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The anticipated release of “G I R L,” the first album by Pharrell Williams in eight years, has been met with open arms by the hip-hop community. It’s no secret that Skateboard P and his unique attributes of song, rap, and production have augmented the genre into an enjoyable and quality experience. This is the same gentleman whose tunes can have 50+ year old grannys jamming with the kids, and drug dealers nodding their heads in salutary approval. As “Happy” tears up the pop charts, it seemed like nothing could derail Pharrell’s momentum. That was, until he released the cover art for his project.

As seen above, the cover art depicts Pharrell with three women wearing shades and looking cooler than the other side of the pillow. The artwork seemed innocuous enough, but indeed there was controversy afoot. People (a majority of whom are black women) took to social media to voice their displeasure over the lack of variety of the women depicted on the cover. More specifically, some were upset that a black woman was nowhere to be found on the “G I R L” album cover.

I didn’t fully invest myself in dissecting the controversy in the beginning. “75% of the people complaining will probably bootleg this album anyway,” I thought to myself. Once the firestorm of outrage bubbled however, I decided to really analyze what occurred. I wanted to take a look at it from the black woman’s perspective. This has been a demographic who’s been a victim of sensationalism in the media for far too long. They have been baited into arguments, and challenged anytime they have an opinion because “they’re always mad about something.” This troubling narrative makes black women a target for incessant ridicule, even from black men, so I can understand the sensitivity this uproar may have caused.

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I looked at Pharrell and wondered whether the European standard of beauty crept into his psyche and exhibited itself in the promotion for his album. I also wanted to look at Pharrell objectively and I wondered if he had a “light is right” track record in the visuals for his music. I didn’t have to look too far for this answer, as Trent Clark from HipHopWired compiled a list of examples where Pharrell has worked with brown(er) skinned women. I gleaned 3 things from this list:

  1. Pharrell is definitely a vampire because he’s 40 and looks as if he just reached the legal drinking age

  2. Pharrell has an eclectic palette for women

  3. Pharell is not “skin conscious” and doesn’t put one group in the forefront

Pharrell, who’s been pretty squeaky clean his entire career, commented on the outrage on “The Breakfast Club” on Power 105.1 NYC. He offered the following:

“What really disappointed me is that man, they jumped the gun, because the one I’m standing closest to is black.”

So there was black representation on the cover after all. Interesting. He later goes onto say:

“I understand that plight, you know? My dad is a dark-skinned man! My mom is a black woman that is a huge part of my business. My business is run by a black woman and I’m married to a black woman, so what are y’all talkin’ about?!”

Finally, Pharrell offers this quote which spoke volumes :

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“..Unfortunately, they looked at the cover and they didn’t see…y’know I don’t know what the definition is..she’s a light skinned black woman but what is this conversation? So is our President not black? Is Lenny Kravitz not one of our greatest rock…I mean what are we talkin’ about?! And is Lisa Bonet in or out.. like what are we talkin’ about?!”

Even after this interview shed light (no pun) on the “G I R L” cover, people were still outraged that the woman in question wasn’t darker. They skipped over the fact that their initial accusations held no merit, and skipped to the “lesser crime” of our black sisters not being dark enough for their liking. Whenever this skin color debate rages on social media, we tend to identify the disease and not the symptoms. We forego all wisdom and understanding in the hopes of conveying our point. We should identify the root cause of these color issues. Pharrell alludes to the issues illuminated by this album cover debate, and a few ugly truths among people of color: