There’s a fine Tomahawk track called God Hates a Coward, from the band’s 2001 self-titled LP, filling my ears as I watch live aerial-view footage of cops surrounding Chris Brown’s house on TV. Yet another assault accusation has been levied against the R&B singer, who bloodied Rihanna with fists on Grammy night 2009, coinciding with the promotion of his latest single.
Isn’t modern marketing wild?
I can’t speak for the deities, but any writer with the integrity of a gnat on the ass of Harvey Levin certainly hates professional cowards in our field, particularly journalistic vermin who promote the work of real-life monsters to further their own careers.
Accountability is real. For all the cultural indignation over Trump’s latest caricature quote, over someone sitting down in protest during a song at a sports event, over how to interrupt a pretty girl wearing headphones, I still get emails from publicists promoting Chris Brown. I still see his music breathlessly pushed by publications – Billboard, CNN, CBS News, People, Vulture, NY Daily News, Complex and virtually every major black music publication in existence. This is repugnantly complicit cowardice, a “money to be made” Gordon Gekko strain of yellow journalism in an era where feminism, gender equality and women’s voices are embraced more wholly than ever before in America. The cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy is staggering.
Having previously made a name for himself copying Michael Jackson dance moves, Brown is infamous for viciously assaulting his then-girlfriend, pop icon Rihanna, and then pleading guilty to it in 2009. He beat the almighty hell out of her, punching her, biting her and choking her unconscious while threatening to kill her. The photo evidence and play-by-play accounts tell a brutal story. On sane terms, this incident should have ended his career.
It didn’t. Three years after beating the shit out of Rihanna on the way to the Grammys, Chris performed at the Grammys. Getting “Songwriter of The Year” awards from BMI this year continues this trend, as does the fact that Brown played FOUR songs at the iHeartRadio Music Awards earlier this year. One of the tracks, Back To Sleep, featured such rapey-hazy lyrics as “Just let me rock, fuck you back to sleep girl / Don’t say a word no (no, don’t you talk).” Call me crazy, but that seems pretty non-consensual to me. Did I mention that he’s the face of Snipes’ Spring/Summer clothing collection?
Brown lost a lucrative deal with Apple Music to purchase the exclusive rights to his upcoming documentary after they learned about his latest alleged assault, but this is not the trend within the music industry. Despite all the controversy and a new arrest, several celebrities and journalists have come to Brown’s defense.
He’s featured on tracks with 50 Cent. Lil Wayne. Ludacris. G-Eazy. Nicki Minaj. Meek Mill. Fucking Rihanna, following a tragic trend of girls who watched their fathers beat their mothers and succumbed to their hardwire programming. The list goes on. And he’s just been nominated for an NAACP image award.
While Vulture proudly promotes a Gloria Steinem interview discussing the subjugation of women, Vulture writer Dee Lockett – a woman – is at the ready to counter with a piece promoting a new Chris Brown track, just a day after reporting on his assault with a deadly weapon. On a woman.
Kamylle Edwards is in the same boat, writing on Revolt that it’s “time to stop making him the villain,” because he’s paid his dues and he’s super talented, you guys. If hack culture-bandwagon bloggers existed in the Ike Turner era, imagine the apologist headlines we’d see…
In July, Billboard’s Adelle Platon was at the ready to deliver Chris Brown’s “heartfelt” and “soothing ballad” following the shooting deaths of Philando Castile & Alton Sterling. Brown was quoted as saying the track is meant for “anybody dealing with injustice or struggle in their lives,” shaping himself as a consoler of the victimized.
Yet in the article, not a single mention appears of the struggles he’s best known for. Meanwhile, legions of young female fans have fetishized his aggression, which Lockett, Edwards and Platon don’t seem to grasp that they’ve normalized and balanced with legitimizing promotion of his work.
Colin Stutz from Billboard breathlessly reports that “Chris Brown released a new song called What Would You Do on Wednesday (Aug. 31) less than 24 hours after being released from jail on charges of assault with a deadly weapon.”
After quoting lyrics that include “What do you do, fighting for your life when no one’s on your side,” the piece mentions that Brown allegedly threatened a woman with a gun.
USA Today followed suit, promoting his new song while waiting until paragraph three to mention that he “was arrested at his Tarzana, Calif., home Tuesday after a woman claimed he had threatened her with a gun earlier in the day. He was released that night after posting $250,000 bail.”
Black music publications are indefensibly complicit. HipHopDX is reporting his every move with enthusiastic support, while BET has published TEN articles on Brown in the last two days, painting a flattering picture of his life through other people’s songs. His bio page briefly mentions the 2009 assault – by saying he “took a beating in the press” but “has since bounced back.”
That’s not clever irony, that’s a flat-out asshole choice of words. Deliberate in its spineless snark.
Complex takes it further, publishing 13 articles in the same time period (since Aug. 30). They promote his new music in the same breath – hardly surprising from a rag that went shoe shopping with the abusive prick two years ago.
Meanwhile, they do a good job collecting Brown’s various arrests and legal troubles.
Most of these publications have megaphone-level vocal opinions related to feminism, women’s equality, gender rights and progressive values. It’s everywhere, it’s all-consuming, all while they’re condoning and uplifting the career of a “man” who was tried and convicted – with photo evidence – of beating the ever-living shit out of a woman. An enormous public figure, no less.
Access to RCA’s artist roster, on which Brown exists, means potential access to Taylor Swift, Sia, Britney, Zayn, Miley, Timberlake, Snoop, Kesha, Pink, R. Kelly… the list goes on. For a publication such as Complex or BET, this access is critical to their content, to readership, to their bottom line. In gladhand industry politics, that access is very likely pulled when a member of the team comes under fire.
Brown is a sitting-duck target to the social justice warrior legions, indefensible to the core. How cuckolded are these souls (and their editors) under RCA’s access carrot-on-a-stick that they’ll ignore the facts in favor of more clicks for his shit?
No, he doesn’t have a right to earn a living in the public eye. He gave that up with his fists.
And going with the flow makes you a spineless journalistic disgrace. Without exception. There’s a special kind of turncoat cowardice to be found in the women who promote his work, in an age where every opportunity is given to a woman to embrace the strength of her pen, her publish button, her megaphone to balance the gross injustice of a complicit media. One which can no longer point to an oppressive gender for perpetuating the limelight of this disgusting human being.
Greed and short-sighted self-interest are the culprit. Ignorance has taken over. Accountability is how we take the power back.