You Do the Math: Can You Spot the 7 Layers of Appropriation in Ariana Grande’s ‘7 Rings’?

Illustration for article titled You Do the Math: Can You Spot the 7 Layers of Appropriation in Ariana Grande’s ‘7 Rings’?
Screenshot: Ariana Grande (YouTube)

Let’s play a game!

If you read The Glow Up regularly, you know we regularly call out appropriation when and where we see it—even when it’s (unfortunately) our own folks. That said, you’d be amazed at how much we leave on the table simply because there’s too much to possibly cover.

But every so often, we’re blessed with something that’s too good to pass up—a veritable buffet of appropriation, if you will. Such is the case with Ariana Grande’s latest video release for “7 Rings,” which has so many blatantly ripped references, we couldn’t call out just one.

There were references to weaves, twerking, grills, bottles popped and even a token big black girl in thigh highs and booty shorts. Some of it was so egregious, at least one member of The Root’s staff asked why Grande couldn’t just “Make Italian-American Great Again.” (Seriously, though. I would wholly welcome a Moonstruck-inspired video from Ari.) In fact, we were fully prepared to believe “7 Rings” was a spoof of decades of hip-hop videos—until Grande issued an apology.


We have no idea what a “stariotype” is, but Grande was purportedly apologizing for endorsing a fan’s snarky comment that “White women talking about their weaves is how we’re gonna solve racism.” Or something nonsensical like that. But if she’s issuing apologies, we think she’s got a lot more to apologize for than talking about how she bought her hair (after all, it’s hard to find an entertainer who doesn’t these days). So, we decided to calculate exactly how many other apologies (and possibly, some residuals) should be given for Grande’s latest bop. With that in mind, let’s play a little game of “I Spy,” and work our way through the seven layers of apologies due for “7 Rings,” shall we?

OK, come to think of it, there might be more than seven. Let’s just get to it, starting with the most obvious.

Princess Nokia

For a musician, there are few things worse than hearing your flow come out of someone else’s mouth. So we can only imagine how rapper Princess Nokia felt upon her first listen to “7 Rings,” which sounds suspiciously like Nokia’s “Mine.” Just so we didn’t miss the comparison, she posted a reaction video of herself listening to both, which ended by saying: “Ain’t that the little song I made about brown women and their hair? Hmm, sounds about white.”

Soulja Boy

Speaking of flows, while we’re still dubious that Soulja Boy taught Drake “everything he knows,” more than one listener heard correlations between Grande’s cadence and subject matter on “7 Rings” and Soulja’s on “Pretty Boy Swag.” In fact, it was so undeniable, even Soulja had to question it.


2 Chainz

Anyone familiar with 2 Chainz’ pink trap house had questions too. The exterior shots of “7 Rings,” basically look like the trap house with slightly more curb appeal, complete with the pink painted and tagged vehicles. See why we thought this was a spoof, y’all?



I mean, aside from the obvious “I see it, I want it” vibes that take us right back to “Formation,” it just basically seems most contemporary white pop stars bite Bey, so she ended up here on GP. Then again, Bey’s been accused of plenty of biting of her own, so moving on ...



Barbie didn’t work fifty-eleven jobs and put up with Ken’s vain ass for nearly 60 years for Grande to swagger jack both her dream house decor and signature shade of pink. Seriously, Ari. What’s next? Raspberry berets? Purple Rain? Kaleidoscope Eyes?


Julie Andrews

If your hills were ever alive with The Sound of Music, you automatically associate “My Favorite Things” with two things: Christmas and the voice of Julie Andrews. The entire first verse of “7 Rings” interpolates “My Favorite Things” for Grande’s pleasure, and well ... we’ll pass.



This really hadn’t occurred to us until our editor-in-chief mentioned that Grande’s whole vibe is “sexy baby,” which simultaneously made us want to barf and howl with laughter, and which we now and forever more can’t unsee. Babies deserve better, Ari.



Frankly, if you’d asked us prior to the “sexy baby” comment, we would’ve said Grande copped her persona from everyone’s favorite Sanrio character, Hello Kitty. In “7 Rings,” she almost seems to be taunting us with the fact that she’s human anime. See: Exhibit A.

Illustration for article titled You Do the Math: Can You Spot the 7 Layers of Appropriation in Ariana Grande’s ‘7 Rings’?
Screenshot: “7 Rings” (Ariana Grande/YouTube)

Black Hairstylists

While we don’t really have any feelings about white women wearing weaves (the hair’s mostly Asian, so that seems a fool’s errand, no?), we do have strong feelings about the matted, 10-foot train of ponytail Grande sports during a scene in “7 Rings.” Were there no brushes on set? Was Kim Kimble busy? If you’re going to rock bundles, please respect them. No black hairstylist would send their client out there like that.


Her Edges

I mean, it goes without saying at this point, but Grande’s edges may not last the duration of her career if she keeps scraping them back like that. For the sake of your follicles and all that’s holy, let your edges go, Ariana!


Clearly, we were (half) joking about some of these, but seriously, kids: It’s not the appropriation, it’s the attribution. We’re all heavily influenced by, well, everything around us. What we’re not all doing is strutting around acting like we invented the trap house, so let’s just call a thing a thing, give the appropriate nods and keep it moving. While we respect Grande’s talent and the terrible, no good, very bad 2018 she had, the best way for us all to start 2019 fresh is with some original ideas, no?

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, co-host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door...May I borrow some sugar?

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This Ariana Grande thing is just an example of the larger issue, which is the sale of hip hop and r&b culture to the white majority, like jazz and rock before it. And like climate change ten years from now, it’s simply too late to reverse or course correct. It’s also generations in the making and black people allowed it, and the people who tried to protect it were called backwards, so now it’s time to make peace with it and move on.

It stings because, similar to everything else, black women are either completely erased or pushed to the side (Victoria Monet and Tayla Parx, the two black female artists who wrote 7 rings & thank u, next). What slightly differentiates it is the light blackfishing that accompanies it. When you add in that aspect, there are a lot of discussions and meditations to be had w/r/t colorism and in some aspects bi racial identity, and this habit we have of continuing to follow the one drop rule.

It’s funny, I have been thinking about it and really, and another part of it is Ariana is just following the Kardashian model of slipping criticism and gaining clout by surrounding herself with black girls(Victoria Monet and Tayla Parx). And once again a lot of women particularly black girls bought it hook, line, and sinker.