A: What has the reaction been like from the hip-hop and rock communities and why do you think we don’t see more black rock bands?
S: I think that the perceived messaging of rock and roll has been “This is something that doesn’t belong to you.” At the same time, the music industry doesn’t think that there’s a market for it, they don’t think that the core black audience will be interested. And then, “Why would white kids be interested in black people making rock music?” Why then are white kids interested in gangster rap?
I think that the way hip-hop culture is going is a lot more about being open-minded. Because of the new consciousness, I think you’re going to see more “black rock groups” or black artists in rock bands. So I think while the music industry hasn’t been looking for it, times and the attitudes have changed.
A: Does writing a concept album, or an album from a “fictional” point of view make it easier to address sociopolitical issues?
S: Murs was the chief writer of the lyrics and he’ll tell you that a lot of the content came out of conversations he had with like-minded people. The real Tyrone White wasn’t super into rock music, but he was into skateboarding and in the 80s, a black kid living in the back of the projects riding a skateboard was not cool.
A lot of the stuff we’re touching on is stuff that’s relative to the entire experience of being an African American that feels alienated, unsure in certain areas, but I think it’s relatable to a lot of people feeling alienation. Yeah, the White Mandingos comes from a very strong black perspective, but at the end of the day the core dynamic of the issues that propel the music come from a place that’s very general, something a lot of human beings go through.
A: With the voting rights act decision and the controversy regarding the Trayvon Martin trial, where are we on racial issues in 2013? Do musicians have a responsibility to comment on these things?
S: One argument might be that Jay-Z is a super successful African American and we should be happy with that. And to a certain extent that’s true. Unfortunately, the African American community, young people, the leadership is really scarce and these leaders have historically succumbed to things that are environmental and kind of fucked up. Jay-Z doesn’t necessarily feel the need to address in his music what’s going on…I wish he would only because of the lack of leadership in these communities.
So, where are we in 2013? Well, the Black Panther Party, which started out feeding poor kids, teaching them, what are the remnants? The Bloods and the Crips. So you go from an organization that was out to empower and protect black people to gangs murdering each other for no fucking reason. This is 2013, you have a Trayvon Martin, a black kid with Skittles and iced tea, and some rent-a-cop badgers him and follows him…Can you blame an African American kid who’s being followed, who doesn’t know what’s going to happen to him, for wanting to defend himself?
Yes we have Barack Obama as a president and that’s amazing. But look at where we are outside of that. I think the sentiment becomes “You people should just be happy because you have a president whos black.” And I am happy. But if I was a Black Panther member in 1969 and you’d told me that in 2013 everything that I’d fought for would fucking turn into black people killing each other systematically, I wouldn’t believe it.
Bringing it back to the record, a lot of the things that we discuss are universal. Your average middle American can’t get out of the box right now. They’re stuck, stuck with jobs at McDonald’s or Wal-Mart. People with great educations? This is what they’re having to do to feed their families.
They’re in a box. And Tyrone White doesn’t want to be in a box.