Since time immemorial, art and politics have been locked, like the world's most hateful couple, in an awkward embrace: Art subverts political establishments, political establishments ban art, repeat. It's a phenomenon that's especially pronounced in music, which can not only provide an explicit message, but also, at its best, inspire the masses to sing along. And it works: For every political song gone disastrously wrong (i.e., Michael Jackson's "Earth Song," which urges us to consider "the elephants/Have we lost their trust?"), there's one gone earth-shatteringly right ("We Shall Overcome").
There's a difference, however, between art that espouses political views and artists who espouse political views independent of their art — a phenomenon I like to call "famous people assuming people give a shit what they think because they are famous" (FPAPGASWTTBTAF). It's a far more recent and irritating trend, and it's one that far more often results in disastrous stupidity.
For a recent example, look no further than Tyrese Gibson, an artist known more for his freakishly enormous delts and smooth vocal stylings than for his passionate political stances. Actually, it's kind of hard to believe that the man responsible for "How You Gonna Act That Way" has any political stances at all, and probably everyone would be happier believing that.
Granted, as far as political stances go, Tyrese's beef is pretty benign. He's apparently against putting liquor stores across the street from elementary schools — which, yeah, that does seem in poor taste — and he said as much on the air at a radio station in Delaware last week. "Get them cats out of here," he advised the good people of Delaware, a state that, in my mind, is pretty much like The Wire, except set in an office park. "Selling alcohol right across from your kids' school, homie. Put the pressure on them, homie." Which probably wouldn't have been a big deal, except for how it ended...
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With Tyrese getting kicked off the air.
After Tyrese finished up his segment and introduced his latest single — which, incidentally, is about how it's really easy for him to bang a bunch of chicks at the same time — station manager Tony Quartarone apparently took issue with the speech and excused Tyrese from the rest of his scheduled interview. An argument ensued. Tyrese went home and told TMZ about it. Quartarone banned Tyrese from his station and later explained to TMZ that "Tyrese was not kicked off the air for pointing out that liquor stores should not be located near schools — I totally agree with that. But he proceeded to downgrade my audience by calling them 'homies.'"
The unfortunate thing here is that Quartarone doesn't have a leg to stand on with this one: Given that his own DJ also uttered the word "homie" during the interview, it would, by all rights, appear to be a stupid, petty argument about nothing. But it should have been about something: It should have been about how, no matter who they are, no matter what their views are, artists should express them through art or shut the fuck up about them and make art.
FPAPGASWTTBTAF, friends. We shall overcome.