Posted by: Cory | August 30, 2008

Ben Sollee: An Open Letter

Everyone’s favorite pop cellist Ben Sollee recently performed at Waterfront Wednesday.  After a certain degree of fame that has been attributed to his recent track “Dear Kanye”, several fans from the crowd were requesting him to play it.  In the end, he decided against it, but wanted to clear things up, with a message to his fans below…

Hey Everyone,
Thanks for coming out to the show at the Waterfront. It was a real treat to get to play for all of you folks. I wanted to take a sec to write you about Dear Kanye.

When I recorded Dear Kanye it was on a whim for the hell of it. I did it on garageband and sent it off to my management team for fun. For better or worse, they passed it along to blogs and radio. What happened after that was a wild fire. As unexpected as it was the attention scared me a bit. I didn’t want exposer on the national level with a message that was just lending itself to Kanye’s sensationalism. So, within a week I decided to put it to bed. I haven’t even played it since I recorded it.

So, when everyone chanted for Dear Kanye at the waterfront I was conflicted. First off, I couldn’t even remember how to play the damn thing. Secondly, did I really want to open that book again? As much as I have liked Kanye’s music did I really want to give him anymore attention for his child-like behavior? But, obviously, this song has hit a chord in my audience and abroad.

Thinkin’ on it, by addressing Kanye the way I did I unintentionally roped a theme of commercialism in hip-hop that seems not only to repel a broader audience, but constrains hip-hop itself. There are a lot of people, including myself, that intuitively resonate with hip-hop’s rhythm, repetitive-trance structure, and it ability throw out messages that would be unapproachable in any other vernacular (i.e. nigger, violence, etc…). It is black music. As was the case with Jazz in it’s early days, much of America has an affinity for it but is worried by the world that surrounds it. But, I believe there is a bigger issue at stake: the on-going appreciation of hip-hop, regardless of your culture, race or creed? Rarely, do I hear about the “Art” of Hip-Hop, but I find stick figures in an art gallery selling for thousands of dollars produced by some urban, untrained artist. They call it outsider art. What about the raw message of underground hip-hop? It’s genuine nature can be gritty, graceful, jaded, or joyful. Personally, this middle-class white boy finds the reality of its composition exciting and is disappointed by the mainstream message that generates stigmas in people, many of whom will never try to buck.

So, I’ll dive back in to these thoughts and maybe you’ll find that I have revisited this song at 4th St Live on Thursday.

Truly Yours,
~ben

If you’re not familiar with the song, take an opportunity to hear it now…

Ben SolleeDear Kanye

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