Hacky Celebrity Crossovers Make Us Mad… But They’re Our Fault.
Rapper T.I. is a touring stand up comic now. Why his crossover attempt and others like him are a drag on the respective industries.
It seems the dust has finally settled beneath pop culture’s stupidest moment. The months following Will Smith’s “slap heard around the world” have proved once again that—if you give any shocking event enough time to wane—people will move onto the next ridiculous “happening” like a herd of sheep. Still, the oft quote does bubble to the surface from closed camps. Most recently, Chris Rock was reported to have told Dave Chappelle, “I got slapped by the softest ***** that ever rapped.”
Surely he was half-joking, and we’re sure he delivered it as such, but—in the wake of Smith’s Oscar win (remember that part?)—it brings back faded memories of two other awards Will Smith won in the early nineties: not for acting but for cool, funky, kid-friendly rap performances. He dominated billboards, and the music raked in returns for everyone involved.
By this time, rap had grown into a force of nature, with true emcees on both coasts delivering complex, thought provoking lyricism through true-to-life storytelling. The industry didn’t give a shit; Will Smith released “Gettin’ Jiggy wit it'' after all! Moral of the story is: we ate it up … and then decided to bitch about it not being “real rap.” The machine was making money through art (its job), the artist was making money through art (their job), and our fickle minds fell for it. This goes for every form of creation: Shaq going into acting, Michael Jordan suiting up in the Minor Leagues, Dan Aykroyd’s skull-shaped vodka, Wahlburgers for God's sake, and more recently, rapper T.I. going into stand-up comedy. Time and time again, we choose to fault the “name” or the “game,” when we should be looking in the mirror for the true culprit: the consumer.
Human nature is one funny motherfucker. We can’t help but cave into these hilarious attempts to cross-over. Take T.I.’s recent decision to break into standup comedy for example. It’s clear through phone footage that the man has no experience, or practice, or an act to present. He’s truly awful, and takes slots from hard working comics. And we like to make fun of him for it, blasting clips from his shows all over the internet. This is—by proxy—detrimental to the comics whose entire working life has been dedicated to making a living off of laughs. Stage time (like radio time) proves crucial to an artist's development, and when it’s being filled by creators who have no business occupying said spaces, the consequences rear their ugly heads.
You may be shaking your head right now, saying, “not me, man. No way. I hate it.” You have, and that’s alright. Ask yourself: why are seats at his shows filled? Why were Will Smith’s songs blasted all over airwaves despite their lacking quality? When something is labeled “terrible,” our conscience screams at us, “yea, but HOW TERRIBLE?” So we watch. In an era dominated by ease of sharing, society often chooses to share the bad stuff. We love car crashes—and any publicity is good publicity. Want another example? Every reality television show ever created.
If T.I. and Will Smith’s predicaments teach us anything, it’s that curiosity has always fueled industries, regardless of quality. We’re at fault for these shallow attempts at art, but can we help it? We’re curious people! Hacky crossovers in sports, art, food and drink will never end. It’s a surefire way to make money—there’s a reason it always works. But don’t be mad at the parties involved. Turn to yourself and ask, “are there any local comedy shows coming up?” Or “what local musicians am I missing out on?” Or “are there any cool chefs in my community that I should try?” Fact of the matter is, the ball is in our courts to support the artists that may be getting stepped over.