A Rant on Rock and Race: Can I Be A Black Rocker?

Earlier today I was watching Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll, a documentary on the concert in Fox Theater celebrating Chuck Berry's 60th birthday. In that documentary there was a segment featuring Little Richard and Chuck Berry (of course) talking about how their beginning journey in music was misunderstood. According to the radio stations and DJs back then, their music (and any other Black musician that wasn't carrying a sax or trumpet) was NOT Rock music, but R&B. In this documentary, however, Little Richard and Chuck Berry made it quite clear that they had nothing to do with calling their music R&B and wanted everything to do with being associated with Rock 'n' Roll.

Now I'm not a big fan of sub-genres (and really genres, period), so to hear such legendary musicians make that anti-distinction of their music made me proud of my viewpoint on music. Music is music. Everybody has a right to be rockers, just as everybody has a right to rap - no matter the color, gender, sexual preference. Unfortunately, we live in a world that doesn't see things the same way. Although R&B (rhythm and blues) fits for a typical Black musician, that doesn't mean all Black people want to be known as R&B singers. Just because a white person can play the guitar it doesn't mean they should be immediately ostracized from R&B.

With that said, I look at Afro-Punk a little bit different from other sub-genres and subcultures. I see the movement in "making Rock Black again" and I see it holding a significance to the Rock community as a whole - more than I see it being significant to the Black community. Not to downplay its presence in that community (and to make this piece specifically about Black music), but I think Afro-Punk is exactly what Rock needs, not because of its heavy political content, but because it shows that Rock is not, or ever was, only for white people to master. I'm not saying only white people listen to Rock music in general, but there has always been a problem in the music industry when a Black musician does something other than rap or sing. They are immediately isolated from both the Black community and the Rock community, the general Punk culture included. It's like you can't be Black and a rocker!

Here's a joint by Brittany Bosco called "Ragdoll". Now would you call this song, and this artist, Rock, R&B, or is this even necessary because she's Black?

<a href="http://bosco.bandcamp.com/track/ragdoll-full-version">RAGDOLL |FULL VERSION| by BOSCO</a>

There are plenty of Rock musicians that get little to no mainstream radio time mainly because they fail to fit in the Black music box. Take Ben Harper for example, who has been in the Rock game for nearly twenty years. It is next to impossible to hear him on ANY station, and their reason (at least one station I talked to about him) was that "he doesn't fit the type of Rock music we play." When I listen to him I hear the exact same Rock music they play. Maybe I'm wrong, and if so, help a sister out:

All I'm saying is that it's hard to be Black, a Rock musician, AND a Black Rock musician. It is next to impossible to merge the two in the kind of musical society we live in today, and that really applies to all music genres - hiphop, country, etc. The bottom line is as a [insert race here] person you have to choose between doing [insert race here] music and consider "being down" with the group, or you decide to step outside if your "chosen" musical genre and leave [insert race here].

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