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Nikola Plejić

Current Affairs on Ye

2024-03-29 in link, longread

Link: Ye and the Problem of Fascist Art ❧ Current Affairs

Any fan of “extreme” music comes to terms with the questions posed by this article on a regular basis. This is certainly not the first event of its kind in the mainstream, but it might be the most blatantly direct specimen: it’s almost cathartic to see people wrapping their minds around it in real-time. The analysis here is convincing, if a bit obvious: becoming a billionaire seems to have an uncanny tendency to make you stare into the abyss of fascism a tad too long.

I do like the attempt at adding nuance to the idea of the “death of the author”, where the question becomes whether the line between the artwork & the author has been completely blurred to the point of the author using their art as a vessel to — purposefully or not — disseminate their less than stellar life choices. I’m unsure how much of this is just a desperate attempt to reconcile the cognitive dissonance, but it’s a compelling framework to consider.

It’s not too surprising that a Current Affairs article ends up — very correctly — talking about “blame misdirection” and systemic issues, and I find it very hard to argue with the conclusion. The single remains in Billboard’s Top 10, though. Ye’s art might not be his own anymore, but it’s still out there, legitimizing the bile and mobilizing the crowds. So what should we do? Some of those beats are sick. Should the critics give it four stars and dive head-first into a marxist critique in sentence one? I think they certainly should do the latter, but it probably won’t do wonders for their reach.

Personally, the obvious case of Ye aside, I think there’s too much music out there to waste time on assholes. I won’t go actively digging for dirt in artists’ histories, but I’m trying to be aware of the context — I’ll skim through the liner notes, I’ll look at the iconography, I’ll read an interview. I’m more than willing to give the benefit of the doubt to people who clearly distance themselves from their mistakes. Otherwise, heeding the good advice of Jon Stewart: if I smell something, I’ll say something — and actively support the deserving non-assholes.