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Kevin Hart, Dave Chappelle, Doja Cat, and Commercialization of Art

Dave Chappelle is pimping the game, quite literally everyone else is getting pimped by the game. Let me preface this by saying that I love Kevin Hart. I was the biggest Kevin Hart fan in the world in middle school. It started with "Grown Little Man". "Grown Little Man" was 5th Grade me’s favourite thing in the whole world. I bought the movie on the iTunes Store. I begged my mom to take me to Walmart and buy me an iTunes card so I can go home and purchase the film so I can watch it on my iPod. There aren’t many comedians, especially at that time, that could stop me from bootlegging (rip megavideo).

And as I got older I kept up with Kevin Hart. I watched his next special "Seriously Funny" and that’s in my top 10 all time comedy specials. Kevin Hart is an introspective comedian, much like Richard Pryor. His material isn’t social, it’s personal. And it used to feel raw and honest. His next special "laugh at my pain" delved even deeper into Kevin’s life and struggles. And I watched him get into “Think Like A Man” and I loved the film. And before I knew it Kevin Hart was undisputedly the biggest actor in Hollywood. And for some reason the bigger he got, the less I enjoyed the specials. The material felt tamer and it felt more formulaic and agenda driven.

And I don’t expect Kevin to get into social issues, but he would always talk about things that were going on with him, regardless of how terrible it was, as honestly and as funny as he could. But since he became the most popular person in the world, everything he says began feeling like a political statement. He began to sound like there was a brand agenda behind it. And there definitely is, so I don’t blame him.

The Kevin Hart brand is one of the biggest brands in the world and his brand is his livelihood, so damage to it is damage to food in his children’s mouths. Kevin Hart used to unapologetically talk about the domestic issues he would go through with his girlfriend and now he spends a whole special apologizing for how his personal life affected his brand. Talking about what happened to him is part of how he does stand up but the way in which he did it felt more like he was trying to appease sponsors. And I can’t blame him. When rumours came out of Kevin Hart cheating on his girlfriend, he was tarnished globally by every single media outlet including local news channels.

Kevin Hart is the first mega comedian of the internet age. And that has propelled him to being the biggest comedian of all time. He’s the guy that gets all the film roles, is all over the billboards and commercials and is selling out stadiums. And that casts a wide net of people that are aware of him. And Kevin provides advice on life on his own social media and that makes people follow him for more than just his comedy. People tune in to Kevin Hart for motivation and inspiration in how he handles all of the work he puts in to become the biggest comedian of all time, while also maintaining a family.

That’s his brand and it’s a very expensive brand. And the growth of the brand has impacted the comedy. And this isn’t one of those articles to bash artists that go mainstream cause you can’t blame them. In a perfect world everyone’s responsibility to their craft would outweigh the quest of wealth. But when you have a family in a capitalistic society, it’s difficult to not put the money first because the money is how you feed your kids.

So Kevin Hart did everything Dave Chappelle popularly shied away from. Dave talked about how he was asked to put on a dress by film studios, less than a decade later Kevin Hart is wearing a dress on Jimmy Fallon. And that’s not a knock on Kevin Hart's character, it just means he is dedicated to reaching the highest level of wealth. I kept up with Kevin’s latest specials and I didn’t enjoy them, there were bits and pieces I enjoyed but I didn’t see any artistic growth, it was basically a long statement to the press. I brushed it off until I watched Kevin Hart on the Joe Rogan Experience where he discusses that exact thing.

Kevin explains how he can't do certain things to protect his image because his responsibility is to his kids, employees and everyone underneath the Hart umbrella. And that’s why I can’t blame him, Taylor Swift, or any other “pop star” that has compromised the art form in some way, shape or form in exchange for financial gain. Today, more than ever, your personal brand is lucrative. The idea of selling out no longer exists. Everything, including your likeness, is profitable. It’s about knowing who is profiting. If you’re releasing art and not making a dime, that just means someone else is. And so there’s a generation of young artists that are trying to profit from their art and everything around it, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

And yet there’s a history of a certain rebellious nature that gets people into the arts. It’s that rebelliousness that I see in Dave Chappelle. Dave, much like Carlin and Pryor before him, sees the art form as a way of communicating his philosophy and truth. Dave sees the art form as a medium for truth. The art represents the most fundamental truth of our being and acts as a mirror that reflects ourselves back to us. And that’s what makes the dopest art that transcends time and space. It’s because it remains constantly true regardless of how much time has passed. Dave Chappelle once said "'There’s something so true about this genre when done correctly, that I will fight anybody that gets in a true practitioner of this art form’s way. Cause I know you’re wrong. This is the truth, and you are obstructing it. I’m not talking about the content; I’m talking about the art form.”

That’s why the Vatican has infinitely expensive pieces of art created by some of the most renowned renaissance artists while building the city. The paintings transcend time and space and are representations of what they believed to be the most fundamental truths at that time. And those are the things that survive the test of time, things that remain true in essence. And those are the things we can feel.

When Dave Chappelle does stand up I can feel the authenticity. I can feel that this is unapologetic. And that’s because of Dave Chappelles understanding of the almost religious like dedication one needs to have for their craft to make them one of the greatest. Because that’s the building blocks of everything before it gets popular and corporatized. The kids in New York that were B-boying and spraying graffiti on the wall, spinning records and rapping were expressing themselves in the most honest and authentic way they knew how. Nobody taught them how to do that, nobody forced them to do that, they didn’t know they could make money from it. They just honestly felt that, and that turned into Hip Hop, arguably the most profitable form of communication today.

Hip Hop was a rebellion to the commercialization of disco. Hip Hop was what Jazz used to be. Jazz was a rebellion. Jazz used to be completely about improvisation and letting your soul speak through the instrument. The profit was never at the forefront of the art form, and as soon as it became the centre, the art suffered. Dave Chappelle decided to leave instead of letting corporatization compromise the art, came back and got to do it his way. And that’s something you have to commend. Cause if you’re not making a lot of money and your excuse is your dedication to the art, people during your lifetime will make fun of you. Patrice O’neal lived his whole life as one of the funniest comedians on planet earth. But he never went mainstream. Highly respected comedians like Bill Burr, Louis CK and even Kevin Hart have praised him for being one of the funniest people in the world. Patrice's material was outspoken, fucked up and honest. Patrice talked about society, the human experience, men and women and he did it recklessly, like a comedian should. But he didn’t get the praise during his lifetime because he didn’t get the opportunities because he was honestly, too real.

But that’s what comedy is. Hundreds of years ago they had court jesters who held political significance because they were the only ones who could tell