Eric Benet is feeling the heat from fans and some new enemies after dropping controversial song, “Redbone Girl,” playing on the classically Southern phrase describing light skinned women.
Outraged critics claim that he’s promoting the mainstream, racist standards of beauty.
“I think it’s its own form of racism,” he told CBS Local of the controversy. “I did a song called “Chocolate Legs’ about my experience with a dark-skin lady. There was no anger or uproar of ‘how dare you.’ So ‘Redbone Girl’ is one song about one experience about a girl who happens to be light-complected, but there was quite an uproar.”
Despite him attempting to justify his position, online critics are relentless, saying the light skin beauty concept is linked to privilege and superior beauty.
“There’s a clear premium on light skin and on straight hair, whether it grows out of your head or not,” said Akiba Solomon, gender blogger for Colorlines.com. “I’m not a big fan of songs that fetishize dark skin either. But you could argue that [the ‘dark-skin’ devoted songs] offer some sort of resistance to the prevailing beauty standards. He’s attempting to be provocative. He’s pretending that he’s never heard about light skin preferences. Let’s not pretend that it doesn’t exist.”
But Benet doesn’t accept the argument, saying there is a double standard in society when it comes to artists expressing themselves and sharing their experiences.
“You can talk about how wonderful it is to be with a dark-complected person but how dare you talk about having an experience experience with light skin person,” he said. “By no way is ‘Redbone Girl’ me professing my preference for any type of skin color. It’s just the songwriter talking about one experience. When people look into it much deeper than that, it’s on them.”
While Eric Benet does attempt to provide some sort of balance with a separate song and a disclaimer, Lil Wayne takes a less nuanced approach on “Redbone Girl.” He raps about the pleasures of a lighter skin girls in general terms, as if he’s taking a 2012 version of the “Doll Test.”
“I like the long hair, thick redbone … I like ‘em lights-kinned, lighter than a feather…”
Benet says no matter which side of the argument you are on, songs like “Redbone Girl” ultimately provide an opportunity to have the discussion about how blacks view each other.
“I think the fact that we are talking about it, it’s an issue,” he said. “Now it makes me, on my next record, want to talk about an experinece with an Asian girl. What I was trying to do as a songwriter is talk about the beauty of all. One at a time. The fact that it’s so sensitive, we need to talk about it.”