As much as I adore Ariana, her response (or the lack thereof) to this is disheartening. I’m still very much into the song and its video, but the dialogue surrounding “7 Rings” makes me conflicted because it’s rooted in an issue I’ve seen coming for a while: Ariana and her flirtation with black culture.
Throughout the twenty times I played the song last night (ddd), it really bugged me that I couldn’t clock where I’ve heard her flow before. Then, the second one of the users on here brought up similarities to “Mine” by Princess Nokia, it all came together. The first time I hopped on social media today was to find Nokia herself shading the hell out of Ariana for lifting the flow of her song. (This itself became an interesting debate, seeing that people instantly
called out Nokia for jacking the flow of a 2 Chainz song, accused her of stealing the melody of a Kali Uchis song for something different, and
made damning arguments about how Nokia and Ariana were both influenced by Soulja Boy’s song “Pretty Boy Swag.” Admittedly, I’m into Nokia’s music, but the tea is scalding
I can tell that, controversy aside, “7 Rings” is going to be massive. I’m happy that Ariana is creating anthems of joy and empowerment despite the struggles she’s faced within recent years, but I’m also acutely
aware of the black female rappers who don’t have the same platform she does and likely won’t get the same exposure. However, I’m also aware that she does
have black cowriters on the song (Victoria Monét and Tayla Parx), but I feel like if she had them as features on the song, the b(l)acklash would be less severe.
I’m always down for a catchy trap-pop song. I personally don’t mind non-black artists doing them, but only when they give proper credits to the black artists who paved the way for them to even dabble
in the genre. For instance, Charli XCX has experimented with hip-hop throughout her whole career, especially recently on Number 1 Angel
and Pop 2
, but it never feels exploitative to me because she uses her platform so her fans can get into artists such as Cupcakke, Mykki Blanco, RAYE, Starrah, ABRA, and other talented black individuals. (I know that features don’t always equal advocacy, but that’s another subject.)
pointed out, Ariana has always
been inspired by R&B. I remember when her big voice and flirtation with ’90s R&B earned her constant comparisons to Mariah. I love when Ariana leans into her more soulful influences than her pop ones, but, no matter my love for her music, I will never let her stardom and talent make her the face of a genre she did not create. Hopefully, it does not get to that point.
For the time being, I am still a fan of hers, but I will be cautiously hoping that she prepares a solid response to the criticisms of her black fans. Unfortunately, I am not expecting much, considering the fact that she is
a white woman, and white women who flirt with rap are usually tone-deaf in regards to marginalized cultures. (See Iggy Azalea, Miley Cyrus, and Gwen Stefani for references.) Furthermore, white feminism seems to be all about self-interest, so, if or when Ariana responds to this, I’ll truly be able to assess whether her brand of feminism is either misguided while meaning well or just self-serving and dismissive. Who knows which of the two it will be, because, after all, we’re in an age where self-awareness is both at an all-time high and an all-time low.
I hope nothing worse comes out of this, because the last thing I’d want to wake up to tomorrow (besides nuclear war or an even messier fallout from the US government shutdown) is an old receipt circulating of her making problematic statements about black people (not unlike Justin Bieber’s distateful-ass jokes using the n-word from eons ago or Sabrina Claudio's ugly statements about blackness).