Hey guys! I can’t thank you all enough for the support yo. Means the absolute world. I’m learning that “your rewards in life are truly an exact proportion to your contributions in life.”
This week I’m gonna shift focus away from Nola for a second. I’ve wanted to touch on this for a while now. It’s one that’s dear to my heart, and one that’s a bit easier for me to talk about. Music.
Like most things that end up on this little piece of property, we’re definitely about to talk about how being a negro has and does play into the development of music, music culture, and the music business. Also, for good measure we may even touch on where my gays play into this system.
We’re Gonna Have to Go Way Back
Well, as far back as at least the 30s. Why? Because since a whole lot of folks like to think it all began with Rock and Roll, it didn’t, but we’re gonna start there to spark the conversation.
Who Invented Rock?
If you ask someone who invented rock and roll, they would probably tell you Elvis Presley. Or they may even tell you Chuck Berry. Both Wrong. But kudos for thinking of Chuck Berry. If you’ve done a bit of reading you may even reach back for Little Richard. Still wrong. But so close. The answer is, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Yes, before Elvis, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard. Sister Rosetta actually discovered Little Rich at one of her shows and mentored him the new sound she was developing.
Elvis at least helped shape it, right?
Wrong. Elvis didn’t shape shit. Chuck and Richy did that part. Elvis stole it, shook his pelvis to it, and made millions, and “no one gave a good god damn, they just knew this white man had something special” – Muddy Waters
This phenomenon of vindicating white artists for black artists’ creations while also vindicating white artists musical abilities over black artists’, applies not only to Rock, but several other genres of music as well.
Whether it was just the melodies or entire songs, black artists were constantly being stolen from and then dared to be mad. Even Ray Charles and Patsy Cline share a melody. Patsy’s record label never credited Ray with writing it because they didn’t care and they would have had to pay him.
Oh, Snap, Money
The top reason black folks were stolen from so frequently was money. Lack of education and lack of respect from white record label heads are a close second and third, respectively. Often, black artists would be pressured into signing binding and wildly limiting contracts, record a ton of songs, and then never have their material see the light of day again. Until, months later when they would hear their song being played on television by Elvis, The Imperials, or The Rolling Stones’, to name a few.
There was literally nothing these artists could do about it because their material was “owned” by the label. Modern day slave labor.
This practice maintained for decades. And the culture of black artists being farmed and harvested is still alive today. NWA, WuTang, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, what’s good?
All of these artists quickly gathered that the money wasn’t right.
Little Richard’s story is perhaps the most telling, the godfather of rock and roll was stolen from for pretty much the entire first half of his career.
We can thank James Brown for getting a lot of the money back into the artist’s and musician’s pockets. Not just black artists but for the entire business. James realized, rather quickly, that he was being swindled by the record companies. He then realized that if he was the “show” he could also be the “business”. He did this by cutting out the middle man, record labels and promoters, and employed himself to record, produce, and distribute his music.
Back to Bias
Fast forward a bit, to slightly more relevant times, and referencing my point on music culture in America. White artists are appreciated at an exponentially larger rate than black artists. Let me share that this is no way to bash your favorite artists, singers, or musicians. But. Merely inform you of the fuckery that is allowed to exist, where white musical talent is concerned. As I mentioned, white artists are more appreciated than black ones.
What does that mean? White artists sell more records and make more money than black artists. Does that mean white artists are making better music and are more talented? No.
It means that there is an active, ferociously obvious, cultural bias taking place.
I LOVE TALKING ABOUT TAYLOR SWIFT
Why, you ask? Because she is living, breathing proof of America’s unapologetic, shameless fascination with mediocrity. What does that mean? She’s not that great at her job…being a musician. By like every musical standard known to man, her material is just about as basic as it could possibly get. Look it up. But. People go absolute crazy for it.
When you explain to people that her popularity is completely unmerited, plus she’s not even that great a singer or performer, they almost immediately blurt out, even when they don’t like her music, “but she,….”. They immediately credit her for being a great musician and singer. Clear Fuckery.
To call her a great songwriter is to place her in a category of John Lennon. Stevie Wonder. Michael Jackson. Dolly Parton. Muddy Waters. Nah.
Writing down your feelings, and having someone set them to a rhythmically reductive and repetitive melody, does not a songwriter make.
Damn, bro. You Went in on Taylor, what’d she do?
She didn’t do anything. I’ve got mad love for Taylor. She’s a beast business woman. She decided she wanted to go for it, and then she did. She works hard, but that still doesn’t make her an amazing talent.
What I’m pointing out is the cultural bias that surrounds Taylor. That means that people vindicate and defend Taylor for things that just aren’t true, over black girls who are killing it from behind Taylor’s shadow.
What I’m saying is that there are black women; Janelle Monae, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Jazmine Sullivan, and Lauryn Hill, to name a few, who are actually all of things that Taylor is unfoundedly vindicated for, and then are in turn shunned from mainstream popularity, even though based on the standards that Taylor are held to, they should be where she is, musical phenomenon status.
Some of these sisters; write, sing, record, compose, mix, and produce their own music. I’m talking, like, they can work the sound boards, homies. Play 5 or 6 instruments on some of their records, and then turn around and look absolutely fabulous on their album covers.
Sounds like your opinion, Matt.
You’re probably saying to yourself that this is just preference and opinion, and you’d be correct. But. This is to show you that your preferences and opinions are based in bias fallacy.
Once again, Taylor Swift is revered as a great musician and has more Grammys than Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Side note: Mariah is scary talented. Google it.
Alicia Keys wrote “Fallin'” when she was 16 and Taylor wrote “You Belong with me-e-e-e” when she was 20. One is a cultural phenomenon and one is not.
It Doesn’t End With Taylor
Some of you may be familiar with a young man by the name of Sam Smith. Mr. Smith swept in with a stirring hit single this time last year, ” Stay With Me”. Fine song.
Ignoring its stolen melody and played out subject matter, it’s a typical, well-produced pop record.
But. If you ask a millennial or 35-50 something gay man, it was the most soul stirring ballad of the entire year, plus Sam Smith is such a great singer, right?!
It’s more about the Bias
Once again, this isn’t really about Sam’s musical ability, it’s about the bias that surrounds his success.
That brings me to the vindication process that is reserved for white artists. Sam Smith is credited as an openly gay, amazing singer and songwriter.
So. Much. Bias.
The gays flocked to Sam Smith after his coming out. Even though the pronouns in his music remain vague, he is proclaimed to be brave and bold, receiving support from most of the gay community. But, I digress.
While America caught Sam fever, three years earlier a gentleman named Frank Ocean stepped in the spotlight with a hit single of his own, “Thinking About You”.
Why is this man relevant to Sam Smith?
Because like Smith, Ocean is a musician, songwriter, singer, and member of the LGBTQ community. Oh, and he’s black.
Yes, Frank Ocean came out right after the release of his first single, stating that he was bisexual and dating man, becoming the first openly gay R&B/Pop/Soul singer, ever. Which was evident in his music where he depicts the nature of loving a man and unrequited love. — And the gay community gave the littlest amount of fucks humanly possible.
My point is that, on paper, Frank and Sam are literally selling the same product, and people choose the white one. Even the gays.
Frank’s music is transcendent, hearing a young man, sing about being in love with another young man, loudly and proudly (without vague, gender neutral pronouns), should have set gay hearts on fire. But the color of his skin wasn’t right, so they passed.
There are, of course, exceptions to the rule of the system. But. They’re just that, exceptions, and even though they’ve “made it”, they’re still fantastic examples of the stigma that still plagues black artists.
Even when black artists are prominent, their musical abilities and talents, in general, are constantly criticized and critiqued, in crafts they had hands in creating. Like, when a white homie proclaims that “Nicki Minaj is garbage”. Which is fine, if you think that. But. Why isn’t anyone calling out white artists for their “bad”music.
Guys. Black folks had a huge hand in creating pretty much all the music we love in America. Jazz, Blues, Soul, Hip/hop, Rock and Roll, Metal, Punk, Rhythm and Blues, Pop, and even Country, to name a few.
Guys, this is merely to shine a light on the intense racism that exists in pretty much everything in America.
Have you heard a current country song? All of it sounds like a ’99 Nelly song. White homeboys are rapping and spitting bars in country songs now, and white people are all about it.
White country artists, members of one the largest covert institutions of non-blackness, are unapologetically putting on black culture as an accessory, for profit, and they’re also being rewarded for it. Grammy nods and all. What’s crazier is that none of them have had to answer for it. I mean just listen to what I’m talking about.
-you should read some of the comments on these videos. They’re praising these guys for “getting it right”, whereas black rappers get it wrong. It’s fantastic.
Guys, this once again is merely a conversation piece questioning the structure of a system that most of us have come to think of as second nature. Black, bad. White, good.
Say what now?
The information and brilliance that awaits us when we reach beyond what’s in front of us is transformative. Dig.
#listentoblackpeoplesang #princeandgracejonesshouldberunningthangs #mybadtaylor #shesanicelady #taylorswift #shakeitoff