greg tate
How Jimi Hendrix's race became his 'invisible legacy'

Two weeks after closing Woodstock with his reinvention of “The Star Spangled Banner,” Jimi Hendrix decided to offer a free concert for a group he called “my people.”

He held a concert for an African-American audience in Harlem, a place he once called home. Hendrix’s homecoming, though, was almost ruined as soon as he stepped onstage. Someone threw a bottle at him that shattered against a speaker; eggs splattered on the stage. Hendrix gamely played on while much of the crowd melted away.

“They didn’t like him,” says Charles R. Cross, who recounts the episode in his biography of Hendrix, “Room Full of Mirrors.” “He was jeered. People heckled him.”

A new film focusing on a more triumphant period in Hendrix’s life is rekindling interest in the guitar icon. “Jimi: All Is by My Side” shows how Hendrix left New York for London to become a star. Yet no film has explored another twist in Hendrix’s journey: How black and white audiences misunderstood the importance of Hendrix’s race, both to the man and to his music.

Hendrix traveled to Harlem because he was trying to connect with blacks who had dismissed him as a musical Uncle Tom: a black man playing white man’s music. Music critics and biographers say Hendrix also was frustrated by legions of white fans who only saw him as a racial stereotype – a hypersexual black man who was high all the time – instead of a serious musician.

There are signs today that more fans are starting to appreciate how Hendrix’s race shaped his life and sound. Yet he’s still seen by many as a musical genius who just happened to be black instead of a man whose genius was inseparable from his race, says Jeremy Wells, author of “Blackness Scuzed: Jimi Hendrix’s Invisible Legacy in Heavy Metal.”

Wells first noticed this pattern when he examined how white heavy metal musicians and fans described Hendrix. They rarely mentioned his race, or even said that his music transcended race. Wells said he found that odd given Hendrix’s sound was steeped in the blues tradition of black guitarists such as B.B. King and Muddy Waters.

“Nobody would say that race doesn’t matter for Muddy Waters,” says Wells, an English professor at Indiana University Southeast. “But there’s a whole industry devoted to saying it doesn’t matter for Hendrix.”

Race mattered more to Hendrix than most people realize, critics and biographers say: He was hurt by black radio’s refusal to play his music; he experienced stinging racism during his time as an R&B sideman and star; and some of his most famous songs were profoundly shaped by his experiences as a black man in America. [Read More]

Everything But the Burden: What White People Are Taking from Black Culture by Greg Tate

White kids from the ’burbs are throwing up gang signs. The 2001 Grammy winner for best rap artist was as white as rice. And blond-haired sorority sisters are sporting FUBU gear. What is going on in American culture that’s giving our nation a racial-identity crisis?


“The History Of Afro Futurism and Black Science Fiction automatically begs the question: ‘Well, what isn’t futuristic about being Black in America?’ The entire history of Black America can be seen as a fundamentally futurological and science fictional enterprise, a perpetual biding on hope and struggling for change endeavor that frequently employs far flung visions of tomorrow and other more oblique speculative stratagems in pursuit of outcomes barely foreseeable in the near-present”

: Greg Tate’s course description for “The History of Afro Futurism and Black Science Fiction” at Brown University.

My suggestion is we give up the white man as the problem and start thinking of him as a natural disaster, a catastrophe we may be unable to prevent but whose destructive efforts can be overcome and reversed. I also think we need to let go of the idea that some real disaster like the dissolving of the ozone layer is going to wipe of the white plague off the face of the earth. You know that by the time that day comes, these muhfuhs will be living in bubble cities and have your ass cold paying for air sandwiches faster than you can say Jackie Robinson. Later for Black to the futurism. Your mind may be in Khmet, bro, but yo…
—  Greg Tate, “Love and the enemy” in FlyBoy in the Buttermilk, pg 284.
What is a hip-hop song? One where all the words matter; compelling us to memorize every noun, verb, preposition, and gerund…..A thematically coherent essay in rhyme form. -Greg Tate
—  And it dont stop: The best American hip-hop Journalism of the last 25 years (Edited by: @raquelcepeda)

Greg Tate - What is Hip Hop





DOPE intro!!

The Blues Mailing #2 - Howlin’ Wolf

Howlin’ Wolf by Greg Tate
on Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey.

“His was not a city sound. He never being one to be easily domesticated or taken out of his elementalness. He never being one to be so engaged with the cosmopolis as to lose sight of the outback’s verities or the sexual cornucopia of the barnyard.

Therefore his blues songs display the worst features of an amoral ark - an erotically amonk animal farm of roosters, dogs, backdoor men, and coons shot to the moon. A countrified vision of morality and mortality. I asked for water, she gave me gasoline. He is speaking, really, of frontier romances, the kind handily capable of dispensing frontier justice.

And that Wolferine yodel, a libertine’s sigh of release, which in actuality reflects a faith only in that lone gift of absolute comfort in this world. The only one we were left with after the fall and therefore worth every disaster that might ensure in, say, tasting the forbidden fruit of another man’s wife. Like the preachers say: On your tombstone will read two dates and a dash, and it’s only what you did with the dash that matters.

So this man Chester Arthur Burnett, also known as Howlin’ Wolf, took to air on wings of song, grunt, and hoodooed holler, let the whole world know what a bad boy he had been, the kind of women he loved whether they were betrothed to him or another, and the mad dash from her married bed to leaping out the nearest window, and the gittin’ up the road apiece.

There are all kinds of blues for all kinds of men, some regular in length and form, and others irregular and maybe more circular than anything. The wolf favored those forms you could ride around in forever, like a well-built vehicle, and never feel trapped in a vicious cycle of recycled sentiments or mindless repetitions. There was room to breathe in his songs and all kinds of manly secrets got traded between the two guitars and the loping bass, the detonating drums, and the cavernous body of his lungs.

He was known to crawl the floor in search of a note others might consider too raw for the human esophagus. Here we have a singer driven by the moonlight mile to acts too devilish in design for other men to even contemplate. So that there are times when you hear in him something of a kindship with Nietzsche - one man going it alone and wantonly shouldering the burden of surgically extracting the desire for hell’s gate from the human soul, only to then force us all to feast liberally on his hunger for the taboo, tawdry, unchristian, and transgressive.”

In hip-hop, we don’t have a sense of sacredness about our music yet. Hip-hop is in the purest form of African tradition, orally related, and we don’t have no books that can tell you the shit you need to feel. Our education has come from outside the classroom, from our dance to our murals. Fuck the Sistine Chapel - we’ve done the third rail. You see what I’m saying? Risking our lives for a ten-piece on the third rail. Michelangelo, we are with you - do you hear me? Picasso, we are with you - do you hear me?
—  Greg Tate in conversation with Djindi Brown from “In Praise of Shadow Boxers: The Crises of Originality and Authority in African-American Visual Art vs. The Wu-Tang Clan”

Oh, How We Rock That American Hunger: Charles Edward Anderson/Chuck Berry & The History Of Our Future

Greg Tate, author and musician speaks on the significance of Chuck Berry in American history.

Tate is the author of many books, including Midnight Lightning: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Experience & Everything But the Burden: What White People Are Taking From Black Culture.

Now, the Black Panther Party — and not the Civil Rights movement — actually owns bragging rights to the revolutionary fist West alludes to here. But hip-hop’s bailiwick has never been historical accuracy so much as tipping over sacred cows with transgressive gusto, so in purely lyrical terms, that line is a rude-boy masterpiece. We’ll assume the S&M-type fisting that West details went on between consenting adults, and that one night the role-playing redefined Black radical pleasure. Offensive as this lyric’s hyperlink of eros and movement-history may be to some, critiquing other grown-folks’ sex games is even more unsavory in our book.
—  Greg Tate’s review of Yeezus is really something, and something of an editorial coup I imagine.