "Born In The USA" with Lopez touting a feathered American flag with the Puerto Rican flag on the other side.

 

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Emme Daddy is so proud of you. You are my ❤ and I am forever yours.

A post shared by Marc Anthony (@marcanthony) on Feb 2, 2020 at 6:19pm PST

You can't please everyone, but their performances were one of precision. The two living legends who don't need validation from anyone were in control and commanded the attention of everyone, including those who make it difficult for Latinx families to live their version of the American dream. We like to imagine that the two singers also learned from each other, especially J. Lo since some cultural stances go over her head. "Let’s show the world what two little Latin girls can do," Lopez said on Instagram before their takeover. And that's exactly what they did.

Rewatch their performances below.

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Terry Crews speaks onstage during Steven Tyler's Third Annual GRAMMY Awards Viewing Party to benefit Janie’s Fund presented by Live Nation at Raleigh Studios on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
Anna Webber/Getty Images for Janie's Fund

Terry Crews, 'America's Got Talent' And The Conditional Solidarity Of Celebrity

Terry Crews is doing quite a spectacular job of torching any goodwill the public had toward him. The actor moved from tertiary to central figure in the ongoing controversy surrounding NBC’s popular talent show America’s Got Talent and its November firing of former co-host Gabrielle Union.

Union has stated that there was a toxic environment on set, citing the behavior of producer Simon Cowell, and an incident involving a racist joke she says was made by guest host Jay Leno and other instances where she felt AGT and NBC had not addressed racist or sexist behavior and policies on the show.

Terry Crews offered mild support for Union upon her initial firing but has drawn the ire of fans this week after he offered a less empathetic take about the situation during an interview with the Today show.

“First of all, I can’t speak for sexism because I’m not a woman, but I can speak on behalf of any racism comments. That was never my experience on America’s Got Talent,” the AGT host said. “In fact, it was the most diverse place I have ever been in my 20 years of entertainment.”

When asked if he’d spoken to Union, Crews offered, “I have reached out, but I have not heard anything.”

The online reaction was critical, with fans and pundits pointing out that Union had been one of Crews’ most vocal supporters in 2017 when the actor revealed and then testified that he’d been a victim of sexual assault by a Hollywood studio executive. With the flurry of criticism, Crews scoffed at his detractors, tweeting that there’s only one woman in his life who he works to please—his wife.

“There is only one woman on earth I have to please. Her name is Rebecca,” the 52-year-old tweeted. “Not my mother, my sister, my daughters or co-workers. I will let their husbands/ boyfriends/ partners take care of them. Rebecca gives me WINGS.”

Crews’ statements—and his nonsensical Twitter reaction to his critics—were disappointing for anyone who’d hoped Union wouldn’t be left out to dry in her fight against a very powerful corporate entity. When there was an opportunity to support a person who’d been vocal in her support of him, Crews chose to lean on his own experiences in a way that would obviously pave the way for America’s Got Talent to cast hers into dispersion. This entire debacle has been reminiscent of other high-profile instances where Black celebs offered criticism in the wake of solidarity—either focused on the comforts of celebrity or preoccupied with the trajectory of their careers.

Mo’Nique famously engaged in a feud with streaming service Netflix, after she felt the giant lowballed her in regards to a proposed stand-up special. The star had been branded “difficult” for years and she’d felt blackballed by Hollywood notables like Oprah Winfrey and Lee Daniels, whom she worked with in 2009's Precious. It was her performance in that film that landed her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2010.

When Mo’Nique appeared on Steve to discuss her proposed boycott of Netflix and the blackballing, her longtime friend Harvey chastised the Oscar-winner. “We’re fighting two wars here,” Harvey said. “There’s two wars, it’s what your issue is and is what the perception of the issue is.”

Mo’Nique’s stance was that she was fighting for equality—for women and for Black comics—in her battle with Netflix. In regards to her stance on Winfrey and Daniels, she was fighting to be paid for extensive travel and promotion. To her, this was a fight for the right to say “no” in Hollywood.

“Now, I said ‘no’ to some very powerful people...the difficulty came in when people that looked like me, like Oprah, Tyler [Perry], Lee Daniels—and I got to put my brother Steve on the list. Y’all knew that I was not wrong. Each one of you said to me, ‘Mo’Nique, you’re not wrong.’ And when I heard you go on the air and say, ‘My sister burned too many bridges, and it’s nothing I can do for her now,’ Steve, do you know how hurt I was?”

“I would have appreciated it, had my brother called me up and said, ‘let’s talk,’” she also said.

But Harvey was adamant that Mo’Nique’s wounds were self-inflicted, dismissing any notion of solidarity for what she was fighting for. Instead, he scolded her.

“This problem that you had at Netflix are rich people problems,” Harvey told her. “Because they’re looking at us saying, ‘you’re talking about millions, well, you got this, so you oughta be cool.'”

“I felt you had done yourself a disservice by the way you chose to go about it. When you tell the truth, you have to deal with the repercussions of the truth. We black out here. We can’t come out here and do it any kind of way we want to.”

“Black people can’t do that” was always poor logic for not standing up for oneself, and Harvey’s take on Mo’Nique may have been more egregiously condescending than Crews and Union but it also reveals how “my career” can trump “you were right” when it’s time to show solidarity. It’s also important to understand that you can’t only see “the problem” via your own “experiences”—what you’ve experienced isn’t the sum total of what goes on. And waiting until the wackness affects you will have you dismissing the oppression of those who may not be in your position.

Five years ago, rapper A$AP Rocky was at the center of a firestorm after he dismissed the idea of rapping about the 2014 killing of 17-year-old Mike Brown in Ferguson, Md., at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson. The incident sparked weeks of unrest, as citizens gathered to protest police violence against Black communities, with artists like J. Cole and Talib Kweli offering support.

“Why would I feel compelled to rap about Ferguson?” Rocky said at the time during an interview with TimeOut New York. “I’m not about to say that I was down there throwing rocks at motherfuckers, getting pepper-sprayed. I’d be lying…I live in fucking Soho and Beverly Hills. I can’t relate.”

When Rocky found himself imprisoned in Sweden in 2019 for assault, the rapper’s old interview came back to haunt him. Many of his peers called for his release and railed against what they felt was a racist overreaction as Rocky faced up to six years in prison for what was essentially a fight. As his supporters pleaded his case, many online called back to Rocky’s dismissiveness when he was asked to offer support for the protests in Ferguson.

In an early January sitdown with Kerwin Frost, Rocky offered an explanation for his words in 2015. “In those old interviews, I used to say ‘I think it’s inappropriate for me to rap about things I didn’t help with… I felt like when it came to Ferguson, J. Cole went down there and he actually was on the news and he helped. I felt like he deserved to rap about it. So when someone [asked] me that in 2015 I’m like: ‘I just feel, personally, if I’m in SoHo or I’m here I can’t even talk on that’… That’s appropriating.

“It’s not sincere. It’s pretentious.”

Black voices can often be scorned when they’re facing off against powerful gatekeepers; that those in positions to amplify those voices can so often decide to take the more “practical” route of undermining or outright dismissing those voices in the most public forums is just evidence of how much the upward mobility of the individual can blind them to the bigger picture. When Rocky had to deal with what it meant to face law enforcement while young and Black, when Terry Crews had to stare down a powerful Hollywood entity who’d wronged him—they fully understood what oppression can feel like. When Steve Harvey finger-wagged Mo’Nique on a high-profile platform, he did so acknowledging the sliding scale that Black people face. Supporting each other when “that’s not my experience” means not undermining the fight against powers-that-be. Because being able to retreat “my experiences” is the greatest privilege. Hopefully, someone will remind Terry Crews.

Editor's Note: Terry Crews has tweeted an apology to Gabrielle Union saying, "I want you to know it was never my intention to invalidate your experience— but that is what I did. I apologize."

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