Monday, July 07, 2014

What does it mean to be an artist?

I had a note the other week from a hip-hop songwriter/rapper in the US, Anthony Tomaz, asking me to have a look at his story. I don't cover much rap, as you've probably noticed - it's never been my cuppa - but this film from Fuse News touched me very strongly.

Most of Anthony's family seems to have been jailed; he was homeless in New York for two years; but now he has a recording contract. He suggests that his music saved him. And he talks in this video about the way he is always writing, wherever he is, anytime and all the time - the way the sounds and words grip him and demand expression comes over unmistakably.

What does it mean to be an artist? Exactly this. Your medium, whether it's microtonality or minimalism, rap or Rachaminov, news or novels, takes hold of you and insists you make it real. You therefore learn how to do it and develop your ability to the utmost, or you feel you're letting down more than only yourself.

It's never easy to explain this to anyone who hasn't experienced it and thinks you should shut up and get a proper job. (I had a Twitter message yesterday from a gentleman who thinks I'd be a good traffic warden, but it turned out this had something to do with women in, right...)

But the concept of the creative artist is not dead, despite the 21st century's best efforts to kill it, because it is a human phenomenon that stays with us and can keep us on the rails, or restore us to them when we've fallen off.

I said to Anthony that I would run his story, because it's an inspiration and he is an artist. Nothing stops him from making music. Here it is.