We often see celebrities evolve before our very eyes, for better or for worse, especially if we have been exposed to them since childhood. Beyoncé, for example, went from creating mainstream pop music to making music more reflective of black women’s lived experiences in her critically acclaimed Lemonade.
Then there are celebrities like Miley Cyrus. These are the so-called artists who have spent so much of their careers exploiting black people for profit that their “evolution” is nothing more than a transparent attempt to regain trust from white people, especially in the Trump era, where white-identity politics reign supreme.
Despite rising to fame in the music industry because of hip-hop producers like Mike Will Made-It, in a recent Billboard magazine interview, Cyrus claimed that she is no longer a fan of the hip-hop “scene,” citing misogyny as the main reason for her disenchantment.
According to Cyrus, “I love [Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble”] because it’s not, ‘Come sit on my dick, suck on my cock.’ I can’t listen to that anymore. That’s what pushed me out of the hip-hop scene a little. It was too much, ‘Lamborghini, got my Rolex, got a girl on my cock’—I am so not that.”
Now, now, now, we all know she is exactly so that.
Besides the obvious amnesia regarding her past antics, it’s ironic that Cyrus doesn’t even pick up on some of the misogynistic undertones of Lamar’s “Humble,” likely because it directly affects black women. Immediately after Lamar released his latest hit, many black women hit the internet streets to note their disappointment at the underlying themes of the song, telling women—black women, of course—to be less arrogant, less cocky, less assured.
This is a clear and pervasive double standard that rarely applies to men and never to white ones.
Many black women—especially rappers, activists and women’s-rights advocates—have continually called out the misogynistic elements in hip-hop. Nicki Minaj, the woman Cyrus clearly tried her best to imitate, has been an avid spokesperson against sexism and double standards. Minaj has noted, “I just want women to always feel in control. Because we’re capable—we’re so capable.”
MC Lyte and Queen Latifah exposed hip-hop’s sexism as far back as the 1980s and 1990s. So the point here is not whether Cyrus is correct to bring up misogyny; it’s the irony that she would dare do so while being one of its main offenders.
Remember the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards and Cyrus’ infamous foam finger? Four years ago, she performed alongside Robin Thicke, a married man 16 years her senior. As he rubbed on her entire body and ass, she used that finger as a penis, gyrating, with her tongue sticking out.
Let’s also not forget that this was the same year Thicke released “Blurred Lines,” a song claiming that no matter what a woman says, he knows she’s just playing hard to get and that “[he] knows [women] want it.”
Just so we’re clear, Cyrus, 24, claims to be done with hip-hop music because it’s too misogynistic, but she wasn’t done with Thicke for popularizing rape culture in a summer anthem—one that she gladly sang along to. We all know, or should know, that there is misogyny in music overall, especially country music.
But the defunct trap queen, like any other cultural tourist too busy taking selfies to immerse herself in her surroundings and actually learn something, only sees hip-hop as “money, cash, hoes,” because that’s the music in which she intentionally trafficked. With enthusiastic support from quite a few black male rappers, the former Disney Channel star-turned-failed twerker intentionally used black people, especially women, as props she climbed over into relevance. Now Cyrus wants to once again be Hannah Montana, the innocent country girl she played on her once-hit television show of the same name from 2006 to 2011.
Cyrus has since clarified her statements to mean that she appreciates all music and artists but is now taking time to expand her music personally, gravitating toward more conscious rap—just one more manufactured response in her too long manufactured career.
White artists like Cyrus treat hip-hop and black artistry like an item of clothing, something to shed once it’s been worn too much. She and other performers like Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry make enough money off the backs of black people, then attempt to evolve into more peaceful, serene and tranquil versions of themselves.
They “slum it” with the “niggas,” then get all cleaned up and go back to the big house with Mommy and Daddy. All the while, black people are harmed, but the people who effectuated that harm have no accountability.
Now that Cyrus’ fiance, Liam Hemsworth, is back in her life, she doesn’t need hip-hop anymore to make her popular. That isn’t evolution; it’s white supremacist capitalist manipulation. Luckily, for the majority of black America, we knew that we never needed her, her raspy pitch, her nonrhythmic dancing or her failed twerking in the first place.
Preston Mitchum is a Washington, D.C.-based writer, activist and policy nerd. He is a regular contributor to The Root and The Grio and has written for The Atlantic, ThinkProgress, Out Magazine, Ebony.com and HuffPost. Follow him on Twitter to see just how much he appreciates intersectionality.