The Truth, If You’ll Have It

Miley Cyrus may be a weird, capering hot mess these days, but there are actually some positive indicators that, underneath the greasy glitter-smeared exterior, she is both smart and shrewd (chief among those indicators is the fact that she’s worth nearly a quarter of a billion dollars). Most recently she had some smart things to say about the state of rap music, and—predictably, oh so very predictably—people were not happy about it:

Miley Cyrus took to social media Saturday to clarify controversial comments she made about rap and hip-hop music in a recent Billboard cover interview.

After talking to the magazine about her new music and her rekindled love for Liam Hemsworth, Cyrus said she “can’t listen to” rap music anymore.

“That’s what pushed me out of the hip-hop scene a little,” she continued. “It was too much ‘Lamborghini, got my Rolex, got a girl on my cock’ — I am so not that.”

People quickly responded online, criticizing Cyrus for the ease with which she could discard a genre that had demonstrably influenced and propelled her previous public persona…

As HuffPost’s Zeba Blay pointed out, “What’s incredibly telling is how, once she achieved that success, it seemed like the plan was always to discard hip-hop music and black culture like the costume that it was,” also noting “how convenient it is for her to call out hip-hop’s misogyny” after trafficking in those same tropes for earlier iterations of her act.

Now, that’s actually a fair cop—Cyrus has made a great deal of money and headlines off of the “girl on my cock” genre of performance art—but that largely seems to miss the point, which is that she is right. Rap music in general is awash in both misogynistic tropes and ultra-materialistic fixations. The number one rap song on Billboard right now (Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble”) includes lyrics like “Girl, I can buy yo’ ass the world with my paystub /
Ooh, that pussy good, won’t you sit it on my taste bloods?” and “Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretch marks / Still will take you down right on your mama’s couch in Polo socks, ayy.” An honest assessment of modern rap simply cannot ignore these themes, which are shot throughout the genre and are almost inextricable from it; nor can you begrudge a woman for being turned off by such things. And while Cyrus’s disgust is certainly marked by that element of hypocrisy, it’s worth considering the possibility that she herself has simply recognized the unpleasantness of it all, and simply doesn’t want anything to do with it anymore.

It is queer to see where the chips will fall on this issue. Some time ago there was a bit of a backlash to Beyoncé’s song “Partition,” in which the singer explains how she “just [wants to] be the girl you like:” more than a few critics saw the song as sexist and objectifying. A feminist friend of mine, however, believed this criticism was misplaced and unfair, particularly coming from white women: “Partition,” in her eyes, was actually reflective of black American culture’s hyper-sexualization of black women, and therefore it was necessary to see the song as a cultural artifact that should be shielded from (white) denigration. In this case, progressive racial politics trumped feminism. These things happen from time to time.

It is doubtful that Miley Cyrus genuinely had a “plan” to “discard hip-hop music and black culture” once she achieved “success” (she was, in fact, famous long before she turned into a twerking arctophile). What is more likely—hopefully, anyway—is that she has simply recognized how worthless and enervating so much of rap music really is. Better late than never, I guess, though after you’ve grinded up against Robin Thicke’s crotch while dressed up like some kind of teddy bear demon, you’re probably going to have trouble living your past down. Best of luck to her.

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