In an exclusive statement released to the Associated Press, Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X, said Minaj’s use of the iconic picture of Malcolm X holding a rifle while looking out a window “in no way is endorsed by our family.”
“Ms. Minaj’s artwork for her single does not depict the truth of Malcolm X’s legacy,” Shabazz’s statement said while alluding to the rapper’s use of the picture as being part of a larger problem in today’s culture.
“Situations like the recent portrayal of our father on the album cover for Ms. Minaj’s new single only highlight the fact that we as a society need to take more responsibility for what we’re teaching our children,” statement noted. “It is our family’s hope that the true legacy and context of Malcolm X’s life continues to be shared with people from all walks of life in a positive manner that helps promote the goals and ideals for which Malcolm X so passionately advocated.”
The Malcolm X picture, which was juxtaposed with the title of Minaj’s new male-bashing song, “Lookin’ Ass Nigga,” is artwork for the tune. Minaj apologized for the controversial photo on Thursday during an interview with New York radio station Hot 97, saying that she wrote “Lookin’ Ass Nigga” to empower women because there are too many songs that attack females.
“It was almost parallel in my opinion because he has this big gun ready to shoot at a lookin’ (expletive) bleep, and that’s how I looked at it,” she said. “I looked at it as this is one of the most memorable people in our history, in black history, who voiced his opinion no matter what, and I understand how my intent was overlooked and I definitely didn’t want to offend his family or his legacy.”
Minaj’s apology comes after she received a backlash of criticism for using the Malcolm X photo for the cover of her tune. The photo was posted on Minaj’s Instagram page and website on Wednesday. According to the rapper, the single cover was “never the official artwork.”
The original photo shows Malcolm X holding a rifle as he was trying to protect his family from death threats; his home had been firebombed.
Among those offended by Minaj’s picture was CMG Worldwide CEO Mark Roesler, whose company handles the licensing and merchandizing issues for the Malcolm X estate. Roesler labeled the Young Money rapper’s use of the photo “dehumanizing.”
“This is a family photo that was taken out of context in a totally inaccurate and tasteless way,” Roesler said in a statement on behalf of the family.
On Friday, L. Londell McMillan, the attorney for the Malcolm X estate and the civil rights icon’s daughters — and estate administrators — Ilyasah and Malaak Shabazz, said released a statement on Friday advising those using the Malcolm X photo to remove it immediately.
“Failure to do so within the next 24 hours shall result in legal action,” said McMillian, who is also the lawyer for Malcolm X’s other daughters, Attallah, Qubilah and Gamilah Shabazz. “The initial act and subsequent acts of distribution were improper and ill-advised. Any disparagement, infringement or disrespect of Malcolm X, and his name, image, likeness and proprietary rights will not be tolerated.”