The following post is from Medium. It was written by Talib Kweli Greene.
By: Talib Kweli Greene
Yasiin Bey and I make beautiful music together. We are yin and yang, our styles complement each other very nicely. While it’s always a treat for us to perform together as Black Star, the style and pace of our solo performances are different. Yasiin and I have very different philosophies when it comes to stage performing. While I like to do songs back-to-back at a non-stop pace, make sure I do my hits and have my DJ hype up the crowd and do my ad libs, Yasiin prefers to take his time and does not like too much talking from his DJ.
Yasiin once explained to me that when people pay to see him, they are paying to see what he feels like expressing. So it doesn’t matter whether he does his “hits” or not. That was a great lesson for me.
Many fans will disagree with Yasiin’s stance here. They are missing the point. The artist is a human being, not a product. Sure, the artist makes products that are for sale, but the artist is not forever in your debt because you may have purchased a product from them at some point.
When you buy an album from me, I receive money and you get music. It’s a fair and even exchange that begins and ends once I receive my money and you receive your product. If I don’t value myself as an artist — especially working in a market that has decided that recorded music is not worth spending money on — then who will?
Artists make art for themselves. Art is an honest expression. Artists who pander to their fans by trying to make music “for” their fans make empty, transparent art. The true fan does not want you to make music for them, they want you to make music for you, because that’s the whole reason they fell in love with you in the first place.
I wrote my first rap when I was 12 years old. I had no fans. I didn’t write it for the fans, I wrote it because I had something I desperately needed to express. When Black Star came out, Yasiin and I did not have a huge fan base. We did that album for us. It is that honest personal, expression that fans crave.
The great thing about making art for yourself is that if you do it well, millions of people will relate to it and embrace it. They will support you and make it possible for you to have a career and feed your family, all with your art. These are your fans, and their passion, dedication and contribution to your life are to be cherished and respected.
However fans are not your boss, and listening to them when it comes to creative decisions is a slippery slope. I am not obligated to make the same album over and over again just because fans demand it. I am allowed to try new things, succeed at them or fail at them. I am allowed to not make music anymore ever, if that’s what I choose to do. I am allowed to give a shitty show or not even show up if I feel like it. Hopefully that will never happen, but if it does, it will never take away from the quality of the work I’ve already put out into the world.
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