Good art does not excuse sexual and domestic violence

Shasa Sartin, Features Editor

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When I went to Rome in the summer of 2013 with my grandparents and cousin we went to see the Trevi Fountain so we could throw our coins, ensuring our return to Rome.

The Trevi Fountain is one of the most magnificient sculptures in the world and is a must-see when visiting Rome. It was created by the famed Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

My grandparents taught my cousin and me that Bernini had attempted to murder his brother and assault his wife with a razor after he caught them having an affair. Pope Urban VIII pardoned Bernini because his art was too good.

His art was so good that the Roman Catholic Church was willing to overlook his sin of attempted murder so he could work on St. Peter’s Basilica. This is one of the most extreme examples of “separate the art from the artist” that I have ever heard, and that’s why I’m coming back to it.

Aside from Bernini, I don’t know a lot about many visual artists. I am a music person and I pay the most attention to hip-hop and R&B. There are issues of musicians being accused of domestic violence, sexual assault, and promoting hate speech, among other things.

A great example of this is R. Kelly. R. Kelly is a known sexual predator, specifically targeting young teenage girls. This is not up for debate. He has had many allegations against him in the past 20 years and one instance of his predatory behavior is on video.

Yet his discography is very celebrated and “Ignition (Remix)” is still played in clubs across the country. People are making the conscious decision to look past these terrible actions in order to celebrate his art.

I personally don’t seek out R. Kelly’s music because I am disturbed by his behavior. Similarly, I don’t listen to “rising star” Xxxtentacion and I never have by choice.

Xxxtentacion has been publicly charged with multiple counts of domestic abuse against a pregnant woman and this March his album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. Highly regarded rappers such as J Cole and Kendrick Lamar have openly embraced and complemented Xxxtentacion.

Kodak Black is a rapper and convicted rapist. His misogynistic fans tweeted “Free Kodak” while knowing the reasons he was imprisoned. Naturally, his August album also debuted at number one on the Billboard 200.

People are clearly putting their money and their mouth in two separate places. While many Americans are priding the general public for taking part in large conversations about sexual assault and other kinds of abuse at the hands of men in positions of power, these are the same Americans that are purchasing and streaming the projects of abusers like Xxxtra Violent and Not a Kodak Moment. 

Charts don’t lie and what Billboard 200 taught me is that allegations of abuse against women won’t stop your commercial success. I just have to ask, though, are these two aforementioned rappers as good at their craft as Bernini was at his?

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