Atlantic Records wants to show that they support Young Thug and Gunna, and they should. But why?
Young Thug and Gunna still captivate our minds. The pair of rappers are party to a consortium of men that have been hit with the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) and it looks like it’s doing to be a long haul.
Part of the reason Atlantic has opted to weigh in is because the government has decided to include lyrics of songs as a part of their prosecution. It seems as if lyrics incriminate the artists in a crime or so the local government alleges. Essentially, it supports the state’s case against them in these assertions that they were a part of a criminal empire. And, unexpectedly, are saying that Young Thug – the androgynous, genre bending influencer – was actually was the leader of said empire, YSL.
This has been a long-standing issue in Hip-Hop and the ubiquitous, now-faceless culture.
Corporate America is now influencing the narrative and the art that we project to our communities and our culture. YSL (Young Stoner Life Records) is a music label that has a deal with and, I would assume, is very profitable for Atlantic Records. They are not OK right now. A recent social media post said,”Protect Black Art…Stop Putting Music On Trial.” They are not OK. This serves two functions, in my opinion.
It shows in a baseline sort of way that they support the artist, but draw a clear line at artistry and lyrics. It also implies that they are not necessarily protecting criminal activity, but will ride and die for freedom of most speech. They tow the line just enough to have Thugger and Gunna’s backs, but absolve themselves of guilt in the event the pair were actually mob material.
What do you think?
On the surface, the gesture is good and wholesome in a way only a CEO in a PR crisis could love. But, underneath, it really brooches an age-old topic. Art, artists, so-called free speech, criminality, money and even the mob have always had deep connections to Black art. It has been nudged thataway every step of the way. Pro Black radical revolutionary rap never got corny or wack, it was systematically phased out. Simple and plain. The way the streets/coke rap/hoe rap/ wack rap and whatever else you want to deem lame doesn’t dominate simply because it’s superior to the rest. That is Black art too, but shamelessly marginalized into oblivion.
Hip-Hop is in a really good space right now. It almost feels like the 90’s, when corporations did not really care until they saw the artist as a profit center. Since we want to protect Black art, lets shield those smaller voices from the rigors of the game, conformity withstanding. Sex and murder are not the only dishes on the menu. You can sell people a sack of air if properly marketed. So, lets feast on the full buffet that Black Art has to offer.
It is art. And art is a subjective term and a broad term that spans across a really really wide spectrum, especially with Black music. I understand that entities like Atlantic Records to run the gamut of artist, but we don’t see everybody. We need to see more people.
Young Thug, Gunna and their homies face football numbers in jail. Lyrics are a small portion of the case, as the prosecution has been looking at them for years. It is not simply music, because just about every rapper on Earth would be guilt of something. The game is the game is the game. We’ve known about clandestine forces in Hip-Hop for a long time and have all-but-accepted it as a reality of life like GMOs.
So, if we are protecting ART, let’s do that. Let us start by diversifying and investing in all artists equally. If we are talking about art, less commerce, then let’s show that commitment. Hell, let’s commit to the outlets too, by the way, which are also a part of the cultural ecosystem that helps bolster these names. Protect everybody.
Protect Nick Grant.
Protect Tef Poe.
Protect Lauryn Hill.