Nicki Minaj recently apologized for using a Malcolm X cover art for one of her song2. Minaj became a subject of media controversy after she revealed that her new single would include the iconic photo of Malcolm X from the 1964 issue of Ebony Magazine. She also posted the cover photo on her Instagram account but later had it deleted. Not long after that, the entire social media was in an uproar and Minaj faced severe media backslash.
Artists always wish that their work be popular among the masses. Minaj might have had that wish granted, but her new song just became popular for all the wrong reasons. The photo depicted Malcolm X holding a rifle in his hand while looking out through the windows. The original context of the photo was that Malcolm X was trying to protect his family from several death threats. The same photo was used as a cover for her new single with the title of the song added next to it. Minaj might not have had intended it, but many fans and critics alike felt that it was demeaning and disrespectful towards Malcolm X’s legacy. Many even took note of the fact that the photo was posted during black history month which further fueled the rage.
Following the criticism Minaj quickly took the photo off of social media sites and her own website. Minaj apologized for using the Malcolm X art in her song but said that she did not intend to disrespect Malcolm X in any way. She went on to state the the photo was not the official artwork nor was the song an official single. She clarified that her intention was to use the photo as an expression of always voicing one’s opinion which she believes was what Malcolm X did. Minaj concluded by saying that she highly respects Malcolm X and that she apologizes to anyone offended by the cover art.
The photo was even noticed by the family of Malcolm X who equally criticized Minaj. Ilyasah Shahbazz, daughter of Malcom X, commented that the photo does not correctly depict the truth about who Malcolm X was. According to Shahbaz situations like these bring forth the question of what lesson children of today will take from all of this. She expressed the desire of her father’s work to always be respected and looked from a positive viewpoint. She hoped that people from all walks of life would continue to admire Malcolm X’s work and share the ideals he advocated. Situations like these however only end up tarnishing those ideals. L. Londell McMillan, attorney of the Malcolm X estate demanded that those using the original photo immediately remove it. He added that failing to do so would result in legal action being taken against them.
Minaj’s intention might not have been to do so but fans and critics have based their arguments on the overall negative impact the photo had. Nicki Minaj might have apologized for using a variation of the Malcolm X art in her new single but it has yet to be seen how her fans react to the apology.
By Hammad Ali