Is "rock" a bad four-letter word for Black folks?

Maybe.  Here are some observations.

I mean, we easily disrespect our each other, and the N-word word seems to roll off our tongues.  But we can't say rock?

What sparked this was seeing the following event, that saluted the State of Black music.  Take a look:

Evite_StateoftheBlackMusic

Or this one:

Honors screen grab

What was wild was this was a program that featured Vernon Reid and Corey Glover, two people clearly linked to "rock" via their association with Living Colour.

What I'm finding is that despite the growing audience for Black rock music and all of its incarnations, there are still huge sections of our community for whom "rock" in any form simply doesn't figure.  Not even on their radar.  

Some thoughts:

  • There's a lot of work to do in terms of educating Black folks on this thing I'm calling Black rock.
  • Opportunities for music discovery will be critical going forward.
  • But a bigger consideration: Is "rock" a relevant term to African Americans? 

I ask this last question because it's hard to solve a problem if you're not asking the right questions.  For a long time, "rock" has been something that's been off-limits to African Americans, so it's not surprising that the term doesn't come up in most discussions of "Black music".  So how do we change that?   What's it going to take?

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6 Responses to “Is "rock" a bad four-letter word for Black folks?” Subscribe

  1. David March 11, 2009 at 17:21 #

    Another approach to music discovery is ‘social music recommendation’ based on the psychological perception of music. Our new service Music Patterns (http://www.signalpatterns.com/music_survey) provides customized playlists based on music that ‘People Like You’ actually listen to.

    Using a psychology-based approach to music preferences, this method combines your individual preferences with identifying those that are similar to your ‘music personality.’

    This new form of social music recommendation was developed from years of research in this area by best selling author Dr. Dan Levitin and our team at Signal Patterns.

  2. Serious.Black March 12, 2009 at 20:17 #

    Awareness, maybe. But I dunno, if there’s anything one could do. If Arsenio or someone like that was still on TV, maybe that’d help. But I think the stigma that rock is the province of whites-only won’t change for at least another generation.

  3. Shelley Nicole March 16, 2009 at 12:48 #

    I have so much to say about this that I think it deserves a town hall meeting. I could talk this one for hours.

  4. laronda davis, brc March 16, 2009 at 14:30 #

    good question, rob. suffice it to say, i was at the opening event for honor! at carnegie hall (thanks yvonne). and while i was glad black rock (via vernon and corey) was invited to the table, i was still stymied by its stepchild status. as i told earl the next day, all the other genres got spirited introductions by the likes of ben vereen, sade baderinwa and avery brooks. the rock segment got no such intro, no outro, and came on right after intermission while people were still stumbling back to their seats. corey, who as we all know can kill any song, was relegated to one tune by chuck berry and one by hendrix, with no context. furthermore, the only connections made between rock and any other genre was in that fact that vernon played in both the rock segment and the blues segment. otherwise, it was as if rock had no origin in our community and no influence on subsequent styles of music. i truly believe that if it weren’t for vernon’s, ray chew’s and vivian scott-chew’s influence, they would have left rock out altogether…

  5. Darrell McNeill March 16, 2009 at 14:42 #

    I’m with Shelley, but what Black folks need to be clear on is that the terminology has not been devised to describe the MUSIC, but rather the PEOPLE that record companies expect will BUY the music and the entertainers/artists they use as ciphers to SELL the music. Black music is stymied and stifled–and as purveyors of this music, we are stymied and stifled–because we CANNOT have an intelligent dicussion of our own music as a result of relying on the racially-charged designations the industry has imposed on our cultural contributions (i.e., what exactly is the difference between “rhythm & blues” and “soul” music, any way?). We buy into these myths, consciously or subconsciously, and go through all sorts of changes trying to fit into social memes that have nothing to do with the reality of the music or the reality of our own lives to stay in some box. The term “rock” means nothing as far as the music is concerned. But a White band like Chicago can be considered a “rock” band while a similarly constructed Black band, say, Earth Wind & Fire, is not. We get no say in the matter–the gatekeepers make these decisions, and we can either take the blue pill and keep playing the game or that the red pill and come up with a more socially relevant vocabulary, one more in keeping the cultural paradigm shift taking place in the world today. That’s what’s up…

  6. Mike Mills March 17, 2009 at 11:56 #

    Hey-

    Never mind the Bollocks, rock and roll Negroes are a marginalized group to say the least. Other marginalized groups in the Black community today include(in no particular order): Intellectuals, musicians(non hip-hop), poets, visual artists, those with radical political ideologies, people with religious beliefs outside of Christianity, and gays. One look at the preceding list and one has to acknowledge that these are the people who typically create cultural, social and political revolution. Tradition holds that the above mentioned can only move the masses by dragging them by their collective butts kicking and screaming toward the future. This is the way that it’s always been done, so let’s not lament being left out. Brother Jimi Hendrix, Arthur Lee of Love, Bob Kaufman, and Bad Brains are but a few who changed the way we do things here on Planet Earth with or without the support of the black Masses.

    Fuck em’ and turn the amps up to eleven!

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