Earlier that day, I had to opportunity to attend a panel discussion at SXSW about Black Rock music. For the most part, the panel was very insightful, opening up a very interesting discussion about Black Rock in mainstream America. As someone who put on two Black Rock shows back in the day, I felt a bond amount my brothers and sisters on the panel (including fellow sonic afficianado Rob Fields btw). However, the panel was not very forward thinking, and talk about the future was very pessimistic at best.
That’s sad. There is a new generation of Black Rock that’s emerging. Rappers are dropping their love for rock acts like Radiohead and Coldplay. Every Black person I know owns Guitar Hero. And even though his tracks sound like hot dung, Lil’Wayne is bringing Black Rock into the mainstream and encouraging kids like my 17 year old brother to contemplate picking up a guitar.
Black Rock is changing. Slowly but surely. The door is cracking open, and an act called Whole Wheat Bread might be the act to kick that door in.
I remember profiling Whole Wheat back in the day, when The Couch Sessions started in 2005. The combination of scrappy Black kids from Jacksonville, Florida and punk rock definately raised some eyebrows. Fast forward to 2009. The trio has toured the world several times, and secured production credits from one Lil’ John and opening for punk legends Rancid, as well as a couple slots on the Afropunk showcase at SXSW ahead of Janelle Monae and Big Boi of Outkast.
Whole Wheat’s sound has changed since their earlier release Minority Rules, tilting heavily towards modern rock and ATL rhythms. But don’t get it twisted, their crunk sounds integrate seamlessly with punk music, and lets face it, , punk music and crunk are cousins. The lyrics are decidedly raw: the lines “beat crackas” and “I need an old woman to fix my credit” make appearances, and just to appease the hip-hop fans in the audience, lead singer Aaron Abraham busted freestyles between songs. The stage show is sick–the band was flawless and developed a tightness that can only come from years of touring. The tracks on the newest album, Hearts of Hoodlums range from pure punk “Lower Class Man,” to downright danceable “Throw Yo Sets Up,” to overtly aware of race and class “New Age Southern Baptist Nigga From the Hood,” and are more hip-hop than most so-called “rappers” these days.
So can Black Rock sit comfortably in the mainstream? Yes. There are forces that are happening behind the scenes that will make that happen, rest assured.