Bruno Mars’ mother is Filipina and his father is Puerto Rican and Jewish. The Grammy-winning artist is known for blending funk, soul, R&B, reggae and hip-hop on his music.
Here’s the two-minute video that started the debate:
“Bruno Mars 100% is a cultural appropriator. He is not black, at all, and he plays up his racial ambiguity to cross genres,” writer and activist Seren Sensei said in a clip for “The Grapevine.”
“What Bruno Mars does, is he takes pre-existing work and he just completely, word-for-word recreates it, extrapolates it,” she added. “He does not create it, he does not improve upon it, he does not make it better. He’s a karaoke singer, he’s a wedding singer, he’s the person you hire to do Michael Jackson and Prince covers. Yet Bruno Mars has an Album of the Year Grammy and Prince never won an Album of the Year Grammy.”
Some agreed with Sensei.
Yeah, she makes a valid point about the appropriation of blackness and how it is now lucrative rather than taboo. Bruno Mars as an example is an awkward one because he has paid homage but that doesn’t discredit that he can still benefit from the ambiguity.
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“Yeah, she makes a valid point about the appropriation of blackness and how it is now lucrative rather than taboo. Bruno Mars as an example is an awkward one because he has paid homage but that doesn’t discredit that he can still benefit from the ambiguity,” one Twitter user wrote.
Meanwhile, others jumped to Bruno’s defense.
“I just want to be practical here. Are people saying that Bruno Mars shouldn’t sing? Or that when he sings he needs to somehow whiten that s— up and sound more like Rod Stewart,” “Black Lives Matter” activist and writer Shaun King tweeted. “I’m dead serious. What type of music is this man “allowed” to do?”
Charlie Wilson, former lead vocalist of The Gap Band and one of the artists Mars is accused of copying, praised the musician in a Twitter message and credited him with helping to “bring back that classic New Jack / R&B sound to the masses when it was left for dead years ago and hard for artists to get that sound back on mainstream radar.”
Wilson added: “Bruno’s songs on this album are original and no different from any other artist pulling inspiration from genres before him.”
Fans also pointed to statements Bruno previously made paying tribute to the black pioneers who inspired his music.
“When you say ‘black music,’ understand that you are talking about rock, jazz, R&B, reggae, funk, doo-wop, hip-hop and Motown,” he said in a February 2017 interview with Latina magazine.”Black people created it all. Being Puerto Rican, even salsa music stems back to the Motherland [Africa]. So, in my world, black music means everything. It’s what gives America its swag.
“I’m a child raised in the ’90s,” he continued. Pop music was heavily rooted in R&B from Whitney, Diddy, Dr. Dre, Boyz II Men, Aaliyah, TLC, Babyface, New Edition, Michael, and so much more … I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these artists who inspired me.”
Mars, who won album, record and song of the year at the Grammys in January, also received some words of encouragement from the hip-hop community.
“Keep making that funky ish, @BrunoMars!!!! Do you always ❤,” Grammy-nominated rapper Rapsody tweeted.