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The Voice

Balancing Controversy and Creativity – Should We Tune In?

Many musical artists have been found responsible for crimes or questionable moral decisions, but these artists also make genuinely good and insanely popular music. While it is not fair to idolize these artists and expect perfection from them, is there a certain boundary that artists could cross that could make fans stop supporting or listening to them? This could be determined by what individuals considered “controversial.” We decided to finger the pulse on four widely controversial artists, Kanye West, Doja Cat, Chris Brown, and Tory Lanez. 

Kanye’s controversies started in 2005 during a televised fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina, when he said that George Bush didn’t care about Black people. Four years later, one of the most memorable pop culture moments happened when he took the microphone from Taylor Swift after she won Best Female Video at the MTV Video Music Awards. Kanye said, “Yo Taylor, I’m happy for you, Imma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!” Beyoncé was visibly shocked by this sudden moment, and Swift was only 17 at the time. It is important to know Beyoncé won the Video of the Year award, the most coveted award of the night. 

In 2016, Kanye openly expressed his support for President-elect Donald Trump. That same year, he supported Bill Cosby, a comedian and actor, through his multiple sexual assault allegations. Two years later in 2018, one of the most self-deprecating things he could say as a black man, the 400 years of slavery black Americans went through was a choice. Despite all of this, he is still one of the most idolized figures in rap. He has over 57,000,000 streams on Spotify, and 24 Grammys, and has been nominated for hundreds of other awards. His albums have a cult following and fans would say he is the greatest rapper of all time, some even going as far as to say he is better than Tupac. 

Recently, in 2022 he said he would go “Defcon 3 on Jewish people.” This was the start of the Anti-Semitic rants he made that year. Later on in an interview with Alex Jones, he said “Every human being has something of value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler.” In the same interview, he said that he liked Hitler and he made many anti

Sophomore, Gabbi Mackay, said, “I think that, honestly, like everything that they’ve done is completely, like, bad and stuff. But like, you know, I’ve listened to them from before it happened. And honestly, like, I don’t agree with any of the stuff they’ve done, but I still do hear their music and a lot of places. And I don’t find myself picking it from my playlists, as much as I used to but like, maybe occasionally, okay.” 

Professor Gilbert said this about Kanye West, “Kanye, for example. I listened to his music through My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. After that album, I didn’t buy any of the albums, but I heard him featured on many songs. And I listened to it because like, I just know his record. And I just, you know, appreciate his skill, he is just a dope artist, but all the things that he has been saying have made you say, you know what, I don’t know if I wanna rock with this guy. So do I not listen to his music at all? No, I still do some of his songs, but I don’t seek it out.”

Our next artist, Doja Cat, released her hit album Mooo! in 2018, which made her a viral sensation on YouTube. Fans were intrigued by her unique voice and daring music. Ever since then, she has been wildly successful. She received a Grammy for one of her albums, Planet Her, and 16 other nominations. Despite her success, Doja Cat stated that her past two albums, Hot Pink, and Planet Her,  which had many hits were “cash grabs that people fell for.” Many of her supporters were outraged by that statement and questioned whether they should support Doja or if she deserved the success they had given her. Following this initial controversy, Doja Cat released one of her most polarizing singles yet: “Paint the Town Red.” News outlets and many Christians flooded social media stating that it is a demonic song that embraces the Devil and urges the public to “sin.” In the music video for “Paint the Town Red,” the visuals are undoubtedly Satanic, for Doja is seen dripping in blood, wearing Devil’s ears, and is accompanied by the Grim Reaper. 

Most recently, Doja has come under fire for flaunting a t-shirt with a supposed Neo-Nazi, Sam Hyde, on the front. Sam Hyde is also associated with White supremacy, misogyny, and Anti-Semitism. All of these scandals occurring so close to each other are causing many to stop listening to her music and altogether “cancel” her. Regardless, Doja could be making all these bold actions as a PR move to gain more publicity in the media so she has more listeners/a profit. 

One of our interviewees, Mark Stafford ‘26, stated “Everyone makes mistakes. It’s about growth. It’s about getting better as a person.” So, if Doja just redeems herself and moves on, she will no longer be canceled; but is it really that simple? If an artist just apologizes, does that excuse what they did? For some, that is a yes, but for others, it is a hard no. In another interview with Charles McElwain, a current junior, he said “You may be the kind of person that is like ‘I separate the art from the artist’ but I feel like that kind of a hard thing to say if the stuff they do is just that bad.”Perhaps this demonstrates that while many students’ opinions may vary, it is important to hold artists accountable for their actions, and not just gloss over whatever they did because of how good their music might be. 

Ever since Chris Brown’s debut of his first solo album in 2005, he has been in the public eye. He is known as a rapper, singer, songwriter and dancer. He is also dubbed the “King of R&B.” Brown’s success enabled him to win a Grammy for Best Album in 2022 for the album Breezy. Despite all of his accolades and success, Brown has a rough history of assault and drug abuse. 

It all started in February of 2009 when he physically assaulted his then-girlfriend, Rihanna, on the way to the Grammys. Rihanna was left with visible cuts and bruises on her face and was even hospitalized. Brown pleaded guilty to felony assault in the court case and then received 5 years probation, community service, and domestic violence counseling. Images of Rihanna went into the news and it became a national scandal, leaving Brown with a terrible reputation. In October of 2012, Brown dressed up as an Islamic terrorist for Halloween and violated the restraining order Rihanna had issued against him by appearing at the same party as her. 

Then, in 2013 Chris Brown was arrested, once again, for felony assault due to an altercation he had with two men in D.C. Following this, he was sent to a center to aid patients with anger management; however, he was kicked out due to his violent and irrational behavior in the facility. Since then, Brown has been in and out of rehab to deal with his anger-management issues. He was also arrested by the French police for sexual assault and was accused of hitting a woman at his house. Most recently, Brown was sued by a woman who claimed that he raped and rugged her while they were on a yacht in Miami. Despite these hefty crimes and scandals Brown has committed, he still has an ongoing fanbase known as “Team Breezy.” He also has continued producing music, which provides an incentive for his fans to continue listening and supporting him. 

While Chris Brown has been able to become wildly successful, he probably was not able to reach his true potential because of all of the scandals and crimes he committed; however, Mark Stafford ‘26, argued that “non-Black artists prey on black artists’ downfall.” meaning that since Chris Brown is a Black artist, perhaps the public is demonizing him more than they would a White artist that committed similar crimes. This begs the question if Black artists are held more accountable for their controversies due to racism that is still present in our society. 

Tory Lanez is a Canadian singer and songwriter but before his claim to fame, he was a ghostwriter and he wrote for artists like Travis Scott, Meek Mill, Akon, and August Alsina. He rose to fame for his song “Say It” in 2015, which was popular on the app During this time, he started to get recognition from notable producer, Benny Blanco, who signed him to his label Mad Love Records. as well as artists like A$AP Ferg, whom he would later collaborate with and be an opener for his 2016, The Level Up Tour. Lanez’s popularity steadily grew until 2020, he wasn’t a huge mainstream artist, but then became very popular in the R&B genre. However, in the summer of 2020, he and rapper Megan Thee Stallion got into an altercation and he shot her in the foot. Megan underwent surgery for the incident. Megan did not initially state who shot her, but on a heated Instagram live, she revealed it was Lanez and how his publicity team was trying to cover it up. In October 2020, Lanez was charged with felony counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm, personal use of a firearm, and carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle. Megan was given a restraining order against Lanez, which orders him to  stay over 100 yards away from her at all times. In 2022, he was arrested over a violation of this order. On December 23, 2022, he was convicted on the charges and was placed in jail. In August of this year, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. 

Sometimes there are two ends of the spectrum: critics and superfans. Both ends are critical of the other and there isn’t a benefit in being either. Sophomore, Gabbi Mackay, said “I think that, honestly, like everything that they’ve done is completely, like, bad and stuff. But like, you know, I’ve listened to them from before it happened. And honestly, like, I don’t agree with any of the stuff they’ve done, but I still do hear their music and a lot of places. And I don’t find myself picking it from my playlists, as much as I used to buy like, maybe occasionally, okay.” I think what she said sums up the middle ground, which is where most people are. 


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