Music is more than simple sound; it is a deep, ancient and powerful form of communication. The emotions conveyed can be just as primal. Most music is about love, peace and spirituality, but violence is a common theme as well. Not that I think it shouldn’t be a part of music. I think it’s integral that the range of emotions reached goes full circle. The problem becomes apparent when aesthetic becomes action.
I’m going to ask you to think about a question that you’ve probably had to ask yourself before “is this a bad enough person for me to not listen to their music?”
You may have heard of Carlo Gesualdom, a sixteenth century composer who brutally murdered his wife and her lover. Carlo was never sent to prison because he was considered a noble. His music is something really wild and unique within classical music. It’s beautiful, but if he were alive and my listens gave him money I wouldn’t listen to it.
On the other hand, we have Cattle Decapitation, a beautiful all vegetarian goregrind band from San Diego who produces some absolutely brutal music. The last record released was “The Anthropocene Extinction.” It’s brutal, dark and violent, but is actually about how we are killing ourselves by destroying the environment. Earlier records focused more on the violence against animals in factory farms. Go listen to them. They still sound really angry and it comes from a very real place. Some people just hear that aggression and are immediately turned off to any other concept they could have to offer.
I’m going to focus mostly on the rap community here since it’s very important to me. I think the community is blossoming in a lot of ways, but it also seems like there’s a lot of trivialization, or even in some cases, deification of abuse.
When I first listened to XXXTentacion I thought it was a joke. Tentacion is one of those people that kind of just compresses everything into this very dirty sound which would probably work if his writing wasn’t on the level of a 3rd grade recorder song (while I will admit some of his newer stuff is a little more complex). You may have heard about how he beat his then girlfriend and kept her captive until she could recover from the wounds he gave her, but she was able to escape. If you haven’t seen the pictures of her face, he very obviously isn’t a merciful person. She was also pregnant at the time. He only spent a couple months in prison. It doesn’t take much digging to find other examples of him being violent. There are multiple videos of him beating people for various reasons. For me it’s not even really a question of should I listen to more Tentacion. I don’t like him in the first place; millions of people seem to disagree with me. It seems his popularity has just grown since his time in jail.
Kodak Black is in prison again for stealing weapons, having them as a felon and neglect of a child. Kodak has been to prison for a lot of other things: stealing cars, breaking house arrest, false imprisonment of a child, violation of probation and could possibly be getting up to 30 years for raping a teenager. I can say that personally I think Kodak’s music is significantly better than Tentacion’s, but I also don’t want to support a rapist. Once again though I find myself in the seeming minority on this. If you go to the comments on his songs, it’s just a bunch of people saying he should be freed. Kodak is still releasing music on a weekly basis, the last one released Feb. 3, 2018 already has 1,474,000 views on YouTube after 5 days.
What I’m trying to point out here is that these are some pretty awful people. It’s possible some of you are supporting them or somebody else committing similar abuses, knowingly or not. I want to point out that XXXTentacion and Kodak Black released “Roll In Peace” last August and on Soundcloud alone got 49.9 million listens. That is one-sixth of the American population. I think “Roll In Peace” sounds like people who feel like they got away with something, and they did. Why are we letting people we know are awful make this much money? If you consider yourself a part of this community or any musical community (I’m very aware of the problems in the metal community) vote with your money. Support people you feel deserve support. If you don’t think people deserve to be abused, don’t support people that do it. There are a lot of really good options for alternatives especially in the trap genre right now including but not limited to Ugly God, PnB Rock, $uicideboy$ and Earl Sweatshirt (not trap).We can make music a better thing to be a part of.•