The Pursuit of One Hunnit

One of the greatest struggles for artists is the issue of being "real".

And by artists, I mean "one who creates art for mass consumption/reflection/acceptance/observance". This could be any kind of artist, including, but not limited to painters, photographers, musicians, DJs, singers, poets, songwriters, storytellers, dancers, sketch artists, et cetera.

The struggle is real.

Not because it's hard to create, not necessarily, and not traditionally. Creating is a beast of its own burden. The struggle comes in when those little voices come in.

You know what I mean, right?

It's really weird the way it comes in. You thought you were creating as a form of self-release, and you thought that someone out there would appreciate what you were putting out into the atmosphere. However, sometimes without warning, the voices speak.

"Is that what you really want to say? You should change that line, right over there. It may be more real if you add this part to it."

"That doesn't sound honest enough. Remember, you gotta keep it one hunnit in these streets."

"Don't put it that way! Johnny Cash didn't do it that way! Michael Jackson didn't do it that way! What would Kanye do?"

To achieve peak artisticness, there seems to be a maddening amount of anxiety, as far as what it looks like to be authentic. And we haven't even breached the conversation of art imitating life. (Or is it the other way around?)

So then. What is real?

When we create, is it real enough? What stories are being told? Are they our tales, or duplicates from our MANY sources of input? Are these our songs, our visions, our voices being heard, or are we shrouded by masks upon masks of what we think would sound or look better?

Here's a scary question: how real do we want to be?

I remember the first time I read a seriously personal love poem out loud at an slam event, back home in Newark, NJ. This memory stands out because it was the first time I had performed like this, and I was nervous. After I performed this piece, I expected the typical applause, half-obligatory, half-"meh-not-bad" kind of clapping. 

There was nothing. Absolute silence.

I had just finished revealing a pretty raw piece of myself (at a slam competition, no less) to a response that would've made crickets feel awkward. Immediately, I regretted writing it, I regretting performing it, I regretted even showing up to this god-forsaken bout of emotion porn (that's another blog for another day).

Not everyone deserves to see our authentic selves. Some of what we have inside can only be handled by a select few people.

I present the question to you, and I hope to see more like it tonight, on April 15th at our Open Mic session at Riverviews ArtSpace.

What does it mean to be authentic?