dave ainsworth
san francisco, CA

husband, father,
christian pastor,
human being

Bob Boilen Boycotts Kanye West. Should You?


Is there ever an artist that pisses you off so much that you can't listen to them? -- Bob Boilen, host, NPR's All Songs Considered

On Friday, I posted a link to Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit." Some of you may have recognized the lyrics from Kanye West's 2013 song, "Blood on the Leaves." It's basically about alimony problems between two people. He uses a clip from Nina Simone's iconic version of Strange Fruit. In general, critics love the sound but disagree about the use of the famous anti-lynching song. (You can listen to the West song here and the Simone song here. Warning: The West Song is vulgar.)

Listen to this short exchange from NPR's All Songs Considered about West's song:

Bob Boilen: "I found when I heard this record, especially this particular song, I was so infuriated. To take Billie Holiday's song, a song so important to civil rights and to picture painting what was going on in the South and to turn it into a song about a relationship." 

Ann Powers: "I felt the same way, but…"

Bob Boilen: "But, but, where's the but for you? Is there ever an artist that pisses you off so much that you can't listen to them?… I always find that people cut him slack because there's so much talent there. Is that the reason? What is it for you?"

Kanye's use of "Strange Fruit" clearly upset all the reviewers on All Songs Considered, but only Bob Boilen was upset enough to turn him off. He didn't care how talented or innovative or ground-breaking West's music was. He couldn't listen anymore. 

In the music world, there are few people as knowledgeable and cultured and relevant as Bob Boilen. It's his job and passion to listen to everything. But even he has a limit. His morality is a limiter on his listening habits. 

We could learn a lot from Boilen. Sometimes Christians fall all over themselves to appreciate culture. No one wants to be called a fundamentalist. But we still must answer Boilen's question: "Is there ever an artist that pisses you off so much that you can't listen to them? Where's the 'but' for you?"

We have to answer these questions when we engage culture. As much as we hate using the word "boycott," there are some things Christians shouldn't celebrate. This has nothing to do with making a public statement -- Kanye doesn't care what Bob Boilen thinks about his music. Rather, it's about cultivating a heart after God's own heart. Does Yeezus sensitize or desensitize your conscience to the thoughts of God? If Kanye doesn't piss you off, who could?

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