I've been working on an article like this for a while. I wanted to do something to coincide with the unofficial Couch Sessions “Black Rock Week,” which is taking place on April 17 – 23rd.
I've been diving into the whole “black rock” thing for a while. But first things first, lets remember that the term “black rock,” is an oxymoron invented for marketing purposes. Rock music is black music. It originated from the blues, which originated from slavery. So don’tget it twisted.
But having that said, rock music today is thought of by everyone as a “white” genre. Other than Lenny Kravitz (or maybe Living Colour), when you think of rock music, you think of the Rolling Stones, Green Day, Foo Fighters, Nirvana, and modern bands like the Killers and Fraz Ferdinand. These bands do little to speak to the black consciousness or the black experience. However, many “rock” bands have black fans. Take Coldplay, who is being repped by such black artists as Scarface and Brandy.
Although Black people in America have birth so many musical forms, from jazz, to doo wop, to blues, to rock music, today, the only thing that Black musicians are known today for is hip-hop. Yes, hip-hop is a driving force that has defined pop culture worldwide for the past 25 years, but are we as African Americans limiting ourselves by only promoting hip-hop events? An even better question: are the powers that be (ie, the record companies) willing to promote rock music with a black face?
Unfortunately, in both Black and Mainstream societies, African American rock musicians are usually known as outsiders. They can’tfit in with their own race, and they are shut out of the mainstream white society. Of course, these musicians created their own “Afropunk,” community, which highlights Black artists in the rock genre. However, no artist has consistently broken out of this subgroup. The most popular artist right now might just be Saul Williams
In 2006 though, I do see things changing. During the last few years, you have had artists like Andre 3000, Kanye, and Pharell, hip-hop artists by most accounts, rep their rock influences. Bands like El Pus are gaining fans around the world. J*Davey, a group inspired by David Bowie and Missing Persons, is about to make major moves. And lets not forget the success of Gnarls Barkley and even the simple event of rapper Lupe Fiasco attending a Death Cab for Cutie Concert.
So yes, there is a new emergence of African American musicians who are thinking outside of the box that socitey has tried to put us in. However, the question remains….is anyone listening?