COMMENTARY: Bruno Mars Being Accused Of Cultural Appropriation Is Laughable

Bruno Mars and band backstage at the iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, 2013. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Clear Channel)
Bruno Mars and band backstage at the iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, 2013. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Clear Channel)

This week on Hashtag we’ll be discussing Bruno Mars being accused of cultural appropriation.

It was actually a week ago when Solitair brought it our attention, and my immediate reaction was “Bruno Mars”?? Of all the artists to be accused of cultural appropriation he’d be way down at the bottom of the list, if he’s even on it at all.

At the time,  I assumed Bruno’s accusers must be some well-respected educated brother or sister, a Michael Eric Dyson or Ta-Nehisi Coates type thinker; only to discover that it was a group of very young brothers and sisters, many of whom appeared to lack perspective and understanding what cultural appropriation is. The YouTube talk show channel the Grapevine (IG: @TheGrapeviveTV), had a group discussion with young brothers and sisters, many of whom accusing Bruno Mars of appropriating Black culture.

Cultural Appropriation: def. a concept in sociology dealing with the adoption of the elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. It is distinguished from equal cultural exchange due to the presence of a colonial element and imbalance of power. 

IMO: using a culture you know barley anything about, for you own personal gain, without acknowledging that culture and its history

I appreciate their attempt at having a serious discussion, yet found it impossible to take it seriously when their arguments were so ridiculous.  Here’s an example of just some of their arguments in the first ten minutes of the discussion…

“Bruno Mars’ racial ambiguity helps him transcend genres and cultures.”
– Jameer ( @ItsJameer )

“Bruno Mars is an appropriator. He is benefitting off [this] in a way a Black person could not benefit from it. And that is the issue. Bruno Mars is more popular because of his racial ambiguity. Michael Jackson’s fame took a lot of effort.”
– Uchechi (@UchechiChinYere )

“He’s 100% an appropriator, yes he is racially ambiguous, he’s not black at all.. And he plays up his racial ambiguity to be able to do what Jameer says … cross genres and go into different places .. and you guys keep bringing up Michael Jackson.. me personally right now, in this day and age, Michael Jackson would be able to get to the point that he got to previously.”
– Seren ( YouTube : Sensei Aishitemasu )

I take particular exception with Seren, who states, before she starts her diatribe, how much she hates Bruno Mars and she’d bake a cake if he died today.  That took me by surprise. If you want to argue about Bruno Mars’ appropriating music that’s one thing but to say you “hate” him and would celebrate his death is a bit much to put it mildly. To say you’d be happy about someone’s death, that someone would have to do some pretty heinous stuff to warrant that type of vitriol. What on earth has Bruno Mars done to justify this girl “hating” him?  From my own personal bias, I had a hard time accepting anything she had to say after that, regardless she mostly said a lot of angry bullshit that really boils down to, where she’s concerned, no one who is not Black should be doing “Black music”. Which is asinine. But that’s the only logically conclusion that can be drawn from the arguments she puts forth.

As for these accusations. They are indeed laughable. Bruno Mars has never shown any kind of disrespect to Black culture. He’s a person of colour, with a mix of Puerto Rican and Filipino decent. He has always acknowledged where his influences come from. And did indeed dedicate his Album of Year grammy to Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Teddy Riley.  And if those music legends give Bruno Mars the seal of approval, who the fuck are these kids, with so little life experience  and perspective, to sit and judge Bruno Mars? It’s embarrassing.

The conversation has since gone viral, and many people have expressed their opinions, mostly coming to Bruno Mars’ support. Kudos to 9th Wonder for injecting some much needed ration to the conversation…

9th Wonder
9th Wonder

9th Wonder bringing rational thought to the ridiculous discourse about Bruno Mars being a ‘culture vulture’

“So many loopholes in this Bruno Mars situation,” he began. He then proceeded to bring up examples in music which he believes point to the hypocrisy in criticism of non-Black artists versus Black artists and the selective up-in-arms attitude commonly seen on social media. He mentions Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and Black Panther as examples saying of the latter, “Black Panther was a comic book, a series on BET, etc.,…before half of y’all. Now [you] wanna pack all of your sh*t, cross your arms, and head to Wakanda all of Of a sudden.” He sharpens the criticism, saying that folks who are upset with Bruno Mars aren’t actually upset but rather band-wagoning the latest popular backlash. “For some of y’all…It’s NOT the sound…it’s NOT the feeling…it’s the popularity of the situation you are concerned with,” he tweeted.


Even in the time of Soul II Soul and Sybil, Lisa Stansfield dropped “All Around The World….”,  Jane Child dropped a jam….shit…3RD Bass Dropped the Cactus Album (Serch had the first white Flattop haircut I’d ever seen….)…

So what do we want…in a culture that is Universal as math…how do we expect to for our culture now to be accept by mainstream (in which half of y’all don’t even recognize brilliance in artists UNTIL it’s slammed in your face by mass media..)..and NOT INFLUENCE the masses..

So is it Bruno Mars fault that…he was influenced by BabyFace,  Teddy Riley, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis…around the same time from a hip-hop side I was influenced by DJ Premier,  Pete Rock, and The Beatminerz? This is a Sociology study on influence and exposure….

Thank you 9th!


(BTW, I have to repeat this… if Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and Teddy Riley give Bruno Mars the “thumbs up” that should be good enough for anybody.)