Aspiring Artists

Family Guy

Written by Wil

Do you watch Family Guy? Do you watch NBA Basketball? Do you read fiction books? Do you play video games?

How come you can sit down on Tuesday night and watch The Wire reruns on demand but someone else can’t drive to the mall after work and listen to Dem Franchize Boyz? Who decided that television can be fiction but music can’t?

Fans of music, specifically urban music, have this fascination with what other people listen to. For some reason, fans of “real hip-hop” (their term, not mine) tend to think they’re part of a higher power. They feel they’re listening to what everybody should be listening to. Beats, hooks, melodies, catchiness, flows – none of that matters. When it comes to hip-hop, apparently it’s all about the lyrics.

And heaven forbid those lyrics are about money! No. They must be about “the struggle”. Even if the artist isn’t struggling. Because that’s what’s real.

My wife watches Real World and Dancing with the Stars. Nobody calls her an idiot. Nobody calls her sheep. Personally? I don’t like those shows. I don’t see the point. But they keep her entertained, so who am I to argue? I sat there depressed for nearly two days when Derek Jeter hurt his calf on his way to 3,000 hits. Did his calf affect my real life? No, baseball is just something that keeps me entertained. But because of that, it was important to me. But to a person who doesn’t watch sports, it was completely irrelevant.
And that’s the point. Music, like television, is entertainment.

There are people who watch CNBC or Bloomberg Television all day to get the latest on the stock market and world news. They watch these networks because they talk about subjects that are relevant to the world. Does that person have the right to tell you that you should turn off Seinfeld and watch Squawk Box because it’s more real? Would you like someone calling you simple or a follower because you watch television for entertainment instead of watching documentaries to learn? Plenty of people feel like Entourage is nothing but a time-waster, the same way many of you feel that listening to Soulja Boy means you don’t understand “good” music.

Music is personal. We relate to artists. We hear a song and somehow connect it to our lives. We believe that the artist knows exactly what we’re feeling because he or she is expressing our exact thoughts in music. So when that artist makes a song that we can’t understand, we feel like that artist has betrayed us. Along those same lines, we feel that any fan of an artist who doesn’t reflect what we feel doesn’t understand us either.

Music is more personal than television. Music can provide a soundtrack to our lives. Music is actually very much like sports. We connect to teams. We live and die Yankee baseball. We enjoy Seinfeld, but we don’t live and die with it. Fans are passionate about teams the way they’re passionate about artists. Often, that leads to a blind eye. A Red Sox fan will seldom acknowledge the flaws in their team, the way a fan of an artist will ignore an artist’s shortcomings. Sometimes, a fan connects so deeply with an artist’s words that they’ll completely ignore the deficiency in production, mixing, melody or choruses.

A Nas fan says Jay-Z sucks because he talks about money and his lyrics aren’t deep enough. A Jay-Z fan will say Nas sucks because he often chooses shitty beats and can’t write hooks. But then Lil Wayne fans will say neither of them are as good as Wayne because they don’t have the same energy or “swag”. Guess what? None of these opinions are wrong, just like none are right. It all depends on what you look for when you turn on the radio. Everybody has a different objective when they listen to music. All opinions should be respected.

Not everybody wants to listen to music to be educated. If you ever watched a comedy show or read a fiction book, then you should automatically lose your right to complain about those who choose to listen to music solely for the beat and hook. Be open-minded. Realize that your opinion isn’t right. It’s no more important than the millions of people who pay to listen to Wacka Flocka Flame’s new single. Music is opinion. Music is feeling. Music is whatever you want it to be.

Just enjoy it.

About the author

Wil

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  • whoa whoa whoa. No one is saying Entourage is a time-waster. lol

    But to me, it’s hard to understand why certain things catch on and if I don’t believe a person is talented not content.

    Brother Ali said “Everyone has a dumb side but not everyone has a smart side” at a concert in STL once. I can appreciate “ignorant” music with basic, simplistic words. I like it.

    I just don’t get why rappers with an offbeat, non-energetic delivery with words I literally can’t understand catches on like it does. lol

    • so – because YOU cant understand it means taht its not good???? did your parents understand illmatic? to them, that shit is garbage compared to their music. it’s been that way for generations and isn’t about to change.

      • “so – because YOU cant understand it means taht its not good????”

        – Yes. lol. It’s about what I think about it. That opinion determines whether or not I support it.
        My folks probably wouldn’t like illmatic but can appreciate the creativity and artistic qualities. If I can’t understand someone’s pronunciation of words how can I appreciate his words?

        P.S. I dont’ really like Illmatic.
        P.P.S. *that

  • Alotta rappers I dislike aren’t just bad lyrically alot them lack good rhyme schemes have a weak flow and corny song concepts. I can’t listen to a rapper that comes of lazy.Even if lyrics ain’t your strong suit you should still care about what you’re saying and how you say it.case on point Freddie Foxx aint the best “lyricist” in the world but there is no denying his energy or song concepts.Wack rappers bring down the property value of the art as whole, and in an art form where it’s an everyday struggle to validate our artistic value that’s something we can’t have.

    • corny to YOU. “wack rapper” to YOU. but why do you get to decide what’s wack or what’s not? i used to listen to NWA “efil4zaggin”. to this day, i think the album is brilliant. my mom used to tell me its just “nigga this, nigga that”. not music. not compared to the beatles – who have made some of music’s greatest songs. but i didnt connect with that. i connected with The Chronic. was Dre saying anything so brilliant? no. they talked about having sex with girls and smoking weed. but now we wanna criticize Gucci Mane??? its hypocritical.

  • I read this and it got me thinking. I tend to generally agree except for the fact that TV separates its characters from its ppl. Whenever a person uses the word “I” you’re going to expect something authentic. Whether that person is authentically an idiot or pure genius you want it to feel real. Thats why ppl are so hard on rappers saying they’re phony or wack cause they present the “I” image instead of coming out and saying my drug dealing and money exploits are fabricated for entertainment…

    • i agree with what you’re trying to say, but now how you’re saying. it’s actually inspiring me to write a blog comparing music to television.

      actors get paid to convince you that they ARE that character. that they’re NOT acting. actors say “i”. for those two hours, will smith wants you to believe that he really is living in manhattan by himself after the world nearly ended.

  • Awe man I’ve had this argument since high school when I preferred to bump Pharoah monch in my mom’s car over Three Six Mafia to make my friends happy while riding home. I think this argument goes both ways because just like you have that Backpacker hip hop elitist cat that wont bump it if its “watered down” or “commercial sounding” you have that ignorant mainstream drone that won’t listen to a certain artist because they’re “broke” or they don’t have “Swag” we call these people followers and these are the ones that are drawn mostly to the Gucci’s, waka’s and Lil wayne’s of the genre no disrepect to them pass their music.

    I had a person tell me that Wayne was better than Jay-z because “he gettin that bread” it was like in his mind all musical merit went out the window and I found that disturbing, more to my point I think the level of ignorance and blatant un-appreciation for the art form that’s found in a Gucci mane or Waka’s music is just insulting to me not only as a artist but a black person in general some of these dudes really don’t give a fuck, Waka said out of his own mouth as long as he gets paid he doesn’t care about message,lyrics, quality or none of that now I won’t knock a fan for choosing to support that but I won’t and once I’m called a “hater” for not doing so that’s where the sheep comments come from.

    This is just me though……

  • I would say this argument of authenticity is one that stems from the communities that were first established in ny and then that have spread worldwide attempting to preserve a particular form of that culture, as well as, limit people’s access to it, for better or worse. Historically, we can look at other art forms of music: blues, jazz and rock n roll that were hijacked by white artists and white fan bases. It is almost to the point where the only people that listen to those genres now are white. I think that is what disgruntles many listeners now a days is the fact that they see hip hop in some ways traveling down that path with production driven(the antithesis to artist driven music), sing songy elements, ghostwriters and other pop elements that can be pretty much replicated by anyone. For example, Chet Haze and Bob Dylan’s grandson rapping and having music that is stylized in the same fashion as many contemporary rap artists. In response to the other point brought up in this post, taste in music is subjective and much of it has to do with where you are raised, your socio-economic background, what your friends like and most importantly– it is generational. The reason I do not like Dem Franchise Boyz is because when I grew up I listened to different sounding artists such as Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Tribe, etc. I am not foolish enough to believe that if I grew up in a different generation I might be a fan of many current artists or groups like Dem Franchise Boyz. Finally, I think the comparison of tv to music is a bit shortsighted. TV is not an art form, or form or expression, or a vehicle like music is for everyday living and emotion. Also, I feel that there isnt an established culture that engulfs television like it does with hip hop music. If there was, you would have people calling people idiots for watching Family Guy, Jersey Shore, etc. Feel free to comment back, criticize or agree with my statements. Im just putting in my two cents and hoping to play devil’s advocate to your original post.

  • This is a very interesting approach. In my opinion, I don’t tend to think the problem is with the music per se, I think the biggest problem is the rabid music fanboyism that comes along with it. As you mentioned (and I think it should be expanded on), fans tend to ignore the flaws of their favorite artist while those flaws are the only subject a non-fan will linger on.

    It’s those differences that are usually expressed in very immature ways (“gucci mane sucks balls nd ur stupid ass shit for listening to that!”…”what the fuck is a Phontay? a gay rapper from north carolina? that shit never gets played on the radio!”) which leads to the stalemate and “hater” mentality we have now. If only there was a bit more maturity when we discussed our opinions on what’s out, I think we would be able to elevate the platform above where we are now.

    The other side is people need to learn and accept that we need that balance. I can’t listen to just J-Live or Talib Kweli or Brother Ali, just like I can’t just listen to Jeezy or 3-6 or Project Pat. Sticking to only one side makes you as person very boring.

    Do I like to listen to Gucci or Waka or Meek Mill? No. Do I get tired of hearing it blaring out of a car going down my street doing 30 in a 15 mph zone? Of course, but that’s the listener’s choice. I’m sure they’re probably tired of hearing me play Elmatic for the 50th time as well, but they also respect me when they hear 8-Ball & MJG coming out of my speakers as well.

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