Misdirected Disdain

Art influences art. Culture influences culture. It is incredibly difficult to create something that is not influenced by something else. The work of others invokes emotion that fuels and inspires our personal creativity. Short of being explicitly defamatory, what we do with that inspiration is our free speech. Others may not like what is created, and they are free to vocalize their dislike, but there is a line between expressing preference and accusing others of appropriation.

To illustrate my point I’m going to defend Post Malone. Why? Because even goofy art needs to exist.

In her review of Malone’s latest record beerbongs & bentleys, Meaghan Garvey opens with the following:

“Post Malone isn’t into labels. ‘I don’t want to be a rapper,’ said the 22-year old in a recent interview. ‘I just want to be a person that makes music.’ That’s a pretty convenient line of logic for a white guy who’s made millions, since his 2015 breakthrough hit “White Iverson,” off a warbly hybrid of singing and rapping that owes a significant debt to traditionally black musical styles.”

I get it, Meaghan. Being unique in the world of online journalism is tough and to stand out you have to push a bit. If your review had been written differently I probably wouldn’t have been motivated to respond. Think of the time you would have saved if you didn’t have to dismiss this post on a small blog. Entire minutes!

But in all seriousness, chill. Of course Malone’s music owes a significant debt to traditionally black musical styles. Most, if not all, music owes a massive debt to traditionally black musical styles. His saying that he doesn’t want to be a rapper does not mean that he looks down on rappers or that he is better than rappers. He is going to continue making music that he enjoys expressing. Every artist should embrace this ideal. Creating for anyone other than yourself becomes an empty endeavor that leaves you broken and chasing fads.

I’m not necessarily disputing the 2-star rating given to beerbongs & bentleys. It has some entertaining tracks, but it doesn’t break new ground nor does it exude musical or lyrical brilliance. Post Malone has his place among the current style of pop. The music and vocal cadence is catchy and grabs people. The lyrics don’t really make much sense, but pop rarely does. Post Malone is not Nas, Biggie, or Kendrick. He is a musician making what he wants in an environment that allowed him to explode in popularity. Same as Cardi B and whoever the next silly pop star will be. They are not going to be visionaries and we shouldn’t expect it from them. Once in awhile a truly great artist will rise from a fad and show us the true greatness possible in balancing chart leading songs with substance. But they are rare. For each Kendrick we will have dozens of flash in the pan mumble rappers and one hit wonder pop singers.

We don’t have to accuse these people of cultural appropriation just because they draw from the musical styles of people with a different skin tone. We don’t have to exude such pessimistic disdain towards an album that doesn’t even deserve the effort. Art inspires art and we have to keep trying and experimenting with different combinations to see what direction we will go next. You wrote your review as if Post Malone personally offended you. Maybe he did. If that is the case I would suggest that you take a breath and understand the point of music and artistic expression. Some of it works, some of it flops. Don’t get so wrapped up in the over-corrective reaction to mistakes of the past and voice such disdain for what will likely be forgotten in short time.

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