I have no love for R. Kelly, but I’m blasting Marvin Gaye forever
… and Kendrick Lamar ‘Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers’ — while ignoring Kodak Black
Writer’s note: This post was originally published on Medium’s “We Need to Talk” on May 17, 2022.
There are two artists who you’ll never get a pass for insulting around me: author/poet Langston Hughes and singer Marvin Gaye. In my first apartment fresh out of college, I had a massive poster of Hughes greeting visitors as soon as they walked by my front door. The same energy happens in my current home with Marvin Gaye — but in a photograph one-fourth of that size.
So when I read this tweet, I was in fight mode immediately. The tweet says, “Y’all listen to Marvin Gaye!? He had a whole baby by a 15 year old” in response to anti-R. Kelly listeners.
I don’t know how in the world I managed to miss this news. I’ve been walking around with ginormous headphones and listening to Marvin Gaye since I was in elementary school and three decades since. Still, I went into Public Relations mode with my digital boxing gloves on and desperately tried to defend him.
Even when I look back at my first tweet and second one, I realize how weak my argument is. It was easier to rumble with this guy about saying only 65-year-olds listen to Marvin Gaye than to defend the niece news. The truth is I don’t know how to defend that man’s actions nor that of his wife, surrogate or not. I don’t agree with the decision, regardless of infertility complications.
Generally speaking though, I’m able to separate the artist from the music. I did it for an embarrassing amount of years with R. Kelly before “Surviving R. Kelly” came out in 2019. Although I’d slowed down tremendously on his songs after 2008, I wasn’t quite an anti-fan. By the time the documentary released and hearing the horror, I was 100% done with that parasite.
However, I can still watch “The Cosby Show” solely for the rest of the cast, regardless of me finally throwing in the towel on Bill Cosby himself. Cliff Huxtable is dope. Bill Cosby is problematic and horrendous. That doesn’t make my eyes stop welling up with happy tears anytime I see “The Night Time Is the Right Time” performance on “The Cosby Show.” For black people specifically, and the way their elders reacted to that scene, it fills a special place in my (their) hearts.
Then I was all set to enjoy Sheryl Crow’s Showtime documentary and loudly sing “All I Wanna Do” as soon as the beat dropped. But only a few minutes in, she started complaining about Michael Jackson — regardless of the Wade Robinson lawsuit results, along with all the rest. I promptly turned it off and will never attempt to watch it again.
And as much as I enjoy the music of James Brown, his daughter Yamma Brown’s book “Cold Sweat: My Father James Brown and Me” left me feeling exhausted. I cringe a little when I hear “It’s a Man’s World,” knowing about his daughter’s memories of him. But as hypocritical as it sounds, I’m still a Chris Brown fan and insist on pointing out “he was only 19” whenever Rihanna’s name resurfaces — on top of her moving on with a whole baby and a new man crooning about how he “fell in love with you” in a music video. If she’s over it, I can’t hold a grudge for her.
Listening to the artist doesn’t mean you support the (alleged) crime
It’s not that I don’t understand why people speak out against domestic violence, sexual assault, rape and child abuse. I oppose all of the above — from anybody. I do, however, have a major bone to pick with non-black people who act like famous black men are the poster children of all of the above crimes but smooth ignore white famous men for the same crimes. If you oppose the actions, oppose it for everyone, not just someone with a darker skin tone.
But the one thing I try not to do is ridicule someone for supporting their favorite artist — in spite of their (alleged) past actions. Here’s why. People come around to decisions in their own time. There’s a 0.01% chance that I’ll stop listening to Marvin Gaye any time soon or by the time I take a dirt nap. 1965 is not 2022, and there are a lot of things that do not get a pass now that did then. But there was a point in time when I felt just as strongly about supporting all the artists mentioned above — and now I don’t. No one could make me stop listening. My opinion changed with time and voluntarily.
So about that new Kendrick album
I almost fell into the finger-wagging trap with Kendrick Lamar on his recently released album “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.” For the life of me, I still don’t understand why Kodak Black (the man who tried to kiss and grope his mother’s ass, on top of pleading guilty to a rape charge) had to be on this album.