Wassup y’all? Let’s have a shout-out fo’ all the black heavy metal heroes! (long pause, two or three desultory claps)
Wass wrong wich y’all? C’mon, let’s hear it fo the Bad Brains, and the dude from Cyclone Temple, and that one guy from Sevendust, and…and…
And nothing. Black folks in metal are about as common as white rappers, less actually. It used to be that metal was pretty much an all-guy thing, but that has really changed in recent years. But still as I look at band after band after band I see nothing but white people. What’s with that?
I’m sure there’s nothing malicious about this in the main, the few black guys who have made a metal mark have been accepted without a fuss. Nobody seems to really care about race much in the metal scene. There are exceptions of course, but compared with hardcore ‘gangsta’ rap’s odes to Ho smackin’ and cop killin’ a few Polish guys ranting about the ZOG seems almost quaint. Most of the racist stuff is really in the hardcore scene anyway, which is, interestingly enough, almost entirely in the US, and reviled by the metal community almost as much as the nu-metal scene.
So it’s not that we, as metalheads, intentionally exclude blacks. It just seems that they don’t like metal as much as white guys. I contend that this is because metal is really the whitest music on earth. And I’m not saying that metal is about white people, or promotes one race over another, or should only be played by white people. I’m saying that metal is really a part of white culture, just as rap is a part of black culture, irregardless of race.
Rap grew out of the funk sounds of the 60’s and 70’s, and is a reflection of the culture of the black urban environment it grew out of. It was spawned in dance halls, clubs, and house parties, becoming a coherent sound through the age of mass media and carried through because there is no shortage of young performers weaned on the sound.
Metal grew up at the same time, but reflects a very different culture. Really, the popular culture of the 70’s and 80’s. Specifically, the suburban culture so many of us grew up in. Metal comes out of a world of Saturday morning cartoons, Thor comics, horror novels, monster movies, Conan, Godzilla, and posters by Frank Frazetta. Metal is a part of who we are. Metal – and don’t take this the wrong way – makes me proud to be a white guy. Look at where metal is biggest: the US, Canada, Europe, and Japan – the whitest places on earth. (And if you don’t think the Japanese are white, you should hear their honky pop music – you won’t hear any rap on Tokyo radio.)
So the reason metal is mostly white is because we are who metal speaks to, we are who it is for. We who grew up reading Spider-Man and Robert E Howard, who watched Harryhausen movies on Saturday afternoons and hung Dragonlance posters on the walls and played Dungeons and Dragons until we puked. Metal is Our Music, and I don’t see any reason why we should be ashamed of that. So what if we aren’t ‘hip’ or ‘down’, so what if metal is for geeks: make me a geek, pronto!
I had this dream once: it was Beowulf coming out of the lake in front of Grendel’s cave. Only instead of holding a broken sword over his head, he had a big-ass guitar on which he proceeded to play this fucking cool guitar solo while all the thanes on shore headbanged. It was incredibly stupid, but it was also really cool. The way you can tell if you are metal is if you think that sounds cool too, no matter how stupid it is.
Metal’s not about race, but it is about culture. This is my culture, and I’m allowed to like my culture better than anyone else’s. Metal is my tribe, my clan, and it can be yours too, if it isn’t already. What color you are won’t matter, it’s what’s inside you that counts here. Sometimes I think that’s the real essence of metal – we don’t care what you look like, we care what you are. That’s our culture, that’s our strength.
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