Separating the art from the artist

Should we, as supporters, be listening to music from immoral musicians?

Story by Ryan Huling, Staff Writer

Music is one of the few mediums that allows artists to communicate messages to people across the world. Whether a listener is an avid fan or is hearing an artist’s music for the first time, each musician has their own reputation. An artist may be vocal with their views on controversial topics because of their platform. Artists may even do illegal and unethical things that call their integrity into question.

For fans, however, do those actions matter if the music is entertaining?

Kanye West’s recent actions and support of President Donald Trump are  prime examples of the artist’s problematic character. Hip-hop music is historically, and currently, a left-leaning genre. Kanye, however, has taken a strong liking to the right-wing president. His new political interest has led him to say, and do, some very suspect things.

In late April, Kanye posted a photo with Lyor Cohen and Lucian Grainge while wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat with the caption “we got love.” Many pro-Trump tweets followed the picture and, not long after, this odd comment on TMZ:

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years…That sounds like a choice.”

After this remark, the general feeling from fans shifted. Kanye suddenly could not be taken as seriously as he was before.

He didn’t stop there. On September 29, Kanye was the guest musician on Saturday Night Live. After his third and final performance of the night, which was garnished by his MAGA hat, Kanye proceeded to deliver a pro-Trump speech to the audience that was quickly cut off from the broadcast. The audience, however, had to endure the artist’s unplanned Ted Talk.

After all of Kanye’s outbursts, fans are faced with an important question: Should they continue to listen to his music when he’s thinking and acting this way?

Kanye is not the only artist who falls under this suspect category. Tekashi 6ix9ine’s fame in the past year has skyrocketed. His music reaches the ears of over 28,000,000 people on Spotify each month. He has also become quite popular in the court system after posting a video he recorded containing child pornography.

Despite 6ix9ine’s recent appearance in court and the severe allegations against him, he’s still producing music with big names like Nicki Minaj and 50 Cent. Even more, each single he releases is streamed by millions.

Similarly, before his untimely passing, rapper XXXTentacion’s career was also shrouded in controversy. In a timeline presented by Vulture, the magazine details the domestic violence allegations, jail time and assault allegations against the artist. Fans of the musician went as far to verbally abuse his ex-girlfriend, who alleged XXXTentacion had been abusing her for over a year.

XXXTentacion has over 33,000,000 listeners on Spotify, despite the allegations and arrests. Nevertheless, none of this has stopped his rise as an icon in the Hip-hop community.

As unethical as some artists can get, their musical reputation seems to precede them. Musicians with clean consciences are held at the same standard as musicians with ongoing criminal records. Does the catchiness of their songs come before the content of their character? At what point, as a fanbase, do fans decide that the art cannot be separated from the artist?

Huling can be reached at [email protected]