Beysus, Mr. Belafonte and Social Responsibility

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It’s hard to defend my generation against accusations that many of us stubbornly swim in the shallow end of the pool of thoughts.

The idea of consumption as culture isn’t our brainchild, but we’ve taken it to new and ever increasing heights. It’s constantly reflected in the music that offers a soundtrack to the times. Wars have happened and are still happening, poverty is soaring, and Black men and women are being lined up in droves and carted off to the various prisons being built over schools. You don’t hear much about any of it on the airwaves, though.

Social commentary and stunting used to be on a more equal playing field in the worlds of hip-hop and R&B, but the latter has shoved the other out of the way in mainstream music. Now more than ever is the culture about selling fantasies of wealth, privilege, and aesthetics. Escapism is fine – it serves a purpose – yet when it starts to completely blind people from reality, it’s fair to argue how problematic that is.

Even some of today’s biggest entertainers understand the issue. Earlier in the year Trey Songz explained to GQ, “I could make a hundred ‘Bottoms Up’s,’ but they won’t change nobody’s life.” He said he aspires to one-day follow the lead of soul singers such as Marvin Gaye. However, when asked when might he plan to get “radical,” Trey quipped in response, “I might. Give me a couple of years, though.”

In the meantime, he’s busy singing about coming to the club for the b*tches and the drinks. With R&B on such a decline it’s understandable why many choose to go with the flow albeit disappointing all the same.

I can see why people of older generations can look at where we are and be dismayed, but I take issue with that commentary coming with a whiff of self-righteousness and the stench of forgetfulness.

Speaking with the Hollywood Reporter, actor, singer, and activist Harry Belafonte addressed his “disappointment” with Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

Belafonte complained that today’s artist “have not told the history of our people, nothing of who we are.”

He added: “And I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their back on social responsibility. That goes for Jay-Z andBeyoncé, for example. Give me Bruce Springsteen, and now you’re talking. I really think he is Black.”

With all due respect to a pioneer, Bruce Springsteen is not Black, and what’s “socially responsible” is subjective.

Read more here.

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