He Got in One Little Fight

Dr. Munr Kazmir
6 min readMar 29, 2022

Maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Photo by aniestla on Unsplash.

Everyone remembers where they were when a “notably intoxicated” Kanye West stormed the Grammy’s stage in 2009 to declare the whole awards show racist. Snatching the spotlight from a notably uncomfortable Taylor Swift, West declared Beyonce the true winner of the VMA award for Best Video.

The episode was enough to land Kanye West, who had been, “photographed on the red carpet before the show, drinking cognac straight out of the bottle,” in rehab for alcohol addiction.

Over a decade later, however, and the Grammys are almost universally acknowledged as racist. Though he was lampooned and condemned at the time, the Kanye-as-bellwether isn’t the first time artists have forced society to confront uncomfortable truths long before society was ready for it.

When Sinead O’Conner dramatically tore up a photograph of the Pope during her performance on Saturday Night Live in 1992, the resulting controversy all but ended her career. The sexual abuse crisis O’Connor was protesting with her act of shocking defiance would, some years later, shake the Catholic Church to its foundation. The fallout continues to undermine the church to this very day, O’Connor long forgotten.

Pushing the envelope of what is socially acceptable has long been the territory of the artist; protesting- loudly, controversially, and often very inconveniently- is another.

Sometimes these social provocateurs use their art to make a statement.

When rappers like Ice-T and Master P made music about killing cops and wound up the subject of a Congressional sub-committee hearing, along with artists from heavy metal and rock genres, the “Parental Advisory” label was born.

But attempts to completely censor something that probably was contributing to a rise in the on-duty deaths of police officers, ultimately failed- which is good, because that was a feeble attempt to shoot the messenger anyway.

What lawmakers should have been asking, was why Black rappers from the inner cities were making art about murdering police officers in the first place. The complex answer to that question might have put legislators on a path to correct the underlying issues of generational…