It was a Saturday morning. The closing of Miami Art Week. The sun was out, the sky was blue and J Cole’s “No Role Modelz” was blaring from the speakers. I was taking a break before I continued to work towards setting up our Art Basel event later that night. Suddenly, I hear a friendly hello followed by a perplexing comment about the music I was playing. I was asked by one of the gallery curators to please not play hip-hop during the event because it seemed vulgar and it might drive away potential art buyers. I was dumbfounded, especially since we were located in such a diverse and eclectic part of town. I respectfully concurred and began to ponder on this encounter. Why would hip-hop drive away art buyers? In recent years, street artist-many of them with urban backgrounds-have become prominent and at the forefront of the art world. It was then that I realized that there is such a thing as music prejudice.
For the most part, we tend to adhere to our respectable social circles, inspiring us to refute every or any other social conformity outside of our own relative paradigm. We hold disputes over trends, ideologies and even go as far as to hate a certain group of people only because they do not share the same vision or lifestyle as we do. From racial tension to cultural prejudice there are a lot of in betweens that we usually do not touch base on but are as important and influential as the general outlook; music is one of them.
Music, as a sonic medium, also tends to evoke fashion trends, attitudes and even political perspectives. Music in itself creates its own cultural movement in accordance to genre. When you hear a country song you might imagine trucks, confederate flags, fields and redneck culture. When you hear hip-hop in the distance one might imagine a car with shiny rims and a tricked out bass system, some might even begin to associate the music demographically; suddenly that area might seem shady to some people.
Music is often dismissed in our society. It has been around for so long and in todays market easy accessibility has devalued the general populations take on it. An artist spends money, time and creativity making a track to eventually have it downloaded for free with the click of a button. It is not tangible, so discarding it is beyond feasible-again with the click of a button but despite the obvious depreciation of music or popular music we cannot ignore its influence on our perception of culture.
Recently, Manchester Police have begun to record attacks against punks, emo kids and goths as hate crimes. To pop music fans punk might sound satanic and violent. This causes a rift within our community, a “stay over there, I’ll stay over here”, mentality. Unfortunately, that mentality sometimes leads to conflict. Many individuals are usually targeted and harassed constantly due to this rift from both sides of the spectrum.
As humans we are inclined to label, categorize and compartmentalize just about everything in our lives. Sometimes we are not even aware of our bias. It’s not about liking or even giving other music a chance, it’s about respect. To recognize the individuality and hopefully appreciate it but ultimately, the key is to prevent that recognition from raising assumptions and prejudice.
So next time you hear a country, hip-hop, punk, metal, sugar pop, or indie song, try and look passed the prejudice and remember that a person is listening to it, a person like you, the way you listen to your music, because you love it, because you enjoy listening to it, because you want to, because music is subjective, and it shouldn’t objectify anyone.
“Music is a world within itself, with a language we ALL understand” – Stevie Wonder