Solange Knowles wants to make sure you know your place


(Apologies if this post is nonsensical or formatted weird; I wrote it on my phone.)

I love this rant series of observations. An artist insisting on informed critique of her genre is a good and admirable thing. There are far, far too many people writing about music from a presumedly authoritative position when their authority flows from nothing more than some PR, received knowledge, and their own gut impressions. As a musician, it must be incredibly infuriating to receive a negative critique from someone who clearly doesn’t know what they’re talking about, so it’s completely understandable that you would want critics to know what they’re talking about when they comment on what you’re doing.

(Let’s put aside trying to determine whether Solange is a) asking that you “know of which you speak” (do your homework) or, b) saying “you don’t have any business speaking about things you haven’t been exclusively steeped in your entire life” (the Authenticity Check). That determination is beside the point, because what she appears to be saying is “STOP BULLSHITTING,” and that’s a sentiment I entirely support.)

But there’s something about this that’s deeply troubling too. Even though as a writer (or reader) it’s possible that “you’ve had no access to the REAL culture,” that fact in no way invalidates your impressions of the music. In fact, I’d argue that fresh eyes/fresh ears make your analysis more original and productive … as long as you’re not trying to make a point about how something relates to “the culture” from which it supposedly belongs. (And yes, a lot of writers try to do exactly that in an attempt to both boost their bona fides and possibly disguise the fact that they’re hyping some bullshit music. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so goddamned patronizing.) And as long as you’re up front about your own blind spots.

I’d much prefer to see writers who don’t know shit about something comment on its quality … as long as they admit their intellectual ignorance and lack of background and just let their readers trust them to bring them a perspective on something. Be transparent. Don’t bullshit. But walk me through your learning experience SO I CAN LEARN TOO. It’s exhausting reading Expert Opinions on obscure (and not obscure) stuff, because those opinions all seem to come with various prerequisites: You must know this artist’s discography. You must be familiar with a particular geographic/cultural/historical set of facts. You must be versed in 25 years of arcana. You must have had “access to the REAL culture.” Well shit. If I was steeped in the REAL, I wouldn’t need anyone to tell me what’s up. I’D KNOW ALREADY. Sure, authority and knowledge is important; context is more important.

Anyway, whatever. Solange can say whatever she wants because she did this (HEY WAIT A MINUTE CULTURAL APPROPRIATION WARNING):

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