When Googling the basic necessities of life, you will likely find many results that will say water, food, shelter and fire a vital to basic survival for humans. Delving deeper provides interesting results, stating that human psychological needs include sanitation, touch, sleep and personal space.
As humans, we are social creatures and tend to thrive best in communities and within these communities lies one of the most overlooked basic needs for survival: art. From dancing to paintings to theatrical plays, we as humans seemed to have a deep desire and need for art.
It’s no secret that we all can love it to varying degrees. However, our appreciation as of late has cast a shadow over the true value of art in recent years. It is time we start paying attention to the details of what is being said, heard and shown in art.
In 2018, famous rapper and hip hop artist, Meek Mill, released his album named “Championships.” Social media and bloggers alike were in a frenzy over a verse within the album, on the song, “What’s Free,” specifically the verse by Jay Z , who was a featured artist on the record.
At one point in the verse, Jay Z had some lines roasting Kanye West, whom they have had a love/hate relationship over the past decade, and plenty of people were quoting him in Tweets and articles; talking about how great the verse was. Nevermind the lines in question about 15 to 20 seconds of a three-and-a-half-minute verse discussing things, such as current rap/hip hop culture and the financial state of black folk inside and outside the music industry.
It seemed all the important things weren’t really heard, or people would just write it away as, “verse of the year”. The song was nominated by Black Entertainment Television, also know as BET, for best-featured verse, and not for Jay-Z's verse; but for another feature on the record (of which it still did not win). The song was little more than a footnote in the year of music for 2018.
When these messages are put down into our books and movies, people love to praise it. It’s art, after all. It was meant to be enjoyed to a certain degree. However, at what point do we stop just hearing the sound of a record, a movie or anything and start actually listening to the message that was laid down?
There are plenty of arguments to be had for messages in various forms of art that have seemingly flown over the public’s head. Even something seemingly as harmless as memes popularized on social media can devalue the statement of art.
It’s time to start taking action on these social issues, and it does not exclude the organizations that love to praise social messages. The Grammys love to praise socially-aware music and give them “points” for it. However, they have clearly not listened to the meaning of said music.
Just this last January at the Grammys, they awarded Tyler, The Creator’s album “IGOR,” best rap album of the year despite there being little rapping on the entire project. It would appear they have profiled Tyler for either his music in the past or his skin color and just slapped him into a category that the album did not actually fit in.
If people going to start acting out the change they praise art for, it must start someplace.
If you do not agree with the message being said, you aren’t obligated to switch opinions by any means. If your opinion about mental health in our communities is set in stone, it is very doubtful that watching “Joker” is going to change your mind about anything.
It is the people who agree with the message that must enact the change. As powerful as art is, it cannot change everyone’s mind about what might be an important social issue. That duty falls onto us, the viewers and listeners.
If we truly do care about the topics being talked about, we must use these stories to create or reinforce our resolve to see the issues changed.