(AllHipHop News) Bomani Jones is the co-host of ESPN2’s Highly Questionable, a regular on ESPN’s Around The Horn, and an unabashed fan of rap music. The latter description clearly came into play when the veteran sports writer decided to pen an editorial for Playboy titled “The Tragedy Of Whitewashing Hip Hop.”
The concept of the article appears to have been sparked by MTV’s Video Music Awards show this past weekend. Jones opens the piece discussing the respective VMA performances of female rappers Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea.
Jones questions why some award shows have been reluctant to give performing duties to Black rappers without having a white counterpart on stage with them.
For example, Nicki was allowed to open the VMAs, but she was included in a medley with pop singers Jesse J and Ariana Grande. Iggy was tapped to perform her own hit single “Black Widow” featuring Rita Ora.
Jones also points out that the Black rappers slated to perform at this year’s Grammy Awards (save Jay Z hitting the stage with wife Beyoncé) were “backed” by a white artist – Juicy J/Katy Perry, Kendrick Lamar/Imagine Dragons. In contrast, Macklemore had his own set.
[ALSO CHECK OUT: VIDEO: Kendrick Lamar Performs With Imagine Dragons At The Grammys]
The Clark Atlanta University graduate tackles the often discussed issue of the appropriation of an originally Black art form like Hip Hop, Rock, and Jazz into mainstream culture. Jones writes in part:
There are few dignified things that America has demonstrated it would rather see a white person do than a black one, if any white person anywhere would be up to the task.
The tragedy stands out, though. Rap, so often decried by so many critics, now only seems as legitimate in the mainstream with white faces in front. For all our talk of how hip hop bridged cultural gaps and helped foster racial reconciliation, it has now begun to look like art from eras we swore we’d moved beyond. What was so new and fresh and had so much potential now looks like everything else, and in the worst ways.
As music critic Stereo Williams has noted, rock never had black, worldwide stars before it became a sensation. There were great artists, but the world wasn’t on a first-name basis with any of them. There was no Run DMC or Public Enemy who introduced the world to the form. Their work was so easily co-opted—and, in some cases, stolen—because they were largely anonymous. Muddy Waters was no legend to most until Mick Jagger said so.
But we’ve had lots of black superstars in rap. We’ve lived long enough to see Jay-Z on the cover of Time, and colleges near and far where professors have found the work of Tupac Shakur to be worthy of academic inquiry. They did not have to wait for the reverence white artists who were influenced by them to give them historical relevance.
Jones is not the only well-known individual to speak out about white artists embracing and incorporating Hip Hop imagery and content into their brand. Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt recently bashed Taylor Swift’s new video for “Shake It Off” for what he saw as perpetuating Black stereotypes.
Brand Nubian member Lord Jamar has been extremely vocal over the last few years about the subject as well. During one interview he referred to white artists as “guests” in Hip Hop.
There have also been people in the Hip Hop community that have defended white performers like Iggy and Macklemore against the criticism they are essentially just profiting off of Black culture.
“You know, we as black people have to come to grips that Hip Hop is a contagious culture. If you love something, you gotta set it free,” said The Roots drummer Questlove. “I’mma let Iggy be Iggy.”
Brooklyn emcee Talib Kweli stated that he felt Macklemore paid his dues, but acknowledged that “being white helps.” Buckshot of Duck Down Records has even challenged the notion that Hip Hop was originally a Black art form.
“How? How when we had Ad-Rock, a part of the Beastie Boys, in the movie Krush Groove, a part of the beginning of Hip Hop, who introduced LL Cool J to Russell Simmons?” asked Buckshot. “How was it originally a Black thing? Stop it.”
This conversation has been covered extensively in recent months by various outlets. Marc Lamont Hill moderated a 26-minute discussion for HuffPost Live about pop star’s appropriation of Black culture with writer Everdeen Mason, Ohio State University professor Treva Lindsey, PopMatters editor Evan Sawdey, and comedian/television personality Amanda Seales.
To read Bomani Jones entire editorial visit playboy.com.
Watch HuffPost Live’s “When Pop Culture Crosses The Race Line” discussion below.