What really makes a legend a legend?
by Kolton Schwartz
We are living in a world where we glorify celebrities more than ever, and with the glorification comes certain phrases being thrown around a lot in conversation. The term GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) is a term used to describe an artist or athlete who is considered to have such a legendary status that they are one of the — if not the greatest — to do what they do in their respected field.
However, the abundance of this term is spreading at an alarming rate. The term is being used more and more, and not because there is an increased amount of legendary talent coming into fruition. The term is almost being abused, taking away credit from the true greats and giving them to those who haven’t committed much to the field of media that they are a part of. It could be even seen as what is popular at a given moment. If an artist had one hit song or one great role in a film, there are people who give this artist the same praise as those who have changed the landscape for film or music.
Take an up-and-coming hip-hop artist, Fivio Foreign. Maxie Lee Ryles III, aka Fivio, is a rapper known for his drill beats and his lyrical flow. This artist was most recently featured on Kanye West’s 10th studio album Donda. His feature on Off The Grid was universally praised in the music industry. Listeners felt as if Fivio used the platform that he was given to show off his prowess and share his thoughts with the world. Since then, his popularity has increased significantly, and has even had a chance to collaborate with famous Singer-Songwriter Alicia Keys on the song “City of Gods.”
Although as talented as an artist that Fivio is, he is nowhere close to being called a legend or a GOAT. As a collective, we must search out why people may think that he is a legend with how little he has impacted the hip-hop genre. Firstly, a lot of fans will argue that he has contributed a lot to the drill beat genre, more than most artists nowadays. Although he is one of the most popular to make drill type music recently, he is not even the most important drill artist. Drill rapper Pop Smoke most likely has that distinction. Active in the business for only a couple years, Bashar Barakah Jackson, aka Pop Smoke, had a couple good hits and popularised the genre of the drill. As an innovator of his new style of hip hop, he has been recognized by the community as a legend in the industry. He sadly passed in 2020. He may be a legend for the drill genre, but outside of that, he hasn’t been as influential for music as a whole. If this artist hasn’t contributed as much as other artists, then his subordinate definitely does not have the distinction of GOAT.
Another overuse of the word GOAT can be seen in the way we treat our fallen celebrities. Chadwick Boseman is an actor, first known for his portrayal as Jackie Robinson in his biopic 42, and his most recent breakthrough role as T’Challa aka The Black Panther. Sadly, he passed away in August of 2020. Since then, he has been regarded as one of the major celebrity losses of our generation, as well as a GOAT by many fellow celebrities and influencers. Of course, this is up for debate. While it is hard to deny that he had impeccable acting abilities outside of his Marvel persona, there isn’t much to support him being a legend or a GOAT. He didn’t really change the way the audience views movies, the way films are made, or break any expectations in the industry. He was a talented actor. This is in no way an attempt to defame him or discredit the work he put into his projects. This just shows us how quick we are to call a fallen person in the media a GOAT or a legend, as if people are afraid that calling him anything other than that would be disrespecting the legacy that he left behind.
So, what makes a GOAT? And maybe an even more important question, who is a GOAT? A GOAT should be someone who has completely changed the field of work that they are a part of. At the time of their career, they were able to warp the way we view the media that they contributed to. These people pushed the envelope for what was possible at the time, opening the audience’s eyes to new ideas.
An answer that a lot of people can agree with is Kanye West. The most obvious example of the impact that he had on the Hip Hop genre would be his album 808s & Heartbreak. His heavy use of the 808s drum machine along with his dour autotune style has influenced so many of the most popular artists of the late 2010s and early 2020s. Many of the most popular songs of the last couple of years, (“Lucid Dream” by Juice WRLD and “Sad” XXXTentacion) used the exact same style that was innovated by Ye in 2008, not to mention how far he pushed the envelope for music in the early 2000s bringing the combined styles from Chicago to New York City, and showing a lot of mainstream rappers a different style of instrumental completely unheard of. His entire discography speaks for himself, and so many artists can vouch for his influence on the genre. Even other GOATS, such as Elton John and Paul McCartney, recognize his brilliance. Elton John has been quoted as saying that “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” his 5th studio album, is the Sgt Pepper of Hip-Hop. Clearly, his reputation proceeds him as a GOAT.
What about film? Who could be considered a GOAT in that field of media? The answer to that question lies in some of the greatest directors to ever direct. Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most influential directors of all time. During his 60 year career, he has made over 50 films. His most notable contributions to film have to be his innovative style of cinematography incorporating new styles of directing, camera movements, and framing devices. He was also incredibly keen when it came to editing. He was one of the frontrunners when it came to quick-cut styles of editing not to mention his knack for screenplays. A lot which can be seen in our modern-day action films and blockbusters. He came up with some of the most popular plot devices and conventions that are still being used in films to this day. For example, Hitchcock was one of the first filmmakers to emphasize the importance of a single object being highly important to a story. This isn’t even talking about his most notable films and how influential they have been to pop culture. He is also incredible when it came to depicting the tone and mood of the horror he portrayed on screen. Instead of focusing on unrealistic creatures and gimmicky aspects of the genre, he made sure to portray horror as something relatable, and possible to happen in our modern society to show hidden evils that anyone can possess, unrestricted by the bounds of reality. All of these reasons are just the tip of the iceberg that can show us why he could be considered a GOAT in film.
At the end of the day, it really is subjective. To say that someone isn’t a GOAT does not discredit their talent or fame. All musicians, artists, and filmmakers strive to be a GOAT and change the way people view the media they consume. Artists will forever strive to reach who they perceive to be GOATS, and viewers can aspire to be like them. It’s a cycle, that while others may find a bit pointless, many would find comforting: we can always push the bar for artistic vision and maybe one day exist on the same level of success and influence that the GOATs of the past did.