Kevin Hart Vs. Dave Chappelle: Art, Responsibility & Public Praise
Updated: May 19, 2021
“They say don't let the money change you
That's how we know money ain't you.”
- Pusha T
I remember when Kevin Hart use to be funny. Like really funny. I want to say it was my sophomore year, and he came to Hampton for Homecoming. From the moment he stepped on the stage, it was knee-slapping, sides hurting, laughing out loud laughter. He was terrific, but no one could have predicted he would sky-rocket to this level of fame. In 2020 he was declared one of the highest-paid comedians after bringing $59 million in touring.
But during a Breakfast Club interview after the release of his Netflix’s special Kevin Hart: Zero F**ks Given. Kevin mentioned that he was thinking about retiring. Not because he had accomplished all of his goals in comedy. Or because he came, saw, and conquered. He said it’s because he doesn’t want to be “old and miserable.” Reading between the lines, you could see that it’s because people don't think he’s funny anymore. The irony is that Kevin isn’t funny anymore because he cares what people think. Take, for instance, his special, after saying “he didn’t give a fuck”, he ended it by making it seem like he was waking up from a nightmare. Further proving my point.
Kevin is so focused on pleasing everybody and being politically correct that it's affecting his work. Whether he wants to admit it or not, I believe the Oscar’s scandal rocked Kevin's world, and he hasn't been able to recover since. The fact of the matter is the fans aren’t making Kevin Hart miserable. Kevin Hart is making himself miserable. Like could you imagine Dave Chappelle arguing with people on Clubhouse about his special? Back in 2015, Dave did a show in Detroit and completely bombed. Articles say that he was high as hell on stage, slurring his words.
Even after the failure of this show, there was no one doubt of Dave’s greatness. Everyone concluded that he had a lousy performance and potentially a drug problem. Dave didn't go on an apology tour for bombing. He came out the next night, said he fucked up, and went on about his life. When his Netflix's special caused rumbling in the "Alphabet Boy" community. He ignored it and defended his right to be a comedian. He doubled down on his stance in his following special, and honestly, it was his best work yet. Proving that you don't have to allow social media to bully you into getting their way. So what's my point? A while ago, Dave did an iconic conversation with Dr. Maya Angelou, and they got on the topic of success.
Dave said something along the lines of the black community "praising her," and she stopped him right in his tracks. “I don’t let them lay it down, and I don't pick it up." Meaning that she didn’t measure her success or happiness by the outside world. Her validation came internally. Dr. Angelou ascended and maintained who she was because she didn’t buy into her own hype. She didn’t care what the world wanted. She created for a higher purpose; the same can be said for Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and honestly, all of the greats. These people become great, not because the world told them they were but because they willed it to be so.
Dr. Angelou finished her statement by reminding Dave that if the world gives him his joy. It can very easily take it away. When I first watched the video, I didn't understand what Dr. Angelou meant. While I thought it was a wise answer, I didn't know it was possible. Until I began my quest for greatness, I noticed that every project I started that was ego-based never came to anything. I couldn't sustain it. Because the truth was, I was looking for the applauds. I was looking for the validation, and when it didn't come, it all felt pointless.
But when I did the things from the heart or because it felt right, the applauds didn't matter. The joy came from just doing it. I told you all about the first draft of my book and how Kris (no Jenner) put the battery in my back. But there have been four (well, technically six) more drafts since then. As I’m working on these drafts, I have people asking me all the time: Where is your book? Now instead of recognizing that I’m working my ass off on bringing this book to life. I allowed the opinions of others to get to me. See, writing is a solo sport. There is no end result until there is a physical book birthed into the world. You have to work without applause. But instead of understanding and embracing that - I ran from it.
I did things to generate applauds for myself. It started with Dear Showrunners, Honestly Sis, being on other people’s podcast- I mean, you name it- I was all over the place. Like y'all, I did an interview on an internet book series about a book that I haven't even finished writing yet. (Who does that?) But I wanted to feel like I was doing something. I need external validation and for people to "see" me as someone who was making things happen. Even though it was keeping me from the real work- my book. But these ventures were not a complete waste of time. Each of these projects showed me a different side of myself and showed me what I could create. I was proud of how I was showing up in the world. Those projects, which may seem like "failures" to the outside world, taught me invaluable lessons.
They gave me practice in taking an inspired idea and bringing it to life. It also allowed me to see what being creative felt like, and I loved it. Not getting the recognition I wanted gave me the freedom to create without worrying what other people thought. Oddly enough, the failures freed me along with you and the Honestly Sis family. You showed me every week that it’s not about the numbers but the connections that I am making. The cumulation of those projects is what gave me the confidence to step on YouTube. I now have a slogan, "one soul at a time," because what I have learned is that people will talk about it if you are good. Fuck the algorithms. Nothing beats good old word of mouth.
I know that it’s going to feel amazing to have people screaming my name. To sit on the stage in front of thousands and answer questions about my book. But the process of creating this book is just as exhilarating. I have truly learned to embrace this journey and every part of the process. Especially now, because the book mines. Eventually, it will be the world, and I can't control that process or how people will react to it. But I can control everything that I put in it. A wise man once said, "what you put into something is what is you get back." So I’m done taking myself so seriously and being hard on myself.
This year I am forcing myself to work without an applaud. Instead, I am focusing on what I can do and trusting God to do the rest. I have stopped looking at the number of people who read these newsletters and stop worrying about my YouTube channel numbers. I even stopped visiting my Instagram page as much. In my Sacred Rebel Oracle deck, there is a card named "Softly, Softly, The Tender Touch." In the passage of this card, there is a tale that has been on my mind for weeks. It goes like this:
There is an old story that the sun and the wind were debating about who was more powerful. After boasting about their prowess, they made a wager. A man walked down the street with a coat on. The wind and the sun decided that whoever could force the coat off the man was the most powerful. The wind began demonstrating its impressive power. It blew and blew and caught underneath the coat, pulling it and nearly ripping it right off the man! But the man wrapped his coat around himself more tightly to protect himself against the force of the wind. Eventually, perhaps temporarily out of puff, the wind gave up. The sun took over. He shone down, becoming brighter and brighter until the man slipped off his coat, slung it over his shoulder, and walked down the street- quite possibly wondering what was happening with the weather that day. The wind attempted to do by force what the sun was able to do by being.
A lot of us are like the wind. Trying and trying to make something happen for ourselves. But what if that's the problem? What if the world is in chaos because instead of "being" ourselves, we are trying to people please and be politically correct? I hate bullies and inequality as much as the next person. Still, sometimes I fear that "cancel" culture and social media are doing more harm than good to our world. It's honestly sad that someone as talented as Kevin Hart career could be over because of the very people who built him up. But that's fame.
Watching this all play out has allowed me to think about Dr. Maya Angelou's words and to define success for myself. My worst fear is to become a success, and it goes to my head. Or I get a taste of fame and forget about my goals and who I truly am. My therapist reminded me that the fact that I'm even thinking this way is a pretty good sign it won't happen. The truth is I do want to be the greatest writer of all time. That will naturally make me famous, which makes me nervous in this day and age. Y'all are mean as fuck, and black people are the most challenging audience to create for, but I can't live my life like Kevin Hart.
We are entering a new age and a new way of being. One in which God is asking us to be leaders and trailblazers. If we want real change and to bring heaven on earth, it will take ruffling a few feathers.
Kevin and Dave's situations reminded me why it's essential to create for a higher purpose. And to get your joy from the work, not the world. Watching Dave navigate his career is a subtle reminder that your career is your journey and the world just gets to come along for the ride. I, for one, hope that Kevin takes back his power because we need his light and Dad jokes in the world!
How do you define success?
Until next time: “Dream them dreams. Then man-up and live them dreams, because a life without dreams is black and white. And the universe flows in technicolor and surround-sound.”- Combat Jack!