I think the New York Times style section is reading my mind.
First they do a story on curly hair, now this week, a story about black rock music lovers. I’ve been mulling a post on black women in rock since last October, but never got around to writing it. Now here we are, months later and the Times has revealed a new term for these outsiders to the rock scene — “blipsters.”
The Modern Age had a fitting take on the new word, and I agree. Stop trying to make “blipsters” happen!
Either way, the article captures a growing phenomenon right now — black artists making inroads into what has become an almost monolithically white genre. Through the article, I learned about AfroPunk, a 2003 documentary made by James Spooner that has evolved into an internet movement.
Spooner’s upcoming film White Lies Black Sheep takes a fictionalized look at a black kid trying to fit into a scene that isn’t tailor-made to fit him.
The trailer for AfroPunk really makes me want to see the documentary, and learn more about that particular feeling of otherness. I mean, if people are out there saying Barack Obama “isn’t black enough,” what kind of response do these kids get from their own people?
I knew one black girl who was into a totally different scene at college — from the black lipstick, ornate outfits, and out-there jewelry she wore, I’d guess she was more goth than punk. And of course, people made fun of her for being different, and other black people said she was “trying to be white.” Who says she was trying to be anything but true to herself??
Growing up in Trinidad, I listened to everything from calypso and reggae, to rap and rock. I was big into grunge, and I still listen to Pearl Jam and Nirvana to this day. Hell, tomorrow night I’m going to a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, and I’m super excited (Gnarls Barkley is opening)!
Although black people tend to identify with hip hop, the number of rappers today who sample classic rock beats, drop Kurt Cobain references into their songs, and get down in random rock videos proves that the rap/rock crossover didn’t stop in the days of Run-DMC.
And now, TV On the Radio, Bloc Party, and Gym Class Heroes have been getting increased airplay on MTV and rock radio, joining other famous contemporary black rock artists like Lenny Kravitz, Living Color, and Fishbone.
But I gotta ask — what about the ladies? Black chicks rock, too!
Black chicks have been rocking since the days of Johnny Cash’s favorite singer, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (don’t believe me? Just watch her lay down some bad-ass gospel guitar). Tina Turner has always had a rock edge, and more contemporary artists like Skin from Skunk Anansie blazed a trail in the Nineties.
Res (love Golden Boys) and Fefe Dobson have carried the torch and won MTV time in more recent years. Although, it must be noted that both of those artists seem to have been dropped by their labels. Which is a real shame. Despite the lack of mainstream attention, black women are out there leading bands, writing their own songs, and making inroads all over the genre.
Miami’s Erica Sommer belts out crunk-rock as the lead singer of Raging Geisha, then tones it down singer-songwriter style with her heartfelt solo project. Chicago’s Suffrajet plays Joan Jett influenced riff-rock, and Blakk Plastick sings southern Rock and soul fueled funk.
Tamar-Kali is the hardcore goddess of the New York scene, and Honeychild Coleman is producing Eighties-esque dub electronica. As Mercinarias deliver the Brazilian new wave, and Imani Coppola is doing some out-there, experimental, bass-heavy pop punk ish.
Even if rock music isn’t your thing, these fierce sistas deserve your attention and applause for deviating from the norm and carving their own niche. For more black rockers, check out the Black Rock Coalition and cool MySpace groups like Negroclash, and Black Rock Femmes.
And if you’re black and you love rock music, ignore the haters who try to say that you don’t fit in or aren’t black enough. Our diversity makes us beautiful. Stay strong, hold your head up high, and rock on!