Self v Art. One and the Same?
In January of 2021, an important case started to make its way through Twitter. Maryland Court of Appeals made the decision to allow rap lyrics to be used as evidence in one of its cases. I mean we’ve all seen the skit on Key & Peele, but who knew we’d see a real-life situation of this?
Personally, I think this’ll set a precedent in which the police and the judiciary system will use lyrics to attack African Americans. And while this attack is nothing new, it did bring up the question that we’ve all asked before.
Is an artist their art?
In cases like these, we’d obviously want a better separation but as a musician I know that it’s not as simple as that. For one, the process in which people make music is different. How many people are on your team? Do you have a band? Does someone help you write? Was the song written with the idea of being sold or is it something only for your ears?
How can we decide whether someone is indistinguishable from their art or just a phenomenal storyteller?
For me at least, I think they are one and the same.
First, I think coming into contact with different people can truly create a new you. We learn and grow from everyone and the stronger the connection the more likely it is to pick up habits from them. It’s almost as if we carry a piece of that person with us. So, to make a song telling their story doesn’t seem too far off to me. We’ve heard such works like “For Your Eyes Only”, the fourth studio album by J. Cole.
Then on the other hand, I know I’ve heard both simp and pimp songs from Drake. And while some people some might say he puts on a good mask, I’d argue that he’s each and every single one of those people that he portrays in his music. The same way different people can bring out different versions of yourself, so can emotions and circumstances.
Even with knowing all of this, it still doesn’t make the question easier to answer. But when you separate someone from their creation, it gives them the freedom to become a different person in the songs to come. The separation of one piece allows an intimate connection with the following works and, ultimately, something incredible.