The animated video was directed by Jeffrey Osbourne and relies heavily on Nazi imagery, which has obviously caused quite a bit of controversy. Abraham H. Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, was quick to release a statement:
Nicki Minaj’s new video disturbingly evokes Third Reich propaganda and constitutes a new low for pop culture’s exploitation of Nazi symbolism. The irony should be lost on no one that this video debuted on the 76th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass” pogrom that signaled the beginning of the Final Solution and the Holocaust… The abuse of Nazi imagery is deeply disturbing and offensive to… all those who can recall the sacrifices Americans and many others had to make as a result of Hitler’s Nazi juggernaut.
Some, like Alice Vincent of The Telegraph, point out that there are other influences at play, but even she listed the 1934 Nazi propaganda video The Triumph of the Will as a comparison point.
Chris Brown, who is featured on the hook, was originally left out of the cover art that announced the single, although Little Wayne and Drake were included. However, Brown’s image is in the video wearing what appears to be a Nazi Uniform with the Young Money label logo refashioned in place of a swastika. (The fact that Drake was also raised Jewish has not escaped people’s attention.)
This is not the first time that the singer has caused a stir centered around religion. Her performance of “The Exorcism of Roman” (which included the lyrics from “Roman’s Holiday”) at the 2012′s Grammy Awards earned her the anger of Bill Donohue, the President of the Catholic League. More recently, Reverend Charles E. Williams II wrote an op-ed for the Huffington Post about the Malcolm X imagery that was used to promote “Lookin’ Ass N—a.” Activist Kevin Powell also started a petition on Change.org to have the image removed. Minaj did end up taking the photo down, after which she offered the following statement and an apology to Malcolm X’s family via Instagram:
What seems to be the issue now? Do you have a problem with me referring to the people Malcolm X was ready to pull his gun out on as Lookin Ass Niggaz? Well, I apologize. That was never the official artwork nor is this an official single. This is a conversation. Not a single. I am in the video shooting at Lookin Ass Niggaz and there happened to be an iconic photo of Malcolm X ready to do the same thing for what he believed in!!!! It is in no way to undermine his efforts and legacy. I apologize to the Malcolm X estate if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued. The word "nigga" causes so much debate in our community while the "nigga" behavior gets praised and worship. Let's not. Apologies again to his family. I have nothing but respect an adoration for u. The photo was removed hours ago. Thank you
While Minaj initially shared the lyric video for “Only” on her social networks, she has yet to comment on the controversy. Osbourne has not commented directly either, but he has been retweeting various reactions to the work.
You can watch the video by clicking here.