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Sony Signs African American Kids Metal Band. Where Are All The Black Rockers?

It seems that in a span of about of about 70 years, the world has nearly forgotten where the roots of Rock lay. Today in 2014 it’s almost hard to imagine the genre as heavily influenced by African Americans, and as one that was born and raised predominantly by the sounds of those same black musicians. Luckily, today a group of 8th grade boys from Brooklyn might give us a chance to remember a legacy long forgotten.

According to The Daily News, Unlocking the Truth, a metalhead band formed by guitarist Malcolm Brickhouse, 13, bassist Alec Atkins, 13, and drummer Jarad Dawkins, 12 – three black tweens from Brooklyn, NY – just inked a deal with Sony in which the music corporation has agreed to fulfill two albums by the group with an option for four more. Just for their first record the boys are promised an advance of $60,000 and as much as $350,000 for their second. If both parties stick around for the six albums, the middle-schoolers will be making as much as $1.7 million, adds the publication (…Okay, now you may start to hate yourself for wasting your youth).

What’s most interesting about this story is that the young trio is African American and playing heavy metal, something that probably wouldn’t stand out as much if the band were made up of Caucasian boys. Today, rock is remembered as a white genre rather than something that grew out of the rhythm and blues, gospel and western tunes of black artists, so much so that three young, black boys playing Rock is seen as nearly groundbreaking.

But why is this so? Well, according to the Indiana University webpage “Defining Black Rock”: “The history of African Americans artists [Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Little Richard] in this tradition has been obscured by generic boundaries established by media industries to market Black (rhythm and blues, soul, and hip-hop, etc.) and white (pop and rock) music to these respective culture groups.”

Basically, the only black musicians most of us will recognize as rock artists are many times boiled down to: Jimi Hendrix, Lenny Kravitz, and perhaps Darius Rucker from Hootie & the Blowfish.

So now you’re probably thinking that we only know of such few black rockers simply because more haven’t come out. But the fact is that various black artists have come out in the rock scene, now the problem is that many have been shunned from it. According to The Indiana University page, “rock author and scholar Maureen Mahon discovered that many artists…received considerable pressure from record labels, audiences, and Black community members to drop rock and switch to genres deemed more appropriate.” The article uses Living Colour and Death as bands that have encountered such stigmas, and even till this era, Rucker still experiences racism for playing music that is not viewed as black.

It’s truly saddening that a whole piece of American history has simply been ripped out of the pages of our history books and that many people have been conditioned to criticize Black rock musicians as simply not being “black enough” when in reality, they are reawakening a heritage that it is rightfully theirs. Hopefully, the promised success that Unlocking the Truth has will inspire more African Americans to explore not only rock, but even more genres. Music is all about innovation, so as a society let’s try not to put invisible boundaries around it.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

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