In a world where radio smashes and viral music videos determine the relevance of a Hip Hop musician, we find the growing divide between an artist and an entertainer. Simply put, we have grown accustom to the same messages put out by our favorite Hip Hop stars: they have more money than your whole life put together, they drive faster cars, oh, and they’re hooking up with your girl. These worn out ideas have continued to rule the air waves leaving little room for artists to flex their talent because they must keep up with the competition by re-mastering the same old wordplay. This very fact has instigated the growing divide between artists and entertainers. It’s not that we have no artists left in the game, its just that the mainstream has discarded their interest in complex, thought enticing music in exchange for head nodding, bass thumping, booty shaking tunes.
So what is it exactly that separates an artist from an entertainer? Well, an artist will always follow a simple criteria that has defined their job for hundreds of years: they use their work to incite human emotion. Although there are scores of differences between Michelangelo and NAS, Leonardo Da Vinci and the Notorious B.I.G and Plato and Eminem, they all share one key characteristic: they tap into the emotions of their viewers and listeners. Artists have a distinct role in society; they use their music to tell not only the stories of themselves but of the masses and in doing so they paint a picture of reality and real human struggle. This is contrasted against the efforts of entertainers who focus their energies upon fantasy. It’s easy to hear a song and determine its purpose; if it’s a work of art or simple eardrum entertainment. Generally, a work of art can speak to anyone as it embodies a timeless spectrum (i.e: I’ll be missing you). The weight of intelligent, well played lyricism acts as an anchor which holds these songs down throughout the decades because of their ability to connect the music to actual human existence. These songs will sustain themselves regardless of changing trends and musical evolution. A true artist may never get the chance to be “discovered” or be given the opportunity to play their music to the masses, but an artist’s work will generally be respect by all who hear it, even if it doesn’t necessarily cater to their ideals. This is because artists embed meaning and most importantly messages into their work. They have something to say and that kind of ambition and fire is always noticed by others, especially in a world filled with hollow Hip Hop entertainers.
It’s not that entertainers should be frowned upon as they do serve a purpose to their listeners. The problem with them is that they have begun to overshadow the artistic abilities of Hip Hop musicians. In the realm of mainstream, entertainers are ruling. It’s easy to see why though, they are masters of an art themselves, the art of garnering attention. Just like pop-stars, Hip Hop entertainers rely heavily on theatrics to keep both their name and their music relevant. Why though? Because their music is shallow and their relevancy cannot simply rest upon their musical talent.
Let’s face it, there will always be a Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera or Katy Perry drone walking the face of the pop world, and soon, rappers will suffer the same fate if they continue following in the footsteps of all their peers. In fact, some already have. Entertainers must make themselves interesting and more importantly, find ways to appeal to the opposite sex. Sex sells! By playing music and creating an image that garners the attention of sexually fueled teens, they ensure their ability to perform another day. What entertainers fail to realize is their legacies rest on a foundation of feathers, so, when the next big thing comes along, they will fade into a troubling darkness. Entertainers must find their musical element and nourish it with personal attentiveness or risk being a victim of the curse fifteen minutes of fame. One of the major differences between the artist and the entertainer is that an artist is the man behind his own curtain, often the chief of his own expenditures. An entertainer is the Indian to their circle of Chiefs who orchestrate their persona from the way they carry themselves, to the way they make their music.
Now a day, everyone wants to complain about the loss of “real hip hop” to a commercialized game, but the problem starts with us, the audience. Give those artists the time of day, listen to their message and let it do what it was created to do: inspire you. Remember that all artists are entertainers, but not all entertainers are artists. The line is often crossed but its key to remember that it does exist. Classics are created by artists, point blank. Rarely will you see an entertainer create a timeless song. So as listeners, it is our duty to open up the gateways to artists and give them a platform, this is the only way we will ever see a re-emergence of true Rap art. So next time you listen to a hot hip hop song, or weigh out your favorite rapper, I invite you to answer a very interesting question- is this a work of art or an act of entertainment?
Let us know some of your examples? Whose your favorite artist? Whose your favorite entertainer?
~S.J DiBenedetto (@SaysSal)