Introduction to Black Rock - Pt.1

29 May 2005

This past April, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Seattle to present a paper on black women in Heavy Metal at the EMP Pop Music Conference. The paper focused on the trials and tribulations of black female metal fans, from attending concerts to the simplicity of buying albums at the record store.

While to some this is a pretty irrelevant topic, but there is a problem of people being judged on their preference of music. After interviewing black female metal fans and musicians over the past four years and finding the same themes popping up between the friction between their choice of music, versus the reactions of their friends and family, I decided to focus on the implications of back authenticity within certain musical genres.

Why do most black or ‘urban’ websites focus on Hip-Hop and R&B? Because those genres are deemed as ‘black’ forms of music in today’s contemporary culture. We are supposed to identify with the subject matter and we seem to think that we can distinguish our authenticy as a card-carrying Negroes through the music we buy. Now to be fair, the Canadian and American media’s lack of providing positive images of blacks and to cast a critical eye on contemporary racism certainly does not help with portrayal of our lives in a positive way. Plus, some of our parents who are from the Caribbean listened to Jazz, Reggae, Soca and the Blues, but most thirty-something first-and- second black Canadians will admit that they grew up listening to Rush, Helix and the Tragically Hip on Canadian radio – there wasn’t much choice.

While I can wax poetic about my love for such American metal / funk groups like Mother''s Finest, The Family Stand and Weapon of Choice, now I have to convince others to love it, too? Well, I can't really convince many people of.... Well, really anything, I want to make sure that people who were previously uninformed about the role that African-Americans have played in the history of Rock ''n'' Roll, perhaps investigating a bit of relevant information they previously did not have.

I want young black girls to think of listing to singers like Skin from the British metal band Skunk Anasie. In my opinion, she embodies what a modern black woman is and unfortunately, what the media is afraid of -  A strong, fiercely independent woman, afraid of nothing and willing to challenge everyone and everything.

I want a political revolution to begin with a background soundtrack of screaming, wailing guitars, because to me, rock and metal music are not just about loud guitars and thunderous percussion, it's about LIFE: Messy, loud, fuckin' crazy, and most importantly, freedom. And black folk ain’t free. Don't fool yourself.

Rock music was built on the backs of people who were searching for freedom though a musical genre that was created through a variance of styles and emotions and stories. We ain't getting much emotion these days, and storytelling - outside of 50's sad tales about getting shot nine times (and living), is pretty much dead.

So I thought I would compile a list of records that you should check out. This is only a very small portion of albums that are out there by Black musicians. If you are interested in finding out about more bands - especially black punk, check out www.afropunk.com.

1. Skunk Anasie: Post-Orgasmic Chill (Virgin, 1999)
2. Res: How I Do (Universal Music, 2001)
3. Kina: Kina ( Dreamworks, 2000)
4. The Family Stand: Chain and Moon in Scorpio ( Atlantic, 1990, 1991)  
5. Fishbone: Give a Monkey a Brain.... (Sony, 1993)
6. Living Colour (of Course) Super Hits (Sony, 1998)
7. Candiria: 300 Percent Density (Century Media Records, 2001)
8. King's X: Dogman (Atlantic, 1994)
9. Mother''s Finest: Black Radio Won't Play This Record (Scotti Bros. Records, 1992)
10. Weapon of Choice: Nutmeg Sez “Bozo The Town” (Sony, 1994)
11. Anything by Bad Brains -one of the godfathers of the punk movement
12. Tamar-Kali: Geechie Goddess (EP is available online through www.flamingyoni.com)
13. Cipher : Hardcore band from NYC – Check out www.cipher.com
14. The Day After (Michee Mee''s hardcore band in the T-dot)
15. My girl, Graph Nobel , whose debut album drops this year
16. Cody Chesnutt: The Headphone Masterpiece (Ready Set Go, 2002)

This is just a sampling, but trust me, you will love them all. Notice how I didn't mention Fefe Dobson? These are not pop-manufactured singers or groups by major label execs who are trying to pacify the urban community by cut-and-pasting on a black face, trying to create a ‘beige’ Avril Lavigne for the ‘tween set. These are the real deal.

These albums were selected because they infuse traditional rock and metal with a ‘black’ or political influence – whether it be though the lyrics about the black experience in the Americas, or though the inclusion of funk and soul in the musical composition. These bands, while choosing to play more aggressive genres of music, make it known that they are black first, and damn proud of it.


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