The Boondocks, Dave Chappelle, Sudan and Authenticity in Art
Updated: Jun 15, 2019
Artists in the entertainment industry, mainly in the western world, are allowed to air out grievances and if it’s in a cool and lowkey way they’re rewarded, until it gets a little too real. The entertainment industry and society craves young creatives. They want artists to be talented and intelligent but marketable and capable of being mass produced. The market calls for a bunch of #KatyPerry's, #SteveHarvey’s and #JerrySeinfeld's. Those people are very talented and I don’t want to take anything away from them. Their net worth proves that the formula works. Their content is just very safe and family friendly, and those types of people are needed. They don’t step on any toes and they make content that appeals to everyone and doesn’t get people mad or thinking too much. The problem with wanting that from everyone is that art is inherently about truth. Art is about an expression of ones being and life. For young people in the west our expression will have some real shit that depicts our experiences from time to time. While art can be fun and relatable it also includes expressing your thoughts on the world you live in and yourself because that's a part of who you are.
The essence of certain art is to critique culture and society. The therapy for oppressed groups of people through history is to air out their grievances through the art that pours out of them. In times of war the philosophers and poets used to be the ones that were imprisoned first because of their power on the people. Billie Holiday sang 'Strange Fruits' about the lynchings black people were facing at the time and slaves during the transatlantic slave trade used music to transfer messages.
Artists are cursed/blessed with a view of the world and it would be a disservice to the state of their being and the progression of humanity to not express that. Statistics show that creatives who score higher in the category of openness can suffer from various mental health problems if they don't do creative work. So it is actually bad for ones health to not express themselves. The artists that we’ve put in the upper echelon of communication are the ones who told the most truth. From #AndyWarhol to #Basquiat to #DaVinci to #2Pac. 2pac famously said that his job was to "be the spark" to inspire the mind that will one day change the world. He made it his duty to talk about the problems he saw plaguing his community.
Comedy and music are two huge and very profitable media forms in the modern age. And they were both built on telling truths that other people understand, relate to and empathize with. #RichardPryor is widely regarded as one of the greatest stand up comics of all time and he was known for expressing his truth. Pryor's material was more introspective than social a lot of the time but he still said everything. He talked about everything from troubles with coke addiction, all the way to lighting himself on fire and the problems that come with celebrity and racism.
Richard Pryor told his truth and he inspired generations of people that came after him to follow in his footsteps. Dave Chappelle, #ChrisRock, #EddieGriffin and #Monique are all comedians who tell taboo social truths and have all marked Pryor as their major influence. Other than Chris Rock they’ve all been blackballed at one point or another for telling too much truth.
#PatriceOneal was one of the best comedians of all time but he told too much truth and was blackballed his entire career and now that he’s dead he’s being given his flowers by mainstream media platforms. Patrice was very open during all of his radio interviews and expressed how he was being blocked from opportunities because having him in certain roles was bad for business. Comedy specifically is built on expressing truth. Comedian Lenny Bruce was actually taken to trial for his performances and Bruce is renowned for paving the way for future outspoken counterculture-era comedians, and his trial for obscenity is seen as a landmark for freedom of speech in the United States.
A lot of the mainstream entertainment industry wants entertainers talented but without honesty, not realizing that honesty is part of what makes the talent great. #AaronMcgruder the creator of the boondocks was picked up for his #AdultSwim cartoon after publishing comics of the same name. He created 3 thought provoking seasons of the show. The boondocks had social commentary and critique, it was honest and original. It was a cool anime black satire, the world hadn’t seen anything like this before. But for unknown reasons the show was scrapped and Aaron Mcgruder was taken off the team when it was time for the inevitable reboot. What came from that was a lukewarm 4th season. It was contrived and inauthentic. It had no original social commentary, just a regurgitation of twitter and pop culture memes. The show got picked up again in 2019 with Aaron Mcgruder and as of this writing it hasn’t come out yet. Let's hope Aaron brings back that spark we saw in the first 3 seasons.
The boondocks lost what made it great because studios fear authenticity. And for good reason. You can’t try to appeal to millions of people without offending people. And offending people (mainly white people) usually means less money (unless you subscribe to outrage marketing). Studios want shows with universal appeal. Which for some reason means lots of white people with 30 minute solutions to their problems.
#TheBoondocks situation is the same thing that happened with #DaveChappelle. Chappelle’s show is widely regarded as the greatest sketch comedy show of all time. I could write for hours about the genius of Dave Chappelles stand up and how he is the zenith of what I’m talking about with art being used as a medium for truth but I’ll stick to Chappelle’s show for now. Chappelle’s show was another show with social commentary and critique, and just like Dave’s stand up, it was disguised under absurd sketch circumstances. Chappelle used his platform to shed light on important and taboo issues like racism, class and celebrity culture. It was the first show of its kind but again for not completely known yet well documented reasons Dave left his successful show and a 50 million dollar contract and fled to South Africa. Comedy Central decided to shoot one more season without him and the same thing that happened with the boondocks happened here. It was contrived inauthentic bullshit.
Studios, labels, and their corporate backers are too focused on finding a large market and giving things mass appeal to let the art be free. They don’t want to offend anyone because that’s not how you make money but some art is more important than that. Art is supposed to reflect and capture the moment. There is art that can start revolutions and uprisings, it can unite and inspire the world. An artist's job is to use the gift they were blessed with. Your job is to capture how you feel in your current moment in space and time as accurately and honestly as you can in whatever medium you use. And when you don’t, people can feel it. They want young talent without what makes them talented. What if