What do Kylie Jenner and Bruno Mars have in common? They’ve both been accused of cultural appropriation. While we are rightfully harsh on Kylie Jenner due to her repeat offenses, we have to dig deep and discuss this accusation against Bruno Mars.
Bruno became the topic of conversation after author and activist Seren Sensei accused him of cultural appropriation during a panel on The Grapevine.
“Bruno Mars 100% is a cultural appropriator. He is not black, at all, and he plays up his racial ambiguity to cross genres,” Sensei said. “What Bruno Mars does is he takes pre-existing work and he just completely, word-for-word recreates it, extrapolates it. He does not change it it, he does not improve upon it, he does not make it better. He’s a karaoke singer, he’s a wedding singer, he’s the person you hire to do Michael Jackson and Prince covers.”
Sensei continued, “Yet, Bruno Mars has an Album of the Year Grammy and Prince never won an Album of the Year Grammy. Bruno Mars got that Grammy because white people love him because he’s not Black, period. The issue is we want our Black culture from non-Black bodies, and Bruno Mars is like, I’ll give it to you.”
— hannie (@hannahmburrell) March 9, 2018
So there are a few things to discuss. For starters, are we the only ones who thought Bruno’s mixed background contained some percentage of black? Sensei has a point in stating that Bruno’s race is ambiguous. He’s even acknowledged that.
“There are a lot of people who have this mixed background that are in this gray zone,” said Bruno who’s Jewish, Puerto Rican and Filipino. “A lot of people think, ‘This is awesome. You’re in this gray zone, so you can pass for whatever the hell you want.’ But it’s not like that at all. It’s actually the exact opposite,” he told Latina magazine.
Now, do we think that Bruno’s ambiguity has impacted his crossover? Absolutely. However, to say that he’s a cultural appropriator because he’s a non black artist who has emerged himself into Funk, R&B and Hip-Hop is taking it too far.
The Cambridge Dictionary states that cultural appropriation is “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not our own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.”
Bruno has definitely shown appreciation for ‘black music’ time and time again.
“When you say ‘black music’ understand that you are talking about rock, jazz, R&B, reggae, funk, doo-wop, hip-hop, and Motown. Black people created it all,” Bruno tod Latina. “Being Puerto Rican, even salsa music stems back to the Motherland [Africa]. So, in my world, black music means everything. It’s what gives America its swag.”
Does that sound like someone who doesn’t understand or respect the culture? No. Unlike Kylie Jenner who declared that she “started wigs” and Iggy Azalea who loves Hip-Hop and our culture, but is mum when it comes to #BlackLivesMatter issues, Bruno rides for the black community unapologetically.
How can anybody in America hate the people that our country was built on? Black people & black culture should be celebrated, not executed.
— Bruno Mars (@BrunoMars) July 9, 2016
And until he gives us a reason to question his loyalty, like Justin Timberlake did when he agreed to perform at the Super Bowl though we were boycotting injustices, we stand for and appreciate Bruno Mars. He’s talented and he’s definitely revived feel good music. It’s not Bruno’s fault that African American artists aren’t winning Grammys. That’s an issue with the Grammy committee—a long standing issue at that.
Since the accusation was made, black celebrities and artists like Charlie Wilson, Baby Face, 9th Wonder and Craig Jenkins have come to Bruno’s defense. Charlie Wilson wrote on Twitter:
— Charlie Wilson (@ImCharlieWilson) March 9, 2018
Furthermore, I called upon my EGL writers to chime in on this matter:
Tiffany Hercules: “First and foremost, I don’t believe music has race nor color. Great music is a different form of language that people can relate to, that speaks to the soul. Though Bruno Mars comes from a Filipino background, which is of course non black, that doesn’t disqualify his amazing talent as a musical artist. I personally enjoy his latest album 24K Magic because it has a 90’s R&B groove that reminds of the music I grew up on. A lot of artists today, who are black, are migrating towards trap music, which of course speaks on drugs, sex and alcohol. If an artist who is non black sings in genres of R&B, funk, gospel or whatever, it’s not cultural appropriation, but more cultural appreciation as we should be more appreciative that other races are adapting to our culture because the music is dope and for the people.”
KeKe Scott: “Bruno is not exclusive. For many generations, different cultures have adopted and misappropriated black people’s identity. I’m sort of neutral on this issue, I think we may be blaming the wrong people. I don’t think Bruno was intentionally attempting to steal the thunder. He is inspired by black musicians, that’s pretty obvious.”
Plychette Montgomery: “When I listen to Bruno Mars, I hear black art and his sounds provide a familiar tune, one that is similar to R&B hits that I’ve heard before. A sound that’s contagious and funky, that has obviously inspired Bruno Mars to make the type of music he makes. It’s easy to accuse him of cultural appropriation because he has become a musical phenomenon off of black music. However, it seems that he was a fan first and highly inspired by that particular form of music. We must not blame him for it. I do not believe a line was crossed, neither has he misused it. Black music inspires many and molds others, no matter the color.”
There you have it! We gave you our opinion. Let us know your thoughts on this debate in the comment section.
Written By: Ericka Smith, News Editor