Young Money Record’s self-proclaimed baddest b**** Nicki Minaj apologized for using an iconic image of revolutionary human rights leader El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) to promote her new single “Lookin A** N***a” after outrage swept across social media.
In a post on Instagram, the Trinidadian barbie, who clearly has no concept of appropriate context, said that she meant no harm by using the picture and has nothing but the utmost respect for Malcolm X’s family:
What seems to be the issue now? Do you have a problem with me referring to the people Malcolm X was ready to pull his gun out on as Lookin Ass Niggaz? Well, I apologize. That was never the official artwork nor is this an official single. This is a conversation. Not a single. I am in the video shooting at Lookin Ass Niggaz and there happened to be an iconic photo of Malcolm X ready to do the same thing for what he believed in!!!! It is in no way to undermine his efforts and legacy. I apologize to the Malcolm X estate if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued. The word “nigga” causes so much debate in our community while the “nigga” behavior gets praised and worship. Let’s not. Apologies again to his family. I have nothing but respect an adoration for u. The photo was removed hours ago. Thank you
Hip-Hop activist and 2008 Green Party Vice-Presidential candidate Rosa Clemente swiftly spearheaded a Change.org petition urging Minaj to remove the offensive and disrespectful image or face a boycott from consumers.
Clemente wrote in part:
Let’s stop Nicki Minaj, Young Money and their record labels from dishonoring the life and contributions of one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. I am asking anyone who is a lover of HIP HOP culture and who respects Black history to please sign this petition and force Nicki, Young Money and their record labels to take this down immediately. We cannot allow this to happen. As well please pledge not to buy ANY of their products and or work with them.
Clemente’s petition amassed close to 1,500 signatures.
Following Clemente’s lead, community activist and author Kevin Powell also created a Change.org petition which amassed a little over 200 signatures.
Powell wrote in part:
We at BK Nation are deeply saddened, offended, and outraged that musical artist Nicki Minaj has decided to make a song called “Looking A__ N____.” The song is bad enough: a berating assault—laced with the n-word, in hideous quantities—on men who don’t spend money on her; complaints about men staring at her assets even as her whole video is a pathetic display of such assets; a reduction of all male-female relationships to dollar signs. But now Nicki Minaj’s new single, “Lookin A__ N____,” also has the gaul to put Malcolm X in its artwork, one of the great icons in Black History, and during Black History Month in America, no less. Malcolm X frowned on Black self-hatred, anti-intellectualism, and materialism. He was about the upliftment and empowerment of our communities, and he was a husband and father, not a n____.
Though Minaj was not referring to Malcolm X as a “n****,” the trivialization of what he stood for — by any means necessary — clearly shows either disrespect or ignorance.
Using Malcolm’s image to take shots at “lookin a** n*****” is no more revolutionary or deep than Beyonce using Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s words in a song where she orders “b******” to “bow down”.
Minaj has since removed the image and Clemente has acknowledged her efforts on Twitter:
@NICKIMINAJ your quick response deserves acknowledgment, huge teachable moment. Can u encourage fans to read the Autobiography of MalcolmX?
— Rosa A. Clemente (@rosaclemente) February 13, 2014
Minaj has issued no further statement on the issue.