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In "Rumors," Lizzo and Cardi B pull from the ancient Greeks, putting a new twist on an old tradition

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It isn't often that a pop star releases a music video that aligns so well with my academic research.

But that's exactly what Lizzo did in her new song, "Rumors." In it, she and Cardi B dress in Grecian goddess-inspired dresses, dance in front of classically inspired statuary, wear headdresses that evoke caryatids and transform into Grecian vases.

They're adding their own twist to what's called the classical tradition, a style rooted in the aesthetics of ancient Greece and Rome, and they're only the most recent Black women artists to do so.

White supremacists wield the classics

The classical tradition has been hugely influential in American society. You see it in the branding of Venus razors, named after the Roman goddess of beauty, and Nike sportswear, named for the ancient Greek goddess of victory; in the names of cities like Olympia, Washington, and Rome, Georgia; in the neoclassical architecture found in the nation's capital; and in debates over democracy, republicanism and citizenship.

However, in the 19th century, the classical tradition started being wielded against Black people in a specific way. In particular, pro-slavery lobbyists and slavery apologists argued that the presence of slavery in ancient Greece and Rome was what allowed the two empires to become pinnacles of civilization.

Even though ancient Greece and Rome traded with, fought against and learned from ancient African civilizations such as Egypt, Nubia and Meroe, the presence and influence of these societies have tended to be downplayed or ignored.

Instead, ancient Greek and Roman aesthetics were held up as paragons of beauty and artistic sensibility. Classical statues such as the Venus de Milo and the Apollo Belvedere are often considered the apex of human........

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