The Only Black Chick in the Mosh Pit

by Tami Winfrey Harris

At a stoplight on a northbound number six bus, the driver–a 30ish African-American man–leaned back:

“Watchu listening to?”

I spared a glance out the window at people along Michigan Avenue enjoying a sunny, Sunday afternoon, self-consciously touched my ear buds and told the truth:

“Eric Clapton.”

“Eric Clapton!” The bus driver crowed, bemused. Snort. “Haven’t you ever heard of [insert laundry list of appropriately black musicians and music here]?”

I love music and every memory in my life has its own eclectic mix tape. My life score features genres from American roots music to zydeco, but it is a little more White Stripes than Barry White. Two things I know to be true: A whining, sinuous guitar will make me tingle like Chris Matthews’ leg. And, as a black woman, I’ll inevitably get shit for my shivers.

Music journalist and race blogger Laina Dawes understands. In her soon-to-be-released book, What Are You Doing HereA Black Womans Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal, Dawes “questions herself, her headbanging heroes, and dozens of black punk, metal, and hard rock fans to answer the knee-jerk question she’s heard a hundred times in the small clubs where her favorite bands play.”

So, You Think You’re White?

White acts have long mined the work of black performers for inspiration. And hip-hop’s juggernaut status has even more to do with suburban, white kids than inner-city black ones. Dawes points out that white music lovers could always “head to Harlem or over to the local juke joint” to enjoy music traditionally created and performed by African-Americans. Meanwhile, black folks crossing the racial divide, embracing music forms traditionally seen as white (even those that owe their existence to black music), remains taboo — and not just due to pressure from outside of the black community.

I can’t count the number of times over the years that my musical tastes have caused my black card to be pulled. And I don’t even get down with hardcore rock. Dawes says the push back that rock-loving blacks get from within the African-American community can be attributed to the “fragility and history of black cultural identity.” It is hard to be black, even in these allegedly post-racial times, and Dawes notes that there is a lot of resentment toward African-Americans who appear to be rejecting their race and culture, and distancing themselves from the community, in favor of an easier route — even if that “easy route” is just loving the same music as white folks do.

In her book, Dawes shares the story of Pisso, a black female fan of the punk subgenre, Oi!. In Berlin after college, Pisso joined the skinhead scene — an involvement that is not, by the way, synonymous with white power or Nazism. But her family found her musical choices at odds with her West Indian heritage, as well as other norms of race, gender, and sexuality.

“A big part of West Indian culture is to present yourself in a nice way: always clean, nice clothes. When I switched from punk to being a skinhead, my mom definitely noticed when I shaved my head. I had gone over to a friend’s house and to do it, and when I got home, she freaked out. She was very upset, like I had shaved her hair. She was also worried for years that I might be a lesbian. I was really tomboyish, wearing boys’ clothes and playing sports, so [my] cutting off my hair probably just cemented all of those fears she had.

“With my dad, it was definitely more of a problem,” she adds. “He actually stopped talking to me from the time I was fifteen until I was like, 20-something. He eventually told me that he didn’t like that I was into that ‘punk stuff.’”

Race matters add complication to what should be joyous. In What Are You Doing Here?, Mashadi Matabane of Emory University, who is writing a cultural history of black women electric guitarists in U.S. popular music and maintains the blog Steely Dames, says:

“When I was a kid I loved New Kids on the Block. Everybody had something to say about it—my grandfather, my mother, the kids at school—all of them were always clear that I was not the right kind of black girl. No matter what I did, it wasn’t enough. That parochial blackness is as dangerous as hell … It steals your joy.

“It’s something that infects our minds and our decision-making process, because it forces you to always think, ‘What are they thinking about me now?’ If someone asks you a question, like, ‘What kind of music are you writing about?’ or ‘What concert you are going to?’ before you even answer you are processing the expected response — ‘What are people going to say?’

“You have practiced the response, practiced talking about it to beat them to the punch. It’s this extra layer that hovers over us and has the potential to cut off what it really means to be black.”

What are you doing here?

Make no mistake. It is not just the African-American community that is uncomfortable with black people embracing alternative music genres. Said one interviewee, “I once dated a white guy who grew up in a black neighborhood and was trying to be ‘down,’ and he yelled at me for listening to Led Zeppelin: ‘Don’t you listen to any black music? Why do you listen to that white music for?’ — the funniest thing I ever heard.”

Live shows are a crucial part of the metal scene, and many black metalheads avoid concerts, for both their peace of mind and safety. Dawes says that reception by mostly white music fans depends on the band, the venue, and the city. “People may not give you a second look or they may say not very nice things to make you feel uncomfortable. I wouldn’t go to a metal show in Boston, but Chicago has a great scene. There are a lot of black women into metal in Chicago.”

More millennial black, female fans of punk, metal, and hard rock — a generation with greater access to multiracial groups of friends — are recognizing their right to enjoy the music they love, in the spaces where it is played. But too many still feel the need to keep the rock love on the low, just as they did 30 years ago. Dawes says, “I spoke to a lot of black kids who said, ‘Yeah, I’m really into metal, but don’t tell anybody. I can’t be interviewed and I don’t go to shows, because I’m afraid of being beaten up.

“There is still the fear of rejection.”

Black metal and punk performers also often lack support within the music industry  – in black spaces and white. Dawes tells the story of a black hardcore band who grabbed the interest of a record label, until the group showed up for a meeting and was decidedly browner that their demo led execs to believe. They were sent home.

“We just can’t market you.”

So, why bother?

All music lovers gravitate toward sound that moves both their asses and their souls. Rock speaks to Dawes and the women interviewed in her book (including Skin of Skunk Anansie — see video above). Some of these women, many of whom are members of the hip-hop and MTV generations, also enjoy traditionally black forms of music, but there is something special to them about metal, punk, and hard rock — something liberating that speaks directly to their womanhood and blackness, and the oppressions inherent in both. Says Dawes, “The live show is such a fantastic place to feel alive, to express your anger and to feel all those things that black women are asked to repress. We aren’t supposed to be angry and loud or aggressive. [Hardcore] rock shows are where I feel free to release my frustration.”

When the author was younger, she says, she missed sharing this release with her black, female friends, who were disinterested in her favored genres. She wrote What Are You Doing Here?, in part, to find other women who understand this feeling, to lend support to the lone black rock chicks and provide them an opportunity to roar.

“I wanted people to know that these musical genres are diverse. There should be no gender and color barriers to music.”

Many black, female fans find liberation from racialized and gendered stereotypes in the raging, screeching, and grinding of hardcore music and spaces.

“Society allows white guys to utilize this music to get their aggressions out, act like He-Man and go crazy. The same benefits they get out of the music, black women not only get, but need even more. Black women need spaces in society where we can be free and express our individuality and be who we want to be.”


  • prettyd

    story of my life…

  • Gigi Young

    Oh, I can relate. I don’t listen to metal, but I love indie rock, and I spent years hiding my “nontraditional” music tastes from friends and family until I decided I didn’t care what they thought. And I’ve had the whole white friend who listen to “black” music look at my sideways thing too.

  • Candi83

    When I was younger I would get all kinds of looks from cousins because I was into ’80′s music of all kinds of genres. I used to feel self conscious about it but now I just don’t care if you think I’m weird or a sell out. I used to listen to New Kids on the Block too and no one batted an eye in my family (my background is West Indian too). I guess some families are different.
    I’m into all kinds of music but I do like some metal like Metallica, Motely Crue or Living Color. I was exposed to all kinds of music growing up, so listening to these bands bring back some good memories.
    I’m not too much into the punk scene but I do understand the feeling of being questioned as to why you listen to ‘white music’. At the end of the day. music has no color. I listen to what makes me happy.

  • Candi83

    I understand people looking at any black woman funny that listens to music outside of hip hop, r&b and reggae. I listen to those types of music and many other genres. When I was younger I cared about peoples opinions but now I could care less. I listen to what makes me happy.
    I listen to old songs by Metallica, Motley Crue, Guns ‘n’ Roses (Appetite for Destruction) and Living Color. Listening to those bands brings back some good memories.
    I used to love New Kids On the Block too and no one in my family batted an eye (my background is West Indian too). Heck!! My dad went out and bought the record Hangin’ Tough and bought my sister and I t-shirts. I guess some families are different. *shrug*

  • OSHH

    My ears have always been atuned to great music, regardless of genre, since I was a child. You’ll find me listening to anything from Patsy Cline to Soundgarden to Herb Alpert to Bebel & Astrud Gilberto to Debussy to Marvin Gaye to WuTang to Zero7 etc. Thats the beauty of the art form known as music. It transcends race, time etc

  • C

    I couldn’t care less what people think of what’s on my iPod. I like all types of music. I just can’t limit myself to what is supposed to be r&b and soul, and I can’t bring myself to buy or listen to most rappers. Most people who think you shouldn’t listen to certain music because it’s not black enough are the people who think they have to dress or sound a certain way when they speak.

  • gwaan gyal

    I can relate. I was a big raver in middle/high the height of it..late 90s..early 2000s.
    I still love dance music. I get those comments a lot now b/c I LOVE acid jazz..thievery corporation, the dining rooms, etc

  • OSHH

    Not only that C, I feel sad for them because they are missing out on a world full of great music/art/food/experiences. Take the limits off!!!!

  • Tami (Clutch Contributor)

    Thanks everyone for your comments. I think the great thing about growing older is that you develop your “don’t give a fuck” muscles. :) You learn to love what you love and anyone who doesn’t like it can kick rocks.

    That said, I stopped my Spotify from posting to my Facebook timeline. No one needs to know how many time I listened to “Call Me, Maybe” this summer. I swear Carly Rae Jepsen is the devil. That song is way too catchy.

  • Yb

    *Waits for the comments demeaning black people who prefer to delve in black culture, the comments from their child hood saying they were made fun of for acting white………*

  • Ms. Information

    First EricClapton…”Old Love” is the business…Erykah Badu used the tune for “Tyrone”…..I have been to several concerts where I was the only Black person along with a friend and I am completely comfortable with it….Alanis Morisette at the Tabernacle next ;)

  • ?!?

    Oh the acting black crew and the race inclusion board are always funny. I think she hit the nail on the head about how black people feel you are rejecting blackness or trying to take the easy way out by acting white or doing things white people do. This is why “acting white” is supposed to be such an insult. People see you as trying to do things that white people do not because you could possibly just enjoy hard rock, opera, skateboarding, or Shakespeare or something but because you want to be accepted by white people, move into their circle, and drop your blackness like how some successful black people do.

    I listened to pop music when I was younger. No one cared really. I think a lot of black girls were listening to NSync and Britney Spears and people like them. I think genres like rock and classical music are seen as white more than pop. It’s funny because black folks contributed greatly to rock n roll but some black folks will look at you sideways for enjoying The Beatles who were influenced by black entertainers.

    Usually I don’t really care what the acting black crew thinks is black enough. They are pretty close minded. If I try to listen to music outside of hip hop, R&B, should, or reggae, I’m acting white. If I want to learn ballroom dancing or ballet, I’m acting white.even iIf I try to learn about other non-white cultures or do yoga or listen to K-pop, I’m also acting white. Why is it that white folks listen to Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Whitney Houston, Kanye West, Beyonce and other black artists, but folks black and white get upset or shocked when black people try to take in other folks’ music or culture? Those white people that listen to hip hop aren’t acting black, and we aren’t acting white.

  • ivorp

    I’m sort of on the fence with this article, it’s IMO the classic African American that has eclectic taste in all things pop culture yet some how believes themselves an intraculturl oddity. I find this perspective disheartening as it paints our folks as a monolith with limited thought processes et al…pcs

  • Tami (Clutch Contributor)

    I’m curious, Yb–Do you not believe that some young black people are demeaned for behavior, including musical tastes, not commonly classified as black? You seem exasperated by the idea of folks sharing that experience.

    I don’t think that Laina, myself or any of the women quoted have any problem with black culture or traditionally black music. We simply like other things, too.

  • Tami (Clutch Contributor)

    Thanks for your comment, ivorp.

    Black folks are not a monolith. I agree. But I think that we can’t deny the experiences of some black people, simply so we can present a diverse picture of blackness to the world.

    Do I know a lot of other black women with eclectic music tastes? You bet! I am obsessed with that game, Song Pop (it’s kinda like Name That Tune), and I get my butt kicked in the rock categories by other black women on the regular. But did a lot of those black women grow up getting demeaned for their interests? Yes, to that, too. And is that still happening somewhere to some black kid? Unfortunately, yes.

    I think all of these things can be true at once. And I think it’s okay to talk about it. Whenever topics like these come up, I sense some people’s defensive exasperation. (Not you, just sayin…) “Ugh, are we gonna have to talk about how you got told you ‘act white’ again?” But the reality is, a lot of black women were told that and were beaten down by that and we should discuss it as a community.

  • OSHH

    @ YB black culture is always homebase!

  • sholla21

    And their opinion is irrelevant. I don’t understand why people think they have the right to micro-manage others lives. They must be bored with their own.

  • Yb

    Of course, Tami. Many black people are ridiculed for liking and enjoying thing outside of black culture. I should know being a fan of Anime, Manga, and cosplaying. And nowhere did I condemn you and Lania for sharing your experiences.

    The issues that I have with the whole “I was made fun of acting white” spiel is the I’m better than you, more cultured mentally, anti black sentiments that usually come with this discussion.

    I’m not accusing you of acting that way but in real life conversations and on blogs many black people exhibit this behavior, making them no better then the other black people scolding them for not only being of black culture.

    Just like those black people being made fun of for being “too white”, there also people look down upon and mocked for being “too black.” Many people seem to forget that.

  • Tami (Clutch Contributor)

    First, I should have said before: Thank you for commenting.

    Yeah, I get how comments could go that way. I’ve seen it, too. But I have to say that more often than seeing black people with eclectic interests believing they are better than other African Americans, I have seen people PROJECTING that idea onto people who talk about eclectic interests.

    I also notice that whenever this topic arises, some people project this defensive exasperation. I don’t think anyone forgets that people are ridiculed for being “too black.” We see it every day. Racism is underpinned by the idea that black is inferior and one can have too much blackness. The whole “that’s so ‘ghetto’” phenomenon is predicated on this idea, too.

    But I think talking about the ways we police each other for not having traditionally black interests negates any of the above. I hope we can talk about both.

    Thank you for clarifying your position. As I said below, I initially read it to mean that you felt people talking about the idea of “acting white” was demeaning to black culture.

  • ivorp

    I am pleasantly surprised by your reply to my post. And your point is duly noted, however wouldn’t you agree that our folk, infact most of the world is inundated with alternative-genres/imagery via TV,the www, cinema etc? In in that respect our tastes invariably become eclectic so much so that we often neglect and embrace the beauty, history and cultural significance of what we contribute to the world? I have young children in my family who while they attend diverse school systems they’ve adopted this same train of thought when I find it a non issue…thanks for the thought provoking discourse and your well written piece! pcs

  • apple

    personally i love all sorts of music..except country… i mean i have maybe 4 country songs on my ipod but i just can’t get into it. i know people will judge me because of it.. but i like rap too.. the old kind.. but i also love dark rock music..i was into indie music once..and techno and electronica..i listened to alot of blues when i was having a rough time ,and billie holiday when i was having more rough time.. my musical taste is always evolving and with the world changing ipod i can have it all at once.. right now i’m on trip hop..very dark beats over a bit hip beats.. and nu-metal which is rock over hip hop is like therapy for me :-) .. i feel like those who judge any music that isn’t within their “culture” are close minded people stuck in their ways and not the kind of people i associate with.

  • Stephanie

    I’m going through this right now. But… with the KPOP music scene. I’ll soon be 35 and I Iove all the new music that is coming out of South Korea, particularly right now ( mostly from music factories that work young, trained kids to pieces ). Nonetheless, when I tell my friends and family that I’m into KPOP, I get the “side eye” …and then a loud “you can’t even speak Korean!” …but thats not the point. I like kpop because of the way it makes me feel. The music is fun, danceable, energetic, its like American pop music on steroids! lol… i love it! It reminds me of boy bands and screaming for my favorite person in the group. My dad used to tell me when I watched MTV to turn that white music off. I never did, shoot, I listened to just as much Barry White as I did White Snake! …now-a-days, I can get in the car with my dad and pop in a KPOP cd and he starts singing along and bobbing his head ,,,and he can’t understand Korean either :D

  • Keke

    I used to get crazy looks and derision from some all the time growing up. I was into Marilyn Manson, Garbage, Smashing Pumpkins, and a whole list of musical acts that were non-black. But I was also into alternative Black singers and artists like Res, Imani Coppola, Morcheeba and Meshell N’DgeoCello. People would lose their minds when they would come across my playlists. They’d be like “What the heck are you into? Oh, you must date them white boys.” As if the only reason I could like music other than hip-hop or R&B is because of a guy. Even though all my boyfriends growing up were Black. I just liked what I liked.

    I remember once when I was 15 I fell in love with classical and experimental music. I especially loved Yanni. I told my mom I wanted “Yanni: Live at the Acropolis,” and she thought it was some rapper. Imagine my mother’s surprise when she had to bypass all the hordes of kids with their parents in the pop/rap/hip-hop sections and go to the dusty, oft-forgotten classical and neo-classical section to find it. She was disturbed and embarrassed because all the other Black parents were trying to figure out why her daughter wanted to listen to a CD with some White guy on the cover. LOL!!

    Even now my playlist is super eclectic. But I don’t tie my musical tastes to how authentic I am a Black woman.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    back in the day we had something called the black rock coalition.
    black people who played and listened to rock.
    i was in it.

  • Tami (Clutch Contributor)

    Alanis! I am jealous! I love her acoustic redo of Jagged Little Pill. It stays in heavy rotation on my iPhone.

  • Keke

    You’d be surprised how close minded some individuals can be, in spite of us living in such a “progressive,” age. In fact, my friend’s son who lives on the West Side of Chicago, came to me and whispered “Can I get some of the songs on your mp3 player? I really want that Foo Fighters song.” He was all quiet about it because he told me his family and friends had been harassing him about “acting white.” He was tired of trying to explain why he enjoyed listening to different genres and feeling like he had to apologize for being “different.”

    The truth is, this attitude is prevalent because hegemonic structures have always dictated what is for “us,” and “them.” And it’s not limited to race, it can be a mingling of different forms of discrimination including socio-economic status. For example, before 1950 or so, only “rich” people went on holiday in certain areas of the world, and only upper class people traveled to places to Malaysia or vacationed in Milan. Just recently Black athletes were often steered towards basketball, football and track, and it’s only now that we’re seeing Black faces in tennis and gymnastics.

    Basically, this attitude was shaped and created by systems outside our communities that have been co-opted and perpetuated both outside and within those same communities. Studying these processes are important in breaking down barriers and destroying stereotypes. Sorry for the rant. :-)

  • deb

    I’ll NEVER apologize for my taste in music. Punk, post-hardcore, emo, screamo, indie. artists and bands kept me from going over the edge when I was an insecure, clinically depressed teenager. That’s what I inherently clinged to for dear life when noone was there for me and when I had abandoned myself. Yes I get some flack from other people of color and the scene has it’s issues but music itself means so much to me and overpowers all that.

  • Keke

    Yes!!! I love Soundgarden and Zero 7! I use to blast “Black Hole Sun,” and my family would be like 0.o. And yes, I love Wu-Tang too. Especially “Killer Bees.” :-)

  • Tami (Clutch Contributor)

    Yeah, I like to think it’s getting better. In the book, Laina writes about how the internet and new media has opened up a lot of musical genres. Any kid can be exposed to and get access to any music. In theory, that should lessen some of the stigma associated to black kids listening to “white music.” Also, I think more kids have access to multiracial groups of friends.

    But she noted she still found that young people felt they had to hide their interests from black friends and family, and also not take part in live shows because of reception from white people.

    I can only speak from my experiences, but I would love to talk to girls and young women to hear what their experiences are today. You’d think it would be better.

  • Rue

    Back in the day black people invented rock

  • The Comment

    Hey James. Wanted to say you were soo right when you famously said if the black vote wasn’t important…why are they trying to suppress it. Saw the Rev. Al Sharpton talk about the case in Philly where they have a two week waiting period before you get your voter Id. Crazy stuff.

  • Roses

    *cues “Monks”*

    I always admired folks that could get carried away in and enjoy mosh pits, regardless of race….They look like fun but dangerous as hell lol….Rock Music isn’t entirely my thing, but I’ve had and still have some favs that I can jump into the virtual mosh pit in my head to :)

  • The Comment

    I hate that I missed out on the marsh pit. If I tried it now I’d have to have the paramedics and a case of Icy-Hot waiting for me.

    Anyways. With over a billion musical artist in the world, why is there soo much pressure to listen to the same artist over and over and over and over$$$$$$

  • libpatriot

    The only one? I attended Woodstock 94, Lalapoola and followed the Dead for years. Ride the wave!!

  • jamesfrmphilly

    that was before my time……..

  • jamesfrmphilly

    i think everyone should listen to miles davis every day…..

  • Ravi

    In my classroom, I used to play all types of music that I know my students weren’t regularly exposed to. I got about a 50% acceptance rate initially with many more deciding that it was ok to like something different as time went on. It was an interesting experience seeing how I could help reshape conceptions of blackness with high school students through the use of System of a Down, Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, etc.

  • Cee Cee

    Black Hole Sun!!! LOVED that song and the video was the BEST!

  • Cee Cee

    I had a coworker borrow my ipod one day and he came back so confused. I like everything from Kirk Franklin, Billy Joel, Biggie, Brittney Spears, Chicago, Johnny Cash, Dinah Washington, Carol King, Elton John, Beyonce, and on and on. I love it all and growing up people would tell me I liked “white” music…used to bother me then but I don’t care now! I have yet to get into punk or metal, mostly because I don’t like loud music but I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to be in a mosh pit!

  • Cee Cee

    Glad I wasn’t the only one secretly indulging in “Call me, Maybe”!

  • k-jo

    I was a New Kids On The Block fan back in middle school. This was back when MC Hammer and Kid and Play were THE in artists to listen to. I was always into “white music” and i didn’t care who knew about it. >.> I used to cart my NKOTB fangirl magazines to school and proudly show them off. Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Beck, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice In Chains..the list goes on and on. To this day all my friends know that I am a black rock n roll chick. I’ve done the mosh pit thing more times than i can count and yeah i did get more than a few “um i think you’re in the wrong place” kind of looks but nothing more. I don’t care. I get in there and jam with the people. I’m 35 now so my mosh pit days are now behind me. I leave the mosh pit to the next generation of black women who can’t stop, won’t stop (rocking).

  • Blue

    I listen to all types of music but I never understood why people enjoy moshing. I knew this one girl who always had her arm in a sling from moshing. She enjoyed every bit of it. You wouldn’t catch me letting someone ram their body into me. They’ll be a fight going on. I’d stomp a mud hole in em.

  • KristinaT

    I love all of that so called “white folk music” and it’s hard to find other black people that don’t look at me crazy when they hear the music I listen to.

    I attended all black schools so I had a extra hard time finding friends that had the same interest as me. I also like anime, video games, comic books ect… The very first concert I went to see was Kill switch Engage, a band that up until recently, had a black front-man.

  • paul


    *Waits for the comments demeaning black people who prefer to delve in black culture, the comments from their child hood saying they were made fun of for acting white………*

    Words out of my mouth.

    Funny how they never “diversify” into Ethnic African music. I don’t see any mention of music from the Continent, no Afrobeats Juju Sakara – etc

    Not being monolithic always seems to end up being about doing something white.


    They’ve really tryna convince themselves . . . .

  • Pseudonym

    I on the fame fence with this article. I think it’s definitely a valid perspective, however, the tone of these “I’m an eclectic unique black woman who does ‘non-black things’ and this makes me an anomaly” articles tend to come off as self-aggrandizing navel-gazing. It may because they often don’t seem to have a purpose other than to “big up” oneself- there’s no attempt to appeal to readers who stay within the ‘black box” or even show genuine support for those who don’t and feel alone.

    And there are so many of them on Clutch since the rise of the “Awkward Black Girl.” I think it’s getting overwhelming.

    Anywhoo, black people definitely listen to a variety of music- just look at the variety of songs sampled to make rap songs. Also, West Indian party playlists tend to have more diversity b/c when they listen to music from the States, it seems to be all bundled as “American music” and they’re spared the US racial hangups about “what white people do” versus “what black people do.” Her family’s reaction is probably less about the music she was listening to and more about not having a conservative appearance.

  • Pseudonym

    yESSSSS!!!! and for some reason I can’t recognize it until the chorus, so I happily sing the first verse and face palm myself when “Hey, I just met you….” starts.

  • dirtychai

    I think some of our people are just suffering from a deficiency in how deep Black culture, esp. Black music really is. I was driving with a friend playing Gil Scott-Heron’s last album and she goes “There you go with that White music again.” The previous time was hearing Coltrane playing at my house. She felt that was “White music” as well.
    My point is that if it hasn’t played on HOT 97 or FOXY 104 — whatever– a lot of people are just not receptive to it. If that’s what you like, that’s fine, but hide behind the “that’s White” defense when it’s something that freaks you out because it’s unfamiliar.
    At some point much of it –rock, punk, folk, bluegrass– was Black music and it still takes soul and the necessity of expression to play it well.

  • binks

    Agreed! I just love good music period. Though I still get the “white music” thing I just shrug it off and continue exploring while they are stuck on one thing.

  • Lainad

    Pseudonym, I speak for myself and the other women I interviewed for the book: they are not “self-aggrandizing, navel-gazing” women. They are people who grew up having access to the same music and culture as their peers – some white, some not and chose to diversify their musical and cultural tastes. I think we should celebrate “Awkward Black Girl” and Quirky Black Girls because they show how diverse our experiences are.This book is focused on people involved in the extreme, underground musical scenes, scenes where there are very few people of colour, which makes their stories interesting and unique. But do they get off on it, and expect a cookie? Definitely not. Thanks for reading.

  • Tami (Clutch Contributor)

    As long as you didn’t play Nickelback. NO ONE should listen to Nickelback.

  • deb

    i almost got into a moshpit at a mastadon show but my glasses got broken just being 5 feet away! I never do mosh pits at hardcore or metal shows…you only see really, really, really brave girls in those haha…

  • lola_zoly

    1. Broken Hearted Girl – Beyonce
    2. One sweet day – Boyz II Men (ft. Mariah Carey)
    3. Gyal a bubble – Konshens
    4. 4AM – Melanie Fiona
    5. Alane – Wes
    6. Bad to di bone – Brick & Lace
    7. Bend Over – Machel Montano
    8. Estelle – Thank You
    9. Enya – Sail Away
    10. J’ai depose les clefs – Jocelyn Labille
    11. Jim Screechi – Spice
    12. Lambada – Kaoma
    13. Lullabies – Yuna
    14. Mon Ami la Rose – Natasha Atlas
    15. Perfect Decision – Vivian Green
    16. Laissez nous chanter – Emile & Image
    17. Sambolera Mayi Son – Khadja Nin
    18. Snap back & Tattoos – Driicky Graham
    19. Kiss Kiss – Tarkan
    20. The heart of the matter – India Arie
    21. I miss you – Blink 182
    22. Now we are free – Lisa Gerrard
    23. Return to innocence – Enigma
    24. Laissez nous chanter – Emile & Image
    25. Ramalama bang bang – roisin murphy
    26. where have you been – Rihanna
    27. I will do anything for you – Snow, Nadine Sutherland, etc
    28. Ya Rayan – Rachid Taha

    And the list goes on, and on, and on… and you get the picture. Nothing’s wrong with liking different genres of music and I don’t care what people think….
    But I agree with YB and the few others, at times, people do it, not because they actually like this music, but because they want to show that they don’t like “urban” music…

  • deb

    “Funny how they never “diversify” into Ethnic African music.”

    Really and you know this…how?

  • MurkyEarth

    Try being a black girl that loves Asian music!

    I used to get ‘You’re trying to be Chinese!” because by default any Asian is Chinese. I love love LOVE Kpop/KrnB Jpop/JRnB/Jrock and I’ve even moved on to German, Russian and Estonian music on top of good ol’ fashion American rock. I’ll listen to anything that sounds good to me of any genre, any lanaguage any time. If it has a beat and I can (attempt to) dance to it, I’ll listen to it. We don’t have to limit ourselves because we’re black.

  • ?!?

    LOL. I used to listen to Nickelback when I was in high school. It’s still on my mp3 player.

    Sometimes their songs pop up when my mp3 player is on shuffle and I wonder what the heck did I like about them.

  • ?!?

    Yes. I think a lot of younger African Americans have no idea how much we have contributed to the music of this country and the world. They also don’t know about genres of music by black people outside of hip hop, R&B, jazz, blues and soul. It’s kind of embarrassing how folks react to certain genres of music as if we have no business listening to it when black folks were very involved in that genre.

    I was watching a video on YouTube of some white folks doing the lindy hop or some type of swing dancing, and somebody black commented and said white folks do some crazy stuff or something like that SMH. The video poster had to correct him, educate him about his own culture, and direct him to Wikipedia.

  • Ms. Information

    Yes!! I have been waiting since I was 16 to see her!!! Too excited!

  • Yb

    Nah. Black girls that like K-Pop just have a really bad rap. Some of the self hating, low self esteem, yellow fever, Asian fetishing, put up with anti-blackness and cultural appropriation black K-Pop fans ruined it for all the others.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    you need smarter friends……..

  • gg

    check out the d’angelo cover of “black hole sun”

  • Seriously?

    I used to be confuse for a bit but ultimately I enjoy letting people know I enjoy “non black shows/music” the shock value use to amuse me. I use to act a lil more eccentric just to even prove a point. Just to categorize music I enjoy with a few words I use to say “my music is like vomit” a lil bit of everything

  • Junie

    Tell It! I think that the Hallyu wave is the next genre to make quite a few black girls feel small. Even if some artists do see real success in the States, we’re still going to be looked at by nearly everyone in a weird way for participating,

  • Bree

    My iPod is mostly filled with Dixie Chicks, James Taylor, Sara Bareilles, Kelly Clarkson, Ray Charles, Norah Jones, and Frank Sinatra. I was more excited to see James Taylor and the Foo Fighters playing at the DNC convention than Mary J. Blige, so I know the feeling all too well. I’m an only child so when I used to hang out with my cousins I thought I had to overcompensate and like the same music they did, i.e. rap and R&B. Although, some of the rap and R&B songs were catchy, they didn’t come close to my love of NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and Britney. (In my defense, I was young and have moved out of the Britney phase, but still love my old Backstreet Boys and NSYNC.)

    Even more recently, I had a class last semester in African American studies (obviously, it was predominantly black) and when the professor asked about songs that we liked because of the lyrics, I knew the song I wanted to talk about, but was afraid to raise my hand for fear of being mocked. I wasn’t sure how the Dixie Chicks’ “The Long Way Around” would go over when they were mostly bringing Kanye West and Erykah Badu into the mix. I even had a discussion section for the same course where I couldn’t contribute anything as they talked about the decline/commercialization of rap music. I just kept glancing at my watch waiting for class to end, so I could stop being so uncomfortable.

  • lynn

    I LOVE me some rock music. Everything from Chuck Berry and Elvis (you want your black card pulled? Try being a black person who admits to liking Elvis) up through Hendrix, Cream, 60s garage, Santana, Led Zeppelin, Allman Brothers, the Clash, Metallica. . . and hundreds of other bands too numerous to mention. I’ve been digging this stuff since I was a wee little kid in the 70s, the era of the Great Guitar Solo (and I’ve got the lousy hearing to prove it). Long live rock!

  • J

    I loved this article. :-) I’m black, and I love rock music. But my real weakness is early 80s British synth pop! So if you ever want to discuss Duran Duran or Depeche Mode in detail, let me know, lol! Like someone said in one of the posts, my musical tastes are like vomit- a little bit of everything. Check out “Black People who like rock music” on Facebook (yes, I’m plugging my own page, lol!) It’s been going a few years now.

  • Candi83

    I love Depeche Mode!!! My fav songs are Lie to me, Everything counts and Strangelove ’88 :)

  • cupcakes and shiraz

    This is news to me, as I’ve never heard black people scold each other for acting “too black”. Maybe acting “too ghetto”, but that usually has more to do with class than with race.

    I’ve heard blacks scold each other for acting white though.

  • J

    Ooops, there’s another FB page out there that has the same name as my own, and it has more members too, lol!. I’ll rename mine, and then post it again here. Meanwhile, feel free to join the other “Black people who like rock music” page. :-)

  • Ravi

    I used to like Nickelback before I started teaching. That was well over a decade ago. I never subjected my students to any of that.

  • J

    :-) My favourites are “Everything Counts”, “Shake the Disease”, and “Strangelove”.

  • JC

    You need to get over yourself.

    I’m tired of black people crying woe is me, I don’t follow the (assumed) mold and (many) other black people don’t immediately praise me. Who cares, do what you enjoy (assuming you are not hurting anyone) and don’t do it for praise or acceptance.

    I don’t mention the black people that try to force other black people into molds. If you are not smart enough to realize that the walls of the box are imaginary, until you become enlightened, I’m not going to waste time arguing with you.

    I would write more, but I ran out of ****s to give.

  • Tami (Clutch contributor)

    Duran Duran for the win! I was a “Nick girl.”

  • Tami (Clutch contributor)

    Love the Dixies and “The Long Way Around” is my favorite of their albums. I also highly rec their documentary “Shut Up and Sing.”

  • Chase

    this here, is my entire high school career. thank you!

  • bklynqn

    Actually in some caribbean islands they flood to the dance floor when a country music song comes on . And I’m not talking taylor Swift, I’m talking Crystal Gale and Pattie Page

  • Keke

    Oh, please. I enjoy everything from Ladysmith Black Mambazo choir, Papa Fololo, to gumboot stomping, to Fela Kuti, to songs like DJ Arafat’s “Boudha.” I enjoy ALL kinds of different music, even Bharatnatyam I’m down with. Even when I play that kind of music folks still judge, or they’ll be like “Are you from there?” And when I say no, they wonder why I’d listen to it. I don’t care what people think about why I listen to what I do. I just know that certain songs speak to me and make me feel something. That’s what I’m looking for, not a pat on the back.

  • leah

    Thank you for writing this! It’s lonely and hard being an African-American woman who would rather listen to Iggy Pop and the Stooges over Kanye West any day, LOL. Really, I have eclectic tastes and it shocks not only people in the community, but those from other races such as Hispanics, Asians, and Whites.

  • apple

    do you wanna treat honey?

  • apple

    lol why does everyone hate nickelback .. like i secretly like a lot of their songs but i dont tell nobody because everyone hates them for a reason i don’t know 0_0

  • NY’s Finest

    I’ve always been ridiculed for my taste in music. The first concert I attended was Aerosmith for my fourteenth birthday. I just like music and I never really cared what anyone’s opinion was on what I chose to listen to.

  • B

    I love Paramore, My chemical romance, Panic!At the Disco. Muse, and more. I am not ashamed.

  • T

    Honestly I could just hug this article! This was totally the story of my life, although I never liked New Kids On the Block I was totally all about Soundgarden and Pearl Jam! It never stopped me loving black music too, I am also of Caribbean heritage so there was gonna be no escaping roots reggae or ska!
    I don’t understand why people think you can only be into one kind of music and if you like rock/ grunge/ metal your being white and therefore can’t possibly like r&b, reggae, and hip hop! Good music doesn’t come in one genre only!

  • k-jo

    Are you kidding me? I love Elvis! and all those 60′s and 70′s guitar gods, as well. Can’t forget Johnny Cash, too. He’s not country- He’s Johnny Cash.

    Rock on!

  • Adanma Judith Nwaigbo

    Roger that!

  • creolechic

    I am of eclectic tastes as well especially punk, rock, old country, and folk. My answer to those who poo-poo my music is, “Almost all American music is Black music- we invented rock n’ roll anyway!” That usually shuts folks up instantly.

  • Sanura Hart

    Exactly. They place themselves in such tiny boxes because they are afraid of what people think. They are also the same people who don’t bother to learn how to swim or skate because “black people don’t do that!” How sad is that

  • Sanura Hart

    :D I love Kpop too!

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    I have listened to, watched, and enjoyed everything and so did a lot of the black people I grew up with. It is only recently I have been hearing people being teased for something like this.

    I am curious about the level of teasing that took place. Was it bullying or one or two jokes as you all played around the swings. I worry that as black people we are so committed to our identity as victims that we often cast ourselves as victims or exaggerate how impacted we were to remain in our comfort zone.

  • Tonia

    Your iPod sounds like mine!

  • Tonia

    You sound like my 13 year old son. I try to support his interests.

  • Sanura Hart

    I never cared what others thought of my music tastes

  • BriA

    Thankfully I’ve never cared what people thought of my music taste which included Visual-Kei/JRock, Kpop some spanish music, now Indie music and rock like Nico Vega lol……but thankfully I had great friends in HS who didn’t care lol

  • Grace

    I’d say it was full on bullying.The problem is we seem to believe our bullying is some special circumstance that wouldn’t have happened within different cultures. If you loved hardcore music and had an eclectic appearance you would have been considered an outlier in most places. It might have been easier to find people with the same interests as you in all white schools but most times you’re just admitting you were one of the Freaks and Geeks in H.S. They’re rarely accepted fully and a minority anywhere. And I’m not throwing any shade with that. I was a proud MTG and D&D playing, Depeche Mode and Bauhaus listening goth girl. Hey I’d still dress the same way if I could keep my job. But I’m not going to hold anything against a Shanice when it’s the same thing a Heather would’ve done to me growing up.

  • Nadia Carmon

    I love a lot of wierd music…and yes i’m black. I love dark, instrumental music like the band Dark Sanctuary from France or Dargaard from Austria, I believe. I also love Metal like Moonspell and Paradise Lost, and more noticeable acts like Metallica and The Cult.. I appreciate black people in Metal like Skin, Lajon Witherspoon, Stone Vengeance, Katon from Hirax…And it’s a bit of a joy pinpointing them out when I discover a band…And don’t get me started on “chick” rockers (Astarte, Drain STH, etc etc:)). I’ve been listening to this stuff since a wee lass in the 90s. It all started with radio rock, like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and all those. When most people ask, I opt to say that I like “Rock”, for the most part… Make no mistake, I don’t hide it at all. I could never force myself to like “black” music, because I don’t feel it mirrors who I am as a woman and as an African American. And it never will. Mostly it’s just general convenience just to say “Rock”, unless I know the other person will be receptive. And while I know that a lot of old school rap was….more positive and political, I just never identified with the sound. As for nonrock music, I like some “black” music…If Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and sopranos like Grace Bumbry are still considered “black music” or “black people who make music” and I can get away with that without someone trying to convert me to mainstream, current day “Black music”, then yeah…I listen to more than just some black music for sure. But yeah…I like a lot of music, a lot of World music, Medieval, Classical, Trip hop, Jazz, film score/Soundtrack, etc etc). I’m pretty sure it’s all mostly the “wrong” type of diverse music to some people…Since I don’t have Lil John or Nicki Minaj in there. But i’ve grown not to care, which I think is just what you have to do. Just…Stop…Caring.:)

  • Amon

    I’ve been apart of the metal and Visual Kei scene for quite a long time though it isn’t the only type of music I love. At some point you just go for you and forget those who ignore you. That’s why itself best to go with friends who understand you, and if that’s not possible just enjoy the bands.

  • Cicely81 (@cicely81)

    LOL, I read this as “Games” was playing on my iPod.

    “When I was a kid I loved New Kids on the Block. Everybody had something to say about it—my grandfather, my mother, the kids at school—all of them were always clear that I was not the right kind of black girl. No matter what I did, it wasn’t enough. That parochial blackness is as dangerous as hell … It steals your joy.

  • Amber

    I used to be ashamed of what I listened to in HS because I was ridiculed for it. Everything from rocknroll to hiphop to jazz to reggae to raver music… I knew it all. It wasn’t until college that I embraced it and now I don’t give a crap. I love my heavy metal, I blast it loud and proud. Ain’t it funny though….that the art form African Americans created is being shunned by African Americans? LOL. I mean the originator of the genre was a Southern man. Black people wake up and do your homework! Or you will be lost.

  • Courtney**

    I think the number of responses to this post alone proves that there are a lot of black women out there who listen to music other than the “expected.” I think the lack of exposure to/awareness of/appreciation for other types of music aside from Christian/R&B/Rap/Jazz and the like is mostly self-perpetuating. The (white) powers that be don’t promote or feature non-stereotypical black characters in the media (in newspapers/on the radio/in movies/etc.); many black people internalize this as the way we’re all “supposed to be” and self-police against doing anything differently. Rinse, wash, repeat. However, I got the most flack from white people about it. I’ll never forget listening to my headphones on the bus in the 8th grade and having one of my many lovely bullies get on and nastily spit out “are you listening to your PHAT JAMS?!” I like what I like and have Christian/jazz/R&B/rap/sludge metal/industrial/etc. on my ipod, and I don’t care what people think about that. Actions cannot have a race. If I’m black and I like Skinny Puppy, then ipso facto listening to Skinny Puppy is a “black thing” anyway, if we’re going to go that route. I’m black and I’m doing it, am I not?

    Anyone who tries to stuff me into a narrow box of stereotypes is gonna get verbally bitch-slapped. I’m too claustrophobic for that isht. My skin color doesn’t preclude me nor pre-dispose me to any kinds of interests.

  • steffy

    Growing up I was kinda of the weird black girl in school because I loved to listen to rock and my friends were the artsy/goth crowd. My family did not understand my passion for rock and would call me oreo and white girl. I just ignored them and still continue to listen to music I enjoy.

  • sdds

    Always have and always will ove all types of music. Metal to jazz. And yes I would so totally skip over boston, cant stand that place or th eppl really.

  • camille

    This is exactly what I say to people who say I listen to “white” music. All modern music is Black music. Period. When you hear the major influences of rock musicians, they always cite Black, typically blues, musicians.
    I’ve never really cared what anyone thought of my musical choices. I came by them naturally and never considered it to be a form of rebellion. What’s sad is when people are open to hearing different types of music but never get exposed to the really good stuff.
    A Black guy a few years younger than me was telling me how it was great we both liked rock. Unfortunately, he had never heard any grunge or classic rock and mentioned Linkin Park as a “great band.” I tried to turn him on to some Nirvana, but that ship had already sailed.
    No accounting for taste, I guess.

  • camille

    Yeah, I’m not really buying the oppression angle. It’s never been that serious

  • camille

    Moshing is awesome, but I’m about 6′, 220, so . . .

  • CurlyBunnie

    That’s a damn shame. I have a friend who ONLY listens to salsaad r&b. everything else is “white music”.

  • clericalerror

    In my case, I was teased relentlessly for years at school and ended up being forced to defend myself in fistfights. These fights usually began due to my attempts to ignore people saying that I was trying to be white. Listening to bands like Sonic Youth and The Clash in the Deep South – unapologetically – and defending my right to individual choice was enough to make other people feel as if I was trying to claim some sort of moral superiority or disown some part of my identity. Nothing could be further from the truth. I feel that my life has been made richer due to the fact of my experiences as a black female – shit, we’re beyond awesome! We’re IT, and the world better know it. I choose to draw on the best of everything.

    Black people invented, and further innovated, rock music in ways that people are still trying to emulate and understand. We invented hip-hop – and punk rock too (see Now, when you stop and think about it, the music that stems directly from our culture, our experiences, our struggles, are the ones that tend to be relatable to the greater world. I don’t think anyone on this board would trade that for anything. I definitely wouldn’t – I’ve been lucky to be able to draw upon my love of all types of music to earn my living on several fronts. Despite the after-school bus stop brawls and misguided references to me wanting to be a white girl.

  • Tracy Watson

    This article is talking about me. I have always loved music…music of different kinds. However, rock and alternative are my thing. The Cars being my favorite (Yes, a shout out to Boston!). I remember as a high schooler getting strange looks when I would answer the question, “What music do you listen to?” Never understood what my music choices had to do with me being black.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    so, did any of you listen to coltrane? avant barde jazz? black cats?

  • jamesfrmphilly

    avant garde

  • phatlips

    Alabama Shakes “Be Mine”. That is all. . .

  • Carol Wade

    Excellent piece. 100% relation on all counts, from parent-scaring high school punk rock hairdo, to Black Sabbath chastisement, and many more of my broad musical interest’s rainbow of marginalization. For laughs, in addition, try being a die-hard (c. 1993), vocal, visible (ph)an of Phish, beloved modern minstrel melting pot band, traveling funkae-jazzgrass-roots rockers borne of the scruffy sons of a white, suburban, upper middle class wholly uneasy with its quizzically crusty progeny, and its predominantly 18-50 y/o white male, socially privileged, culturally abstruse fan base. They continue to steal my heart & galvanize my imagination, even if (as in society & life) I’m forever caught having to bushwhack my way to legitimacy in that love. It’s all part of the evolution. Thanks for talking about a needed-to-be-aired subject, and aiding that movement.

    That Brainy Black Girl on Phish Lot

  • dirtychai

    Oh trust me, she was a hell of a lot smarter after I through with her. I gots vinyl son!

  • Nubianpolitics

    Love it!!!

  • West Indie Girl

    Thank you for this! I feel like there aren’t many of us..

  • kenc3366

    You wouldn’t go to a metal show in Boston as a black woman? Really? It’s not 1984 anymore. We welcome everybody at shows.

  • shutupgo

    Many a shows I was one of the few blacks there….
    and I think it’s awesome!!!

    Be yourself!

Latest Stories

10 Questions No One Will Ask Ex-Boxing Champ Kassim Ouma After Assaulting a Man Who Came On To Him


10 Things We Can Learn From Olivia Pope On “Scandal”


Struggling To Tell Black People Apart? Watch David Alan Grier Hilariously Break It Down


Carol’s Daughter Files For Bankruptcy

More in opinion
President Obama: Friend-In-Chief

Tatted up
Tatted Up