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White People, Please Think Long and Hard Before Covering Beyoncé's "Formation" or Rihanna's "Work"

The Worst Things Of All Time

By Craig Jenkins

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We've spoken in this space before about the shock Beyoncé single "Formation" and its incontrovertible blackness, how it takes features and behaviors that used to be points of ridicule for people of African descent around the world and turns them into points of pride. We've watched pundits, police, and politicians lose their shit over the "Formation" video's empowering message and arresting imagery, the cop car sinking in floodwaters, the black boy dancing in front of a line of armed law enforcement. We've also spoken about Rihanna's "Work" video and how both song and visual pridefully rep the Bajan singer's Caribbean roots.

Today, we will speak about white people attempting to cover both and clumsily (or perhaps, who knows, intentionally) trivializing the distinct blackness of each, through cringe-inducing vocalizations of Bey's "I like my Negro nose and Jackson 5 nostrils" and poor mimicry of Riri's casual patois. Please, white people, stop this. Now, nobody's saying your race prevents you from enjoying music made by people of other races or that you can't say certain words or effect certain accents because you're white. You should be very careful, but it's a free country, and you can and will do whatever you like.

Stop and think, though, before you sit behind that microphone. Do I look crazy right now? Am I blanching the spice and character from this beautiful peace of black pride with this unseasoned guitar/piano refix? Will I be dragged for filth and glory on Twitter? Will my name and employment information get doxxed via a cursory Facebook search from an offended internet scoundrel? (VICE does not advocate anyone exhibiting this behavior.) Is it worth it? Don't do what these people did. Watch below, if your heart can take it.

 

Craig wishes he thought to bring hot sauce in his bag this afternoon. Follow him on Twitter.

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