Or “Economics, Entertainment and Ethics” for the verbally presumptuous
Happy Labor Day!
This could almost be a part 2 to my Am I A Sellout post.
I’ve been working on this for a bit and I thought I’d save this for a day when more of you would have the time to read it in full.
So last month Justin Hunte and Rude Jude opened up a great debate that I’ve been interested in for a long time: Is conscious content always good?
While covering the end of Drake’s 430 week run on the hot 100 charts Justin Hunte says:
I would ask him: Why doesn’t he talk about issues that pertain to people around him…Why is it okay to rep Memphis and Houston so hard, black communities so hard, until there’s something that black people are really upset about, people of color are upset about.”
In essence, why let our artists profit from the good and ignore the bad?
He also goes on to explain that plenty of artists have had great success while continuing to speak out through their music, so it definitely can be done.
Rude Jude then introduces our counter argument saying:
“I think rap is getting back into that especially now, but actually it’s almost like the fucking flavor of the day.”
Making the point that while the content is great, it’s also popular at that may easily be enabling all of the artists standing up all of a sudden.
To which Hunte responds;
“Solutions don’t come in silence.”
So where does that leave us?
Bun B, a legendary Hip-Hop artist, and one of my personal favorites did an interview with Sway recently to talk about his upcoming project Bernard
“Hip-Hop sells everything, Hip-Hop is a part of everything now…and we have to look at Hip-Hop different at 44 as a culture than we did at 18. There’s a different level of responsibility, there’s a different level of knowledge…I can’t do and say things in the same way that I said when I was 18, cause’ I’m not who I was when I was 18…. I’m not just an OG to people on the street, I’m an OG entertainers and people like KRIT (Big K.R.I.T) too. But there’s a moral obligation I have to people that have always come to Bun B and have always come to UGK for information and game and shit to live by, I still have that obligation.”
The whole interview is 2 parts, and I recommend watching it.
This quote is around the 10 minute mark
So should every artist always speak up?
I’d argue this isn’t the case.
What we get from a Bun B, or even a Jay-Z for that matter is a great example of an artist that has grown and matured, and feels the need to speak up/offer guidance.
Do we want artists without that volition to do the speaking up?
I sure don’t.
So artists who don’t want to touch social topics for their own reasons, business or otherwise are out. What about artists who use the “Flavor of the day” to propel their business?
Enter South Park:
WiseCrack has a great video called What South Park Teaches us about Economics
I think the whole video relates to this topic more broadly, but for sake of being concise I’m going to stick to their discussion of the Go Fund Yourself episode at the 8:35 mark.
South Park is arguing, according to WiseCrack that in our modern times, a business’ brand has become more important than the business itself.
The kids launch a startup that does absolutely nothing, yet becomes extremely successful on the strength of their brand alone, only to be brought down by a PR misstep.
“Here the episode argues that a business built only on aesthetics has nowhere to turn and no foundational beliefs to hold to once public opinion turns against it. It turns out even a business that does almost nothing can be threatened by doing, or saying or being the wrong thing at the wrong time.
So does the popularity of social awareness, at least among a percentage of the population, enable artists to build a brand on it for solely business purposes?
I’d argue absolutely.
So the fact that now more than ever we are demanding these topics be talked about by our artists is great, but we should be concerned with values and actions over lyrics and brand. I believe we shouldn’t champion this if it’s only occurring on the surface level.
A great debate on this topic in the poetic arena comes from a discussion i read on Reddit recently titled The problem with Rupi Kaurs poetry
I’d suggest diving in if you have some time, both sides make a lot of great points, but in short Rupi is a very popular, successful poet, and part of her brand hinges on social issues like race and feminism. The Article and subsequent comments debate the authenticity and/or purpose of this in her work, and her overall artistic merit.
Now I’m going to throw this entire argument through one last loop.
On another video by Justin Hunte Are Labels Ignoring Call For Conscious Rap?
He talks about a recent study comparing popular music on the charts vs Facebook
What they found was that songs on facebook had more social content 16% of the time.
I would use that same study to back Jude’s “Flavor of the day” argument.
The tide is turning, and a significant amount of people are looking for more social content.
And so we should look inwardly at the end of the day and also ask ourselves:
Do we make these artistic demands because we’re becoming better people?
Or is it because “facebook is where you put the best representation of yourselves.”
Thanks for reading,