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Cornel West Believes Music Industry Needs Creators and Fewer Emulators

By Add Seymour Jr.

Princeton University African American Studies professor and Hidden Beach Recordings artist Cornel West told 2,500 people at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel that while the music industry has plenty of talent, there are too many people chasing dollars instead of creative genius.

“Too many copies,” West said to the applauding audience on Monday, Feb. 18. “Too many emulators. We need creators.”

West came to Morehouse for his “Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations” presentation, which was a chat between him and Fox 5’s “Good Day Atlanta” anchor Mark Hayes. The night also featured music from West’s latest CD, also titled “Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations.” The CD melds a discussion on African American topics with hip-hop and R&B tracks by artists like Jill Scott, Prince, Talib Kweli and Andre 3000 of Outkast.

West spoke on a variety of topics, including race relations and his at first grudging support for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

“When I heard about brother Barack, I said I gotta give him a chance, but I’m suspicious,” West said. “But I had a chance to sit down and talk to him…I was convinced that the brother was quite serious about building on (King’s) legacy.”

But much of his talk centered on music, specifically the fact that the music industry has become watered down by those more enthralled with technology and producing superficial music that overly focuses on sexual gratification. He mentioned rapper Soulja Boy, who had a No. 1 hit last year with the song “Crank Dat” as an example.

“You have to find joy in serving other people,” West said. “Frankie Beverly didn’t sing ‘Pleasure and Pain.’ He sang ‘Joy and Pain.’ There’s nothing wrong with pleasure. But it doesn’t cut deep enough.”

“Low brow has its role,” he added. “You can’t listen to genius all the time. But if that’s the only thing you’re getting or the main thing you’re getting, that’s a problem. And that’s any generation.”

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