This is a long overdue interview. I’ve known Maureen for years and was the first person from the BRC that she interviewed for what would eventually become Right to Rock: The Black Rock Coalition and the Cultural Politics of Race (Duke University Press, 2004). Of course, once I decided to see how deep the Black rock rabbit hole goes, I devoured this book. What she’s done exceedingly well is articulate a context that I’ve used to both frame and support my thinking on this blog. She’s done it by looking at Black rock through the ideology of the Black Rock Coalition, which is how I came to understand Black rock, too. In doing so, she touches on many subjects, not the least of which are assumptions about Black identity and the social, cultural and economic factors that leeched the blackness out of Jimi Hendrix.
Our conversation took place on May 15, 2007. Jump in.
00:57 Her background
01:30 The seeds of “Right to Rock”
04:15 The particularity of a generation
05:30 The integrated school experience
06:25 Their middle class ideology and what that encompassed
07:00 The significant marker of middle class status
07:40 Black culture was effervescent
08:55 Many black Americans had this experience
09:30 Bridging the middle class vs. non-middle class gap
11:55 More effort needed to reach out to other blacks around them
13:10 Grassroots is the key
13:40 All of the artists really want more Black folks in their audiences
14:20 Discussion of class is a slippery slope
15:20 Formative factors of hip hop
15:55 Public music education programs
20:10 Changing club scene
21:00 What keeps her from being truly optimistic
23:20 MySpace discussion (actually, MySpace is at 179 million + users)
25:20 The reality that musicians have to make a living
26:40 What is the long tail of Black rock?
28:30 Outkast, Gnarls Barkley
29:25 How did Ceelo build his career?
30:00 Alice Smith and the assumption of authenticity
30:20 Leon Wynter and the hijacking of black authenticity
32:10 Everyone theorizes black identity
33:40 “Black rock” is actually a bad term
34:45 The challenge of Black rock; perhaps a liberation ideology
36:45 Maureen’s next project