Everyone should be free to imagine and reimagine what success is...

Everyone should be free to imagine and reimagine what success is to them outside the market-driven idealized success that is fed to us via society. To me, success is more deeply rooted in our values, freedom, creativity, genuine happiness, safety, and healthy human relationships. Popular culture has become akin to a factory producing standardized cultural goods—films, songs, radio programmes, streaming services, magazines, etc. That kind of standardization creates a force field, where artifacts of culture that should be valued for their unique perspectives are instead valued by streams and attention, producing a false economy around art and the consumption of art. The result is that art becomes a product in the same way that Nike produces a t-shirt, where the same t-shirt is produced and reproduced over and over. In the same way, ideology streamlines itself, especially in music, and a lot of what gets attention is reproduced: a copy of a copy of a copy. Consumption of the easy pleasures of popular culture, made available by the mass communications media, renders people docile, no matter how difficult their economic circumstances. It shifts their values. The inherent danger of the culture industry is the cultivation of false psychological needs that can only be met and satisfied by the products of capitalism and not what humanity needs more of — a value system that works for freedom, creativity, safety, and genuine happiness. I’m reminded of this when I go into schools and spread the messages of love, peace, anti-racism, anti-bullying, etc. My music has never won a Grammy and never been number one on the billboard charts, but I consider myself vastly more successful than some artists who hit number one and are now ashamed of their “one-hit-wonder” status, or other artists who push negativity on the world, to in the end, only see themselves gain popularity or fame. In the community and culture of hip hop I grew up in, it was about the have nots; it was about revolution; it was about self expression and creativity that temporarily removed us from the pain and anguish of our every day existence emerging out low-income and high-crime neighborhoods. (at Madison Middle School)

Leave a comment