Isn’t Most Music By Non-Black Musicians a Form of Cultural Appropriation?
White pop stars like Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga seem to be unable to catch a break from the cultural appropriation police for allegedly stealing Black musical culture.
According to Webster’s dictionary, appropriate means to “take for one’s own use.”
When White stars make “urban” or “Black” music, many say they are getting rich off of Black culture.
And when the same stars return to their “musical roots” as Timberlake is allegedly doing with his upcoming album “Man of the Woods,” the cultural appropriation police criticize them again for using Black culture to take their career to the next level, then kicking Black culture to the curb when it is convenient for their careers.
But if Timberlake, Cyrus and others appropriated Black culture by turning to hip-hop and R&B on past albums, aren’t they still appropriating Black culture by going country or rock?
Black musicians created hip-hop, R&B, gospel and reggae, but they also created rock and roll.
Furthermore, country music is just a derivative of blues music, which was also created by Black musicians.
Therefore, there is very little a White musician can do outside of traditional classical musical that wouldn’t be considered cultural appropriation.
Although Justin Bieber did not get chastised as much as Timberlake, his summer hit, “Despacito (Remix)” with Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee is cultural appropriation for Bieber because Latin music comes from the Hispanic culture.
Furthermore, hip-hop borrowed a lot from Latino culture with break dancing, low riders and Dickies pants.
Ultimately, the only way many White pop stars would not be guilty of cultural appropriation is if they did not record music, unless it was classical and that would prevent us from hearing some great music by some of today’s most talented artists.
All culture is borrowed from others. Jazz, ragtime and bebop are derivative from classical music from Europe and African sounds.
Just imagine if musicians like Scott Joplin did not take the classical sounds of Europeans and rhythms from Africans and flip it into something uniquely American and uniquely African-American.
Fans just need to enjoy the music and pay homage to the originators of the art form.
Timberlake should be able to return to his rock roots as long as the public does not forget Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Ike Turner.
He should also be able to return to his Southern roots of blues and country as long as he does not forget about blues pioneers Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters.
G-Eazy should be able to rap on the mic as long as historians do not forget the legacy of Grandmaster Caz and the Cold Crush Brothers.
Most importantly, those that appropriate Black culture or Black music should make sure that the originators of those sounds are paid for their services.
Throughout music history, Black artists have been ripped off and their writing and musical credits (and therefore royalties) given to White musicians.
Former music mogul Suge Knight allegedly had to threaten Vanilla Ice over unpaid royalties from the song “Ice, Ice, Bay” after the song’s writer Chocolate originally did not receive any points on the hit record.
When Black artists are not paid for their musical contributions or the originators do not get credit that’s when the appropriation police should check cultural appropriation.
Otherwise, we would have to police every American song that is ever released because somewhere and somehow, most American music is inspired by African-American contributions to the music industry.