Don’t confuse the artist with the art


Kanye West and TMZ’s Van Lathan debated whether or not four centuries of slavery amounted to a poor life choice. Photo clipped from Youtube.

Alex Tsymbalisty, Perspective Editor

The one thing that connects many of the world’s greatest thinkers is their various eccentricities. Vincent Van Gogh cut off his own ear, while Sigmund Freud was a known coke fiend.

And now, in the 21st century, we were recently treated to Kanye West arguing slavery was a choice.
West’s comment was made in the TMZ headquarters where he was explaining his recent actions on social media and outspoken support for Donald Trump. In a monologue to two TMZ hosts, West delivered a line that had us all shaking our heads, fans and critics alike: “Four hundred years of slavery? That looks like a choice.”

West has recently added that he did not mean that slavery was literally a choice but, regardless, this comment does bring up an interesting conversation: can you listen to and enjoy an artist’s music even if they themselves are bad people?

Now, West’s comments were certainly ignorant but, objectively, they didn’t physically harm anyone.

But, what if an artist engages in morally reprehensible behavior like domestic violence? Can you still disregard their behavior and continue to enjoy their music?

Well, yes and no. If you like the way Chris Brown’s voice sounds and you think he is a talented artist then no one can stop you from listening to him, and you shouldn’t really feel bad for thinking this. Music is subjective after all and everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

However, listening to an artist or enjoying their sound is different from consuming their music. Consuming implies purchasing or in some way contributing to the artist monetarily.

If you truly believe that they are bad people and their opinion should not be given a platform then boycott their albums. In other words, don’t attend their shows. Don’t give them your money.
Music (and all art for that matter) does not exist in a vacuum. The way an artist behaves outside of the studio has a real impact on how their music should be consumed and judged.

And, if you aren’t willing to do this (and most people aren’t), evaluate whether you actually practice what you preach and how strongly you hold your beliefs if a 45 minute album is all it takes to forgo your moral judgement.

As for Kanye, what he said was ignorant and maybe a little misunderstood, but isn’t overtly harmful to anyone. And, to quote the man himself, “name one genius who ain’t crazy.”