From Kid Cudi releasing Speedin’ Bullet To Heaven to Young Thug wearing dresses, the past couple years have been odd in hip-hop. Once you’ve established yourself as an icon in any music genre in today’s world it’s not as important to assess what you’ve done that fits a common trend you may find, instead, it’s more important if the image you use provokes an emotion well. When an artist earns fame from their works they are no longer perceived as themselves, instead they are judged and communicated through their work. They become less of a human and more of an icon. The artist is now a living, breathing cog in their genre’s mechanism and in today’s world especially, the rope that an artist can use to hang themselves with has never been longer thanks to social media. Even if we can form a static image of our favorite artist, social media evolves and holds potential to show dirt in a hero’s wounds. This turns what you may find to be your hero, into a human with flaws.
man. just heard about kehlani. one of the nicest people ever. i wish good energy and strength for her life.
— Questlove Gomez (@questlove) March 29, 2016
In the music industry, image and connections are everything. The content an artist creates plays minute parts in what makes an artist successful. This doesn’t mean that the content doesn’t matter, it means that the image in which you present yourself has to bleed in every facet of your artistry. Even then is it still risky. It doesn’t matter if you order your own parts and craft your own gun to understand the apparatus behind it, you still invent the possibility of shooting yourself in the foot.
We don’t know too much about the recent events that transpired between Kehlani and Kyrie Irving. What we do know is that there was a suicide attempt and that people are taking sides.
Kyrie Irving is worth $15,000,000 and got cheated on. Good luck out there fellas.
— WORLDSTARHIPHOP (@WORLDSTAR) March 28, 2016
Before social media, the most recent news that we’d get would be from any major news outlet that’d be on cable television. There’d only be so much amount of time to cover a wide variety of topics, so something like this might not have even made nightly coverage. This suicide attempt, the rumors of cheating, all of this is just so human. Scratching away the pastel finish with a razor blade deters many from looking past the painting’s imperfections and can also tarnish Kehlani’s career. We also brush across the possibility that people will be able to see the painting for what it is and what it was. Who gives a shit if it’s got some scratches on it? Look at how the painting makes you feel. Hell, if anything, the scratches add more character. We can do our best to predict what’ll happen. Kehlani will probably continue her music career stronger and more determined than ever while people commend her for what she’s gone through. Then there’ll be those that may shame her based on the rumors and whatever they see to be true.
Social Media also carries a problem that we like to neglect. It’s the still shadow of a stranger in front of us, what we can effortlessly register in our mind, that is, what’s easy to ignore and yet the most dangerous. It’s more humanizing in a sense that we’re able to connect with Kehlani and other artists easily with videos about cats and drone strikes. It’s also dehumanizing. With a couple strokes across my keyboard I can separate myself from you without any harm to myself. I could tell you to go fuck yourself. Fuck your cat videos, fuck your drone strikes, if anything, you’re a total idiot because of what interests you online.
@_TaylorBennett she’s a boppa don’t save her. 😩
— Zack Tant (@ZeeTee29) March 29, 2016
People fall in love with personality. So every social media platform has higher potential to fall into the artist’s lap of control than the label’s. It’s out of the label’s hands as to how the huge artists that they’ve signed act in public eyes. You could try controlling an artist’s phone and image on their social media pages, but that says loads about the label attempting to do so. And when do they become a liability to the record label? When’s the point where they become a liability to even themselves?
Image isn’t everything, but it sure as hell is a lot of things. It affects the product that you’re trying to sell, which is yourself in some angle or perspective. To wrestle with what you want the world to see you as is a frightening yet natural thing to do. For hip-hop artists, it’s becoming harder and harder to separate your business life from your personal one while still having control. It gets done, sure, but the slope is getting ever slipperier since social media’s now become a driving force for marketing. To be human is to have your life affect others. To be able to do so with a broad spectrum of interaction without having any physical contact can create a weight that some people might find difficult to bear.