Visual artists are the stepchildren in the family of African-American art. Music is an evolving aspect of African-American culture from simple hymns to the corrosive “big booty hoes” that 2 Chainz wants for his birthday.
As the state of music in the urban demographic continues to change, the artists who portray their work through textile-inspired and mixed-media pieces are overshadowed.
Ben Jones, Dana Chandler and Jeff Donaldson are not popular names among today’s generation when it comes to art. Nicki Minaj’s colorful hair and degrading lyrics, brought to life by gyrating women seen in the background, is considered a popular artist among our generation.
In the 1960s, artists associated with the Black Arts Movement wanted to change the way America viewed African-Americans. These artists wanted to create a new, positive identity for African-Americans. But the identity created by today’s African-Americans is one of half-hearted thugs and half-naked women. Our generation suspended the fight for social change so everyone could embody the false dreams sold to our demographic.
Urban music, namely hip-hop, creates a false identity. It makes listeners believe they can actually live this unrealistic lifestyle. Most honesty is overshadowed by pseudo lyrics and a hype beat. In visual art, there lies a sense of truth. Though every lyric has a bit of truth behind it, something that’s visually stimulating can capture the soul when it’s straightforward.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, a visual artist from the 1980s, was referenced in Rick Ross’s verse in the song, “John” and Jay-Z’s song, “Most Kingz.”
In the song, Jay-Z says, “Inspired by Basquiat, my chariot’s on fire /Everybody took shots, hit my body up, I’m tired.” This reference shows that Basquiat influences today’s hip-hop artists. The listener, typically someone between the ages of 16 and 24, may never know the importance of Basquiat’s work until hearing “Most Kingz.”
The influence of visual art is all around, but is constantly being overlooked, because meaningless hip-hop lyrics seem to be more worthy. I encourage you to notice the amount of visual art around our campus, namely in Coleman Library. Each floor is decorated with pieces of art by different African-American visual artists.
It’s time for African- Americans to pay attention to visual art. Bring it to the forefront, and change what art means to an entire demographic.