Same is true of all entertainment mediums. There are films that are genre defying, and there are those that downright ridiculous, yet they rake in those almighty dollars without even trying. In a world that consumes entertainment with a voracious appetite, the right formula for success is a well sought out grail of holiness. There are empires built upon formula, but there are also avenues of respect lavished on those who can create the substance of art. One easy nominator is the question of money.
When does art "sell out"? Basically the idea is anytime artistic integrity is exchanged for money, then the soul is spent. But, isn't success dependent on making a lot of money in show business? Everything costs money, right? Good question. It was said of Shakespeare that he never really made a great deal of money in his lifetime. Fame and renown for certain, but money was not the goal of Shakespeare's art, at least from this side of history it doesn't seem to have been. In Shakespeare's time, a superstar status just didn't really exist. The artists of his time, including himself, were after fame, and not fortune. It was the recognition that they were creating immortal art that held a large audience spellbound, that proved enough to spur their lives as artists. Centuries later, we are still pouring over Shakespeare's sonnets and plays, digging deep into the richness of his art, and making emotional discoveries.
It would be great if all of art and culture were to be memorable over centuries of time, but that's not the case! How does one create work that generations of people will discover and love? How does one create work that is forgotten almost instantly? It's interesting if you really think about it.
The world of fashion bases itself on the principle of constantly re-issuing the "new". Fashion re-invents itself all the time, but as long as it's "new" to the audience, the excitement begins, and the image takes off, blazing down a runway, and onto the shoulders and hips of people who want it. Our nakedness is consistent, it's the constant flux of style that we identify more closely with. We allow ourselves to be re-invented, or we risk falling behind the line. It's something we have to be conscious of.
"Underground" is really just a term for the substance something has before the masses consume the newness, until it's commonplace. It's like when that new club opens and becomes the hot spot, before "everyone" hears about it, and it becomes trampled and overrated. And why does that happen? To put it rudely, fashionably astute people are constantly looking for the newest turn in the tide. The fashionably inept arrive too late to the scene, and they ruin it by beating it to death. Underground is a laboratory for the percolating dream, and above ground is where consumerism threatens to derail the train. Is money strangling art? What do you think?
We have cycled through periods of exploding goodness, and we have tumbled through periods of strange ways. We've had the Disco era, and we've had the Motown era. We've had the Renaissance, and we've had the Dark Ages. We've had John Steinbeck write a bestseller, and we've had Snooki from Jersey Shore write a bestseller. We've had Galileo condemned for seeking truth, and we've had Einstein glorified for it. We just can't make up our minds. We like the fullness and richness of genius, and we like the shallow hollowness of stupidity. We'll throw ourselves at either one.
So, psychologically speaking, what is different about underground art apart from above-ground infamy? Let's use the metaphor of an oak tree. While the seed is underground, not a lot of things notice it. There is water there, and soil, and all the seedling needs is to sprout and move upwards. It hatches from the seed husk and stretches towards that spotlight of the sun that all living things covet. We like to call new artists "groundbreaking", or "breaking new ground". So, the oak tree sprout breaks the ground and extends it's leaves in it's new environment. This new environment says a lot about the oak tree's success. If it starts in a forest, it just has to stay out of sight of the animals that will munch it. However, if it tries to grow in the crack of the city sidewalk, it's survival chances are slim. If it succeeds, it will grow larger, until it's noticeable, and then the birds may come and build nests and live on it. Once the tree gets high enough though, all you will see is the trunk. The birds that live on the tree will be up so high, that nobody can see them anymore. They are inaccessible. The trunk is the thing you see, and then it's one of many trunks in the forest. What we like to see most is the growing tree, that symbol of progress that's visible. Most of us in life are not giant trees. We're not celebrities that reside in mansions in gated communities who have a spokesperson and a lawyer. We like to see someone akin to us, that has extraordinary talent, who is noticeable, and whose fame is spreading. We tend to like the youthful energy of growth because the established finds it's niche and stays there. The hungry underground is hustling to pay the bills, and that energy is fascinating to witness.
There are things for whom the time has come, there are things whose time is coming, and others whose time has gone. It's the way things are. A lot of above ground art has become saturated with money and overexposure, and now fails to excite. There is a whole lot of art out there that is processed product, marketed to consumers, that is disposable afterwards. It lacks heart, and it lacks the drive, and starry-eyed idealism of an artist with their head in a cloud. Underneath it, though, is a rising plateau of entrepreneurial talent that produces on it's own, bypassing the established ways, and bringing it's art to the audience for the pure enjoyment of creation. If it's anything this economic downturn has to teach, it's that doing things for money's sake only, is to build a sand castle as the tide comes in. If you can't swim, don't get in the water. A great deal of the art, music, technology, fashion, and literature of the past decade is tied to a material era who's time is passing. We are now breaking the ground of new growth in the coming year. As those giant trees wither and fall to the earth, are you one of the sprigs coming up to take their place?
As this is my last article for 2011, I want to wish everyone a great year's end, and a happy new year! 2012 will be very different, and I'm looking to see what you all will do with it...have fun, everyone!!!
"Underground" art is interestingly enough, a tricky thing to stick a label on. Underground art is, by it's own nature, something that is not comfortable having a label stuck on it. So there are a few ways of determining the boundaries. The most obvious tag is the question of money. Pop music generates a whole lotta money, but that is not a guarantee that it's "good". Almost everyone could agree that just because an artist finds a huge amount of success, it doesn't necessarily mean that substantially speaking, their product is going to change your life. There are chart topping albums out there that barely encroach the starting block of art. A 'recording artist" may be recording, but whether or not it's art is a matter of fickle opinion.
Every once in a blue moon Sugar opens it's doors up to the male species. I'm not a raging feminist 360 days of year! ;) This summer I had the pleasure of producing and hosting Sugar's first out state show in my home state of Washington in hopes of shining some light on the up and coming and rising stars of Seattle and surrounding cities. Being from Tacoma I knew that there was a heavy hip hop and rap scene so we had our first ever Sugar Rap Contest. I got the chance to witness a lot of incredibly talented contenders, but to my great surprise and delight the rapper to take the First Place Prize was 253's very own Yung Zakk. Zakk won some very awesome prizes from our Sugar Does Seattle sponsors, Two In the Shirt, Sound Sessions with DJ Hyphen, A Real Grip, Shocking Goat, Seaspot Magazine, MissCaseyCarter.com, and more.
I recently got the chance to catch up with our young Northwest rap prodigy, Yung Zakk, to find out what's in store for the future, how Sugar helped, and what drives and inspires this rising star. (read full article below picture)
Sugar Pie: It's been 5 months since you won the Sugar Does Seattle Rap Contest, what's been going on since then? Yung Zakk: Ive just finished my 1st mixtape "NICE GUYS FINISH LAST" avalible Dec 25th on misscaseycarter.com also avalible on hotnewhiphop.com/yungzakk. In addition Ive completed few videos that are in the prosses of being edited. Ive also started working on my next project with J ROC (artist / producer of Track Addictz from tac). I have spoken with SeaSpot Media Group about some things that have been going on with me and I will be doing a follow up interview with them some time soon. Sugar Pie: Do you feel like winning the contest helped your career? Explain. Yung Zakk: Very much so. Winning the contest has opened alot of doors for me allowing me to meet people in fashion, media, blogs, music, photography, and more. All these people have created a huge marketing avanue for me. Sugar Pie: Who is Yung Zakk? Yung Zakk: Im an artists out of Tacoma, Washington. Ive been making music for a few years now and I'm just starting to put it all together. I believe persistence is key and that if u never stop you'll the last one standing. I just want to make good music and represent the NW well.
Dedicated to my gay and lesbian friends
All of my life I have marveled at just how provoked and agitated people can become about sexual preferences. The fear, anger, and prejudice have always seemed to be blown way out of proportion, when consideration is given to sexuality being a rather minor issue, really. I mean, why would I overly concern myself with how and with whom, other people want to express themselves sexually? This is coming from a person like me though, and I tend to be the "live and let live" type.
Recently, I have read news articles that lead me to believe that the issues of gay marriage and military service are going to be exploited in the same laughable way they were during the last election. The "social conservative" right lane of the speedway just can't get enough of stoking this wildfire. I believe the reason is because it's an easy place to begin polarizing people and their opinions. Let's face it, gay sexuality has been negatively imaged and ingrained into our minds almost from the day we awakened sexually in our lives. For some of us, it's been longer than others.
I grew up in a strange situation. My parents decided at a certain point in my young life, to embrace a VERY conservative religious lifestyle. All of a sudden, things weren't easygoing anymore, and a really rigid, dualistic world settled down over our heads. People and things were either "right" or "wrong", according to whether they were approved of by dogma. I remember being taught in church how "homosexuality" was such a terrible thing to do, that hell was the only destination available to a gay person. It wasn't like, let's say, gambling or drinking too much, because you can cut back on THAT. You really can't cut back on being gay. It's really kinda not like that.
I remember being struck at how unrelenting the judgmentalism was. Straight to hell for being gay? The whole thing was compounded by two of my childhood friends coming out as gay, and pursuing their sexuality without apology. My parents didn't want me "hanging out" with these guys, but they knew well enough that attempts to intervene in my friendships was not going to be fruitful. They offered their concern, but ultimately chose not to dwell upon it very much.
I didn't choose to be a straight man, the decision was made for me. By what force of nature, I'm not sure, but it's the very same source that made the decision for my friends too. I think I lack the "fear" of gay sexuality, simply because I have known and have been close to gay people my whole life. I know that they are just like me, they just go about their affairs of romance differently. I saw these friends "blossom" into gay sexuality the same way I "blossomed" into straight sexuality. I never remember a time, where I was looking at gay and straight sexuality, scratching my head, and said "oh, I'll just take straight sex". It just happens naturally. Nature is the dictator of what happens naturally, and gay sexuality occurs in nature, naturally. This is a very important point.
Biologists and researchers know that gay sexuality exists in in the wild amongst the other living creatures as well as with humans, it's no mystery. There have been some papers published on it, that have a basis in sound fundamental science, but researchers are wary of delving into the topic. They tread carefully because, sadly enough, it can cost you grant money, or even your career to touch this subject in a way that rankles the religious right. It smacks of good old American bigotry, the way being silently ostracized works. These believers in the idea that straight or gay is a "choice" will smile in your face, but turn their back on you if they believe you have promoted an unapproved lifestyle, by defining it in scientific terms. They simply aren't ready to deal with the obvious evidence yet, because the power of belief is very influential.
The power of belief is the same one that implies that procreation is the only guiltless endgame of sex. We live in the center of a population explosion that is so exponential, to cling to such an idea is not only a labyrinth of morality, it's also irresponsible. The most populated countries on the planet are now at the threshold of population control policy. That's the deal, people. I don't see the self righteous crying foul when we manage the populations of deer, bears, and other assorted wildlife. We have reached that point in the timeline when we must do the same for our own numbers. It's not a futuristic concept anymore, it's a present-istic concept.
So, all this means something that the prudish would rather not think about. Guilt free sexual relations. A brand new sexual revolution. We have filled the planet with our own kind, and are now free to explore sexual relationships simply for the physical and mental euphoria they provide. Couples can marry or whatever else they would like to do, and we shouldn't be assuming that procreation HAS to result somehow. It doesn't.
There are also lots of other questions to ponder. Can someone define their own gender regardless of their sexual equipment? There is some science that points to that hypothesis too. I don't have the space to list the references here, but the internet is loaded with studies on this. There is male, and there is female, and there are many points in between. Possibilities abound. This is not a comfortable idea with many who prefer there to be clearly defined gender categories, but we live in an interesting age. Gay sexuality was not only tolerated in ancient cultures, in some, it was simply part of the panorama of sex. People gravitated towards whatever it was they identified with. It's a rather recent development that gay people have had to endure such scrutiny as to allow the intolerant to relegate people to the outskirts of our society. We have to do better than that.
I hear all the time about gay teenagers being taunted and ridiculed to the point of tragedy. How can some be so cold hearted as to say that this is a choice the person makes? Who would choose to be taunted and ridiculed? Especially at an age when peer acceptance is such an important part of development? How can some say that they can "cure" gay sexuality? What an obnoxious thing to say! I could not turn around tomorrow and "decide" to be gay, simply because my compass isn't pointing in that direction. Neither can a gay person quit their natural sexual drive and go in another direction. That makes about as much sense as that ancient relic of an idea to try and coerce left handed people to be right handed. It doesn't work if the brain is not hard wired to do so. It ends up tragic.
So, as I watch the country gearing up for an election year, and I hear of candidates who willingly emit such befuddled nonsense as to say that sexuality is a selection one makes, or that they can cure gay people into straight ones, I feel the need to speak my opinion on the matter. It's time to put this to rest, and to quit allowing politics to ride this social aspect for gains at the polls. America is always going to be lopsided and civil rights challenged because that's what we are, but for God's sake, let's move on to the next stupidity project and leave people's sexual lives to their privacy. What do I care how someone else handles their sexual business? Why does anybody get so caught up in that? Why is it such a big deal? Politics adores a scapegoat, and I would rather see an election where these buffoons are forced to talk about the relevance of war, poverty, and economic struggle, instead of hiding behind gay marriage as a smokescreen. It's time to push forward, and the best way to do it is for people to challenge their own prejudices and dare to realize that gays and straights are really not that different. It appears that prejudiced people need encouragement from the populace to change their tune. All equality struggles in America have incremental change as their modus operandi. It's my hope that a show of indifference to gay drama mongering from candidates can lead to better debates over issues we can't afford to delay any longer. Word out for 2012.