Defining Black rock/Defining excellence

Up in the T-Dot (Toronto), fellow traveler Laina Dawes gives her take on a definition of Black rock:

My definition of Black Rock? Black folks who know and celebrate their cultural identity through their music. It might not be a sound, per se, like funk/rock, a la Fishbone or Mother's Finest, but basically proud black folks who are doing their thing. I've been writing a lot about musicians like Howard Jones from Killswitch Engage and God Forbid, whose new album is off the chain. Just because they do not fit into the Afropunk scene doesn't mean that they are not relevant. They are people who are doing their thing, in regardless their blackness and I think that black folks need to celebrate their individuality.

Much of this post, it seems, was prompted by the Rolling Stone cover story on Lil' Wayne and the hoopla surrounding his foray into rock.  And in the true spirit of the phrase "writing is fighting" Laina isn't shy about letting you know where she stands:

Black rock, as Rob says on his blog, is blowing up, but a lot of what I have heard over at Afropunk is shit. Sorry boys and girls, but if you are going to bring it, bring it. A lot of what I have listened to seems like the musicians are saying, 'yeah, we're cool and we rawwk' without paying attention to chord structure or melody. They understand that it is the latest thing, but have little knowledge of the classics. It's okay to listen to some of the older stuff to get inspiration and I suggest that they do.

I get where she's coming from.  For me, the issue has always been bigger than Afro-punk or the Black Rock Coalition.  The ongoing question for me is this: When it come to Black music, what constitutes excellence?  And I think we're at a point now when we can have those discussions.  Before, it was about just getting the music out there.  It's clear we've achieved that.  Now what? 

We all know that there's a level beyond just being "dope".  After all, nobody talks about Toni Morrison, Duke Ellington, or even Jimi as just being "dope".  Know why?  Because we know in our guts that there is a level beyond dope.  We don't see it very often.  Yes, it's something that few achieve.  But, it'd be great to know that more folks were trying to get there.

Anyway, here are some remarks I made on the subject:

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