The Crimson White

You can’t separate the art from the artist

Kyra Davis, Staff Columnist

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Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp, R. Kelly, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and Chris Brown. These have become household names over generations. One of two things will come to mind when you hear these names: their art or their problematic actions. I believe that art is an extension of the artist and what they stand for.

I am an artist, and I put my experiences into my work. That is why I pose the question of if it is possible to separate the artist from their work. The series “Surviving R. Kelly” has raised the question if one can separate the artist from the art. This docuseries highlighted the sexual allegations made against R. Kelly. It examined the testimonies of Kelly’s years of abuse. Kelly is a music mogul with hits that range over decades. When “Ignition (Remix)” comes on, everyone seems to sing along. Not only is his music monumental, but he has written for the likes of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston.

Kelly often sings and writes songs expressing his sexual desires. These songs are inspired by girls under the age of 18. This is bothersome to me because people have been singing his classics with no idea what inspired the lyrics. He is a sick, deranged man. Nothing can excuse his behavior, and his actions will never be justifiable. The fact that he is still a free man is saddening. If his victims were white women or men, he would be in jail right now, but since his victims are black, there is not enough action being taken.

Lifetime premiered “Surviving R. Kelly” on Jan. 3. It immediately sparked controversy within the black community and the music industry. Many people revealed their morals through debates on social media. Some people decided to take the controversy as a joke, while it made others physically ill. It made me ill while watching, and I am angry writing this column.

It is obvious that there is something inherently wrong with Kelly, but he is also a legend within the music industry. Not only is his own music embedded in the culture; the songs he’s written still get streamed, played on the radio and purchased. So the problem is waiting to see if people will completely “cancel” him. Let’s see how much they care about black women.

When someone plays a song that Kelly has written, regardless of if he is singing it, he gets some form of compensation. Member of former boy band B2K, Omarion, ranted on Twitter that he will be performing the songs written by Kelly on tour, and then he will cancel the songs. To me, that’s not a strong enough stance. No one should be lukewarm on this topic.

This has sparked the debate of if it is possible to separate the artist from the art, especially if their art is inspired by their sick, twisted thoughts. What separates Kelly’s case from others is the fact that his songs are inspired by young girls. There is not a concrete solution to this problem, but it is something to think about. It says a lot about someone’s morals if they continue to support and listen to R. Kelly. Anyone that still listens to his music and supports him is just as sick as he is.

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You can’t separate the art from the artist