Sunday, July 5

We got a Black President - Now can we Finally have a Black Rock Band?

This Documentary from 2006 details the difficulties trials and tribulations faced by Black Rock Musicians in an industry that is far more interested in exploiting the current body image biases of the Rock Audience, than promoting the best and brightest artists.

As a personal confession, I actually know quite a few people in the documentary - including Reggie McFadden, Mike (Maggot) McGinnes of Bozaque (The Original Rap Metal Band), Bernie K. (Sound Barrier/Total Eclipse) and Oscar Jordan who I was very briefing in a band with. In the lat 80's and early 90's I joined the Los Angeles Chapter of the Black Rock Coalition, an organization dedicated to addressing this very issue which had originally been formed in New York by Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Greg Tate (Writer for the Village Voice) and Artists Manager Konda Mason.

Quite a few different people were supportive and involved in the early days including members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone, Tom Morello just before he formed Rage Against the Machine and some members of Body Count. Although it should seem quite obvious if you simply ask yourself "Where did all the black people in Rock n' Roll go?" there are still those who want to deny it's any kind of issue and instead basically blame the victims.

On the Full Length YouTube Version of the Movie there are comments like this:

this is not a race issue as this is portayed (along with many other issues). these guys have talent, but black rock bands are not money makers. why are the majority of rap artists black? same reason. people just need to accept the cold hard facts. if you have a good band, people will listen no matter your race. its not uncommon for a great band to be unsigned.

Or this...

They portray this as a race issue, but it is not. Most people have never heard of my favorite band, they have been around since the mid 90's, but they are not black, so they can't use the race excuse. The music industry is here to make money. Who makes money? Whoever 13 year olds like. Apparently, it is not black people making shitty rock music. The people in this movie want to be rich and famous. They are not content with making music that they love.

They contend that the music industry is somehow racist, but they overlook the impetus of greed on the situational dynamic. Doing so allows them to absolve their greed and blame someone else for their lack of success, on an unrelated basis. The music business is a business. The only color that matters is green. There is no racism involved. If a group of 4 black guys came out with a record on par with "Master of Puppets", they would be unbelievably fucking famous.

Let me tell ya, if it wasn't about race - why was it that the very first BRC Shows in Hollywood received Bomb Threats? Who threatens to BOMB a Rock Show? Country/Western Fans?

And this wasn't in the 60's, or the 70's - it was 1989!

But here's the thing Greed is exactly the point and exactly the problem. It's not about what is the better art, or who is the greater artist, with the challenges that the music industry has been facing, particularly with free downloading, they have no desire or courage to challenge any existing status quo no matter how biased and/or bigotted it may be. They just give in to it.

This is not just an issue that affects these artists, it affects anyone who doesn't fit a very molded, easy to market Body Image. An artist that is too old, or not slim enough, or has the wrong kind of hair, not puffy enough lips, not wide enough eyes - faces all the exact same things. Sure, a lot of these people can GO ON A DIET, but then in far too many rather extreme cases, this has led to Anorexia, Bulimia or even plastic surgery to change their appearance.

We all know that we've seen the affect of Body Image on many Hollywood and Music SuperStars, some like the Late Michael Jackson have even clearly come down with Body Dismorphic Disorder, where they've become literally addicted to having procedure after procedure to satisfy their desire for acceptance and visual "perfection." That's not an option for artists who are either unwilling or financially unable to transform themselves into Skeletor the way Micheal did, or be willing to Shuck and Jive with Rap-style "Bling Bling" as ?uestlove of The Roots points out during his interview just to be able to have their music heard.

Being expected to give in to someone elses bigotry by descending into self-parody, self-loathing and self-destruction is not exactly my idea of a solution. Some prices are just too high to pay.

I think it's going to far to expect everyone to cowtow to stereotypes rather than challenge the basis for those stereotypes. America is supposed to be land of the "Free", not land of the "Wannabe's!" This issue has affected all of Rock, particularly Women Rockers from Pat Benatar to Heart who were basically forced out of the business because Nancy didn't fit the "Image" they thought she should project. Or to put it another way - She Got FAT. It had nothing to do with her ability to write or sing, they just didn't think she looked cute girl in the videos anymore - y'know like Madonna or Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers? And please, it's not like any of those Miley (Spawn of the Original Billy Ray Vyrus) or one of those Jonas chicks are the greatest musicians in the world or have ever released an album as AWESOME as "Master of Fucking Puppets" dude. WOOO!

We all know damn well they haven't, but we keep smiling at the American Idol/Disney Assembly Line of SUCK anyway.

This "Image" issue (which he saw as inherently racist and sexist) was a driving force behind much of Kurt Cobain's music, however the end result of his efforts were that a skinny stringy hair drug addicted white-guy in spandex was replaced by a skinny stringy haired drug addicted white-guy in a flannel shirt and mohair sweater. Again, not much of an improvement IMO.

One of the commenters, just like those people who have attacked Judge Sotomayor for applying current judicial precedent in the Ricci case, want to automatically assume that the White Guys must be better, and the Black Guys who didn't get the promoted in that case - MUST HAVE BEEN SHITTY - which is a typical defensive response to people's passive inaction in the face of bigotry.

Yeah, ok. If you're a Rock/Metal fan Check these videos out.

If you don't know, one of the Videos is this selection includes a song by the band Wicked Wisdom which features Jada Pinkett Smith as lead singer - yes - Will (Independence Day/Wild Wild West/MIB) Smith's Wife Jada who just started a brand new TV series. Even with his and her considerable Fame her participation in this band is practically A Secret - even after they toured with Ozzfest last year.

Another featured video is Dionne Farris of the Rap group Arrested Development who basically had to quit the industry after she scored a #1 Hit on the Billboard Top 40 with the Medium Rock Song "I Know" because they wouldn't let her do ROCK anymore, and insisted she only sing R&B. Let me repeat: After she had a #1 HIT ROCK nd her label refused to let her sing ROCK!

Frankly, I hope to God that was Racism because if not it's just Frakin' Crazy!

Farris’ return comes after a nasty parting of ways with her former label, Columbia, which wanted her to produce black-radio-friendly, neo-soul tracks, even though her post-Arrested Development breakout single, “I Know,” was a mainstream video pop hit. At a creative impasse, she requested and gained a release from her contract.

That was more than a decade ago.

Some people assume that everything in America is a perfect Meritocracy at the same time they admit that the situation, particularly with music is inherently unfair - and that's supposed to be "Just fine."

Crazy Much?

If one of these bands had made "Master of Puppets" or an album as good they would be naturally be HUGE just because right!? Not exactly. A lot of the hype around that album came from the fact that it was one of the first American Band that reflected the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. It was a bunch of guys that people could easily relate too, and the fact that it was different from everything else around it that helped propel that album forward as much as the music itself.

Living Colour is a Multi-platinum, Multi-Grammy Winning Band. "Shitty?" Fuck no!

It would be easy to argue that Fishbone's "Reality of My Surroundings", King's X "Gretchen Goes to Nebraska", Living Colour's "Time's Up", Mother's Finest "Black Radio Won't Play this Record" and 24-7 Spyz "Strength In Numbers" and the debut album by Sevendust if not match that challenge, they surpass it.

But they weren't made by the right (looking) people at the right time.

Another couple examples would be the arguemetn Guns N Roses "Appetite for Destruction" and Rage Against the Machine's debut CD are equally as good as Master - but the one big difference between those records and the others is that practically no one at the time knew - and some still don't know - that Gun's guitarist Slash and RATM guitarist Tom Morello Are Both BLACK.

Ok, technically half black, like Barack, but still Black. Except both of them can and did pass for White since they're both fairly light-skinned. See - Look White Enough and the problem is solved. No biggie, just borrow MJ's old Skin-cream, he's not gonna need it anymore.

The point serious, is that if it's not something that's obvious, and it's not in your FACE, it doesn't become and issue. In order to duck and dodge the issue - the first couple Living Colour singles and their originally album cover didn't include a image of the band, just so people wouldn't automatically assume they were an R&B or Reggae group.

Not a problem?

Not hardly.

These bands and these artists are going to keep fighting this injustice, and eventually they're going to win. The funny thing is - it's going to help every other artists whose fighting against being Prejudged based on their Image just as much as it will help themselves.

All the rest of you are already welcome. Just remember who did you the Solid. Again.



realitysurfer said...

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please check out my documentary BLACK HAIR it explores the Korean take-over of the Black Hair biz

posted the entire film at no charge at

visit to view 3 minute trailer and purchase the documentary.

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