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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Freedom of expression in art: Crossing invisible lines

Tonye Brown // 9:30 AM //

There are some things I deem as appropriate to say in a song that I wouldn't dare say in day-to-day conversations.
Speak out for those who can't

Does that make me a coward? No. I'm just smart enough to know when to keep my mouth shut about certain things when I should. Most times at least.

But there's something so liberating about doing art be it music, poetry, painting, sculpting, etc.
It allows you, the artist, certain freedoms to say whatever you want about anything. This is a good thing and a not so good thing depending on the artist.

I'm still being vague.

As an artist, a rapper with a Christian worldview, a rapper who loves Jesus, whenever I'm writing a verse for personal projects or features, I always ask myself:  "How far can I go?"

"What can I say and express myself as freely as possible without offending too many people?"...within the context of the song I'm working on of course.

If there's one thing I've noticed with art in general, it's this: It's almost impossible to make art that doesn't offend anyone at all. As a matter of fact, I can recall graphics I designed that were dissected and torn apart to find hidden meanings, or a verse I wrote recently with two bars that could come across as dissing someone.

But I wasn't dissing anyone, I was just being me; just being comfy in my own skin.

So, as artists (which everyone is in different ways even if the discovery hasn't been made as to what art one is good at), how do we express ourselves freely without crossing [too many] invisible lines?

Here's 5 ways that I am currently working on doing this in my work:

1. Be bold
I'm a Christian. I love hip-hop. I love many other genres of music. I love subs A LOT!! I have Christian friends and non-Christian friends, some of whom like Country music and can't stand hip-hop. Others can't stand Christian Hip-Hop (or hip-hop from a Christian view). I get it. Some songs I make might offend some people I love, I'm cool with that. Freedom of expression requires boldness. You can't be scared of offending people and do great art.

For example, I'm not going to shy away from saying Jesus when I feel the need to do so in a song. I also won't force Christian lingo into a song while writing. I pray before writing most songs, I pray in the middle of writing others. God's all over it, I know. So, I'm not bothered by what people might think about me for not saying what they expect in a song. By the way, being predictable as an artist is not a good thing.

2. Be led by God
I know when I say things that cross the line and God makes it clear to me that I should change them.
Being led by God prevents you from getting into dumb situations. This also helps me with choosing what to rap about, etc. You get the idea.

3. Have some quality control (View this post on quality control)
This is something I didn't do in the past and I'm not pleased with myself for that.
Here's my way of ensuring quality control:
- I'll get the project I'm working on done a month [at least] prior to when I plan on releasing it
- I'll give copies to a few people (about a dozen) I trust will give me honest feedback on it.
- Make some changes as needed based on the feedback.
The chances are, if you crossed too many lines and abused your freedom of expression privileges, your friends will let you know and you can humbly correct your errors.

4. Learn from better artists in your field
As a rapper, there are other rappers I look up to. In the book of Bezalel's favourite rappers, there are some who have expressed themselves wisely and some who haven't. My job as a less experienced artist is to learn from the good artistry of my favourites and try my best to avoid the mistakes they made.
You get my point? You can apply this to any art form.

5. Practice makes perfect
Old but true saying in the arts. It even applies to those artists born extremely talented; they get better at their craft the more they do it. Take the great basketball player, Michael Jordan. He was born crazy talented, but he had to work real hard (practice a lot) to get to that player we think of when we mention his name.

The more you try to express yourself as an artist, the more you'll realize what works for you.
What works for one artist might not work for another artist.
For example: Some artists can get away with playfully saying mean things, others get lynched for saying the same things. Comedy is an art that not everyone can master.



Those are the ways I try to avoid crossing too many invisible lines at this point in time. Feel free to agree or disagree, add (or not) to my list.

Thanks for reading.

#gKIDS

Poetry

 
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