Artists of Substance in a Reality TV World

You hear it all the time usually about recording artists– the blaming and uproar against the music labels about why the market is flooded with music that is always explicitly created to brag about sexual exploits, fast money and what-not. The sentiment of some is that there is no audience for music that is outside of this, whether being political or socially conscious, that today’s audience–raised on reality tv and shock value– only want fast, easy and empty. But, that’s not true in any shape, form or fashion. People LOVE art that speaks to issues greater than a cheap thrill. People LOVE art that steps outside of the box and gives us something different.

When it comes to artists going conscious, there are too many artists to speak of who are using their art as a platform to speak to social issues, rally awareness and create change. All progressive artists did not disappear at the passing of such greats as Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye and Nina Simone– all well-known for their musical proclivity and conscious lyrics.

When it comes to music, here are some of my personal favorites:

Maimouna Youssef

(In video: An ode to Monsanto and other Genetically Modified Organsim food companies by Maimouna Youssef. Original lyrics by Maimouna Youssef. Directed and edited by Diallo Sumbry.)

Janelle Monae

Teisha Marie

When it comes to the literary world, those self-publishing are publishing more than just Urban Lit and your run-of-the-mill romance fiction. There are many ways to tell a story or present a good read.

Here are some books that stepped outside of the box and brought a new spin to the publishing game:

L.A. Banks

L.A. Banks Vampire Huntress series is one of the first to feature main characters that are Black and Latino. While, on surface, it may appear to run along the same themes as popular and more mainstream series’ such as Twilight, L.A. Banks’ Vampire Huntress series is well-written and fused with cultural references that appeal to a more diverse audience.

Girl Child Press

Edited by Michelle Sewell, founder of GirlChild Press, Woman’s Work is a  provocative and entertaining collection featuring 40 women writers who “pull us into their ever-changing universe of shapeshifters, fairies, drag queens, and fat Southern girls. This is an adventure not to be missed.”

The Pen 10 Scribes

I fell in love with the idea of this book and jumped at the chance to be a part of it. Eight of my stories are featured in this book which is a web project that editor Rhonda Smolorek transformed into a publication. In ten sentences, writers tell stories as diverse as murder, friendship and committment.

Visual art is typically the place you can find the most avant-garde and out-of-the-box artists. But sometimes, avant-garde isn’t always progressive or making an impact on social consciousness.

Here are some visual artists who I see making impact with their art:

Turtel Onli

Turtel Onli is not just a visual artist who has studied in Paris, designed art for celebrities and been featured in museums– he’s a graphic novelist, creating characters of African descent who tell stories that pertain to today’s social issues. Turtel’s commitment to showcasing characters of African descent led to his founding of the annual event, the Black Age of Comics which is held each year in Chicago. This year, the event will be held at the DuSable Museum. Check here for more info.

I know my list is by no way exhaugstive. Who are some of your own personal favorites?

Are You An Artist Wondering How to Become an Artist of Substance in a Reality TV World? 
Blocked and in need of some gentle coaching to get back on track? Connect with me
I can support you on your journey.
(Note: This post was written a week before the untimely passing of author LA Banks. LA Banks was an inspiration for me, as I had met her last year in Chicago at an event that we were both featured. My condolences to her family and fans.-8/24/11, KA-C)
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