Life More Buju Than You
The whole Buju Banton debate has brought up one of my favorite questions: Should an artist be held morally responsible for his or her ugly, immoral art (or ugly, immoral personal life)?
It’s a great, rich question, but much of the discussion around Buju Banton seems willfully obtuse—specifically, the demands that a boycott of Buju Banton should automatically necessitate the boycotting of other “offensive” artists, such as Ice Cube, Guns N Roses, Eminem, etc, etc, etc.
I resent having to parse the bullshit, but here goes: Yeah, the Beastie Boys considered titling their debut Don’t Be A Faggot, but, um, they DIDN’T, and they never even proposed calling the record Don’t Be A Faggot—Kill a Faggot, Perhaps with Acid and Public Burning, and Trust You’ve Done the Right Thing. Buju Banton’s most controversial track celebrates and encourages the murder of homosexuals, wherever they may be. At least John Lennon had the good taste to only threaten to murder the one “little girl” he was in love with. (And sweet little Neil Young actually went through with it.)
And yes, hiphop and rock is filled with jackasses presenting women as stupid trash that’s hardly worth raping, but show me the Ice Cube or Guns N’ Roses track that calls for the immediate raping of all women, wherever they may be. You can’t, which is too bad, as “A Call for the Immediate Raping of All Women, Wherever They May Be” might make a dynamite GN’R power ballad, but sorry, it doesn’t exist.
There’s free speech—including the troubling sentiments of Guns N’ Roses, Eminem, NWA, Ice Cube, Public Enemy, John Lennon, Neil Young, etc, etc, etc—and then there’s hate speech, which lays out a plan of direct action against an entire people, such as in Banton’s contentious hit.
As for those stores carrying Buju Banton CDs—big whoop. I proudly worked at a bookstore that sold Mein Kampf. If Easy Street were to host an in-store performance by Buju Banton (or if Bailey/Coy hosted an author signing with Hitler), that would be a different story.
Which brings us to Neumo’s, which did the right thing in rejecting plans to give Buju Banton a singular platform to spew his shit in the middle of the gayest neighborhood in town. Booking Banton was a bad idea, Neumo’s realizes that now, and let’s move on, and make sure Neumo’s doesn’t have to pay an excessive price for doing the right thing.