Nicki Minaj has apologized for her controversial use of a photo of civil rights activist Malcolm X on the cover art for her new song "Lookin Ass N***a."
The rapper debuted the song, its cover art, and the companion music video this week, setting off a firestorm of controversy. The cover art features the infamous photo of Malcolm X holding a rifle while peering out a window at his home in Queens, N.Y. The music video for the profanity laced song also showcases various weapons, including AK-47s.
Minaj's use of the Malcolm X photo juxtaposed with the N-word prompted two separate Change.org petitions.
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"Malcolm X carried a gun as he feared for the safety of his family and himself, and was aware he would some day be killed by political opponents," one petition, started by community activist and poet Kevin Powell, read. "The image of Malcolm X looking out the window highlighted that fear. Nicki Minaj's use of guns in her new music video speaks to the gun culture in our society today where gun violence is an acceptable norm."
The other, which has drawn more than 2,300 signatures, was posted by former Green Party vice presidential candidate Rosa Clemente.
"Let's stop Nicki Minaj, Young Money, and their record labels from dishonoring the life and contributions of one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century," it read. "I am asking anyone who is a lover of HIP HOP culture and who respects Black history to please sign this petition and force Nicki, Young Money, and their record labels to take this down immediately."
Minaj yanked the Malcolm X photo from her Instagram account Thursday and posted an explanation and apology.
"What seems to be the issue now? Do you have a problem with me referring to the people Malcolm X was ready to pull his gun out on as Lookin Ass N***az? Well, I apologize," she wrote on Instagram. "That was never the official artwork nor is this an official single. This is a conversation. Not a single."
"I am in the video shooting at Lookin Ass N***az and there happened to be an iconic photo of Malcolm X ready to do the same thing for what he believed in!!!! It is in no way to undermine his efforts and legacy," the rapper continued. "I apologize to the Malcolm X estate if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued. The word 'n***a' causes so much debate in our community while the 'n***a' behavior gets praised and worship. Let's not. Apologies again to his family. I have nothing but respect an (sic) adoration for u. The photo was removed hours ago. Thank you."
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