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NIGGA, WHAT? The Grammys Continue to Play in Our Faces With J. Lo Performing a Motown Tribute

Last year, Jenifer Lopez received a Video Vanguard award from the MTV VMAs. In the audience as she performed was R&B artist Ashanti, singing along. And rightfully so since Ashanti not only wrote a few of J. Lo’s hits, but also had her vocals used on the tracks.

Now that’s no surprise to anyone with ears who was around during the Murder Inc era, but Lopez has had a much more celebrated music career than Ashanti who has not only written for other artists but wrote or cowrote every track on her first album herself, a rare feat for any artist, let alone a 22-year-old on a hip hop label. Bluntly, J. Lo’s spicy Latina persona has seen her mediocrity praised for decades, as she happily used Black culture to get on while deserving Black artists haven’t been given their just due. Still, even decades of watching J. Lo’s struggle vocals and average dancing lauded could not prepare Black folks for the fuckery we learned today.

This weekend, Jennifer Lopez will take to the Grammy stage to perform a tribute to Motown. Yes, your read right. Jennifer Lopez was booked to perform a tribute to the most iconic Black record label ever. The Grammys believed Jennier Lopez was the most fitting artist — and I use that word loosely — to perform hits from a musical catalog that includes such legendary hits as Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” The Supremes “Baby Love,” The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” and, well, y’all get the picture, or should I say the sound.

If it weren’t so blatantly disrespectful of Black culture and Black people, this shit would be hilarious. Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that J. Lo doesn’t have the range, will never have the range and couldn’t dream of having the range. This non-Black Latina woman whose only connection to Blackness is a stint dancing on In Living Color and a stint as Diddy’s woman, performing a tribute as if she’s some authority on that label and Black music is the quintessential example of how this world loves Black art but not Black people. Instead of the Grammys giving Black artists with the literal range — KeKe Wyatt, Jill Scott, Ledisi, Fantasia and Jazmin Sullivan immediately come to mind — the opportunity to electrify that stage singing the songs they grew up hearing Saturday mornings when it was time to clean, they spit in the face of the Black collective by electing a brown Latina who believes “all lives matter” and couldn’t carry a note in her pocket or a tune in a bucket stand on music’s biggest stage and murder our history. DURING.BLACK.HISTORY.MONTH.

And as is customary for non-Black people of color, instead of showing deference to those Black artists she mimicked during her “hip hop as a costume” phase and having the respect to decline the offer, Lopez opted to steal shine and revenue (because we all know Grammy performances translate to increased sales) from Black artists who have a cultural claim to the tracks she’ll struggle to perform.

Never would you see Ginuwine tapped to for a Julio Iglesias tribute at the ALMA Awards. Non-Black Latinos don’t even acknowledge that Celia Cruz, even with her iconic status, was a Black woman taunted by anti-Blackness. Hell, Black Latinos struggle to even be acknowledged in Cuba, Mexico, Honduras and all over the Caribbean. Black Latinos are routinely erased and ostracized from a culture they have the same birthrights to as white and brown Latinos. Yet, J. Lo feels comfortable enough to hit the stage before tens of millions to butcher the most recognizable Black songs beyond recognition.

This is why I avoid white awards shows altogether. Black culture is always welcome. Black people, not so much.

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Kinfolk Kollective avatar About the author: LaSha is a writer who’s obsessed with Black people. Find her work here of course, but also on Ebony, The Guardian, Essence, Salon, Everyday Feminism, Teen Vogue, HuffPo and For Harriett. She’s loves trap music & 90s R&B, watches Jeopardy faithfully and believes fried chicken is her soulmate. The clapback queen is loud and clear about loving her kids above all else and kinda digs her Yankee husband too. Anti-Blackness gives her hives. Get at her @lashawrites on Twitter.

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