Last week, Bruno Mars found himself at the center of another debate about cultural appropriation when a video uploaded by The Grapevine sparked a conversation on Twitter that turned him into a trending topic.
"He is not black at all and he plays up his racial ambiguity to be able to cross genres and go into different places," writer/activist Seren Sensei said. "Bruno Mars has an Album of the Year Grammy, Prince never won an Album of the Year Grammy. So, how are you going to say that people who are originators in the funk genre, originators in R&B, New Jack Swing—Bobby Brown and New Edition don't have no 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.'"
The Honolulu-born singer was quickly defended by several artists, including Charlie Wilson, who called him "a genuine talent, pure and simple." Wilson continued, "For the current haters, I say this: Bruno with this album helped bring back that classic New Jack/R&B sound to the masses when it was left for dead years ago and hard for artists to get that sound back on the mainstream radar." He added, "Bruno’s songs on this album are original and no different from any other artist pulling inspiration from genres before him."
Mars is no stranger to this conversation, and in early 2017, he explained, "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. 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."
Monday morning, veteran hip-hop producer 9th Wonder weighed in on the conversation and explained there are "so many loopholes" in the situation.
During a lengthy string of messages on Twitter, 9th made the point that black musicians are fighting for space in mainstream culture when they were actually mainstream and influential all along.
He also argued that a lot of great art in the community isn't appreciated until it's supported by "silent white benefactors."
9th defended Bruno Mars, specifically, and pointed out that many of the people who have a problem with him also want black culture to be mainstream, but get mad when it starts influencing others. Referencing Black Panther, 9th added, "So...we have Vibranium and all of this wonderful technology and art...should we keep it in Wakanda? Or...."
Then, 9th asked his followers to avoid complainers and support artists they believe in.
After the Twitter spree, 9th clarified some of his statements and reinforced the idea that people should know the history of the music they love. You can see some of his follow-up tweets below and see his discussion in its entirety here.