Thursday, August 19, 2010

Who is this Weird Chick? Why We Need More Weirdos in Black Music

Weirdo: an odd, eccentric, or unconventional person.

Some time ago, I was over at Clutch Magazine, watching Janelle Monae’s latest video, a remix of “Tightrope,” featuring Lupe Fiasco and B.O.B. While I’m not sure that I liked the collaboration, I found myself interested in some of the readers’ comments about Janelle Monae. I decided to check other posts and reader’s comments about her on the site. One post, a summary of an interview done with Rolling Stone Magazine, discussed her response to lesbian rumors. Her evasion of the questions is pretty hilarious and actually rather clever. But I was really taken by one of the reader’s comments:

Fox says:

July 10, 2010 at 11:40 am

LOL. I’m not gonna lie when I first saw her I said, “Who is this weird chick?” But she is doing her thing and obviously doesn’t care about what people are saying. She doesn’t owe anyone any explanation about her personal life because they don’t have to live it. I respect that! I love her answers.

I’m not remotely concerned about her private life, although I would be pretty ecstatic to find out that she is a lesbian or bisexual. However, I’m mostly interested in one aspect of Fox’s comments: “Who is this weird chick?” Yes, she is weird. It hit me: actually, we need more weird chicks and dudes on the black music scene. Indeed, one of our weirdest musicians, Michael Jackson, is no longer with us. I’m not saying we need them to be THAT weird, no offense to MJ. Maybe Prince weird…at least he’s still alive and didn’t f-up his face in the name of trying to be something that he’s not.

So, it got me to thinking. I LOVE the weird black artists who manage to rise from the underground. Janelle Monae. The Noisette’s lead singer Shinga Shoniwa. TV on the Radio. Bloc Party's lead singer Kele Okereke. Kanye West (check out the recent photo leak of him with a faux-hawk/mullet licking the faded head of his girlfriend. Pretty weird.). Santogold. Ebony Bones. Bilal. Andre 3000. Cody Chestnutt. Gnarls Barkley. Erykah Badu (Queen of Weird). Grace Jones (High Priestess of Weird). Prince (His Majesty Weirdness).

We need more black music weirdos! Why? They are fun. They liven things up and keep us on our toes. But, more importantly, they help break up some of the monotonous conformity on the black music scene. They challenge the world of black music and the world of music in general to keep up and keep evolving. As much as I can’t stand Lil Wayne, I even appreciate him (only slightly) for his strange persona, especially in light of a recent rock video, “Knockout,” that he did with Nicki Minaj.

Black music weirdos are most important, perhaps, because they are a refreshing change for overlooked and underappreciated black weirdos everywhere. For all those black girls who don’t subscribe to certain general beauty standards, who listen to everything from David Bowie and Franz Ferdinand to Curtis Mayfield and Jill Scott, who you can catch everywhere from “beauty to thrift stores” (to quote Common). For those girls…for girls like me, folks like Janelle Monae and Andre 3000 and Prince allow us to see ourselves reflected in pop culture. For all those black boys rocking faux hawks and skinny jeans, rocking out to everything from The Doors and TV on the Radio to Lupe Fiasco and Lenny Williams, who you can catch everywhere from the hood to the suburbs. For those black boys, artists like Cee-lo of Gnarls Barkley and Cody Chestnut allow them a point of entry, someone they can identify with.

So bring on the weirdos! They are steadily filling up my Ipod, and I can’t wait for more. Who are some of your favorite weird black musicians, old and new?

Be sure to check out some of the songs in the playlist below. Click to play any song, and enjoy!

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  1. I've been following Janelle Monae since her myspace days and have always been a die hard Kanye fan. I like to call this musical creativity and independence. People like this tend to make classic albums. People like Rhianna, whose music I actually love, seem made up she keeps changing to fit an image given to her. I am afraid it may not last long.

    So yeah, I agree with this post 100%.

  2. Oh, and you have to check out my favorite song by her "You." A classic!!!!!!!!

  3. I love how we embracing difference now. Being your own person is actually starting to be cool, where as we used to be all paper cut outs. I love the music with the meaning and that steps out of the box.

  4. I have heard that song, Brilliance. It is amazing!

    And QueenPinky, I too am glad that we (and by "we" I mean black people) are finally trying to embrace difference (not that we haven't before, but there has been kind of a lull in that since Prince, lol).

  5. @Miss BernetaBug OMG, I love this take on Black music! Just a few of my fave weirdo artists include Janelle Monae, Solange, Raphael Saadiq, and Prince. I'm also liking Lupe Fiasco and Kid Cudi. Y'all remember Jerzee Monet? I really liked her, but just as soon as she appeared she disappeared from the musical arena. I do, however, think that we would have embraced difference long ago had a variety of artists been marketed by labels or had the Internet been available and widely used before the late 90s. Now some labels are taking a chance on unconventional artists and other artists operate independently. All in all, I'm grateful for the evolution of technology because I think it's ultimately brought forth some of my favorite artists.

  6. In terms of flat out weird, I'm a big Prince fan, I had a phase last year where I listened to Purple Rain only for an entire week, the man is a musical genius. In terms of just less mainstream music, I'm a fan of Lupe and MF Doom(dude wears a mask, all the time). I've never been a mainstream radio person, since I like actual talent, but I really appreciate the Internet's ability to let everyone know that they are not alone in their insanity, even musically. Also, Donald Glover is my favorite artist right now, his latest album is free for download at his site and it is epic.A victory for black nerds everywhere. Long live eccentricity

  7. I'm with Leonnie on Prince, and You on Janelle...Kanye too but, I'm not quite as proud of that. LOL. I also love he weird enough for this list?

  8. I totally second Leonnie on the Prince thing. I had a phase where I listened to nothing but Prince on my ipod for like weeks. And I love Purple Rain (I've been to the club where it was filmed in Minneapolis, and the place still attracts an eccentric crowd).

  9. @Traveler@large Thanks for stopping by JBT! Cudi is dope and a weirdo I adore!

    @Miss Berneta Gotta love Prince! Why do I have the Purple Rain soundtrack in my disc changer as we speak? Haha!