This piece originally ran on the Converse.com blog back in January.
When I think about what will help black rock become an even bigger part of the cultural conversation, there are four things that come to mind:
This is obvious, but I’m looking forward to new releases from black artists all over the country who aren’t fitting into the either/or dichotomy of commercial R&B or hip hop. Of course, there’s been a lot of music jumping off in New York City. There always is. But even more exciting is the fact that there are scenes and communities growing in other parts of the country. Places like Oakland, Austin, Atlanta, The DMV (DC, Maryland and Virginia). Even internationally in London. And those are just a few of the spots that come most immediately to mind. Bottom line: I can’t wait to hear the creativity that’s been bubbling under for some time now. I think we’ll see and hear a lot more of it in this new decade.
I’m excited by all the inspiration that black rock provides in the form of stories and examples of artists who aren’t afraid to color outside the lines. And, while the sense of community—at least from my perspective—is strong, I’m hoping that it’s something we’re able to hold onto, even as black rock grows and moves off the fringes of culture and towards the mainstream.
Space for the voices of women
One of the general failings of hip hop is that, overall, women’s perspectives seem to be ignored. On the radio and in videos, women have been relegated to singing hooks or being eye candy. Black rock, by contrast, seems to be in much better shape, as there are many female artists delivering exciting musical projects and leading bands. A healthy scene is one in which there is a balance of male and female perspectives. That’s good for the music, the fans and the culture overall.
Reach out to other progressives
The appeal underlying black rock is its inherent idea of no limits and that it draws inspiration from the full spectrum of music, particularly the black music traditions. However, we have to remember that while we’re growing this community, we shouldn’t be putting up walls. In fact, there continue to be progressive voices in other genres of music. I’m specifically thinking of progressive and underground hip hop artists. They could use our support. I, for one, have to do a better job here. Can we change and evolve the cultural conversation by supporting the music that doesn’t reduce our lives to stereotypes and simplistic portrayals? Yes we can.