Competition between artists of the same gender and in the same genre will always come into play when it comes to music. It’s a natural reality that’s actually a vital part of helping artists stay on top of their game. However, what isn’t natural–and becoming quite counterproductive–is this newfound obsession we seem to have with constantly pitting black entertainers against each other in the worst of ways.
Ciara recently released her sixth studio album titled “Jackie” and it didn’t do too well on the Billboard charts, landing at number 17 with just under 20k units sold in the first week. Like clockwork, the Internets exploded with 876 memes, carefully crafted insults and disrespectful headlines all littered with reasons why Ciara will never be Beyoncé, why Rihanna is better, etc. etc. And then when she spoke out to defend herself and showcase pride in her musical journey in the face of her critics (Ciara was quoted this week as saying she’s had hits just as big as Beyoncé and Rihanna) she was thrashed even more. Consequently, fail or succeed, the very same people who are shaming Ciara now will turn around and make a laundry list of reasons why Beyoncé wouldn’t be allowed to breathe if Aaliyah were alive or why Rihanna will never be a bigger pop star than Whitney Houston was in 1992.
Am I the only one who thinks this is getting old?
I’m not here to act as if I’ve never laughed at one of those memes or found a shade-filled tweet a little funnier than I should have every now and then, but given the choice between seeing this trend of perpetuating hatred of one black artist to uplift another grow and seeing it end, I’d choose the latter everyday of the week and twice on Sundays. We’ve mastered the ability to identify the destruction being done to the black community by those outside of it, but an important part of that is to teach people to better value the significant contributions that our culture is making to history and our music is a big part of our culture. More and more, mainstream America is taking their cues from us. We are creating the trends; we are controlling the conversations. So the last thing we should want to lead with is being known as a people who thrive on the hardships of our own to the point where everyone watching begins to take notice and think it’s ok to do the same.
This is not to suggest that we as fans shouldn’t give artists honest feedback when they release music that we truly feel is subpar or not their best work. In fact, most good artists would prefer to know when their fans are unhappy with their music. But nowadays, there’s a very fine line between actually being dissatisfied and wanting to perpetuate dissatisfaction for public personal gain that ultimately serves no purpose whatsoever in the not-so-distant long run. We’re in a time now where African-Americans are excelling to the highest of levels across multiple industries and their history-making strides will serve to benefit future generations. It makes no sense for us to complain about our people not getting the credit or appreciation they deserve, only to turn around and give everybody reasons to laugh at their hardships or overly criticize their triumphs. We’re leading the way in this era whether we realize it or not, so let’s start leading with something other than negativity or recycled humor when we all know that there’s much, much more we can bring to the table.