I hope my black skin don't dirt this white tuxedo before the Basquiat show
Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American graffiti artist, Neo-expressionist, and Primitivist. He was known especially for his social commentary in relation to race.
Ocean’s fear of dirtying his white tuxedo (a white tuxedo conveying sophistication and class) with his black skin “before the Basquiat show” is an ironic reference to past and present segregation. The whites didn’t want their way of life to be tainted by the negroes (aka Frank Ocean’s black skin dirtying the white tuxedo). To this day the effects of that are seen by the social separation of whites from other races.
The reference to a ‘white tuxedo’ might also be taken as a metaphor for light-skinned people of colour who do not look ‘black’.
Alternatively, the dirty suit metaphor could also refer to Basquiat’s actual suits. JM Basquiat was known to wear expensive designer suits while painting in his studio and would make public appearances while wearing these paint-stained suits.
Tuxedo is also the title of a Basquiat canvas: the work is completely black and white.
There’s also a Basquiat painting called Slave Ships, the main topic of the song. It portrays an African tribesman in regalia, smiling, but in the distance, one can see slave ships approaching…
Some believe that this line makes a connection to earlier lines of the song. The first line talks about the scandals illegal activity that goes on in the less prosperous Ivory Coast. Here, then, the white tuxedo represents the lavish lifestyle and the black skin refers to what white people expect of people from poor African countries.
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