The New Blackface
Politics and Activism

Blackface is regaining popularity

Is just the idea of blackface offensive?

3641
Instagram: @digitalfeedmedia

Blackface is a very touchy subject, and for a good reason. I like to rant and rave daily about the ridiculousness of modern fake outrage culture, but I understand why blackface is a difficult subject. Blackface is historically only rooted in racism. It isn't a subject that can be looked at from multiple angles, as far as looking at it from the 19th century to early Disney cartoons. In the past, blackface has only been used as a dramatic caricature of black people and black culture. It painted black people as goofy exaggerated half-humans. But does the history of blackface mean that it can't be reclaimed and used artistically without a racist connotation?

Either way, blackface is being reclaimed (and it's mainly by black people; especially rappers).

There have been small instances of blackface popping up since it was officially declared unseemly, around 1960; but only recently has blackface been used by black artists as an artistic embellishment. This new style of blackface is oddly empowering and has been used in different ways.

Let's take two examples that use a lot of the same base material, but integrate blackface from varied perspectives.

In the summer of 2017, Jay-Z released the album "4:44". The song "The Story of O.J." was the biggest single from "4:44"; ringing out as an anthem of black identity and the internal struggle of dealing with your own "blackness". The music video for "The Story of O.J." is stylized as a beautiful old-timey black-and-white cartoon. The cartoon style looks very similar to the "Little Black Sambo" cartoon from 1935. In the video, there is a cartoon version of Jay-Z, complete with gigantic lips, and elongated head, and exaggerated white eyes.

Jay-Z used blackface for "The Story of O.J." knowing it would cause a stir, but he did it for an important reason. One of the most impactful lyrics from the song is, "I'm not black, I'm O.J./ Okay" This is a reference to the real quote said by O.J. Simpson during his 1995 murder trial. When O.J. said that line, it helped to solidify some of the black identity struggles that are still plaguing the black community today. Jay-Z used that message to try and parse out these struggles, and the use of blackface put a spotlight on some of the internal conflicts black people face when examining what "amount" of black they are, and how that blackness fits into modern society.

Jump forward from the release of "4:44" to the present, and we have a new example of blackface being used for the diss track "The Story of Adidon" by Pusha T. The reason why I compare these two songs is because Pusha T sampled parts of "The Story of O.J." in his diss track to make a song that calls out the black identity of fellow rapper Drake. Also, the cover art for "The Story of Adidon" is a picture of Drake in blackface, and obvious jab by Pusha T.

Unlike the source material that "The Story of Adidon" pulls from, the song is more about checking Drake on what Pusha T sees as stereotypical "bad" black behavior. "The Story of Adidon" is less about struggling with black identity, and more about Pusha T seeing Drake as a deadbeat father and a general jerk. That's why Pusha T uses the picture of Drake in blackface, to show him as the worst aspect of black male culture.

Taking all of this into account, I wonder if this resurgence of blackface is really as offensive as some people make it out to be. Like I said above, there is obviously no excuse for using blackface in the way that it was once used. The history of it has no positive light to it. But this reclaiming of blackface could be a right step in the direction of eradicating all of the previous connotations it had. The way that Jay-Z and Pusha T are using blackface are really great artistic statements. Could it be possible that blackface could continue being used in a way that allows the viewing of it, recreates it, but still maintains the fact that its' historical context is abhorrent?

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

Minorities are consistently under-represented in our day-to-day lives, notably in the world of fashion. It's likely you're looking for a way to support black artists. Whether that's the case or you're just a fashion-lover in general, these brands aren't just some of the best black-owned fashion brands — they're some of the most innovative brands of our time, period.

From luxury staples to fun accessories and loungewear, these brands aren't just stunning names you should definitely be following on Instagram, each honors the founder's roots in unique ways with the power of storytelling through artistic expression that manifests in pieces we can't wait to wear.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

10 Home Items You Need For Stress Relief, On The Days You 'Literally Cannot'

Fill your home with peaceful, calming coping mechanisms.

I'd like to think that 2020 is teaching us a lot. Or will teach us a lot. Or will be a story we tell at parties one day. Ultimately, this year has been — and is probably going to continue to be — a bit of a mess.

At the beginning of the year, Australia was on fire and we mourned the death of Kobe Bryant. Then, coronavirus (COVID-19) took our spring and shut us in our homes, inciting panic over public health and sparking political upheaval at every decision made by local and federal officials alike. Now, a week after George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, a nationwide conversation is reignited with protests regarding racial injustice in the United States. There is an enormous amount of tension, hurt, and change that is upon the American people.

Keep Reading... Show less

No matter who you are (an introvert, person of color, member of the LGBTQ+ community, Scorpio, TikToker, you name it), we want to hear what dating in America is like for you and the thoughts you have while working through the talking stage, first dates, navigating love, working through dating problems, etc.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

30 Black-Owned Skincare Brands Every Beauty-Lover Should Know About In 2020

They're not changing the game — they're making a new one.

Skin is something most beauty-lovers obsess over from our early teens, whether our aim is to be glowier, softer, dewier, or poreless, most of us are consistently tracking a new skincare goal. No matter how many products we try, we'll likely forage on with the goal of IRL Photoshopped skin, no matter how many dollars go to them.

The black-founded skincare brands below are the brainchildren of extreme dedication and resilience within the privileged world of beauty. Born out of resilient entrepreneurs overcoming circumstance in a world that does not favor business people of color, these brands have loyal cult followings, and with good reason.

Keep Reading... Show less

A huge part of being in a relationship is communication and, well, part of communication is listening. So, why not have a little fun with your partner and see just how well they know you?

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

7 Ways You Can Safely Attend A Protest In The Middle Of A Pandemic

Wear a mask, but speak up.

It seems like coronavirus (COVID-19) has been around forever now. Life before masks and with public sporting events is a distant memory, hoping to make a comeback sometime this year. We've all had to make some sort of life changes to abide by this pandemic's rules. But that doesn't mean everything has stopped. On May 25, George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, sparking a cry for justice and racial equality across the nation.

For the last week, protests have taken place in major cities like New York City, LA, DC, Chicago, Phoenix, Portland, Dallas, and Floyd's hometown of Minneapolis. Many of the cities experiencing protests have begun phased reopening, while others (specifically New York City and LA) have yet to begin phase one of post-coronavirus reopening.

As COVID-19 is hardly in our rearview mirror, there are extra precautions protestors can take as they advocate for justice.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 Helpful, Effective Mental Health Resources Specifically For The Black Community

These organizations are qualified, caring, and acknowledging the mental trauma individuals are experiencing.

On May 25, George Floyd died after being pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer. In the last week, protests have sprung up across the nation, demanding justice for Floyd and accountability for police brutality. Social media has also seen widespread conversation regarding Floyd's death, Black Lives Matter, and racism in the United States. Today is #BlackoutTuesday, where many are sharing a single black square to represent unity and support for Black voices.

In light of the heavy climate that our country is facing, it is a safe assumption that many individuals' mental health may be suffering. We wanted to highlight mental health resources and organizations that are Black-owned and prepared to assist in whatever you're going through.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

15 Black-Owned Haircare Brands That Cater As Much To Inclusivity As They Do To Your Locks

Championing Black entrepreneurs who make some of our hair favorites.

The haircare industry is vast. With the rise of social media came hundreds of thousands of empowered, niche brands. Single entrepreneurs came out of the woodwork with hair brands that now, years later, have dedicated cult followings.

Of those multitudes of brands, few cater to all hair types, most made without regard for curly or coily hair. These brands, however, are different.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments