Separating the Artist(e) from his Art

Just a few hours after I wondered out loud (via twitter) what had happened to @cucumberjuice, she sent up a smoke signal via her latest blog post. In her heartfelt, sincere letter to Jamaican dancehall luminary Bounty Killer, she struggled to reconcile his badman persona with his self-proclaimed role as the poor people’s governor and his inexplicable addiction to battering females :-/

I don’t fancy myself a Bounty Killer fan, never have been. I remember the early 90’s when everybody in Jamaica was taking sides between Bounty and Beenie Man. At that time, I was busy listening to Whitney Houston & Celine Dion (don’t act like you don’t know all the words to It’s All Coming Back to Me Now !) But if pressed, I would have picked Beenie. Why? In retrospect, it was probably because Bounty always seemed like a very angry man. So when he announced his ‘Cross, Angry, Miserable‘ catchphrase in the mid-00’s, it was very fitting. (Pause: Are we about to start a new decade? Wasn’t the Y2K scare just yesterday?!) But I have no problem admitting that he is unmatched in his ability to deliver socially conscious messages over dancehall beats, so there are several songs in his arsenal that I consider classic and do in fact, love. (See: Look, Anytime, Fed Up).

Now despite the well-known juxtaposition between Rodney – the son who loves his mother, and Killer – the artiste well known for his domestic violence; I was still surprised to hear that he [allegedly] attacked one of his concubines girlfriends with a hammer and mosquito zapper 0_o . I was shocked for two reasons:

1. A mosquito zapper!!! Who the heck attacks someone with a mosquito zapper?
2. Just months ago he was facing charges for attacking his then partner, and one would think he would wait a while before resuming his usual ways.

That being said, unlike my twitren @cucumberjuice, I felt largely unaffected by this. I keep up with entertainment news as much as the rest of my generation but I’m one of the few that was unmoved when Michael Jackson died and never saw the need to engage in extended discourse over the Chris Brown and Rihanna debacle. While music is universally acknowledged as a way to express and evaluate our emotions, if we don’t separate our feelings for the art from those we have for the artist, we’ll never be able to listen to anything. I don’t mean to exonerate artists from all culpability for their actions, but with all the craziness going on in Hollyweird, I’ve given up on holding artists to anything more than the most base moral standard.

I came to that conclusion once R. Kelly’s golden showers w/ the kiddies came to light. R. Kelly remains one of the most prolific songwriter/producers of my generation (MJ’s You Are Not Alone, Whitney’s I Look to You, Toni Braxton’s I Don’t Want To, Ruben Studdard’s I Need an Angel, not to mention his own catalogue of hits). When that story broke, I had friends who vowed never to listen to R. Kelly again. My thought process was quite different: Why should I lose the pleasure of listening to good music because the musician is crazy (or corrupt … or criminal?)

I also pondered the double standard when the clarion calls were sounded to boycott Chris Brown. You mean to tell me all y’all really believed MJ was innocent? O_0 Or did people not care because he was the King of Pop? Hmmm…

Anyway, the only way for me to enjoy music (and by the same standard: films, books, plays, art etc.) is to separate the artist from the art. Until next time, I’mma Run it and Beat It cuz I Believe I Can Fly, even though I’m a Sufferer! 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Separating the Artist(e) from his Art”

  1. I definitely understand your viewpoint. It’s something I try to adopt myself but every so often someone like Chris Brown (his youth) and Bounty (his talent and just extreme waywardness from common sense) sneak in & provoke me a bit. Rodney now, I dunno what exactly bothered me so much but something did. I wonder too about Buju but would prefer to wait until his trial is concluded. A friend told me that my “sadness” or “worry” is wasted on these people since children, poor people, and the “disadvantaged” are much more worthy. I agree that there are “worthier” people but for me, it’s a small thing to wonder in this way about someone else but not dwell.

    R.Kelly…..I have “12 Play” but I can scarcely listen to it without cringing every so often. Someone like Amy Winehouse though I’ve completely separated music from woman…and kept enjoying the music.

  2. Yeah, I totally understand. I remember how devastated I was when I found out MLK Jr. cheated on Coretta 😦 The disappointment is certainly a valid feeling but I refuse to dwell on it. And cosign on the Amy Winehouse!!!

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