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Should we be outraged by Nicki Minaj's single artwork featuring Malcolm X?

    Apparently, Nicki Minaj lives in a bubble where all she sees is her ass, her bank statements and her yes men nodding. Because the Young Money rapper has released a new single called “Lookin Ass Ni**a” with cover artwork featuring Malcolm X.

    The level of ignorance, disrespect and poor judgment required to release artwork featuring a slain civil rights icon to promote a song about thirsty men is almost unfathomable. Anyone with an ounce of common sense or respect for black history would have immediately shut this down. Apparently Nicki Minaj possesses neither.

    In no particular order, here are six reasons why we should be outraged by this cover “art”:

    1. Malcolm X is a civil rights hero who gave his life fighting for our freedom, and Nicki Minaj employs her freedom to make a mockery of said icon by using him to promote a song that talks about how men ogle at her. The only time Malcolm X’s image should be used in rap music is to pay tribute and respect. Using a picture—any picture—of Malcolm X for self-promotional purposes belittles his sacrifices. This offense is to civil rights what Rick Ross’ molly lyric was to date rape.

    2. The particular picture Nicki Minaj chose is about the most inappropriate and offensive one she could have used. In the picture, Malcolm X is peering out of his window with a rifle in his hands, visibly fearing for his life. Malcolm X would be assassinated about a year after this picture was taken, so it serves as a haunting premonition of his death. The only context it should be used in is one of solemn remembrance. Instead, Nicki Minaj defiles his memory and trivializes his death by using this image to discuss how men stare at her. Apparently, to Nicki Minaj, Malcolm X is just another “Lookin Ass Ni**a.”

    3. The song itself basically consists of the n-word with various insults about desperate men thrown in for good measure. To connect Malcolm X, who worked tirelessly to uplift the black race, with a song in which the main draw is the word “ni**a”—a word whose roots are attached to the very injustice, brutality and oppression that Malcolm X gave his life trying to fight—is disrespectful and foolish.

    4. Nicki, maybe if you’re soooo tired of men looking at you, you should stop wearing skin-tight, see-through clothing over your surgically enhanced assets. Just a thought. Then you wouldn’t have had to record this song and deface the memory of Malcolm X in the process.

    5. Less than a year ago, Mountain Dew dropped Lil Wayne for offensive lyrics about Emmitt Till, a 14-year-old boy who was brutally murdered in 1955 for whistling at a white woman. You’d think that Nicki Minaj might have learned something from her Young Money boss about referencing civil rights figures in inappropriate ways. Guess not.

    6. This occurred during Black History Month. Enough said.

    In the end, this cover artwork is just another example of the ignorance that pervades mainstream rap music. Though we’ve likely become desensitized to this kind of nonsense in commercial rap, when an icon who gave his life fighting for freedom, justice and equality is disrespected and used for selfish purposes by a rapper who markets herself as a sex object then complains when men stare, we have to draw the line.

    No doubt if the backlash grows loud enough, Nicki Minaj will emerge with some half-baked apology and we’ll move on to the next controversy.

    To send a more potent message, we should speak the only language mainstream rappers seem to understand—dolla dolla bills, y’all—and boycott Nicki Minaj, her Young Money comrades and any other artist who makes a mockery of our culture and our history for profit.

    At the very least, we should all sign this petition demanding that the cover artwork be removed. Malcolm X is a hero, and he deserves better than to be used to promote a vulgar, ignorant single from a rapper who is apparently too vulgar and ignorant to know better.

    Update: The artwork was deleted from Nicki Minaj’s Instagram account early Thursday afternoon, but there’s no telling if it will be used in any other capacity. The fact that it took an Internet uproar for her to realize the image was inappropriate indicates there’s a huge disconnect between Nicki Minaj and common decency and respect.

    And another update: Around 4:30 p.m., Nicki responded to the backlash with a post on Instagram that demonstrates how clueless and lost she truly is.


    Lauren Carter is a writer, editor and creative consultant based in Boston. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and check out her blog at For more information about her writing, editing or consulting services, email her at [email protected].