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Anti-Blackness in Alternative Music Spaces



On June 30, 2023 Lil Uzi Vert released their third studio album Pink Tape. Despite this album coming out 4 moths ago, I still get song rankings of the album in my Instagram feed. Across several videos, Werewolf (feat. Bring Me the Horizon), The End (feat. Babymetal), and CS were ranked the lowest songs in the album. I found this consistent negative reception of these songs to be strange for I personally thought the songs were the most innovative in the album. This prompted me to look further into the distaste towards them. The critiques ranged wildly from fans not liking the metal band features to metal purists not liking Uzi’s input on the songs. These critiques basically summed up to the distaste towards the alternative elements being present. This hate towards the Pink Tape songs reminded me of the campaign against Mario Judah. Mario Judah like Lil Uzi Vert is a rapper however, the alternative elements of his music lies within Judah’s singing voice. His voice emulates the twang of a 2000s pop punk artist a la Fall Out Boy. Despite his beats and flow being comparable to other rappers, listeners seem to not be able to get past his Blink-182 vocals. The pattern hostility towards alternative Black creatives continues in examples like, the fans of Doja Cat disliking her persona and music change, the hate levied against Playboi Carti, Lil Nas X, and Tyler the Creator for their alternative fashion styles, and the misogynoir against artists like Rico Nasty and FKA Twigs. These scenarios beg the question: why are alternative music spaces so anti-Black?


Racism in music spaces is not a new phenomenon. In a report by the group, Black Lives in Music, 88% of Black music professionals have experienced direct and indirect racism while in the music industry. These racist attacks range from insensitive microaggressions to outright attacks. Black surveyors reported instances of having to change their appearance to match more Eurocentric beauty standards, or being overlooked in favor for their white peers, or having direct racist remarks levied at them. (BLKLivesinMusic 2021) These issues are prevalent in the music industry as a whole however, these issues compound when we delve specifically into alternative spaces.



Many alternative subcultures specifically focus on whiteness. In these subcultures, blackness is the antithesis to the aesthetic. In an article written by Jamie Sexton he writes that both indie music and film is not written with people of color in mind. He continues to state that as the indie genre was being forged in the 1980s, the genre was hallmarked by the sound of jangly guitars and coy lyrics. Tangentially, the Black music space honed their alternative sounds of rap and techno. These subsets of rap and techno were barred from the title of being indie. (Sexton 2022) Several subgenres revel in their anti-Blackness. Many goth and metal bands sported Nazi iconography. In 1976, Siouxsie Sioux sported a Nazi arm band and was photographed with Japanese imperialist flags. (Langkjær 2013) Although she claimed she wore it as a fashion statement for shock value - which wasn’t an uncommon motif for alternative bands at the time - it doesn’t negate the significance of it.


Aside from outright racism, there are many cross sections of identity that also pose a threat against Black artists. One element includes LGBTQ prejudice. Returning to Lil Uzi Vert’s Pink Tape album, in their song Suicide Doors there is an audio clip of commentator Charleston White attacking Uzi’s music and appearance. In White’s rant he attacks Uzi for wearing nail

polish and dressing more femininely. The trend of male rappers dressing femininely is not a new phenomenon. Artists like Kanye West and Lil B have been sporting skirts since 2011 however, this new wave of negativity towards more expressive and LGBTQ Black male artists comes in the wake of queer panic culture wars. This new era of queerphobia has even affected beloved artists like Frank Ocean.



Additionally, misogynoir affects female Black artists. Singer FKA Twigs struggled with a string of tumultuous relationships with other celebrities. During her struggle, she never gained a base of support. Following her separation with Robert Pattinson she spoke out about how Pattinson’s fans viscously berated her with racist comments during their relationship. She spoke about how she was often compared to monkeys in which it caused her to have a warped perception of her appearance. (McNamara 2021) The level of misogynoir compounds if the female artist is a darker skinned woman. In July of 2020, following a party, Megan Thee Stallion got into a heated argument with Tory Lanez. Megan tried to leave the situation only to be shot by Lanez. Although there was much debate on what caused the shooting, the fact remained - Tory shot Megan. (Coscarelli & Jacobs 2023) After the news released, thousands of people gathered online to make fun of Megan’s plight and outright claim that she deserved it. Although Lanez was sentenced to 10 years in prison, the pain inflicted against Megan by Lanez and strangers remains.



In conclusion, the music world more specifically the alternative music world acts rather harshly towards Black artists. Whether it’s for their sound, appearance, sexuality, or gender, there is always a self-imposed reason to hate against these creatives. Although it is expected to have a gaggle of haters, the hate towards these Black artists is an attack on their foundational identity. As listeners we must foster a culture of understanding and acceptance. We must uplift these creators and come to their aid in perilous times for the hate levied towards them is often extended to the everyday person. There simply is no room for hatred in the creative space.




Sources


BLKLivesinMusic. (2021, September). Being Black in the UK Music Industry: Just the Data Music Industry Professionals - Part 1. Black Lives in Music. https://blim.org.uk/

Sexton. (2022). 'Everything About Being Indie Is All Tied to Not Being Black': Indie Music, Race, and Identity in Medicine for Melancholy and Pariah. Music, Sound and the Moving Image, 16(2), 129–152. https://doi.org/10.3828/msmi.2022.9


Coscarelli, J., & Jacobs, J. (2022, December 13). Here’s what to know about Tory Lanez and Megan Thee Stallion. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/article/tory-lanez-trial-megan-thee-stallion.html


Langkjær, M. A. (2013, September 10). “No Matter How Often I Explain It...”: The Hermeneutics of Siouxsie Sioux’s Swastika-Flashing Style Act Anno 1976 (Not Just Another Study of Swastika Symbolism in Punk). The Saxo Institute. https://saxoinstitute.ku.dk/staff/?pure=en%2Factivities%2Fno-matter-how-often-i-explain-it-the-hermeneutics-of-siouxsie-siouxs-swastikaflashing-style-act-anno-1976-not-just-another-study-of-swastika-symbolism-in-punk%28466ed5e5-7c4f-419e-8a20-47a7d5a19c9c%29.html


McNamara, B. (2021, January 27). FKA Twigs opened up about “deeply horrific” racism from Robert Pattinson fans when they dated. Teen Vogue. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/fka-twigs-racism-from-robert-pattinson-fans


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