While promoting her upcoming album Ventriloquism, an album of covers, Meshell Ndegeocello got all the way real about her thoughts on pop superstar Bruno Mars, calling his music “karaoke,” for mimicking the sounds of classic Black artists.
“What he’s doing is karaoke, basically. With ‘Finesse,’ in particular, I think he was simply copying Bell Biv DeVoe. I think he was copying Babyface. And definitely there were some elements of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis back when they worked with Human League,” the bassist told Billboard. “I feel like there’s just all these threads running through there, but not in a genuine way.”
Ndegeocello’s words inspired a debate from The Grapevine, where panelist Seren Sensai went even further.
“He is not black at all and he plays up his racial ambiguity to be able to cross genres and to go into different places.”
this is why i hate bruno mars @seren_sensei says it all pic.twitter.com/CRLktsA2ea
— hannie (@hannahmburrell) March 9, 2018
“What Bruno Mars does is he takes pre-existing work and he just completely word for word recreates it – he does not change it, he does not improve upon it. He does not make it better. He’s a karaoke singer.”
Social media has been debating the subject ever since, with plenty of fans supporting the “That’s What I Like,” singer while others agreed with Ndegeocello’s assessment. Check out a few reactions below.
Of all the non-black artists who explicitly draw influence from black culture, Bruno Mars is easily the most respectful. Constantly pays reverence to his influences. Appropriation and expropriation are rampant but not sure why we’re still doing this with him tbh https://t.co/nl5C7yhiYw
— Jiggy Gillespie (@jcsaffo21) March 9, 2018
Some of you fake woke people need to know the difference between appropriation and appreciation and leave bruno mars alone
— A R I A (@__Riaaaaa) March 9, 2018
So Bruno Mars, is being held accountable for “cultural appropriation”, but he constantly pays homage and appreciates every artist who has ever influenced him. The word appropriation is being taken out of context so bad. It’s not funny.
— jai (@szazealia) March 9, 2018
100% agree. He’s not an intently malicious guy, he supports and works with other Black creators, but his music + entire aesthetic are the FARTHEST thing from original or unique or innovative or award worthy to me.
It’s Barmitzvah/Quinceañera music backed by a capitalist machine
— Chukwuma 🇳🇬 (@ChukBartholomew) March 9, 2018
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Born and raised in Compton, California, Jessica Bennett began her career as an intern at The Oakland Post, and later, The Source Magazine. She went on to write for respected hip hop publications such as DJ Booth and Hip Hop DX before becoming the Urban Editor of pop culture website, Wetpaint.com. She joined Ebony as the Entertainment Editor August 2017. Bennett has interviewed such names as Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee, Tyra Banks, Forest Whitaker, Magic & Cookie Johnson and several others.