Black radio sucks. Corporatism has killed it. Every radio station has a play list and it is followed by DJs like good Christians are supposed to follow the gospels. No deviation. In fact they really don’t have DJs at all anymore- just radio personalities and computers queing up tracks making sure we get the flavor of the month exactly 11 times a day. And while there has been a sprinkling of new artists in recent years that seem to be inclined toward live band sounds and classic licks, it is nowhere near enough to relieve us of the feeling that we are being programmed to like certain artists and music rather than being drawn to it organically.
I went to see Lenny Kravitz in Atlanta at The Tabernacle in 2001 and it was a serious experience. That brother is the best rock star performer alive- hands down. And besides myself, there were probably twenty other black people in the building.
That is crazy as hell to me. Our music is so much bigger and broader than we realize.
It is hard for me to give much credence to our complaints about cultural misappropriation when we don’t even fully embrace our own artists and the wide array of material they put out.
Bilal is a virtuoso that most of us have never heard of because we have 9 or 10 different Trey Songz clones running around singing the same shit, wearing the same shit, and doing the same shit- on a loop no less. Before Jimmy Fallon hired them to be his house band for The Tonight Show, most black folks didn’t know who in the hell The Roots were- because they were too busy gong nuts over the latest cd shit out by Jay Z- ten years after he was supposed to have “retired.”
We all loved George Michael, may he rest in peace, but why do more black folks have his music downloaded than Seal’s?
Back in the day, the problem we used to have was that the music industry pigeon holed our artists and wouldn’t let them just do their thing and reach the audiences on their own terms but now that some can do that, we are ignoring them. Lenny is a wildly successful rock star and has crossed over nicely into acting but black folks have played a very small role in his rise to the top. And that is a real problem. Because it is the cross-over/mainstream artists that reach wide audiences that give us the greatest opportunity to seize control over the industry itself- the industry that we have known we could never trust since the days of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon.
So if you haven’t availed yourself already, go to a used CD store and pick up some Lenny or some Jimi. Pick up some Roots from the mid-90’s or some Bilal or Cody Chestnut if you can find them. This is some creative, intricate, powerful, influential shit. And if you find Sly & The Family Stone it is your lucky day so go ahead and grab a lottery ticket on the side. Once you start listening to it, you might develop a taste for a lot more than the latest Bruno Mars single. Don’t believe me, just watch.