Opinion: Black Artists Where Art Thou?
Miley Cyrus is still riding the wave of a maelstrom of comedic shock and genuine disgust with her raunch-fest performance of “We Can’t Stop,” topped by an unsightly duet with Robin Thicke. Despite all the criticism, the pop princess-gone-wrong has increased her social media net worth, according to an MTV article posted this week. Also, in her own words, the lost Disney daughter finally broke her media silence to announce that she has succeeded in doing what she set out to do: make history.
But for some viewers watching the MTV VMAs, amongst the Miley madness, there was an underlying question of the state of Black music and its current representation.
Aired in front of their biggest viewership in years at 14 million, the nationwide barometer of water-cooler topics, otherwise known as Twitter, was quick to pinpoint that there weren’t enough making Black artists making appearances (during the telecast at least), and the categories in which they would normally reign supreme, was awarded to their Caucasian counterparts.
On Twitter, the “BET Awards” even began to trend, as if it was an unofficial confirmation that it was the only award show they could depend on to honor rap and R&B properly (the iPod generation has already forgotten Soul Train). On stage, R&B was depicted by Thicke and Justin Timberlake, and granted, yes, they are talented and Barry White would be proud, but where was Miguel? Ciara? Janelle Monae has a terrific new LP on the way, where was she?
Cue in Bruno Mars, Drake, and Kanye West, the only headlining remnants on stage of black people doing “Black music.” As Lil’ Kim, alongside Australian White rapper Iggy Azalea, handed the Best Hip-Hop Award to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (her second time doing so. She gave the same award to the Beasties Boys in 1999), is it unfair or justified to ask if White individuals doing “Black music” at a larger percentage more than ever is precarious to our particular division of popular culture?
As a commercial during the telecast of the world’s most accomplished White rapper, Eminem’s sequel to The Marshall Mathers LP (MMLP2) aired, is it time to accept that this culture has been so embraced and influential to persons outside of ourselves, they are no longer afraid to give it a shot, win or lose?
Pop culture fans, not micro-managed by their mass media bigwigs, have expressed concern as to what’s going on. As an art form, it should be a color-blind situation as to who wants in and who wants to support it. True enough, this year’s awards were fan-sourced, when in years past, accolades were chosen by MTV.
Is it Macklemore’s fault he has succeeded in a Black man’s sport with his John Legend mimicked chorus? Are the fans just responsive to the music, since it should be about the product, not the skin tone of the person behind it? Yet, the inquisition lingers.
Notice how post-Nickelodeon songbird Ariana Grande is being crowned the new Mariah. When was the last time that happened to a youthful Black girl in the game? And we could also be asking where are the Black artists in rock (‘n roll), our original platform? It’s been 19 years since Hootie led the Blowfish and reminded Black people there is life beyond gangsta rap and baby-makin’ music, but maybe it’s all counter-productive on the surface.
Who’s to say they can’t join in? It’s like treating the one Black kid at the rock show as the obvious pariah. It really shouldn’t matter, and if anything, the comments and trends following the VMAs were afterthoughts, but there’s something to be said for so many having the same kind of opinion that imitation bizarrely has become the norm.
Follow C. Shardae Jobson at @lavishrebellion