and KanyeTaylor weren’t the only talking pieces after last night’s VMAs. Black Eyed Peas leading man will.i.am also sparked up a bit of controversy when he performed alongside rapper Nicki Minaj during the pre-show. Though not purposefully, the eccentric rapper and producer known for his futuristic costumes ticked off some of his fans after wearing an all black leather outfit and matching black makeup all over his face.
Instantly the Twitterverse hopped on their computers and smartphones to cry foul, comparing his makeup to the racist 19th century blackface minstrel shows. When Will caught wind of the criticism, he responded through his Twitter account to defend his costume choice.
“1st. just because I where all black including head mask as expression and emphasize my outfit, it shouldn’t be looked at as racial…,” he tweeted. “Let go of the past. there are far more important things 2 bark about. (Jobs, health, education) not a black man wearing all black everything,” he followed. Then after noticing that people were still attacking him, he asked, “Are you guys serious? my outfit set “black people back 100 yrs” choose your twits wisely. no education sets people back, no jobs, bad health.”
Personally, I think these accusations are nuts. In the past Will has participated in various causes for uplifting black people–really, all people. He was one of the first artists to campaign, promote, and support Barack Obama’s presidential run years ago and frequently returns the impoverished East Los Angeles neighborhood he grew up in to speak to its children. And let me not forget to mention that he does all of this philanthropic work during breaks from making huge pop records that boast positive messages.
If there’s anything that Will’s guilty of, it’s giving people the benefit of the doubt and hoping that his costume would be seen simply as interesting, fun, and artsy. I, for one, knew the peanut gallery would think otherwise. I can’t say I loved his makeup. Will probably should have known that more than a few people would be peeved and nixed it. But I’m pretty sure that there was nothing malicious behind the concept.
What do you think? Was Will’s makeup a slap in the face to African Americans or just an eccentric’s mistake? Sound off in the comments below.
More MTV VMAs coverage on EW.com: