Nicki Minaj Apologizes for Using Malcolm X Photo in Single Artwork

Pop star's online art for 'Lookin Ass N---a' drew criticism from the civil rights leader's family

Nicki Minaj
Mike Pont/FilmMagic
February 16, 2014 5:02 PM ET

Nicki Minaj drew criticism from the family and estate of Malcolm X this week after using a photo of the slain civil rights leader to accompany her new single, "Lookin Ass N---a." On Wednesday, Minaj had posted artwork that used a photo of Malcolm X looking out a window while holding a large rifle to promote the song on her website and Instagram.

See Nicki Minaj's Wildest Looks

"Ms. Minaj's artwork for her single does not depict the truth of Malcolm X's legacy," Malcolm X's daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz said in a statement to the Associated Press on Friday. An attorney for the estate and family threatened legal action if the photo was not removed. "This is a family photo that was taken out of context in a totally inaccurate and tasteless way," said Mark Roesler, CEO of the business representative for the Malcolm X estate. The photo shows Malcolm X trying to protect his family from death threats after his home had been firebombed.

"For his image to be misused this way, it's despicable," Jacob Morris, head of the Harlem Historical Society, told the New York Daily News. "It’s disgraceful to attach the n-word to him – flat out."

Minaj apologized for the image choice on Thursday and pulled the artwork from her sites, saying that it was "never the official artwork." "I apologize to the Malcolm X estate if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued," Minaj said in a statement posted on Instagram. "I have nothing but respect (and) adoration for u."

In an interview on Hot 97 later that day, Minaj explained why she had seen the image as a good fit for a song intended to empower women. "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, according to the AP. "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."

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

More Song Stories entries »