Malcolm X's family and estate has described Nicki Minaj's use of a famous photo of the black nationalist with a rifle in his hands for her new song's artwork, juxtaposed with the N-word, as disrespectful and offensive.
The black activist's daughter Ilyasah Shabazz, said Minaj's use of the picture "in no way is endorsed by our family", adding: "Ms Minaj's artwork for her single does not depict the truth of Malcolm X's legacy."
Minaj, 31, apologised on Thursday and withdrew the artwork after she was criticised on social media platforms for using the photo for the cover of her new male-bashing song, Lookin Ass N***a.
Minaj said the single cover was "never the official artwork" but Mark Roesler, chief executive of CMG Worldwide, the business representative for the Malcolm X estate, called her use of the photo "dehumanising".
"This is a family photo that was taken out of context in a totally inaccurate and tasteless way," he said in a statement on behalf of the family.
Malcolm X was assassinated 49 years ago this month at the age of 39.
Londell McMillan, the lawyer for the Malcolm X estate and the black leader's daughters, and estate administrators Ilyasah and Malaak Shabazz, said those using the famous photo of Malcolm X needed to remove it immediately.
"Failure to do so within the next 24 hours shall result in legal action," said Mr McMillian, who is also the lawyer for Malcolm X's daughters Attallah, Qubilah and Gamilah Shabazz.
"The initial act and subsequent acts of distribution were improper and ill-advised. Any disparagement, infringement or disrespect of Malcolm X, and his name, image, likeness and proprietary rights will not be tolerated."
Minaj posted the artwork on her Instagram page and website on Wednesday. The photo shows Malcolm X holding a rifle as he was trying to protect his family from death threats; his home had been firebombed.
"I apologise to the Malcolm X estate if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued. ... I have nothing but respect (and) adoration for u," Minaj said on her Instagram page following the criticism.
She said later that she wrote the song to empower women because there were too many songs that attacked females.
"It was almost parallel in my opinion because he has this big gun ready to shoot at a lookin' (expletive) bleep, and that's how I looked at it," she said.
"I looked at it as this is one of the most memorable people in our history, in black history, who voiced his opinion no matter what, and I understand how my intent was overlooked and I definitely didn't want to offend his family or his legacy."
In the song's music video, Minaj is shooting guns.
Ilyasah Shabazz said Minaj's use of her father's photo was part of a larger problem in today's culture.
"Situations like the recent portrayal of our father on the album cover for Ms Minaj's new single only highlight the fact that we as a society need to take more responsibility for what we're teaching our children," she said.
"It is our family's hope that the true legacy and context of Malcolm X's life continues to be shared with people from all walks of life in a positive manner that helps promote the goals and ideals for which Malcolm X so passionately advocated."