Being a musician has become far more complicated since it has been industrialized. There has always been a spectrum of those who purely create art expressing themselves through music (artists) and those who simply endeavor to use their musical talents to shock and amaze (entertainers). Historically, it would seem as though there’s always been a fine line between the two because through different time periods the demand and appreciation for “art” has evolved.
If you think about the evolution of music as a genre: it began as fine art (let’s begin with classical musicians), then the next big wave was Pop music which was equally high levels of artistic expression and talented performers. Next was the advent & era of Hip Hop, which I believe started as a balance of both, but we find a saturation of entertainers today…most of which are doing pretty well at that.
When I think about the J.Cole and Kendrick Lamar or in the CHH genre, Derek Minor’s, Bizzle, & Eshon, I think artist…purely expressing their world views and perspectives using hip hop music as their means of expression. When I think of Drake, Travis Scott, Da Baby, or Meg the Stallion…I think full entertainment and fan satisfaction.
I don’t think either is wrong, I think the balance is decided by how well it’s received. You look at artists like Kanye or Chance or in CHH a Lecrae or nobigdyl., who seem to have found a balance of painting pictures acutely from their lens and for their own personal therapy, but finding a way to share their process with the world in a way that keeps them engaged and entertained. The challenge is, if it’s not exactly profitable, do you continue to do what’s natural or do you evolve?
The issue with being extreme though is that it usually excludes the benefits of the other extreme; so if you are a pure entertainer…like an Uzi or a Trippie Red, fans will love your music & party to it but never in a million years would they respect your opinions on issues requiring deeper thought.
In like fashion, you take an artist like Logic or Joyner Lucas, and while you can appreciate every bar and perspective that fuels it…you won’t hear their music at many “turn-ups.” The key is to find the balance within yourself as an artist and discover the best way to communicate that to YOUR audience. Failure often comes when you try to apply a trend that’s not in your bag, kind of like putting a circle peg in a square hole.
You have to know who you are (artist or entertainer) and who best appreciates your presentation of that.