Justin Timberlake 'uses black culture', says hip-hop star Vic Mensa
Rapper says Timberlake benefits from African-American music improving his sound but has failed to offer any support over Black Lives Matter
The emerging rap star Vic Mensa has criticised Justin Timberlake for his attitude towards African-American culture, saying: “We’re not feeling him being down when it’s beneficial to him and turning a blind eye when it could be dangerous.”
Mensa was speaking about cultural appropriation on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. His remarks followed Timberlake’s response to a speech delivered by actor Jesse Williams at the BET awards on Sunday, which had a section on cultural appropriation. “This invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil, black gold,” Williams said. “Ghettoising and demeaning our creations then stealing them; gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”
Timberlake had tweeted his support for the speech, saying it was “inspired”. But Mensa pointed out that Timberlake had done just what Williams had highlighted. “Our problem here is that Justin Timberlake himself, you know, is definitely benefiting from using black culture for his sound, his dance moves, his dancers and blowing up off of it,” Mensa said.
“But if you roll down Justin Timberlake’s Twitter for the past two years, which I just did, you see nothing that supports black people when it’s more difficult; when there’s a struggle. With everything that’s going on and everybody that’s been killed by police on camera in the last couple of years, there’s no ‘#BlackLivesMatter’, there’s no ‘praying for Baltimore’, there’s no ‘praying for Flint’, you know, because that’s a dangerous subject for him to touch. And we’re not feeling him being down when it’s beneficial to him and turning a blind eye when it could be dangerous.”
Mensa later tweeted that he was not attacking Timberlake personally.
My statements on @TheNightlyShow were not to bash Justin timberlake. I was just shedding some light on the idea of cultural appropriation
— vino the agitator (@VicMensa) June 30, 2016
Immediately after Timberlake tweeted about Williams, an African-American journalist tweeted him to ask: “Does this mean you’re going to stop appropriating our music and culture?” Timberlake was criticised for responding with: “Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation.” He followed up by saying: “I feel misunderstood. I responded to a specific tweet that wasn’t meant to be a general response. I shouldn’t have responded anyway.”