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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Are you a YBIR (Young Black Indie Rocker)?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 1:32 PM

MTV Hive (and Pitchfork) writer Martin Douglas has posted an excellent essay on what it's like growing up young, black and poor - and loving punk and indie rock.

"When I listened to rock music as a kid, it often felt like I was sneaking past the guards of racial barriers and into a cool party I wasn't invited to," Douglas writes in "The Only Black Guy at the Indie Rock Show." "But I didn't want to feel that way."

Douglas and his dad
  • Douglas and his dad

Douglas recounts typical exchanges he's had at punk shows, like this one between him and a friend of an ex-girlfriend:

Ex's Friend: Oh, hey man! How are you? I kinda thought you'd be here!

Me: I'm doing OK, I guess. Yeah, I couldn't miss this show. TV on the Radio are so great.

Ex's Friend: I figured you would love these guys.

Me: Why's that?

Ex's Friend: Well, because you're black and you like indie music.

And here's some more from the piece:

There was no individual precedent for my love of alternative and punk culture. My family and neighborhood friends all exclusively listened to contemporary rap and R&B, the former not truly capturing my imagination until a year later (Wu-Tang Clan's "C.R.E.A.M." was the rap equivalent of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in terms of opening my eyes to a new world). R&B still doesn't appeal to me.

There's a sense of defiance that comes with liking something you're not "supposed" to like; in a way, I knew I was sabotaging the uniform order among black kids my age. But mostly, it felt like something I could claim for my own, a part of American culture that wasn't handed down to me or illustrated in history books. It wasn't my parents' music. It was something that was happening right now, and regardless of the color lines placed between it and me, it was something that I was a part of.

If you're a music geek or feel like an outsider or misfit of any kind, you'll be doing yourself a disservice if you don't go to this link right now and read the entire piece. And check out this piece I wrote for CL about TV on the Radio in 2009. It includes comments from a Charlotte musician, Thomas Saunders, who expresses sentiments similar to those of Douglas.

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