This has been quite the week for the Young Money camp. While Drake has been criticizing Macklemore and Rolling Stone his fellow label mate Nicki Minaj has also garnered her share of attention. On Wednesday Nicki Minaj released “Looking A*s N*ggas” a track from her upcoming album The Pink Print. The song expectedly received much attention from music enthusiast not because of its sonic merits but due to the artist’s choice for cover art. It depicts Malcolm X in one of his most memorable pictures peering out a window holding an assault rifle.
The backlash Nicki received was immediate. People from all walks of life decried the Young Money artist for her poor taste, co-opting a historic African-American figure for a song that amongst other things uses the N-word frequently. Some listeners were so appalled that they immediately started a petition on Change.org calling for the immediate removal of the cover art. The petition, in a letter addressed to Nicki, states among other things:
You come from a rich legacy. Without the work and life of Malcolm X, you would not be able to do what you do. Unfortunately you have chosen to disrespect and dishonor the legacy that he left us. Why you choose to do this, we do not know, but we will not allow this disrespect to go unnoticed, unchecked or unchallenged.
The petition has reached almost 2,500 signatures in just a few days. An internet petition quickly became the least of Nicki Minaj’s problem when the family of Malcolm X became aware of the viral cover art. Mark Roesler, who is the CEO of the company that represents the Malcolm X estate, called the picture dehumanizing, taken out of context and tasteless. In the same article L. Londell McMillan, the estate’s lawyer threatened legal action if the cover art was not taken down in the next 24 hours. If all that was not enough one of Malcolm X’s daughters, Ilyasah Shabazz had this to say in a statement given to the Associated Press:
Situations like the recent portrayal of our father on the album cover for Ms. Minaj’s new single only highlight the fact that we as a society need to take more responsibility for what we’re teaching our children. It is our family’s hope that the true legacy and context of Malcolm X’s life continues to be shared with people from all walks of life in a positive manner that helps promote the goals and ideals for which Malcolm X so passionately advocated.
Nicki Minaj responded via Instagram to the backlash her cover art received. While she profusely apologized to the family of Malcolm X and his estate, she did not mince words when speaking to outraged onlookers while defending her choice as best as she could:
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 A*s N*ggaz? 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 A*s N*ggaz 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 “n*gga” causes so much debate in our community while the “n*gga” 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