Every so often, a big name celebrity feud comes along that is more about substance than style. Indeed, at first blush the VMAs dust-up between Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus seemed to be little more than a typical clash of egos between multi-platinum superstars. But in a recent interview with the New York Times Magazine, Nicki Minaj put some meat on the bone when discussing her beef with the artist formerly known as Hannah Montana.
The Chicago Tribune summarized the genesis of the feud between Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus, noting that the whole thing started when Minaj posted a tweet about double standards in the music industry that manifest through award shows. Cyrus, asked to respond to Nicki’s comments, was dismissive of her fellow songstress, offering criticism of Minaj’s general attitude and demeanor. The whole thing came to a head when Nicki Minaj called out Miley Cyrus when both women appeared at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards show.
“Now back to this b***h who had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what’s good?”
Of course, the two divas never came to blows as the VMAs rolled on that night. But Nicki Minaj has gathered her thoughts considerably since then, explaining to the New York Times Magazine that the attitudes and practices that she initially spoke out about months ago via Twitter are effectively typified by people like Miley Cyrus.
“The fact that you feel upset about me speaking on something that affects black women makes me feel like you have some big balls,” Minaj said of her issues with Cyrus. “You’re in videos with black men, and you’re bringing out black women on your stages, but you don’t want to know how black women feel about something that’s so important?”
Minaj went on to critique the larger issue of cultural appropriation in American society, suggesting that too many people are keen to enjoy the superficial aspects of black culture while simultaneously projecting a complete absence of interest and empathy with regard to the day-to-day issues that concern most African-Americans.
“Come on, you can’t want the good without the bad. If you want to enjoy our culture and our lifestyle, bond with us, dance with us, have fun with us, twerk with us, rap with us, then you should also want to know what affects us, what is bothering us, what we feel is unfair to us. You shouldn’t not want to know that.”
Questions and concerns regarding cultural appropriation in America have become more prevalent over the course of recent years, often manifesting via public controversies. Recording artists Pharrell Williams and Iggy Azalea are among a host of public personalities who have become embroiled in their on cultural appropriation imbroglios. Quoted in a lengthy primer by Jezebel, Fordham University Law professor Susan Scafidi, author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, crafted one of the more succinct definitions of the concept of cultural appropriation.
“Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission…This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, 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.”
Frankfurt school theoretician Theodor Adorno offered a more substantial framework for cultural appropriation through his 1944 work “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment As Mass Deception” in which he argued that the blind consumption of culture creates an amalgamation with advertising, making it both meaningless and omnipotent at the same time.
Given her plainspoken assessments in the New York Times Magazine interview, it’s obvious that Nicki Minaj doesn’t need to read a single page of work by thinkers like Adorno when it comes to dropping serious wisdom about what’s going down in American business and culture today. Whether or not Miley Cyrus sees fit to respond to Nicki’s recent ruminations might keep star-watchers on the edges of their seats for a spell, but it’s clear that Nicki Minaj has a worldview that’s far too forward-looking to be sidetracked by a simple personality conflict.
[Images via Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Jason Merritt/Getty Images]