At first, I wasn’t going to write about this topic. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say or didn’t want to, and I certainly wasn’t afraid to. It’s just been covered so extensively that I didn’t feel that I could say anything that hasn’t already been said a hundred times.
But it kept bugging me. And I kept struggling with it. Then I realized, I had to write about it, because it needs to be said as often as possible. Talent shouldn’t trump human decency.
Here’s what I mean: Over the last eleven months or so, I’m sure you’ve also noticed a strong uptick in dirtbag behavior catching a pass when it comes to music. Kodak Black, XXXTentacion, Famous Dex, and others have all been accused of, convicted of, and even caught on camera assaulting and/or battering women.
Here’s the thing: This isn’t new. It’s just the latest wave in a cycle that dates all the way back to David Ruffin and James Brown, continued through R. Kelly and Chris Brown, and reflects a greater societal pattern of hand-waving abuse that includes Floyd Mayweather and seemingly half of the NFL.
This isn’t some spiteful diatribe because I dislike these artists’ music; this goes so much deeper than “mumble rap vs. real hip-hop.” This isn’t a debate about quality, it’s a call to action.
Whether or not you think they deserve the attention and accolades they receive musically, the fact remains that they have plenty of fans who respect their craft and enjoy their music. It’s valid art, even if hip-hop’s older generation don’t always get or enjoy the next wave.
Listening to XXXTentacion’s 17 over the weekend, it was very easy for me to recall being a lost, lonely, angry teenager. Kodak Black is an above average lyricist who makes catchy trap tunes in the spirit of an early Gucci Mane, catching listeners off-guard with surprisingly insightful observations and knowing wordplay.