Does art imitate life or does life imitate art? That's a question that resembles the age old question of what came first, the chicken or the egg? As for the answer, I guess that depends on the individual. Personally I think the answer is both, some art comes from life experiences or inspiration and some life emulates what it absorbs from different mediums such as music. As I've spoken about before, art can come from anywhere. Our trigger for creativity varies from person to person and there have been some amazing pieces created from spontaneity, a planned process, and both beautiful and tragic moments.
And as you may have heard or noticed recently, art has been the inspiration of violent acts such as the Charlie Hebdo which caused controversey with it's "Draw Muhammad" cartoons and hip hop music getting a lot of flack over the years for "inciting violence" and mysogynistic attitudes. When you speak to hip hop artists, many of them say that their music doesn't influence negativity, rather the life or negativity they grew up with influenced their music. Many cite their up bringing or the fact that they are simply telling the every day stories of folks just like them who grew up in similar environments as the origins of their lyrics. If this is in fact true, how can we blame the music? How can we blame the cartoonist for inciting violence? Aren't we all in control of our own actions? I listened to a youtube debate between Dr. Boyce Watkins and Professor Michael Eric Dyson which focused on this very topic.
Professor Dyson defended the importance of the positive message in rap as well as those that deliver negative messages because he believes that it gives you a direct look and pulse on what's going on in the hood, the trials and tribulations of our brothers and sisters in the ghettos across the world and specifically in America. Dr. Watkins was on the other end of the spectrum. He spoke about his love for hip hop music as well, however he did believe that the negative messages that some of it sends to the younger generation are poisonous to their development as people. He believes that it taints the goals and motivations of the youth so that they settle for less than what they can become and search for things that don't bring substance to their lives or their communities.
Both present and defend their arguments very well, but then again what else would you expect from two of the best public intellectuals that we have today. I think the answer and responsibility lies with the individual. The only exception I would provide would be for children, as the younger they are the more impressionable and easily influenced they can be.
Or better yet, I would say the answer shifts with age. It's lies on a swinging scale the changes with maturity. As you grow older, the more you should influence art or music, not be influenced by it. Is it okay to be influenced by art as an adult? Yes, but you are also held to a higher standard to how you allow the influence to manifest itself. Yes we would love for positive messages to flow all over and eminate from everything.
But the reality is, life doesn't work that way because life isn't all peachy and lovely. Life has some ugliness to it, some horror, and art should be able to tell that story. Art should be the therapy for folks to deal with their trauma and their joy. If civilization should end tomorrow, the art or litterature should tell the entire story.
It shouldn't just tell the great things about life before the end, but it should also tell the story about where we went wrong as a society, so that hopefully those who come after us can learn from our mistakes. So with that said, we need the positive and the negative. We need that duality to life that I have often spoken of. The answer is the chicken came first, but also the egg! I know you were looking for an answer in all of that weren't you? But I can't let it be that easy because life isn't that easy. Trust me, I know!