In a BBC documentary, check Beyoncé discusses the issues that musicians and artists face in the industry today. She explains how when older artists, clinic like Nina Simone, were releasing music, people just listened; there was no constant harassment from the media that would affect the listener’s understanding of their art. Nowadays, as the audience, we know more than our fair share on these artists’ political, religious and social beliefs and due to this, it’s rare that we interpret the music how they intended it to be understood.
For an artist, especially a well-known one, it can be frustrating to know that your listeners are being distracted by the media; entertained more by their personal lives rather than their music. When an artist grows in success, it’s harder to retain the authenticity in message and sound, as the money, fame – and subsequent ego – taint the initial purpose of their art. However, in contrast to this, there are some emerging, underground artists who promise ambition with feisty efforts to make positive change by treating all aspects of their life as a solid representation of their beliefs.
Over the last couple of years, there’s been an influx of female artists from poverty-stricken areas, each of who are not afraid to speak candidly about their beliefs. One of these artists fronting the battle for equality in gender and race– and who is rapidly making waves in the music industry – is Harlem-born musician, Princess Nokia.
Despite still being in the underground scenes, I frequently see more media on Princess Nokia as time goes by. Her music is a versatile and eclectic archive of poetic, fiery semantics teamed with hypnotic beats. She begins each gig by telling the women, and anyone of colour, to come to the front. That anyone who’d felt frequently discriminated against, threatened, or violated is to be prioritised in her shows.
The best gigs are the ones that get you thinking, the ones you leave feeling invigorated through a sense of solidarity; there’s someone fighting your battle and they’re making sure your voice is heard. Isn’t this what art is supposed to be- a way of expressing yourself without fear of censorship, using your creativity to reach out to others?
Known for punching a guy for his sexist heckles at one of her shows in Cambridge, Princess Nokia states how she has “zero tolerance” towards sexual harassment. And although Beyoncé has a point, that music loses its meaning when you’re always reading about the personal lives of the artist, it seems that Princess Nokia’s personal life only accelerates the message behind her music.
Another of these underground artists is Tommy Genesis, whose music, career and life are intertwined with the same desire for equality. In an interview with
Dazed & Confused she states “maybe it’s time for female rappers to be accepted as a social norm, because that’s really what true feminism is. Don’t treat us better or worse because we’re girls, but treat us the same.”
Fame and fortune are perhaps more of a significant reason as to why the behaviours and habits of internationally successful musicians is negatively warping their listener’s opinions, thus channeling a subsequently unwanted meaning from their art. The media’s unrelenting intrusion on celebrity lives usually has negative connotations, and hinders the professional successes of these artists. Despite this, it’s possible that the media will have a positive impact on these new musicians’ careers, as they highlight the authenticity in these women’s beliefs. The powerful messages behind their songs working in unison with the way they live their daily lives, as the two merge in to an all-encompassing art form.
Written by SJ Nightingale