I read an interesting article over at The Root.com about black folks and rock music. Ron Fields talks about the state of r&b and hip-hop and how stale both genres have gotten.
Rock is Black Music, Too
By: Rob Fields
Rock is Black Music, Too
Hip-hop has run out of ideas. And if you need proof, consider that Lil Wayne’s doing a rock album.
Know what the problem is with black folks? No imagination.
Sounds crazy, I know, but consider black music.Every significant moment in America’s history has been accompanied by its own soundtrack. And black musicians have often written the music and the lyrics. But what’s our soundtrack now?
The music industry has imposed the same low expectations on black artists and black life that politicians and pundits have imposed on black folks with respect to education, business and simply managing our daily lives. And we’ve let it happen.
The blues and jazz gave meaning to our lives in the 20th century, and it still enjoys a fringe following. But it doesn’t fit this new age. R&B is formulaic and predictable. And hip-hop? In its commercial form—the stuff that hammers us from radio and video outlets—has painted itself and its fans into a corner, boxed in on all sides by what Brown professor Tricia Rose calls the pimp-gangsta-ho triumvirate.
Essentially, we’ve let a small group of hip-hop “artists” of limited experiences, education and vision set our cultural agenda. In this age of expanded possibilities, it is time to broaden our musical influences. Hip-hop is out of ideas. If you need convincing, consider this: The best-selling rapper of 2008—Lil Wayne—is doing a rock album. Yes, a rock album.
I don’t follow hip-hop but I do follow r&b and he’s right. There are about a handful of current r&b artist out there that I’m interested in. Back in the day (yeah I’m ageing myself) there were a slew of music artists I enjoyed listening to, spent money on their music and I still listen to them. And alot of the groups were bands. You know, those who played instruments, lol.
Not only did I grow up listening to r&b, I listened to rock music as well. Of course back then and in some situations today if you mention that you like rock music some black folks will look at you cross eyed. Do I care? Hell no. I like what I like. Sometimes we forget that black folks gave birth to rock and roll. I love listening to my Jimi Hendrix, Res and Living Colour cds as well as Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk Railroad, Queen and Phil Collins. Ron Fields mentions several current black rock acts including TV on the Radio, Ben Harper and Janelle Monae. I had a chance to listen to several of the artists and I really enjoyed watching Grammy winner Janelle Monae’s YouTube video. It’s certainly different. I love listening to black artists who have a different sound. I get so sick of the same old sound that most black female artists especially churn out. There seems to be this unwritten rule that all black female music artists have to sound like Aretha, Anita or Whitney in order to gain approval among black folks. And if you don’t sound like them then you’re stepping outside the black folks box.
Check out Janelle’s video.
Black rock artists have gotten past the fear that prevents many of us from fully following our interests, even when those interests aren’t seen as “traditionally” black. “I grew up listening to Joy Division, New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Cure….” says TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone. “I simply identified with something in the [white rock] music.” He took that music as inspiration and, along with his bandmates, created Dear Science, the sharp, angry and euphoric genre-mashing album that Rolling Stone and SPIN unanimously named their 2008 album of the year. It was also one of the blackest albums I’ve heard.
Black rock can change lives. It changed mine. In the 1980s, I was a regular, middle-class kid from the Midwest, who started listening to Top 40 radio in eighth grade as a reaction to the repetitive playlists and limited subject matter on black radio. Top 40 radio introduced me to artists like Journey (“Who’s Cryin’ Now”) and Styx (“The Best of Times”), who moved me with their melancholy and soaring guitar solos. AC/DC’s “Back in Black” gripped me with its signature opening riff. And I found it impossible to ignore the incredible songwriting and storytelling that went into The Eagles’ “Hotel California.” For me, rock was simply more creative and raw than the slick, synthy sounds on black radio. It still is.
Check out the entire article here.