Song I want to plug: ‘Falling In Love Again’ by Monique Amarylis. This sounds autumn-y, and is perfect for late nights working on your uni or freelance assignments. The song has beautiful harmonies and vocals, making it the perfect ballad to wave summer goodbye.
Find it here: https://song.link/i/1435968557
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Why would black creativity & originality go without credit?
1) It’s all about money
Singer Janelle Monae said: The music of black musicians is the well that so many drink and profit more from (Young, 2018). This introduces one of the biggest reasons why credit is amiss – our capitalist society, which encourages aggressive individualism and chasing profit, no matter who suffers.
With streaming complicating the monetising of music, those in the industry are looking for other ways to make money. Subsequently, the music industry “uses and sucks all the talent out” of black musicians for capitalistic reasons (Young, 2018).
For example, videogame Fortnite have been accused of unfairly profiting from hip-hop artists. Fortnite makes money from character customisations like dance moves, which the game has become known for. Although, these moves were created by black musicians who aren’t credited, such as the ‘Swipe It’, originally 2 Milly’s ‘Milly Rock’. Fortnite are taking credit for and passing this off as their own.
This gives Fortnite access to an audience wider than their gameplayers. They have become culturally relevant with these popular dances, appearing ‘cool’ and ‘down with the culture’, so we are inclined to take an interest even if we aren’t necessarily playing the game.
While dances can’t be copyrighted, Chance The Rapper suggests the artists’ song is featured with the move to encourage streams, or paying the artists when using their move. And obviously, not changing the move’s name would be nice, too. With the game’s newest version Disco Domination (season 6) releasing this week, it will be interesting to see whether such changes are made.
2) This is just how our culture works
There’s a long-running history of outsiders creating something because of rejection from the mainstream culture. Black people have been made to feel alienated from the mainstream for years, so create their own avenues to self-express. This subculture draws appears ‘cool’ and rebellious, encouraging others to enter (agraymusic, n.d).
The subculture becomes overpopulated and might overtake the mainstream culture, so a new subculture is sought. But those still occupying the first subculture are credited as its creators and we view them as ‘cool’. This sees black creativity become the produce of others, because we have been led to think this way.
Ethically, is it fair to copy someone and achieve more success than them? Such questions are raised regarding Rock and Roll. Some point to Elvis Presley as the creator, while Rahman-Jones (2016) says black people were playing the genre years earlier. It is problematic to credit Elvis for inventing the genre if untrue.
I want to explore whether black creativity and originality is given it’s due credit or not (these two studies are by no means representative):
Remember the 2008 song ‘American Boy’ (“Take me to New York I’d love to see LA” / “could you be my American boy?”) by Kanye West and British singer Estelle? The successful US/UK collab was the “perfect breakout single” to propel Estelle to “superstar status” (Corner, 2016). It won a Grammy, landed in the top 10 both in the UK and the US, and is still “on high rotation” (Tang, 2018).
While this is all great…where is Estelle today? American Boy gave her access to the American market, which can be challenging for UK acts to enter. Furthermore, she was linked to acts like John Legend (being signed to his album at one point).
Reception to Estelle’s subsequent songs didn’t go down as well as American Boy and Estelle “strangely went quiet”, leading to the dreaded title of a “one-hit wonder” (Cavendish, 2008). Corner labels the UK’s reception a shame for “one of the country’s best soulful voices” (2018). Again, we see a UK artist moving to America as Ella Mai did (Cavendish, 2008), with Estelle resorting to covers like Tory Lanez and Yxng Bane.
Undeniably Estelle’s creativity and originality were appreciated during American Boy, with Estelle believing “she was a black artist doing hip-hop and for a moment that was cool” (Cavendish, 2008). But as with any subculture, it seems this ‘coolness’ wore off and after American Boy, the next subculture was already attracting everyone’s attention.
(TL: me, KP = my friend and long-time Gambino stan, Kirsten Perkins)
Donald Glover (stagename Childish Gambino) is an actor, musician and filmmaker (Kornhaber, 2018). Among his work, 2013 album Because The Internet stands out for its creativity and originality; Gambino wrote a 72-page play to accompany and promote his album (found here (Taylor, 2013)). You are supposed to listen to the album simultaneously with the play.
This music marketing is unique given the tendency of musicians to post something on social media with a pushy caption like ‘x is out, go listen!’.
TL: What is it about Childish Gambino that you think is unique and sets him apart from other musicians?
KP: Childish Gambino’s discography has always been unique in terms of its ability to convey emotion. His discography expresses common feelings among listeners, whether it be through conveying the loneliness felt by everyone in ‘Because the Internet’ or displaying the feeling of struggle and otherness African-Americans feel in ‘Awaken My Love’.
Elsewhere, in May 2018 Gambino dropped a video for This Is America, directed by Hiro Murai (Ofiaza, 2018). The two meticulously planned the video’s tone and content to encourage absorption and discussions of the hidden meanings (Ofiaza, 2018). As desired, the audience noticed the video’s metaphors about race and gun violence plus the “contradictions that come with being black in America” (Gajanan, 2018).
Some metaphors (full analysis – http://time.com/5267890/childish-gambino-this-is-america-meaning/)
Jim crow reference:
The video had an “overwhelmingly positive response” (Ofiaza, 2018). Its timing was perfect, given a few months earlier there was a “tipping point”; Americans wanted change regarding school shootings following the “deadliest” case in Florida (Miller, 2018). Gambino’s video “quickly became the most talked-about music video of recent memory” with “a gushing river of well-deserved praise” (Kornhaber, 2018).
TL: What was so special about ‘This Is America’?
KP: The reason ‘This is America’ gauged such a large audience was because the music video perfectly encapsulated the feeling of danger Americans feel in this Trump-era, and that’s what makes Donald Glover exceptional, his ability to capture and create atmosphere.
Although, Gambino’s creativity wasn’t entirely appreciated, when a YouTuber made a widely-talked about spoof of the sensitive video.
Nicole Arbour’s aims were to “honour the spirit of [This is America]” as she felt “moved”. She wanted to “bring light to women’s issues” and made valid points, highlighting the stigmatising of public breastfeeding.
I feel that if Arbour was inspired by Gambino to speak out on social issues, she should have chosen a different format. Gambino’s video contained “subtlety and thoughtfulness” (Shamisan, 2018) specifically targeted to his cause. Added to Arbour’s history of poorly thought-out and offensive content, her video was interpreted as a deliberate attempt to dismiss the issues Gambino raised about black Americans and their realities to get herself into the conversation.
See here for further explanations:
Arbour’s video doesn’t take away from the praise that Gambino received, in fact she added to it. I think for this case, Gambino’s creativity and originality has been praised, but do you think otherwise?
SOURCES: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/05/donald-glover-this-is-america-childish-gambino/559805/, https://www.thisisinsider.com/nicole-arbour-womens-edit-this-is-america-music-video-childish-gambino-youtube-controversy-2018-5, https://twitter.com/thisisinsider/status/1044149441979011073, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QW8whgmyTNU, https://genius.com/discussions/15363-All-musical-genres-come-from-black-subculture, https://kinja.com/api/profile/getsession?redirect=https%3A%2F%2Fthegrapevine.theroot.com%2Fsetsession%3Fr%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fthegrapevine.theroot.com%252Fis-black-music-the-well-many-artists-drink-from-and-pro-1826439638, https://medium.com/@IRahmanJones/white-people-blues-music-and-the-problem-of-cultural-appropriation-3e61b8d25c03, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/evelyn-atieno/stop-whitewashing-black-a_b_9783700.html?guccounter=1, http://time.com/5267890/childish-gambino-this-is-america-meaning/, https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/director-hiro-murai-this-is-america-creative-process/, https://www.elle.com/culture/music/a22852981/estelle-american-boy-interview/, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/3673847/Estelle-a-star-is-reborn.html,http://www.digitalspy.com/music/feature/a801986/whatever-happened-to-estelle/