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:
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!