Written by Mike Orie of TheConsciousTip.com
In the February cover story of Latina Magazine, Bruno Mars gets very real and honest about Black culture.
Bruno Mars has made some amazing music over the years. His album 24K Magic, was arguably one of the best releases in 2016. But Mars, who identifies as part Puerto Rican, also realizes that much of the music he makes is inspired by and derived from Black culture.
In the cover story of Latina Magazine, he touches on just how much Black culture, specifically Black music contributed to overall pop culture in general, and how it played a big role in his career. You can read an excerpt below.
“When you say ‘black music,’ understand that you are talking about rock, jazz, R&B, reggae, funk, doo-wop, hip-hop, and Motown. Black people created it all. Being Puerto Rican, even salsa music stems back to the Motherland [Africa]. So, in my world, black music means everything. It’s what gives America its swag. I’m a child raised in the ‘90s. Pop music was heavily rooted in R&B from Whitney, Diddy, Dr. Dre, Boyz II Men, Aaliyah, TLC, Babyface, New Edition, Michael, and so much more. As kids this is what was playing on MTV and the radio. This is what we were dancing to at school functions and BBQs. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these artists who inspired me.
They have brought me so much joy and created the soundtrack to my life filled with memories that I’ll never forget. Most importantly, they were the superstars that set the bar for me and showed me what it takes to sing a song that can get the whole world dancing, or give a performance that people will talk about forever. Watching them made me feel like I had to be as great as they were in order to even stand a chance in this music business. You gotta sing as if Jodeci is performing after you and dance as if Bobby Brown is coming up next.”
He also goes on to touch on his Puerto Rican roots, and how some feel like he’s denied them in order to achieve mainstream success.
“I never once said I changed my last name to hide the fact that I’m Puerto Rican. Why would I f–king say that? Who are you fooling? And why would anyone say that? That’s so insulting to me, to my family. That’s ridiculous. My last name is Hernandez. My father’s name is Pedrito Hernandez, and he’s a Puerto Rican pimp. There’s no denying that. My dad nicknamed me Bruno since I was 2 years old.
The real story is: I was going to go by ‘Bruno,’ one name. Mars just kind of came joking around because that sounds bigger than life. That was it, simple as that. I see people that don’t know what I am, and it’s so weird that it gets them upset. It’s an oxymoron — the music business; like the art business. You’re making a business out of these songs that I’m writing. And how are you going to tell me that this song that I’m writing is only going to be catered to Puerto Ricans or to white people or only Asian people. How are you going to tell me that? My music is for anybody who wants to listen to it.”
Bruno is right. For decades, Black music and culture has consistently been stolen, re-packaged and re-distributed to fit mainstream acceptability. But despite this, the truth still stands. Most artists wouldn’t be where they are today without the roots laid by Black culture.
What are your thoughts on Bruno’s comments? Are you surprised?
Mike “Orie” Mosley is a freelance writer/photographer and cultural advocate from St. Louis. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Arts, Entertainment & Media Management from Columbia College Chicago and a Masters in Higher Education Administration from LSU. He is also the co-founder of music and culture website www.theconscioustip.com. In his spare time, he’s probably listening to hip hop & neo soul music, hitting up brunch or caught up in deep conversations about Black music. You can follow him on Twitter @mike_orie or on Instagram @mikeorie