I remember a few years ago a friend of mine came to visit my hometown and he and I decided to grab drinks after our show. We went into a bar listening to a white guy croon reggae and it was quite embarrassing. My friend looked at me and said “Brother Bryan, have you ever noticed that they sure do love our rhythm but they really do hate our blues?” My friend wasn’t wrong but I’ve gotten so mired down seeing so many predominantly white area bands repeatedly offend that maybe i just fell asleep. I often have a hard time getting booked in our area but it has been quite ok for me because the opportunities that are for me are for me and the ones aren’t simply aren’t. When you come from a place that is authentic it can sometimes be a very lonely place. Sometimes it is only cool for some when your authenticity serves someone else’s purposes. I’ve seen the highs and lows of this many times and I am cool with it. Some folks get so worked up about seeing black faces in the room because for some they automatically associate black skin with a criminal element. I remember a situation where I was supposed to DJ and I was instantly told to pack back up and go home because they didn’t want anything bad to happen at their business. These generalizations are the issue and they continue to happen. When you come from a place that is authentic it can sometimes be a very lonely place.
It is painful to see so much cultural suppression and appropriation . It is like we are good enough to emulate and take from but when it comes to real authentic culture we are often told to sit on the sidelines. Roanoke,Va is actually in the top ten most segregated cities in the U.S. I actually woke up to a video that fucked up my day a bit that was really sobering to see. A local predominantly white Hip-Hop cover band badly doing Hip-Hop songs to a crowd of predominantly white people just swaying to our rhythms and lyrics and not a black soul in sight. To me it just says more blatantly that our music is revered but you should take your black ass home and watch me do it. It is also funny that the same venue that they were at told me a while back that they weren’t doing Hip-Hop, just softer tones, blue grass, folk americana, etc.
Sometimes I even see some of my brothers and sisters coon complicit in the arrogant nonsense of supporting white artists to do shoddy renditions of different hip-hop/r&b materials in the name of all mighty dollar. I mean get yours I guess but is this the new stepin fetchit? I also remember a local black artist at a show once telling me to reel my lyrics and personality back because they were working too hard to get a “white following”.
We also get to check the diversity/inclusion box situations that only get us recognized when we serve as the cogs in the wheels of established good ol’ boy networks that only sign off on you as long as you are serving their narratives. It is so weird and rough to see and genuinely disrespectful.
It has become a mundane horrible offense that continues to happen more often that you think. We just recently saw the Virginia based predominantly white reggae band SOJA beat actual Jamaicans for best reggae album of the year. Appreciation for a culture is dope and it is true when someone seeks to understand and learn about another culture in an effort to broaden their perspective and connect with others cross-culturally. Culture isn’t black or white it is the genuine exploration of our neighbors with authentic love and admiration. Appropriation on the other hand, is simply taking one aspect of a culture that is not your own and using it for your own personal interest. I hope that refresher helps because I see alot of people wearing our culture as a costume and it is totally wack.
On the flipside of what I am also seeing is this dark mentality over negative influence that you have to tote guns and objectify women to be in Hip-Hop.It is indeed nothing new but still also very weak. We are also seeing so many forms of addiction glorified which is very unfortunate. It is my firm belief that Hip-Hop is a rich culture deeply rooted in the truth. Our testimonies are what guide us and it’s almost spiritual. That something from nothing hustler spirit aspect matched with evolving with purpose and knowledge of self. Our art isn’t to be exploited. To quote the underrated Rhymefest”I know mORE real niggaz that work at U-Haul than hauled crack”. I say this in this blog after seeing the incredible Ozay and Tall Black guy show that I attended and helped promote last week. I saw both the down and the up. It was a beautiful thing to see all shades of colors at the Grandin theatre rocking for the love of hip-hop. It was fantastic to hear authentic Hip-Hop in our little town. To watch my peers and people that I came up with shine next to national recording artists was an absolute joy. HipHop isn’t for everyone but make no mistake it has provided richly to those who were good to it and there is still NO HALF STEPPIN!!!!!!!!!