Cultural Appropriation Is Destroying Black Music

Throwback Justin Timberlake circa 2000

Justin TimberlakeRobin Thicke, Macklemore and Ryan LewisIggy Azalea, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Eminem, and Justin Bieber share a few things in common they are white recording artists that replicate various  forms of Black Music and constantly receive critical acclaim and financial rewards for cultural appropriation. Although this is nothing new in the past Elvis Presley, Pat Boone, and The Beach Boys are guilty of "cultural appropriation."

What is Cultural Appropriation? Cultural appropriation is defined in two ways. Here is the first definition, cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one's culture by a different cultural group. Two components are  acculturation and assimilation, but can imply a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture. The second definition is, according to Nadra Kareem Nittle author of "What Is Cultural Appropriation and Why Is It Wrong?" she suggests that cultural appropriation typically involves members of a dominant group exploiting the culture of less privileged groups often with little understanding of the latter's history, experience and traditions.

Katy Perry @ MTV Video Music Awards

Fordham University  law professor Susan Scafidi, author of "Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law," she stares the following. " Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else's without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture's dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine and religious symbols, etc. It's most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive e.g. sacred objects."
Mike Will and Miley Cyrus in "23" Music Video

The British Invasion music scene emerged during the 1960s in the United States with artists such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Late singer and songwriter Ike Turner once said "the British sound was Negro music with an accent."  Nadra Kareem Little argues that "borrowing" is a key component of cultural appropriation. She uses the example of the music industry in the 1950s. White musicians "borrowed" the musical styling of their black counterparts & peers. White record executives decided to have white artists "replicate" the sound of Black music. 

Iggy Azalea

Toni's Thoughts: The same tactics used by record companies during the 1950s has continued with this generation. Left and right I see double standards first of all most of these record companies are owned by corporate White America. Corporate America controls the music industry many African American artists are constantly trying to conform to the dominant culture, granted I understand as an artists you want to grow but crossing over is not always a good thing. In the context of rap music the genre of music began in the African American community based on lyrical content, dancing, the DJ, and graffiti it was spoken word / poetic outlet to express social and political commentary, along with fun songs for a block party. Many black rappers are not real rappers and put out what I call watered down repetitive chant music with the same theme money, cars, cash, hoes, you get the idea. If these artists do not release music that follow those themes then the public will not consume the product and the record executive put pressure on black rappers to release this type of music. When I look at Justin Timberlake I see a Southern kid from Memphis, TN that always wanted to be black or emulate what he believes black is. If  it was not for producers and writers like Pharrell Williams and Timbaland, and his black background singers Justin's music would not top the charts. News flash you will never be Michael Jackson.  He is the same guy that was on the Mickey Mouse Club in the early 1990s and by the year 2000 he was wearing cornrows and Timberland boots. Forbes magazine listed Iggy Azalea the greatest female rapper in hip hop history that is some bullshit there is a list of women are way better than her such as Salt-N-Peppa, Queen Latifah, Foxy Brown, Mc Lyte, Moni Love, Eve, Missy Elliott.

Justin Bieber

Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber work my nerves from her twerking an wearing grills. I know you are thinking what is the point in this blog post. Well the point is what I'm talking about is a repeat of history basically of this is nothing but a modern day minstrel show. It's like they are putting on a costume for fun and when they are being entertained they walk away from it.  Oh yes here is a fun fact for you. Elvis Presley is not "The King of Rock N' Roll" he was a huge racist, he would go to black nightclubs in the South, watch the black artists sing and dance, he would steal their music and dance moves and try to duplicate it on television shows like the Ed Sullivan Show. Many artists and record executives do not understand the history and vernacular behind black music. Another sad part is many black artists have been so brainwashed to assimilation they are not making the effort to maintain the vernacular and preserve black music. Hey Robin Thicke I think you are very handsome and talented although I appreciate your voice because you try to remind me of Prince and Marvin Gaye catch my drift.

Sources: "What Is Cultural Appropriation and Why Is It Wrong?
Author: Nadra Kareem Nittle

"Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law"
Author: Susan Scadifi

My Course work in African American Studies


  1. Greed is the sole problem. These "artists" aren't concerned with the preservation of their culture, all they "see are dollar signs". Which is sad, because music is an expression of the self and thought-provoking. This is why my radio station are no longer programmed.


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