I’ll start by saying that it’s more than simply rock played by black people, though that’s part of it. Referencing Living Colour gets people in the zone, but doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story.
As it was used when I was involved with the Black Rock Coalition (BRC)—and I’m sure is still used by the organization—it was a term that encompasses the total spectrum of Black music—rock, soul, jazz, blues, funk, hip-hop, world, etc. But the slightly more complicated truth is that there’s no one sound that defines Black rock.
Better, I think, is to understand the term as a concept, one that’s in opposition to the narrow view that the music industry (itself a microcosm of American society) promotes of what it means to be African American: Namely, that you’re supposed to know the boundaries and stay within them. More to the point: Black music = hip-hop and R&B. From that perspective, Black rock is a term I’ll continue to employ not only in this dialogue that attempts to re-connect African Americans to music they created, but also as a means of mounting an ongoing and worthwhile effort to overcome ridiculous limitations imposed from within and without. In my estimation, the former must come first. The music industry has no incentive to change in this regard, particularly since it’s getting little to no mass indication that there is economic justification to do so.
So Black rock is, at first, an invitation for African Americans to —here’s a nod to The Matrix—take the red pill. It’s an invitation to break the frame of things we take for granted—what we listen to out of course, avenues through which we can express ourselves, even notions of what it means to be authentically black.
Black rock is an invitation for us to be brave.