Radio doesn’t have a face, just names and music. It takes the non-discriminatory stance of providing listeners with something to bop their head to, which meets the format desired by its audience. It doesn’t dedicate any unnecessary time in questioning the race, creed, and color of its artists, it just kicks out, good and bad music, no matter who the person is behind the vocals.
Introducing the “Black Pass,” origins unknown, but I’m certain the jargon was born around that time when white artists, who were heavily influenced by the Motown sound, began to take a turn at singing soul music. The idea behind the name was to grant an allowance, by African Americans, to white folks who we’ve deemed “okay” with singing our style of music.
Back in the day, before Black music was a significant fixture on the radio, white artists were known to either remake our songs, or play the copycat role, if you will, by giving a Caucasian twist to a sound we’ve always encompassed. Acts like the Righteous Brothers, and Elvis Presley, to name a few, were known for having an open affair with soul, and were easily given the sliding “Black Pass,” by African Americans who didn’t mind them paying homage to our style.
In current times, the “Black Pass” has been granted to such artists as Eminem, Justin Timberlake, Fergie, Joss Stone, Christina Aguilara, Adele, Tina Marie, Amy Winehouse, Robin Thicke, Pink…
But as all artists begin to expand their sound in every direction by producing music without limits, and creating styles that cross every border, no longer are we concerned with race, but moreover just the creativity of each song. The once known “Black Pass,” has taken a backseat to content, because good music comes from all sides of the border. Or are we still a little on the fence about accepting everyone who emulates our style or our music?
Case in point, Miley Cyrus at the “Much Music Awards.”
Now it’s one thing to “sound Black,” but an entirely other thing to try and act Black, or in a perceived as Black manner, when that’s never been your forte.
No diss to Cyrus, whom I usually don’t ponder on, but the bubble gum pop touting youth, is not someone we’d ever mistake for a “crossover” artist. I’m sure many of us have had a secret love affair with her track, “Party in the USA,” but the respectable pop princess took a different turn last week, after she attempted to add a little Black swag to a stage performance, and even garnered the assistance of another well known white artist in an effort to pull it off.
Picture this: A scantily clad under age Cyrus, taking the stage before a million fans wearing nothing shy of what looked to be merely a bikini top and barely-there shorts, donning a white “Tupac rag” and hitting us with a thug walk. About 2 minutes into her performance, out rolls a “Gangstafied” Justin Bieber decked out in a black t-shirt, black face rag, and Dickies, while sitting down on a lowrider bicycle, folding his arms across his chest like he knows the meaning of “California Love.”
Now I understand we’re all free to express ourselves as we will. But this goes a little to the left when paying homage to Black music and wanting to emulate your favorite stars. This is a “Black Pass,” violation at its finest, because rather than encompassing a Black sound, these two artists have just perpetuated the stereotype folks have about Black people.
“My tummy’s turning, and I’m feeling kinda home sick. Too much pressure and I’m nervous. That’s when the taxi man turned on the radio, and a Jay Z song was on. And a Jay Z song was on…”
Now unless I’ve forgotten my Hip Hop History, I’ve never known Jay-Z to don the former West Coast rap attire, let alone rock a “Tupac Rag” or cruise on a lowrider bike. But please, correct me if I’m wrong. For some reason though, the producer of Miley Cyrus’ performance at the “Much Music Awards,” felt that her anthem and its mentions of her love for Jay Z, would be best reflected if the artist and her backup dancers put a little more West Coast hood in their style and thugged out their performances.
But who am I to judge?
Moments like that make me question whether or not some of the new flock of White artists who desire to gain the attention of all audiences, are just doing so for fun and attention, rather than out of respect for wanting to emulate a sound that many in musical history have always admired. Respect is the key word.
We’ve had the conversation before about “Selling Black?” but now when you have people trying to “Act Black,” for the camera under the advise of the powers that be, I begin to question whether or not we can stomach too much more of the entertainment world and their bright ideas. This assuming you were tickled by the show, or mildly offended by Cyrus and Bieber.
With Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, who was recently nominated for a BET Award for “Best New Artist,” and other artists like Kesha moving further into the forefront of our music scene, I begin to wonder if the Black Pass theory should be reinstated for some, or is it all just music and we should just go with the flow and ignore what the art has become?
I’m on the fence with this one. You be the judge!
What do you think about the new flock of White Artists singing Black Music or acting Black? Should they get a pass, or get passed on?