Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion recently released their collaborative single “WAP”, following it up two days later with a glamorous, high-budget music video. This music video sparked controversy not just for its celebration of female sex-positivity, but for its shocking inclusion of Kylie Jenner — a white celebrity whose appearance many viewers rightfully felt unnecessarily overshadowed the talented performances of the women-of-color featured in the video. 

 

And while Cardi B tweeted two days before the music video release, that “it was so important to [her] to include different women, that are different races and come from different backgrounds but are so powerful and influential,” many pushed aside her statement, insisting that Kylie Jenner’s appearance had completely derailed any intended message of female empowerment. 

“Normani did ALL this and Kylie walked down the hall and opened a door,” tweeted content creator Danielle Young. “If that’s not a perfect visual indication of Black women having to do the most and white women do the bare minimum to get somewhere, I don’t know what is.”  

 

Normani

 

Others highlighted that Kylie Jenner’s 20-second cameo took up about as much screen time as Normani, Mulatto, Rosalía, Rubi Rose and Sukihana’s cameos combined, and that if Cardi B really wanted to prop up women-of-color she should have showcased these artist’s dancing skills for longer than a handful of seconds each. And if she absolutely felt the need to include a white woman, she could have picked anyone other than Kylie Jenner — who has a controversial history of cultural appropriation, blackfishing, and silence on racial issues

In an unprecedented turn of events, a petition to “Remove Kylie Jenner from WAP” popped up on the internet – gaining nearly 75,000 signatures in the first day.

 

 

But despite this backlash, Cardi B hasn’t backtracked on her initial statement. Instead, in a series of deleted Tweets, she doubled down on her decision to include Kylie Jenner, stating that her music video was not supposed to be racial commentary:

Not everything is about race. Theres issues out here in the world that it is about race that I preach all the time about. This is not about fuckin race.” (@iamcardib)

 

 

But what happens when a musician’s intended message is different from the one their audience perceives? Should a musician be expected to drop their personal interpretation for their fans’ and vice versa — or are both interpretations equally as valid? 

 

WAP

 

As with any artist, Cardi B deserves personal autonomy over her creative work, but to completely reject her fans’ racial analysis simply because she disagrees with them is unjustified. 

Music, like all forms of art, doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is a product of the world you live in. Once you release a music video into the world, it will inevitably be interpreted through millions of different lenses — including today’s racial landscape. Even if you don’t want your video to be about race, it inevitably will be about race — that is, until we live in post-racial society. 

So when Cardi B says her music video “is not about fuckin race,” that might be true in her case, but it’s not true for the millions of viewers who feel oppressed by the very system that Cardi B, Kim Kardashian and the other featured celebrities profit from. And while Cardi B isn’t white (she’s Afro-Latina), she can still be ignorant to racial issues. After all, it’s pretty easy to be “color blind” when you’re buffered by a net worth of $24 million dollars. 

 

Cardi B

 

This is all to say that while Kylie Jenner’s actions may not have personally affected Cardi B, that doesn’t mean Kylie Jenner hasn’t negatively impacted other less privileged Black women as a whole — and it’s important that we recognize this paradox, especially as consumers of a music genre that has its roots in Black culture.

The anger directed toward Kylie Jenner is about so much more than Kylie Jenner. When people make petitions to “Remove Kylie Jenner from WAP music video,” what they’re really asking for is a removal of what Kylie Jenner stands for within the industry — something that the rap queen Nicki Minaj elegantly lays out in her interview with Time Magazine, three years before “WAP.”

 

 

“Black women are held to higher standards,” explained Nicki Minaj. “A lot of pop culture takes from Black culture, and oftentimes doesn’t really say they got it from Black culture. You know magazines are acting like they’re just being done for the first time because it’s on a white woman’s head or it’s on a white woman’s body. And you have to get used to living in a world that doesn’t even acknowledge that you did certain things.”  

 

Nicki Minaj

The historic discrediting and appropriation of Black female artists has made it so Nicki Minaj has had to work even harder to get where she is today — and whether or not Cardi B wants to admit it, this power dynamic has affected her rise to fame too. That’s why it feels like such a slap in the face to see Kylie Jenner placed on a pedestal above Normani, Mulatto, Rosalía, Rubi Rose and Sukihani and other artists of color —  this decisions feeds into this same oppressive cycle that makes rappers like Cardi B and Nicki Minaj work even harder to be on the top. 

Cardi B’s heart may have been in the right place, but that doesn’t make viewers’ anger any less valid. In fact, this anger is a step in the right direction toward shifting that power dynamic once and for all. This anger is a demand to hold celebrities accountable for racial representation within the music industry — and that goes not just for Billboard topping hits, but for the actors within music videos too, that no way women-of-color have to be overshadowed again.