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Sunday December 5th

Column: Grimes and Elon Musk's strange romance is finally over

Elon Musk and Grimes arrive for the 2018 Met Gala on May 7, 2018, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Photo courtesy of Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images/TNS.
Buy Photos Elon Musk and Grimes arrive for the 2018 Met Gala on May 7, 2018, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Photo courtesy of Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images/TNS.

Content warning: This column contains brief mentions of drug abuse, sexual assault and murder.

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Elon Musk and Grimes have “semi-separated” after dating for more than three years. The two have since stated that they are on good terms and will continue to co-parent their child, X Æ A-12. 

While this initially seems to be trivial celebrity drama, we shouldn't forget that the ex-couple's complacency is emblematic of systemic racism in the music industry and broader society.

I am a Grimes apologist. She is a pioneer of the futuristic, robotic sound that eventually led to the rise of hyperpop. Her electronically engineered, space-age dreamscapes challenge the conventions of pop music and breathe fresh air into the limitations of the genre. 

Creating her first three albums completely on Apple’s “GarageBand” software, her rise to fame was a rags-to-riches story marked with wild details and strange circumstances. 

After releasing two unpromoted albums and a split EP, Grimes released her massively-acclaimed breakthrough album “Visions” in 2012. 

An album produced in a heatless, frostbite-inducing Montreal “crack den,” in which her neighbor was bludgeoned to death, “Visions” skyrocketed Grimes to the top of alternative music. This airy, electro-pop daydream featured “Oblivion,” a song about surviving sexual assault, which later became Grimes’ best-known track.

Some time between her 2016 tour — during which she only ate spaghetti — and the 2018 Met Gala, Grimes made a romantic acquaintance with Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and CEO of Tesla. This news shocked the online community. 

In June 2018, Grimes and mega-talented rapper Azealia Banks announced via Instagram that they were planning a collaboration. 

Then on Aug. 7, 2018, Musk announced via Twitter that he was taking Tesla private. This tweet caused Tesla stock prices to skyrocket. The Securities and Exchange Commission then opened an investigation into Musk’s tweet — if his claims were untrue then he may have violated U.S. Securities Law. 

On Aug. 10 Banks arrived at Musk’s house to collaborate with Grimes. In a conversation with Business Insider, Banks said she “saw (Musk) in the kitchen tucking his tail in between his legs scrounging for investors to cover his ass after that tweet.” 

On Aug. 12, Banks posted on Instagram that staying at Musk’s house was like being in the race-based horror movie “Get Out.”

On Aug. 13, Musk denied ever meeting Banks. The same day, Banks recounted on Instagram her experiences working with Grimes. In a single Instagram story, Banks wrote, among other degrading expletives, “Grimes is really an idiot.”

Throughout the following few days, Musk admitted to seeing Banks for a few seconds, Banks claimed Musk was tapping her phone, Grimes and Musk stopped following each other on Instagram, Banks claimed Musk threatened her with blackmail, Musk deleted his Instagram and finally, on Aug. 19, Banks sent Musk a formal apology letter. 

An Azealia Banks-driven feud is not uncommon. Banks has had public, but sometimes justified, quarrels with Cardi B, Remy Ma, Rihanna, Erykah Badu, Nick Cannon, Action Bronson, Lily Allen, Beyoncé, Russell Crowe, RZA, SZA, Zayn Malik, Skai Jackson, Sarah Palin, Kendrick Lamar, Lupe Fiasco, Eminem, T.I., Tiny, A$AP Rocky, Rita Ora, Lady Gaga, Pharrell, Iggy Azalea, Lil’ Kim, Rupaul, Nicki Minaj, Funkmaster Flex, Perez Hilton, among others. 

But Banks’ feud with Musk and Grimes highlighted important notions about Musk’s controversial history, Grimes' apparent complacency with it and the foul treatment of Black women in white music spaces. 

In another Instagram story, Banks wrote “Elon Musk is really a part of the problem. When you talk about white male privilege and colonialism …. His family’s wealth is rooted in emerald and ore mines in southern Africa during apartheid ... Ask Elon musk what the f**k he does for Africa? Nothing, he ignores it.”

Musk’s family was extremely wealthy. His father, Errol Musk once said, “we had so much money at times we couldn’t even close our safe,” adding that one person would have to hold the money in place with another closing the door. The family’s wealth was primarily derived from a “half-share in a Zambian emerald mine, which would help to fund his family’s lavish lifestyle of yachts, skiing holidays and expensive computers,” according to Business Insider.

Musk’s family thrived economically in Apartheid-era South Africa. Negotiations began in 1987 to end Apartheid, the strict system of racial segregation in South Africa. Musk left South Africa when he was 17 in 1988. 

Musk’s success is a result of his entrepreneurship and innovation, but it is also a product of the societal imbalances caused by systemic racism. 

Musk’s economic practices may be a reason that Grimes' fans were shocked when the two’s relationship was revealed. In 2020, Grimes tweeted that she respected Musk’s efforts toward clean public transit, taking humans to space, moving the world to clean energy and fighting for a universal basic income. 

A month after Grimes’ tweet defending Musk, he tweeted that another government stimulus package was not in the U.S.’s best interest. He followed this with an insinuation that he would be in support of a Bolivian coup if it meant he could get his hands on the country’s lithium supply. Grimes’ support of Musk, whose comments suggest he has imperialist beliefs, came as a stark juxtaposition to her politics.

Musk made massive donations to charities while dating Grimes, and I am interested to see if these practices continue. 

On Instagram Friday, Azealia Banks posted in reference to Grimes and Musk’s split “Ok girl, can we finally make those darn songs now that apartheid Clyde is out of the way?” 

Though I doubt it will actually happen, I dream of these collaborations gracing my ears. 

@dthopinion

opinion@dailytarheel.com

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