Should We Separate Artist from Their Art?

Rapper, Fabolous performing
Fabolous performing at nightclub, Rockwell in Miami, FL in 2017 (Image by Samuel Rivas)

If you been on social media in the last week, then you know all about artist, Fabolous and girlfriend, former Love & Hip Hop star, Emily B’s domestic violence drama.

According to TMZ, Fab turned himself in to the police in Englewood, NJ, on March 28. He was booked for two felonies, aggravated assault and terroristic threats— against the mother of his two kids, Emily.

She claims the rapper punched her seven times in the face, causing her two front teeth to fall out.

Then there’s singer/songwriter, R. Kelly, who has been in the news nonstop for the past year, due to kidnap allegations against him. There was said to have been a “sex cult” in his mansion in Georgia, full of young women.

And let’s not forget the past few years of comedian, actor, and author, Bill Cosby, being in the news repeatedly. Over fifty women coming forward claiming that Cosby had sexually assaulted/raped them.

All three men named, have been accused of disgusting crimes, but does that take away from their talent?

Does it take away from their catalog of work over the past years? Even with their messy personal lives, these entertainers still have people supporting them. But should we separate these messy artists from their art?

R. Kelly

Singer R.Kelly
R. Kelly performing on stage at a concert

This conversation has been brewing lately due to some commentators on social media, feeling like “we” should not be supporting artist, R. Kelly.

Their reasoning stems from the allegations of him dealing with young women…AGAIN!

A few weeks ago, I was listening to one of my favorite podcast, The Casey Crew, with DJ Envy and his wife, Gia Casey, episode “Pillow Talk: Volume 2.” The couple debated if Envy should be playing R. Kelly’s music during his DJ sets. Gia felt as though “we” shouldn’t be supporting Kelly, but can’t help to feel like a hypocrite because she enjoys his music when it’s playing. She says Kelly’s music gives her a nostalgic feeling, so she understands why some people still listen.

R. Kelly is known as the “King of R&B,” creating so many of our favorite hits in the 90s and early 2000s. I mean the man gave us songs like “When a Woman’s Fed Up,” “It Seems like Your Ready,” “I Wish,” and “I Believe I Can Fly.” How can we just forget about that?

But why are we pretending like R. Kelly hasn’t always been in the news for messing with underage girls? In the 90s, he married Aaliyah, when she was 15, and he was 25. And let’s not forget his infamous sex tape, with a 14 year old girl (he was found not guilty). Why didn’t we question supporting him back then?

Chris Brown

"Singer
Chris Brown performing at the 2017 BET Awards

Chris Brown is yet another great R&B artist for example, who has had his fair share of being in the news for his criminal past.

In 2009, when the Chris and Rihanna incident happened, everyone turned their back on him. But that quickly changed after he killed the choreo and cried during his Michael Jackson Tribute, at the 2010 BET Awards.

A year later, he dropped his biggest album to date, F.A.M.E. Which included charting singles like “Look at Me Now,” and “Yeah 3x.” Not to mention, him winning his first and only Grammy for that album. And a few years later, Chris is still getting in more trouble and “allegedly” having more domestic violence issues with women. But yet, a lot of people still listen to his music, myself included.

Just this week, actress/comedian, Amanda Seales, got some backlash when she made a video on Instagram expressing her disbelief of people and entertainers still supporting Fabolous. But one commentator on her page quickly pointed out, that she supports Brown. Seales responded by writing, “The situation is NOTHING LIKE Chris Brown’s and it is a false equivalency to make it so.”

But why are the two situations different?

I mean, yes he was only nineteen when the Rihanna incident happened and Fab is forty, but a little less than a year ago, his ex-girlfriend, Karrueche Tran, was granted a 5 year restraining order against him. She’s claiming that Brown beat her up, and threatened to make her life “a living hell.” Yet, Chris still has millions of views on his videos on YouTube and another No. 1 album, just this past November.

(The Cosby Show Cast, top row from l to r) Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad and Lisa Bonet, (bottom) Tempestt Bledsoe

Bill Cosby

Then we have Bill Cosby, with all his rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual misconduct allegations.

Many believe Cosby is guilty; however, though he was charged back in 2015 of sexual assault, he hasn’t been found guilty (yet). And unlike R.Kelly and Brown, many people are not in support of Cosby.

Cosby’s honorary degrees and awards have been revoked. “The Cosby Show” and other shows that had relations to him, were taken off-air for a while. But currently, “A Different World” and “The Cosby Show” are being syndicated again, and I would be lying if I said I don’t watch.

His shows including “Little Bill,” and “Fat Albert,” were everything growing up as a young black kid in America. It was good, funny, and positive representations of black people on TV. I can’t even put into words what “The Cosby Show” as a whole means to black culture. And although I can’t say that I’m #TeamCosby, I can’t ignore what he has done for black people in television and media.

Morally speaking, we shouldn’t separate artists from their art, but it’s a little harder to do when the art has/had an impact on your life. I think it is up to you to decide, but for me, I focus on how their art makes me feel, and not so much on how I feel about them as people.

I’m not saying that I would pay for front row seats for one of their concerts, or paying to see Mr. Cosby’s next stand-up special. But I will support their good content, from afar.