Posts Tagged ‘Justin Timberlake’


Dear JT,

I’ll make this quick. I’m sure you’re still busy trying to clean up your Twitter mess. If only you would’ve called it a night after kindly complimenting Jesse Williams on his amazing acceptance speech, you’d probably have awakened this morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.


But the force that is #BlackTwitter was not going to let you ignore the fact that many of the issues Williams brought up in the very speech you congratulated him on are partially about folks like you. The cornrows, overall swagger-jacking, and leaving Janet high and dry when it was convenient instantly come to mind.


Truth is, there isn’t much you could’ve said to justify your history of cultural misappropriation but the condescending tone with which you chose to reply represents everything wrong with this colorblind fairy tale so many “well-meaning white folks” subscribe to. Your response is vomit-inducing.


Oh, wise one, please enlighten us with your superior knowledge of racial equality and justice for all.


Your arrogance is out of this world. What planet are you living on? What did Jesse Williams’ speech actually inspire you to do? Whitesplain to Black people how they should feel about race and then shut down the conversation with a dismissive “Bye”? Did you really think you were going to walk away from this exchange unscathed? I’m glad Twitter jumped on your ass with a quickness. And then…


Oh, you sweet soul, feeling misunderstood. So sad. Look here JT, why don’t you go cry a river of white tears to your fans? You have plenty of supporters who undoubtedly feel just as misunderstood as you do. That’s a legion of people from all walks of life, teachers, doctors, lawyers, police officers, and other folks we interact with everyday, who don’t see anything wrong with what you said and use colorblindness as a way to deny/ignore people’s experiences and identities.  You’re right, you probably shouldn’t have responded.


Damn it, Justin! You must’ve been listening to a speech by some other Jesse Williams. The Jesse I heard on the 2016 BET Awards delivered a no-holds barred critique of systemic racism, white supremacy, and cultural appropriation while praising the strength of Black women and the work of community organizers who tirelessly fight against racial inequality. Nowhere did I hear Williams deliver some Kumbaya, we’re-all-the-same, feel-good speech. Yes, we’re all part of the human race and should be living in peace with one another. I know it, Williams knows it, and his mom knows it. But we’re not all living in peace. That’s the problem people like Williams are boldly addressing. You confused a Black Lives Matter message for an All Lives Matter moment and that makes you the type of person Williams was talking about.

To quote the very speech you obviously misunderstood: “If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.”

– Jesse Williams, BET Awards 2016


I’m glad you decided to stop digging your own grave any further and finally apologized, the same way I’m sure you eventually apologized to Janet, right? But at the end of the day, you’re just an entertainer, no more, no less. I shouldn’t really expect you to be an expert on social justice, institutionalized racism, and every other overlapping issues beyond the scope of your comprehension. I just figured that a white artist who’s established a career as an R&B artist with a significant Black fan based would have learned a thing or two about the very real, ongoing legacy of racism in America.

One thing’s for sure, and I’m sure you’ll agree with my advice, the more you acknowledge how little you understood about Jesse Williams’ speech, the more we can have a conversation.


When I wrote “Notice to Black Artists: Your Services Are No Longer Needed” back in February 2014, Iggy Azalea hadn’t yet hitnumber 1 on the charts, Hot 97′s Rosenberg hadn’t yet insulted a Hip Hop legend, Damon Dash hadn’t repopularized the term “culture vulture”, and hipsters hadn’t become the target of my wrath. But here we are, four months later, and the issue of Black music’s cultural misappropriation is back on the table…or maybe it never left.

Are white artists really taking over rap and R&B or are we just acting like narrow-minded paranoids? Back in May, the Billboard Music Awards awarded Justin Timberlake as best R&B artist, Eminem as best rapper, Robin Thicke with best R&B song, and Macklemore for best rap song. There were no Black winners. Just look at who dominates Rock & Roll, Blues, and Jazz today. Is history repeating itself?

The truth is, white artists have been part of the R&B and Hip Hop landscape for a long time.  Acts like Teena Marie, the Doobie Brothers, the Average White Band, and Hall & Oates are often referred to as blue-eyed soul singers. The legendary 60′s musicians from Muscle Shoals, Alabama were behind some of the greatest R&B songs of all times. In Hip Hop, some of the world’s most loved rap songs were created by white artists including Planet Rock co-produced by Arthur Baker and Keith LeBlanc, T-La Rock and LL Cool J’s early work with Rick Rubin, the Beastie Boys iconic first album, and a number of Golden Age classics from Rakim, Ultramagnetic MC’s, Organized Konfusion, and Main Source produced by Paul C (RIP). While questions regarding rap and R&B’s white takeover have been raised over the last few decades, for the most part, these white artists have been judged on their talents and creative output.

It wasn’t until Vanilla Ice came into the picture that the idea of rap’s misappropriation became a “major” issue in the world of Hip Hop. However, his color wasn’t as big of a problem as him being a fraud was. And the real culprit wasn’t even Vanilla Ice, who was too naive and inexperienced to understand how he was being manipulated; it was the music industry who pumped millions into making Mr. Robert Van Winkle the king of rap. Their investment proved successful as rap’s Elvis became a multi-platinum selling artist. Years later, he realized how he had been played and distanced himself from his former rap alter-ego.

Although the Iggys, Mileys, and Riff Raffs of the world are definite examples of cultural misappropriation, there are many talented white rappers and singers like R.A. The Rugged Man or Daley who, although lesser known than a Robin Thicke or Macklemore, are generally accepted for their art. With watered-down rap and R&B appealing to pop culture sensibilities, or teenage white girls who make up the majority of the buying public, the issue now is more about how the music industry positions these white commercial artists to become the new face of Hip Hop and R&B.  Twelve year old Katelynn from middle America’s suburbs doesn’t know anything about cultural appropriation or the long history of the exploitation of Black artists.  She just thinks Justin Bieber is cute and likes to dance to his music in front of the mirror. The industry knows this and profits from Katelynn and her peers, not Hip Hop and R&B purists. And in the meantime, publications like the NY Daily News celebrate the rise of white rappers like it’s all good.
Although the music industry should be held accountable for its part in lowering the standards for quality R&B and rap and allowing subpar artists to become superstars, let’s not forget the co-signers and easily-impressed consumers who give mediocre artists a pass. I remember watching Amateur Night on Showtime at the Apollo and being upset whenever a white artist with average talent received a standing ovation while better or equally talented Black artists garnered a lukewarm response. Just because a white artist can “kinda” rap or sing doesn’t make them special.
I’m no fan of Robin, JT, or Macklemore. However, I won’t deny the fact that they are no doubt talented in their own rights. My problem is with the cornballs performing the latest minstrel show who couldn’t care less about their role in the whitewashing of rap and R&B. Let’s stop allowing generic artists to become stars just because they’re white and can carry a half-ass tune.  Novelty acts need to stick to karaoke night at their local bars, not redefine an entire genre.