Back in March 2018, the Grammy-winning singer’s name began trending on Twitter after a video circulated in which the host argued that Mars is “100 percent a cultural appropriator” who “plays up his racial ambiguity to…cross genres.” The widespread criticism resulted in a debate about race, colorism, and appropriation.
But Bruno has never addressed the controversy until now. While promoting his new band Silk Sonic with Anderson .Paak on “The Breakfast Club” on Friday (March 5), he confronted the claims of cultural appropriation. Watch the video below.
“People love to accuse you of being a cultural thief, which I find interesting because you are a person of color,” said Charlamagne Tha God. “What would you say to those people?”
Bruno, who is of Puerto Rican and Filipino descent, explained that he has always acknowledged the originators like Michael Jackson, Prince, and James Brown, who paved the way for him.
“I would say, you can’t look at an interview, you can’t find an interview where I am not talking about the entertainers that’ve come before me. And the only reason why I’m here is because of James Brown, is because of Prince, Michael [Jackson]–that’s the only reason why I’m here,” he said. “I’m growing up as a kid, watching Bobby Brown [and] saying, ‘OK, if that’s what it takes to make it, then I’ve gotta learn how to do the running man, I’ve gotta learn how to do the moon walk.’ That’s it. And this music comes from love, and if you can’t hear that, then I don’t know what to tell ya.”
He continued, “We wearin’ the inspiration on our sleeve. What is the point if us, as musicians, can’t learn from the guys that’ve come before us? Why did they do it?” he said. “I hope later on down the road there’s gonna be a band that’s takin’ what we did and flippin’ that and freakin’ that and putting their own spin on it. Because if they don’t, then what is the point of us doing this?”
Bruno used Michael Jordan as an example. “If we playing basketball, if you can’t learn from Michael Jordan, what is the point of him doing that?” he asked. “Why can’t you learn all these tricks that this man did, the greatest of all time, and learn how he did this three-pointer or this fade away?”
When Charlamagne asked if he was upset by the criticism, Bruno said he understands where it comes from. “It comes with the gig. And there’s real merit to what people are saying about Black entertainers not getting their flowers, and I’m championing with that, I’m with that,” he said, adding, “I understand, but it’s just Twitter.”
On Friday, Bruno returned to music after a four-and-a-half-year hiatus. He and Anderson .Paak dropped “Leave the Door Open,” their first single as the duo Silk Sonic. Their album An Evening with Silk Sonic is due later this year.