Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Curse of Being a Black Artist

TwitThis

Ice Cube helped me in '92

I think I have fallen in love with Camus (a dead white Algerian
philosopher who argues that the death penalty is premeditated
murder
) and Anthony Hamilton simultaneously.

What does this have to do with being an artist? Everything,
simply because over the last few days I have been apart of
a few conversations on the tension between art and commerce.

Two days ago, on Twitter, Indieplanet and I were having a discussion
about art, commerce, Joe Budden/Vlad flap up.
indieplanet @mdotwrites Its a bigger issue of basic ethics.
Too many blogs/video sites decide at some point to exchange
ethics for page views.

indieplanet @mdotwrites Re: Budden/Vlad - What are your
thoughts on the whole situation. I think its a bigger picture that
video sites should consider.

indieplanet @mdotwrites Shouldnt it be possible to make a
contribution AND get paid?? It is possible (not common)
to change the game & have morals
@indieplanet Its like running with the Dope man. Sooner or
later, someone is going to test you, and you are going to have
to choose.

Yesterday, Dart Adam's sent me a link to an essay of his which outlined,
amongst many things, how the The Telecommunication's Act
spearheaded mergers and acquisitions in radio and how these
changes impacted hip hop.

To cap it off, yesterday, Brooklyn Bodega posted a Facebook note asking

"Does Money Ruin it All?" He wrote,
the other day one of our family posted a comment that he was no fan of 'Notorious' because too many people had profited from its production. He cited Memebrs of Junior Mafia, Puff and I assume he also had a problem with Ms. Wallace as she looks to have been in charge and arguably received the largest check.

So the question is does the presence of money make it impossible to produce a work of pure artistic integrity?
The responses ranged from, "as long as the Wallace family is
compensated
then it is all good" to "making money is practical
for everyone including artists",
and finally "this is a less of an
issue of the evils of capitalism and rather a question
of authenticity."

Many of the comments reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of
capitalism and both how it has historically impacted art and how it impacts
hip hop and Black artists specifically.
Because capital is productive
property, there will always be a move to
exploit the the property to
obtain the most returns.


This is why we have 5 CSI's, 6 Indiana Jones's and Hannah Montana
dish towels.

Quality be damned.

Think about it, art is referred to as intellectual property for a reason.

And here is where the tension arises. If our music, our precious
Hip Hop
music began as a voice for the under represented, what does it mean
for us to be so silent about its current state of affairs?
And, if we are
silent, do we deserve better than what we receive? Why are we
so reluctant
to admit the way in which the market has impacted our art?

I have watched both Saul Williams and KRS rationalize getting
money with Fortune 500's. And I thought to myself why
be coy, why not just say, "Ya'll, I got bills to pay."

Lets be clear, I do not claim to be on a pedestal. If Coke/Sony/Steve
Madden/ came calling and wanted to work with me and I chose to do so, I
wouldn't turn around and say to you "Well the executives
at Coke/Sony/ like me, so this is a great partnership." I would
understand that they want to rock with me because they feel that
I may be able to enhance their shareholder value. Simple as that.

So if you see my face and big {teeth} smile on the back of a Brooklyn
Erotica anthology at the end of the year, lets be clear, I had to pay
some bills and I am okay with that
.

I guess, I am really perturbed at the fact that we all clearly understand
the nasty bottom line of the Dope game, but when it comes to
analyzing
the ways in which the nasty bottom line of Capitalism
affects our art
we get shook.

Statement was very similar to another statement that I read by
Camus
(pronounced Cam-moo, like shampoo.) In the essay
The Wager of our Generation, Camus writes,

The aim of art, the aim of life, can only be to increase the sum
of freedom and responsibility to be found in everyman and the world.
It cannot, under any circumstances be used to reduce or suppress that
freedom, even temporarily....

No great work of art has been based on hatred or contempt. There is
not a single true work of art of art that has not in the end addressed the
inner freedom of each person that has known and loved it.
In an interview on Verbalisms, ran by the phenomenal and formidable
(wink) Raquel Wilson, Dan Tres OMi interviews Wise Intelligent of PRT
on the role that
art and music plays in our culture. He writes,
There are quite a few people who feel that music that is created to raise the consciousness of a particular community is irrelevant in the age of what William C. Bansfield calls the post-album age wherein the music created is commercially driven and marketed to a specific segment of society. Wise Intelligent, the front man for the influential hip-hop group Poor Righteous Teacher, always felt and continues to feel that he was galvanized by the spirit of the people to take up the mic to educate the masses. It is a tragedy that Wise Intelligent, who penned one of the best odes to Black women with “Shakyla,” is forgotten when it comes to bringing knowledge of self beat up and compressed into hip-hop form.

Where does Anthony Hamilton fit in? His album is the first one in
a very
long time, that both instrumentation wise and lyrically, has
helped me make sense
of my life. He has helped me be okay with
my new found freedom
. The irony is that it isn't Hip Hop,
and because am notoriously
boom bap oriented and it feels weird.
I will add that Q-Tips The Renaissance has been in
rotation as well.

Anthony Hamilton also comes into play because the title of his
album
connects to an essential question asked by Camus, which
is what is the
point of life? While I do not have an answer to that, I
have been thinking about the roll that music plays in affirming
who we are.

In 1992, I had Death Certificate to make sense of what was going on
in LA, in the Streets of Oakland and in my family life.
What music do
the young bucks of today have to help them make
sense of their lives?

What music do they have to help them make sense of the rage that they
feel about the murder of Oscar Grant?

4 comments:

Dart Adams said...

That's why I read Model Minority right there! You even brought Albert Camus into the discussion. This is exactly the same reason I wrote "Commerce Ruins Everything Around Me: The Fuck You Pay Me Era Of Hip Hop Music 1997-" last summer.

The whole question of who got paid for what in the "Notorious" film question and of it's "authenticity" is a big issue. Great drop, M. Dot.

One.

John Wilson said...

i heard on the radio this morning that Charli baltimore was airing out her issues regarding the Notorious movie and , whaddya know, she has an album dropping the same time as the movie.

"if we are
silent, do we deserve better than what we receive?"

no. simply because since there isn't a "legitimate" voice opposed to what exists now, the assumption is that nothing better is needed.

and by legitimate, i mean a multitude with enough financial and political banking to generate action, not dialogue. like the PMRC and what they did to Ice-T's Cop killer.

a book that came to my mind when reading this is tangentially related, maybe not at all, named "Obseesive Branding Disorder" by Lucas Conley, and it deals with waht businesses do to keep profits flowing when originality is nonexistent.

sorry for not being concise. i did enjoy reading this piece.

Dame is ILLAIM said...

It is possible to have business in morals, but if one must be sacrificed it is much easier to shed the blood of ones morals.

Your analogy is right eventually somebody is gonna test you if your apart of possible shady business tactics. While listing to the whole Buddens/ Vlad tiff moderated by the barley tolerable Angela Yee, I really wanted Vlad to retort. “You are one of the niggaz acting ignorant that your speaking about.” At Budden.

Yes Vlad is hosting a platform to espouse ignorance, but he should not be condemned by those providing the key ingredients for his product.

Ransom and Budden being the main players in this latest saga are really the main culprits.


---------------
Because capital is productive
property, there will always be a move to exploit the the property to
obtain the most returns.
-----------------
How real is that?

------------
“I guess, I am really perturbed at the fact that we all clearly understand
the nasty bottom line of the Dope game, but when it comes to
analyzing the ways in which the nasty bottom line of Capitalism
affects our art we get shook.”

--------------

I love this statement right here. I would just ask why people are shook. I would submit a lot of it has to do with the way we are indoctrinated in this country. Capitalism has been equated with Democracy for a long time and both of those elements combine to make up what is “American”

Going up against, or sounding “Un-American” is a very troubling feat for some.

Artists by nature are free spirits, no free spirit want to admit or succumb to being confined.


Loved the article….

It sheds light on why artists like

Saigon, Papoose, and Joel Ortiz haven’t dropped major label albums yet.

To much potential knowledge exposed to the public

Also

The Death Certificate reference ties the Cube pic altogether.

They should build a shrine to that man for that album alone.

Model Minority said...

@ Dart
Me and Camus been riding kinda thick around these parts. Lol. Glad you liked it.

@John
Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

"if we are
silent, do we deserve better than what we receive?"

no. simply because since there isn't a "legitimate" voice opposed to what exists now, the assumption is that nothing better is needed.
====
I don't associate legitimize with power.
If that were the case I would probably stop writing and start selling crack or run a hedge fund.

We have more power than we know

Hip Hop Didn't get like this over night,
and by any means it wouldn't change overnight.

Don't trip off being concise. I left a piece of myself on this page. To get feedback is lovely.

Yes Vlad is hosting a platform to espouse ignorance, but he should not be condemned by those providing the key ingredients for his product.
====
What ever happened to birds of a feather?
Dude, if you are getting money with someone, than you are culpable for their actions.
Simple as that.

Otherwise, what would be the value in being independent?



Going up against, or sounding “Un-American” is a very troubling feat for some.
======
Look closer, it is about as un american as Bobby Kennedy.

Glad you stopped by.

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