Caulfield at Clarke Central High School? A Lesson In Censorship
This past Friday, April 27th, local hip hop group Caulfield performed at Clarke Central High School as part of their senior day celebration. Known for non-PG13 content in his lyrics, front-man Curtison Jones was met with a lot of "how is that going to work" alongside congratulations from the community as the group prepared for the performance.
The issue of censorship is one all artists of all genres face, but it hits hip hop particularly hard as a genre of music known for telling it like it is.
"I was hesitant to perform at the school because in the past I've found that if I have to censor myself I can't fully commit to the performance. Watching your mouth and being free on stage is pretty difficult. So, preparing for the performance while planning a road trip to Number Fest was nerve racking," said Curtison.
Hip hop culture is rooted in being real about the things people face on a daily basis and the often harsh realities of our society. For many artists, censoring their material for an audience means not being authentic and sacrificing the integrity of their work.
"Once we got there and got set up, I kind of let go of any negative thoughts and just went at it. It was honestly one of my favorite shows. I'm definitely going to make edited versions of my songs from here on out, but I don't think I'll take these types of situations into account when creating. I'd rather edit the work than the process," said Curtison.
The best exposure often comes from the situations where you don't fit because it's an entirely new audience that probably never would have heard your music otherwise. Limiting yourself to only performing where your music is the norm can really limit your reach.
"Even though the music was edited and not the full experience of our normal shows, you can't limit yourself to not being accessible to a younger audience. And because we played by the rules of the school, Kxng Blanco was able to perform again for his classmates," said Brian Walker, the group's DJ.
Local hip hop artist Kxng Blanco, who is part of Clarke Central's senior class as well as Athens' hip hop breakthrough artist of the year, faced censorship issues with the school recently that resulted in in-school suspension. Read more about the story here.
"I think every artist should do what feels right for them. If you don't feel comfortable compromising your art then don't do it, but on the other hand, playing more family friendly events is a great way to expand your fan base," said Curtison.
The reality is that the younger demographic is consuming the most music. 72% of all weekly streams on Spotify are coming from millenials. That's too large of an audience to exclude when choosing what events to perform at as an artist.
"As far as future performances for younger audiences, I would advise upcoming artists to re-record alternate versions with words replaced not just edited. That just makes the show flow better. Artists facing this situation have to make a choice. Completely creative freedom and not censoring to stay true to the original intent of your art or compromise for more potential ears and eyes to witness your art. Every artist has to resolve that dilemma for themselves," said Brian.