This is Culture, Not a Costume: Cultural Appropriation in the World of Music


Cultures should not be accessible to outsiders if those outsiders don’t give credit to that culture. When privileged individuals take traditions or customs associated with a minority group and claim it or are praised for said customs, while the minority group is made to feel even more inferior while taking part in the same culture, their own culture, this is cultural appropriation.

Some people may gawk at the term, others may ignore it and move on with their lives. However, this is a complex issue that must be discussed especially in our generation. There will be no talk of cornrows, locs or injections in this article. This article will focus on the appropriation of culture in the world of music.

Ever heard of blue-eyed soul? Blue-Eyed Soul is a term coined for those white singers that are connected to styles of music that are usually associated with black people, such as R&B, rap and soul music.

Not only that, but they have been adopting “blaccents” (black accents) in an attempt to seem cool or edgy to the media world. For those of you who are in the middle of a passionate love affair with old school music, the first person to pop into your head may be Teena Marie.

Teena Marie, “The Ivory Queen of Soul,” started at the young age of 17, signing with Motown Records. No one could deny that she had talent, especially after Rick James took her under his wing.

The Ivory Queen was given an appropriation pass. This means that she did not just adopt an act of what she believed black culture was, she treated our culture as more than a prop for fame. This does not mean that she can walk around dropping n-bombs. Rest in peace, Teena Marie, and thank you for gracing us with your incredible voice.

For those who scour the internet for the world’s most popular albums, there are more recent artists that have been slammed by the cultural-appropriation police. In other instances of blue-eyed soul, we have artists like Amy Winehouse, Adele and Iggy Azalea. The soulful crooners, Winehouse and Adele, have not been accused of cultural appropriation. However, Azalea, or Amethyst Amelia Kelly, has been made infamous for it.

Azalea is a white Australian woman that recently became popular for her rap/hip-hop music. Despite the fact that she sports an Australian accent in interviews and other videos, Azalea feels the need to use a “blaccent” when rapping or singing. Junior integrated marketing communications major Kiara Williams believes that Iggy Azalea appropriates black culture in her mock-rap music.

“When she raps, she changes her voice to sound as if she has some type of Southern accent,” Williams said.

Is it not possible to be a part of the rap/hip-hop community without having a black-sounding voice? Marshall Bruce Mathers III (Eminem) seems to do pretty well without it.

Not only does Azalea seem to adopt an alter-ego when rapping, but she also remains quiet when black issues come up in the world.

Does black culture become invisible when problems arise? I believe that Nicki Minaj may have said it best.

“You can’t want the good without the bad. If you want to enjoy [any culture and any 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”.

Cultural appropriation is not only associated with music. Cultural appropriation is in fashion, art, and even sports. Cultural appropriation is not just from white people to black people. Any culture can be a victim of cultural appropriation.

We must learn to tread carefully in an overly sensitive world. Do not attempt to take something that belongs to another culture without respecting that culture. Their culture is does not exist to be a halloween costume for you, nor should it be something to joke about.

Cultural appropriation is analogous to plagiarism in academia; we are taught to give credit when credit is due. Do not take something that is not yours and attempt to put your name on it. However, this does not mean that the exchange of ideas must end.

America, The Melting Pot, is a land where cultures meet and merge together. Take off your armor and understand that in order to preserve and praise a culture, you have to share it with the world. In the words of Nile Rodgers, “just let your soul glow”.

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