'Your faves are problematic'

A few days ago I was walking through campus on my way to a class in Elliot while listening to my "Daily Mix #1" on Spotify. As one song faded out, "The Race" by Tay-K began playing and I nodded along and mouthed the words as I normally do. Slowly, however, I began to feel a sense of guilt as it felt that the students I passed were silently judging me. I knew that they weren't but a disheartening fact that I try to bury whenever I listen to music by Tay-K reemerged: He is on trial for capital murder. The song lost its luster and I skipped to another playlist and entered my classroom slightly uneasy.

Tay-K is just a recent example of a phenomena that has developed over the past few years; troublesome artists producing popular music. If you scour the Billboard 100 or Spotify Global playlists you will likely find music from Tekashi69, Migos, Bruno Mars, and Sabrina Claudio who have all faced public backlash for violations of the law or use of racist or homophobic language. Although these artists continue to climb the charts, win Grammy's, and headline tours, a debate remains over whether or not society can separate art from the artist. However, at GW this conversation is much more complex.

The student body at GW prides itself on being one of the most politically active schools in the country. Weekly student-led events, demonstrations, and social media posts remind us of that fact whether we want to avoid it or not. When a political controversy arises, you can be sure that GW students will voice their opinions and attempt to shift the climate on campus regarding a certain issue. However, this environment does not mirror that of other college campuses. For instance, Rick Ross served as the headliner for Howard University's 2017 Homecoming, a choice that would certainly have caused controversy at GW because of Ross' lyrics; much like the controversy over Action Bronson's booking for Spring Fling in 2016. Even this year a Hatchet article deemed Lil' Pump an unfavorable choice for Spring Fling performer because of his past criminal history.

In this environment, is it truly possible to enjoy the work of a musician without reprimand from our peers? GW students regularly joke about the constant drama that surrounds Student Association elections, especially when candidates are revealed to have less than ideal views on hot-topic issues. Although no instance of this has been recorded yet, is it possible that in the future a candidate could be deemed anti-LGBTQ because of their enjoyment of Migos, a group who has notoriously shared homophobic views, or of XXXTenatcion because of his laundry list of domestic violence charges? GW is an inclusive, mostly tolerant, and adapting university that tries to understand and address the needs of all of its students regardless of background. For this reasons, students are rightfully sensitive to the opinions of their peers and seek to create a comforting environment for them at all times. Here lies the dilemma.

As I walk around and privately listen to Migos, I can't help but wonder if I am doing a disservice to my LGBTQ friends and family? Does listening to Kodak Black mean I endorse misogyny and disrespect the strong and fascinating women I have met during my time here? In the age of social media, the missteps of musical artists are broadcast widely so it is expected that their listeners are aware of their actions. It might be easy to say that the lines we draw are subjective and our musical choices are our own, but being a student at GW and choosing to be politically and socially aware seems to dilute this luxury for better or for worse.

This is an opinion piece and does not reflect the views of The Rival.

Originally published by Marquis Woods at gw.therival.news on 4.17.18
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