Two things got me to thinking about today’s topic: Chuck D’s call to Kanye and Jay-Z to give listeners more meaningful music and the release of a 911 tape, on which Nicki Minaj can be heard screaming after getting struck in the face by her alleged beau (which she originally claimed to be false). What exactly is it, if anything, that celebrities owe their fans? Are they required merely to stay entertaining and die? Are they obligated to contribute to the greater good of society? By means of their influence or simply by giving to charity? Do they have to let us in to their personal lives? What is it?

There is no one definitive answer to that question, as we all view our relationship to people of note very differently. First Lady Michelle Obama considers Beyonce to be a roll model; others have challenged her sexually provocative music and denounced her as a bad influence on the nation’s youth. The same can be said for her husband and his rise from dope dealer to millionaire mogul; one observer’s inspirational tale is another’s commentary on the depravity of our society. However, the very common feeling that we are to have certain expectations of our celebs is worth examining.

Personally, I agree with Chuck D when it comes to his flip of “Otis”, in which he asked the creators of The Throne to be mindful of the fact that most people who look like them are in the midst of “a great depression” when sitting down to craft odes to consumate materialism that actually point fun at listeners for not having the same means to travel the world, shop, etc. Rap has always been heavy when it comes to boasting about having things, but there’s a big difference between name checking a pair of sneak that is widely attainable versus describing affluence that most people could not even fathom. This isn’t coming back to the hood and saying “If I can do it, you can do it.” We honestly cannot do what these two have done and what they have achieved wouldn’t be so remarkable if we could. So when someone asks them to look down from that ‘throne’ and feed the peasants something more substantial than a description of a meal they cannot afford, I have to say…that’s a pretty reasonable expectation.

When the incident occurred between Nicki Minaj and her maybe-boyfriend last month, she almost immediately took to Twitter to inform the world that she couldn’t have been the victim of domestic violence, because old boy lived to tell the tale. Now we have a 911 call that makes it seem like she may have been dishonest about that. I’m not going to jump out the window and assume she lied, but let’s just say that she did…is she simply flexing her right to protect her privacy and her brand? Or doing her fans a major disservice by pretending that a “strong” woman can’t be a victim? Many people called on Rihanna to be the poster child for domestic violence after her assault, something that she vehemently refused to do; in fact, it seems her label went even harder in branding her as “Hard”, her hit single by that name being but one example of such. What do these PR moves say about partner violence and our inability to talk about it productively? Did these women need to let their stories be known (Rihanna did sit down for a number of interviews to discuss her history of abuse at the hands of Chris Brown, but didn’t take on the activist role that some had wanted for her)? I’m not sure myself.

We love to say “it’s just entertainment” when it comes to decidedly apolitical art or that which glorifies antisocial behavior, yet we have been faced with an abundance of evidence that suggests otherwise. People of all ages look to entertainers for cues on how to behave because our society is celebrity obsessed. We’d rather follow stars than those who make it their business to promote revolution, healthy living or the betterment of humanity, for a myriad of reasons- the most glaring  being displaced values, apathy and brainwashing by corporate entities. But it’s so much bigger than Hip-Hop, Pop or the gossip that comes from either of the two.

So, dear readers, what say you? How much leadership should we be asking of people who have entered our consciousness because they can rap really well or look pretty in a video? Where does our right to order their steps end and why? Speak on it.

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  • African Mami

    They owe you JACK SHIT, other than entertainment. If you are looking for a leader, mentor, role model you name it…go to church, the mosque, call Obama, twitter Michelle Obama or something…..they DO NOT owe you anything!

    • Alexandra

      “They owe you JACK SHIT, other than entertainment”

      Simply said. That’s what they get paid for, and that’s all there is to it.

  • Unique_one

    Honestly, I haven’t paid for a cd in years. I download them. I show my support financially by going to concerts and the concerts I go to are mainly old school. What does this have to do with the topic? Some people feel that if you spend your money supporting them, they should act a certain way. Don’t spend your money on them, they can act however they want to because you’re still getting it for free.

  • Sam Mont

    This is a topic I was thinking of myself especially in regards to Rihanna and how I feel that she should be an advocate for dating violence especially among teens. I am an advocate but my voice can only reach so far. I don’t think people understand the degree of power these celebrities have over our youth. I’ve been a tutor and a teacher’s aide for a majority of my career as someone who works towards the em-bettering the future of our youth, quite frankly, when they’re not talking about homework (which is not a majority of the time) they’re talking about the latest styles, teamChrisBrown, or Lil Wayne’s rap verse. It is their prerogative to only collect the money they receive from their fans and occasionally give them a twitter shout out, but seriously if Rihanna were to say just ONE thing in her tweet to the effect: My young girls out there don’t be a victim, if you’re being abused call 911. It would honestly be a huge thing, be on CNN, be on MSNBC, on good morning america and thus create a ripple effect. Or vice versa with Chris Brown. If some old smuck did it, no one listens maybe a couple if they’re that though provoking. At the end of the day, these celebrities lack of regard for our lives and “I’m just trying to put out good music” attitudes is really affecting our community especially the African-American community. They don’t want to do their part that’s fine, but it would really help.

  • andre robinson

    interesting article. i feel that entertainers are just that..entertainers i dont look to them to be my moral or political compass. i feel they people and as such are entitled to sme privacy when it comes to their personal lives. if rihanna doesnt want to be the poster child for domestic violence, so be it that is her right. if nicki m. doesnt want to reveal details of her latest issue fine, again that is her right. granted i support and appaude celebs that give back via charitable activities. i have an issue if i pay to see one these people and they dont show or give a half ass performance. other than that i wish them the best in their personal lives and dont mind if i am not privy to every detail of their lives. believe me my own life keeps me quite occupied and at times bewildered..lol!