A.I, ‘Ye, and The Human Connection

Generated by Dall-E.

I was a giant Kanye West fan. I was raised in a Christian household, we mainly listened to gospel or Disney station on the radio. We weren’t explicitly not allowed to listen to all secular music鈥 but it was not encouraged.

But when Kanye dropped “Jesus Walks” in 2004, that was my entry point into hip hop. I listened to the (clean, of course) version on repeat – I recorded it into a little mp3 player that could record songs from the radio.

He was different, he broke the mold of what rap was for me. I was obviously familiar with rap but I don’t remember really connecting to it before Jesus Walks. And when I started producing, I tried to chop samples and make beats just like him.

But now it’s hard to listen to his music. And I’m desperately trying to separate the art from the artist.

Why do people have to be so鈥 malleable? Inconsistent?

Separating Art from the Artist

As more and more mainstream artists and celebrities face cancellation, the idea of totally separating art from artists is appealing — (Bill Cosby’s hurt me so much I still don’t want to write about it smh).

But it’s a trap. Maybe a capitalistic one. Someone smarter than me can connect those dots.

Overall, this whole Kanye situation and the recent Lensa (AI profile picture app) explosion made me think 鈥 should I be trying to separate the art/artist?

What connects artists to their art? The process. The lore.

AI Could Never.

Kanye made 3 different videos and dropped multiple versions of the Jesus Walks. Even recently, he updates his albums as though they are apps.

He had a good story – from his humble Chi beginnings, to his infamous car accident, to more esoteric but historical collaborations with artist ranging from Tupac to J Dilla.

Speaking of Dilla, a huge part of why I admire him is because of the almost mythical legend surrounding him. He has produced thousands of beats. Produced multiple classic albums. He deeply influenced multiple styles of music and then.. he passed.

Part of what makes Donuts so special, at least in part, is the fact that it’s a portrait of an artist, lying on his death bed, and doing what he loves the most. You can’t separate the context of how Dilla made Donuts from the album itself.

AI could never chop a sample how Dilla did on Black Star’s song Little Brother (as told by Questlove)

The whole appeal of art and why we make it, is to connect and tell our story. It’s a way to pass on information, and almost like having children, it’s a way to leave a piece of us here after we’re gone. AI doesn’t have such lofty goals.

We don’t just love Maya Angelou because she has BARS. Her writing stems from a very particular, lived experience – unique to her. Sure, similar to AI she’s pulling from a collection of mental datapoints and past works, but these are filtered and synthesized through her lens. There’s a human on both sides. There’s nothing but bits and bytes on the other side of AI – no warmth, no personal truth or mission. Just data. That’s not art.

Part of Stevie Wonder’s appeal is his story – young Black and blind kid, raised in the south, overcame adversity to become one of the most celebrated artists in American history. No AI will ever have a story like that.

An AI could never replace the works of JRR Tolkien. Something about knowing some dude spent decades of his life toiling away over the details of a fantasy world he created just demands a sense of respect. Maybe an AI could do it instantly. But there’s no love or dedication there.

AI’s output is not “art”

Our ideologically segregated culture highlights are unwillingness to tolerate complexity of humans and our creations. The last few years have shown us ugly artists can be. Some can be true monsters. And I am not advocating that we start promoting dangerous and malevolent folks, but let’s be mindful that at the end of the day artists are human.

But I get it, I’m a little afraid to love again too. Ye is out here trippin’ – to say the least. But I have to have faith that ARTISTS themselves are still worth uplifting and cherishing. Not just their output.

AI will be 100% be used to replace humans in cases where profit is the end goal. Businesses will replace designers, concept artists, copywriters, and even programmers with AI as soon as they can. And, as a business owner that would love to increase profits myself, I would be lying if I called myself anti-capitalist.

But I also recognize that the onus is on the public to support art and to value that human connection. We have to recognize that art is produced via a human connection. Meant to be interpreted by humans.

If we keep pulling at this thread, I’m terrified that we’ll lose our humanity in the process.