Please forgive my melodramatic headings! What I am talking about today is the aim of being famous verses the aim of simply being the best at your art. By best I mean the most forward thinking, creative boundary pushing artist in your field. Now when I was a child spending all my free hours watching MTV’s shows on how Destiny Child, Whitney Houston or Christina Aguilera became famous, I was simply thinking – I want to be like them. After a few years I gained a social conscience and wanted to write songs and act in plays that would change people’s hearts but that was after a few good years. And I am (well so I think) a sensible one. I am aware that the transition does not occur for all. That is where the fame scandal comes to play. Is it bad to simply seek fame? Those awful singers entering themselves on X-Factor for their 30 second fame as the nation’s worst singer until the next comes along. Is it bad for a person to chase every single new wave that comes along? Those artists who stand for nothing and fall for everything.
Let’s look at popular music again. There is great music being put out. I love and appreciate all genres so from the London emcees to Calvin Harris – you will find it on my ipod. However I cannot help but feel a little uneasy about the music videos or branding of some artists. Again this is just me thinking aloud so feel free to post your agreement (or disagreement). Let’s take Drake’s song ‘Started from the bottom now we’re here’ track. The words are actually really deep. A story of struggle, to overcome, of pushing oneself against all odds. However the buffoonery in the music video completely discredits the song. This is what gives Hip – Hop a bad press. The videos are so detestable and degrading to women (do not get me started on video girls), that it gets the genre judged and shut down, looked down upon as a musical taste for degenerates or office types trying to be cool.
Branding is so important. Even though it is not morally sound, we know that we are judged by what we look like. Even if it were not so, why would you want what you look like and do to be so misleading that people do not even want to find out what you are saying. I am not for one second saying that we should become a pious herd all trying to ‘look’ the part. In fact my behaviour and dressing has raised, raises and will continue to raise eyebrows. I am fine with that. However I do not go out of my way to look like I indulge in every kind of stupid, mindless and even dangerous act that this shady earth has been cursed with.
In other words we know that there are high rates of STIs, single mothers, drug and alcohol addiction and then one puts out a video that praises all these things (or acts that lead to the above) and we see nothing wrong with that. We put it down to the life of the rich and famous. Nooooooo! We fund these guys by buying their music, going to their shows and letting their music largely influence our generation. We need to start setting a standard where we support those giving back to our communities and I do not just mean money. Any knucklehead can do that. We need those who are making efforts to sow morals and build people of character and value. Fame is good. There is nothing wrong with it. Hey I want to be famous. It is the value we place on those who place very little value on us that is the problem.
Think about it.
Deception verses creative exploration – is there a distinction?
I love a good political play. Absolutely adore anything that gets my social conscience jumping. I love to read a book or walk out of play thinking … man this world is messed up, how can I be a good thing for my generation? How can I be the best I can be to inspire others to be their best also? I also love songs that make me think about my community, what I mean to my neighbours; how I can change the way I interact with people. Not many songs do that. I also like the type of songs that just let me zone out. The ones that I can listen to for hours and just chill; to be taken away from the stress and all so frequent inconvenience of thinking too much. However I cannot help but notice that art is hugely deceptive. What I am trying to get clear in my own head is: where (if anywhere) is the line between creative exploration and downright meaningless deception drawn?
Some communities throughout history and even to this present day had and have outlawed arts as evil for the very reason that it is deceptive, the line being too indistinct for the people to be accepting. I understand that putting out a great work can mean taking on a role. In acting it is compulsory. A play without any actors and a certain amount of stepping into character (also known as deception), there would be no play!
However if we take the music scene at the moment and start calling names – take Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, they take on a role for their stage acts, and videos that in my opinion adds very little value to what they do as musicians. I am aware of the argument in favour of visuals and I am not saying for one second that their creative team lack anything. In fact they probably work with some of the best creative thinkers and visual creatives of our generation. For that reason I am at loss and cannot see why these musicians insist on producing these weird and not so wonderful stage performances.
Now let’s get really serious for a second and think about the influence someone like Nicki Minaj is having. There are countless young (and not so young) women (and men) wearing bright yellow wigs and pink lipstick, having silicone injected in their bums, and doing all manner of crazy things to look like their idol. Some would say it is harmless and for few it probably is. However for others it is dangerous. There are people growing increasingly dissatisfied with themselves and not being able to appreciate their natural beauty because that is not what Nicki encourages them to do. I hear the angry cry of some already…’but she doesn’t try to be a role model’. I am not saying she has to. All I am saying is that we have to be aware of the influence we have. As a female rapper I have absolutely no doubt that she wants to be influential. To use that influence irresponsibly by breeding a following of black barbies is….you fill in the gap.
So there is this tension between creative exploration and degenerate deception. I cannot and really do not want to convince you of either all. If you have an insight that might make me see things differently, let me know. Otherwise simply be vigilant peeps. How are we letting others ‘creative exploration’ or whatever you call it influence us.
For the past year I have been at the drawing board. Have closed myself off from uploading new material and taken timeout to observe.
Now I understand that being ‘in the know’, understanding and having and appreciation for the leaders in your field is a constant process. However I took the step back because to put it simply I was lost. Since a child all I knew is that I wanted to be a superstar. As a little girl I obviously had no idea that being a superstar is a lot more complicated than standing on stage and being basically worshipped by a lotttt of people. I had no idea that people will judge you, your morals, the decisions you make about to wear or not wear to the supermarket (or even the toilet). All I knew is that I wanted to sing and write.
It should come as no surprise then that as a 22 year old blossoming woman, getting some very strong opinions about life, ethics, morals, religion and everything else in-between, I started questioning how far I was willing to go and what I would and would not do for a quick buck and this strange thing called ‘fame’. I mean now when I think about it, it is absolutely appalling that any human being would put another human on a pedal stool. As far as I am concerned we are all equal, fallen, vulnerable human beings struggling to simply make it through life. I am Christian so the way I make it through will look different to the way someone else is trying to get through because (I try to) let God lead in all I do. Nevertheless the underlining point is we are all struggling.
That is why I love music, words, and anything arty. Art is a leveler. It gives the artists the opportunity to say ‘this is the way I see the world, can you see that?’ Sometimes we can, sometimes we can’t. The beautiful thing is having the mere opportunity to see life in a way you may have never seen or experienced before. So this leads me to the big question…How far do you go for your heart? Can it ever make sense to make supposed moral compromises to get a message across? Can the message ever be that important? I will be looking at a couple of artists who have left me questioning what, if anything are they about? What if anything does it mean if I endorse what they do? Notice I said endorse, appreciation is a given.
While I get these posts together, feel free to post any initial thoughts…
Those who know me will Know that I first relaxed my hair when I was 18. It was a short lived stint and my friends constantly made comments like ‘I prefer your ethnic look’. ‘Ethnic’ meaning braids (because that is what they were used to seeing me wearing). The rebel within me said I’ll show them ethnic. I hated being defined by people. I hated people thinking they knew me and boxing me in with their ideas of who I was. It did not matter if I was the one who had previously created the box. You see prior to my relaxed hair I had strongly boasted about my Afro I was proud to be African during times when it was certainly not cool to be African. Furthermore I was proud to be the only Zambian. I made an effort to stand out with my multicolored braids and blatant refusal to wear what every one else wore. The girls wore skirts, I wore trousers. The girls wore trousers I wore skirts. They wore hoodies, I wore wrap around cardigans, they wore Nike Airs, I wore Converses…And so it went for the whole of secondary school and some of University.
So what does this story have to do with anything…The tale of fashion goes – everything comes back round. The once unpopular Afro is now in fashion once again. You go into hair shops and a new section has been created for those ‘transitioning’. You have things like ‘TC’ and ‘TWA’ being thrown into the mix. People are youtubing and blogging about their hair types. It is all really exciting if I am honest. It feels good to go online and now be able to find out about my hair. To hear and share stories about hair miracles and hair disasters. However I feel my teen rebellion self rising as I question if I really want to have my Afro now that everyone has theirs. I recently dyed my hair bronze (and am loving it) but I cannot help but feel a little uneasy about the Afro as the new ‘trend’.
So why feel uncomfortable with black natural hair types getting the attention and celebration? Because trends pass. What is the problem with the Afro hair trend passing? Black people will still forever and always have Afro hair. You see it is fine for clothes trends to peek and drop because we are not born with clothes, we can always decide what we want to wear. With hair it is not that simple. Whether you are aware or not, the Afro has a strong social and cultural history. It is a beautiful history telling the story of a people who have over come a lot. The Afro is also a defining feature in many young women’s coming of age stories. The story of getting their hair straightened in order to fit in and feel more beautiful is not uncommon. The significance of the Afro means that we ought to take it a little more seriously. It is great to celebrate the fullness and versatility of Afro hair now but what happens when its not fashionable anymore?
It has been the longest time!!
It’s a bit late for a New Year blog but this is when I knew it was right to start writing again.
For those of you who are regular readers – thanks for coming back! If you are new to my blog – welcome! Since December I had taken a step back to review my life: relationships, commitments, hobbies, everything in-between. Aside from December being the last month of the year and seemingly a fitting time to conduct such reviews, I actually went into this mode unconsciously following the deaths of a quite few people close to me in different ways. May they Rest In Peace.
The loss left me feeling over and underwhelmed all at the same time. There is nothing like death to put life in perspective, right. Although it had been a great year I had stepped into territories I had envisioned (well not so soon anyway!) I found that I naturally withdrew and wanted to make sense of all the conflicting emotions I had. Now writing is an outlet for me but I never write for public eyes when overwhelmed with a sense of confusion. I strongly believe in the power of words and do not think it is right to pour out our own sour drivel into others’ lives simply because we can. I want everything I put out in public to have a moral, a message to spread a little light. Let’s face it – there’s clearly enough rubbish, darkness and negativity out there.
So…how did I overcome and pass through my withdrawal – with God. I am a Christian. I am a believer in the living God – Father of Jesus – Jesus being the only Saviour of humankind. Amidst the confusion and sifting process I was going through – the Word of God (The Bible) was my filter. Although I felt alien to myself I knew it was only a season because ‘To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under the sun’ – Ecclesiastes 3.1.
No doubt this season has been very uncomfortable. I have experienced doubt and sadness but even in that my heart has been filled with an inexplicable joy. I could feel that God was doing something in me that needed to be done. I prayed that God would refine me and refine my life. I asked Him to remove anything that should not have a connection with me. I prayed that God would open my spiritual eyes and help me to see the world, people, myself the way He saw things so that I could move in tune with how He wants me to move.
You see it is so easy to get caught up in our own agenda and own flurry of emotions. Even worse the way of thinking in society today says we have a right to feel anything and live as animals do – controlled by every worthless passion and emotion. However I know that God did not create us to live like that. So to stop my withdrawal turning into something more sinister I leaned on the One worth leaning on – God.
How are you starting the year?…
Welcome back Nissi!