Fishbowl Bohemia in the Hip Hop Industry
There was a time where Art and Artist was suspended behind an invisible veil. Scrutiny of the artist as a person would never touch the art until it had become unrivaled as a contributing force to the culture. Social media impeded this process: for better and for worse really.
In the life of community coordination, this is called the "Fishbowl." It’s the idea that everything you do is under some watchful, judgmental eye and that no matter what you do you will never escape. Not only is your every victory undermined by those around you, but your every fault or trip is magnified across dozens of anonymous conversations.
The "Timeline" (sometimes affectionately referred to as the TL), participates with artists in an immediate dialogue, often uncovering uprising artists in a rather unflattering light. Within hours of newly minted R&B Princess, SZA’s album debuting, the TL had exposed her previous comments regarding the LGBT community and rebelled against advocacy for what could be considered a catalogue for every black girl who was challenged for a sexuality reflecting the norms we forgive men for time and again. Her art was substantial, but the scrutiny had an immediate, detrimental reflection upon her work. And, she was not the only ones.
Sometime later, Cardi B’s BODAK YELLOW almost drowned beneath the analysis of Cardi B’s past colorist and transphobic antics. Whether one is willing to discuss the role of background versus accountability, or not, these artists were detrimentally affected by the Fishbowl’s scrutiny.
To speak of the "Fishbowl Artwatch," one must also discuss the habit of "Cancel Culture" on the same TL. "Cancel Culture" refers to the habit of social media profiles of removing respect, service and patronage from their growing operation or business. In recent years, sites such as Twitter have grown fat and reliant on such antics to drive out the least desirable of the community form the active consciousness of the community. However, "Cancel Culture" is never helpful. In fact, it confuses as much as it prevents, because instead of being rooted in education, it’s an ideal that is rooted in petty discourse, snide comments and self-aggrandizement. There is always merely a punching bag and merely a heavy weight prepared to champ for a cause they may be adopted for a week prior.
In either case, both fundamental ideals bend the capital T, Truth, out of the Art in question. The "Fishbowl" makes the artists afraid of scrutiny, and the culture makes a world of unrealistic expectations – where everyone who’s on your side is right, and everyone else is a flawed, bestial personality.
However, this is not to say that things like "Cancel Culture" or the "Fishbowl" do not contribute to the positive right side. It has certainly exposed Black celebrities who might have actively participated in exchanges one might consider toxic against the scenic irregular-ness of Twitter. Hell, it’s not even entirely problematic that there exist an immortal, unseeable construct ensuring artists be held accountable for the things they say and do – we all know how blatantly biased and lopsided certain genres of music can be to the LGBT and Women in general (something must hold people accountable to some extent).
But in the grand scheme of things, the culture has grown detrimental and temperamental, constantly standing on uneven, rumbling soil. And with the case of Art – which is the ultimate case of all – artists have grown skeptical of their own Truths being shared in open forums: because the most promising prospect of writing, the Truth, can serve as the grandest equalizer and the swiftest deconstructor. We exist in a time where people are not allowed to make the mistake of youth, pride or ego, anymore. Rather, they are expected to be humble, when even humility is not a true personality trait that they were ever imparted.
Further, artists have begun striking up causes they truly couldn’t care less about outside of the impression of their fans. How is this a better turn out than what the alternative could’ve been?
The "Fishbowl" effect: making liars out of artists and activists out of passive shruggers. It's perfectly fine to want to see a fish do a trick in the tank, but wouldn't it lose its value if that trick was artificial?