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J.Cole, one of hip-hop’s rising stars, has questioned whether his skin tone had anything to do with his success in the music industry.
During a recent interview with BET, Cole was asked about colorism and how it affects rap. His provocative answer quickly became a trending topic on Twitter.
“I can’t say it for sure but I just think we’re still in America. We’re still black Americans. Those mental chains are still in us. That brainwashing that tells us that light skin is better, it’s subconsciously in us, whether we know it or not… still pursuing light-skin women,” Cole said about the idolizing of lighter-skinned women in hip-hop. “There are some women out there that are like, ‘I don’t even like light-skin men’ and that’s fine.”
theGrio: The ugly roots of the light skin/dark skin divide
Colorism in the genre is nothing new. The majority of rap videos currently feature few if any women with darker complexions but frequently include women who are light skinned, ethnically ambiguous, or white.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Seattle rapper Macklemore, who has two recent number one hits on the Billboard charts, acknowledged his white privilege and how it’s had a hand in his rise to the top.
“We made a great album,” he said, “but I do think we have benefited from being white and the media grabbing on to something. A song like ‘Thrift Shop’ was safe enough for the kids. It was like, ‘This is music that my mom likes and that I can like as a teenager,’ and even though I’m cussing my a– off in that song, the fact that I’m a white guy, parents feel safe. They let their 6-year-olds listen to it. I mean, it’s just … it’s different. And would that success have been the same if I would have been a black dude? I think the answer is ‘no.’”
Does that same privilege extend to fairer skinned blacks?
Cole continues, “But Barack Obama would not be president if he were dark skin. You know what I mean? That’s just the truth. I might not be as successful as I am now if I was dark skin. I’m not saying that for sure, I’m still as talented as I am and Obama is still as smart as he is, but it’s just a sad truth… I don’t even know if this is going to translate well into text and people not hearing what I’m saying, but it’s a sad reality. So I can only naturally assume it’s probably easier for a light-skin male rapper than it might be for a dark-skin male rapper. It’s all subconscious s**t, nobody’s aware — I think that s**t still subconsciously affects us.”