Now on TheRoot.com: Rock is Black Music, Too!

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Here's an excerpt from my first piece on TheRoot.com:

Know what the problem is with black folks? No imagination.

Sounds crazy, I know, but consider black music.Every significant moment in America’s history has been accompanied by its own soundtrack. And black musicians have often written the music and the lyrics. But what’s our soundtrack now?

The music industry has imposed the same low expectations on black artists and black life that politicians and pundits have imposed on black folks with respect to education, business and simply managing our daily lives. And we’ve let it happen.

I'm really excited and grateful for this opportunity.  Check it out and please let me know what you think.

Read the full article here @ TheRoot.com.

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  • http://www.twitter.com/ronbronson Ron

    Glad to see you got a platform. Going to check it out now…

  • Kev the Bookerman

    Great job bruva Rob…you know you got the heads over at Soul-Patrol talking bout this one…you started a new thread man…:-)

    Keep up the good work!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/robfields Rob Fields

    Really, can you send me a link to the thread? Would love to see what the full discussion is.

    Thanks, Kev!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/robfields Rob Fields

    Thanks for the kind words. Let me know what you think!

  • Bornearth

    Great article, it lead me here. As a person who loved hip-hop in the 80’s and 90’s (as well as other genres), I thought my frustration with rap, hip-hop, and R&B was a result of me getting older. There are others who feel just as frustrated about the lack of creativity in “black” music on the radio and how many have accepted it; we’ve always been open to other genres of music and creative expressions, we were called weirdos in high school. Now that you’ve spelled it out, it will make more people like me feel like we’re not “sell-outs” (I don’t really feel like a sell out) and those that settle for less consider broadening their horizons.

  • donpoir@hotmail.com

    I enjoyed your article

    I’m an old white guy but I love black music. The blues, R&B and jazz have been my favorite genres, along with the classic rock I grew up with in the 70’s, since I was a young adult.

    There are few contemporary black artists (I love Keb Mo, Seal, and Robert Cray) that move me the way Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson I, and the many blues greats do. A friend once said my CD collection was “just a bunch of dead black guys.” Maybe, but they’re great artists with earthy souls unmatched by today’s musicians, black or white.

    For me it’s the message, the lyrics and the general tone of today’s music that seems lost. These artists should get back to the roots of their music, listen to Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Elmore James and the men who built the foundation rock & roll was built on.

    I thought Tricia Rose nailed the problem in her short quote. The triumvirate turns many listeners off.

    They don’t need new ideas, they need good ones. Sometimes reclaiming our heritage is inspiration enough.

  • wtwheels

    I agree with you donpoir. I used to have long conversations with people about why music today sometimes bored me. Part of it was based on how I pictured everything as having already been done. But that’s got to be wrong. I’m hispanic and I love the older rock and blues because it has soul, history, and more universal messages that I can identify with. It reeks of musical excellence and inspiration. Still, there’s nothing wrong with someone putting out something you’ve never experienced or never will, but it’s tough to identify with the triumvirate Ms. Rose speaks of.

    I ask these simple questions of today’s rock and wonder if I’m in the dark…what happened to playing and mastering the very instruments that musicians create with, mainly the guitar? There’s got to be a group of kids – black or white, doesn’t matter – out there right now hunkering down in a basement or garage, sticking to the basic roots of rock and creating the sounds that captured our imaginations and inspired countless permutations from the Beatles to War to Lenny. Is there something wrong with having great singers – say, 2-3 – within one group? And then those same musicians who can hold their own when on their own and can create and write something memorable? And although I didn’t grow up in the sixties, I yearn for the old idea that musicians changed appearances and “grew” their music; they evolved. Why repeat the same sound, tricks, hooks, the same format over and over? And even the same appearances for the years they produce? The aura and attraction of rebelliousness in music is lost on me when I hear and see repetitiveness, especially repetiveness that’s based on more attitude than skill. It doesn’t glue me to the radio or t.v., ipod, etc., leaving me wondering how it was done. I see too much commercialism, too much attitude with no substance, and too much focus on “me.” (maybe that’s the reason behind the non-existance of supergroups?)Well, maybe i’m too obsessed with that, but i’m getting to where I think even disco was more creative! That’s not fair, really, but any true rocker looked at disco as flimsy at best – at the time.

    I always get to where I end the conversation with “…when black people rediscover their roots – the blues, we’ll get great music again.” Rock is black and that’s always been a true and great thing. John Lennon once said that “the blues are a chair…you sit on it,” meaning rock has to come from that for it to be meaningful and great again. That’s why and how we got Jimi, and Elvis, and the Eagles, Lenny Kravitz. Hip Hop deserves a place. It’s part of us, but I wait for the creative spark that blew open the door in the 60’s and 70’s and was based more on the blues and the rock that grew from that.

  • donpoir

    Good points wtwheels.

    Have you noticed how rare ‘lead guitar’ is, or the drum solo, in today’s mainstream music? I’m sorry, but Green Day is not very talented when it comes to their instruments. They have chords and a beat, nothing more. I do give them credit for writing music with a social / political message, whether I agree with their views or not.

    Your point about disco is ironic for me. I was a 70’s rocker, leather jacket, jeans and boots. I hated disco! I now look back and see some of that music as unique. I even have some on my I-pod. Hindsight and an open mind changed my ear.

    Muddy Waters said, “The blues had a baby, and they named it rock & roll.” I really wish young people, white & black, would listen to the blues greats and hear the birth of nearly every genre that followed. I believe they would create more great music using the same foundation.

  • wtwheels

    You’re right about the disco! How can we hold that up now as something more creative – mainly music-wise, since the messages were mainly about “boogieing?” LOL It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this! But I too have some of that music and have grown to like it.

    I think it lies mainly around the fact that there’s a lack of great songwriting…and therefore, lack of great craftsmanship when it comes to playing. You’re right, no leads on guitar; there’s hardly any melody on a bass line, just a repetetive note because I suspect there’s either a lack of creativity or talent or roots (or all combined) because too many are looking for a shortcut. In this era of American Idol and reality t.v., there seems to be the notion that dues don’t really have to be paid. If you just have overconfidence and some exposure, you’re in. Well, are we really surprised when the song doesn’t last, the attitude wears thin, the same sound is repeated year after year, and then you have the record companies desperate to just sign up the same stuff?? It’s great to hear that there’s now at least a search for what clicked before.

    Music still baffles and astounds me. I seem to hear new things from the same old music and from time to time, I’ll hear something new that’s very interesting. But that’s just it, it’s not the norm because it’s drowned out by repetitiveness. The 60’s and 70’s I guess were lively because it was a new thing a young generation discovered and built on their own. Maybe now that that generations moving up in age a new generation can rediscover and reinvent it all over again. Again, I say why not take risks? Why not make it a point to try new sounds, new progressions, new anything!? But stick to the roots – go to the source. Why a copy of a copy of a copy? It gets diluted when it strays too far and doesn’t retain any lasting and memorabe creativity at the base of it all, which I say is a great song.

  • B

    i just found this site through a link on racialicious.com and i love it!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/robfields Rob Fields

    Thank you for both stopping by and for your kind words. Please feel free to pick up the RSS feed or join the mailing list above.