Nikki Lynette & Afro Punk Revolution
“If there’s no place for you in the industry, so what? Stop bitching. Start a revolution.- -“ Nikki Lynette
- Afro-punk (sometimes spelled Afropunk or AfroPunk) refers to the participation of African Americans and other black people in the punk and alternative music cultures. Afro-punks make up a minority in the North American punk scene. However, they represent a majority in the punk culture in predominantly black regions of the world that have burgeoning punk communities, such as in parts of Brazil and Africa. Afro-punk has become a movement.
The name itself is powerful, touting a dichotomy of soul and renegade. The Afro brings the soul and the Punk brings the revolution. You’ve seen that kid. The one with the brown skin, fitted black jeans, punked out faux-hawk, a couple piercing and tats for street cred, and a t-shirt touting some type of obscure rock cult. You’ve thought to yourself, “they didn’t grow up with any black people.- Yet, people tend to forget that before MTV played black music, before BET and the acceptance of hip hop, 80′s rock was what everyone watched. People also forgot where the swag, improvisation, and skill came from. Punk music is black music. The concept is nothing new in itself. Through struggle, our roots in this country have birthed blues, jazz, soul, rock, punk, pop and hip hop. When you see Little Richard, you are looking at Afro Punk. When you look at James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, you are looking at Afro Punk. Our 2011 faces of Janelle Monae, Fishbone, Earl Grey Hound, Game Rebellion, Whole Wheat Bread, Nikki Lynette, Tamar-kali, J*Davey, The Memorials and countless others further instill the brewing tsunami of creativity that this genre is bringing. The fearlessness of stepping out of your comfort zone and sparking a lyrical revolution through a medium that brings soul to the garage band.
On any given day in Brooklyn, London or the Bay Area, you will see remnants of this newly-defined “Afro Punk- movement with the confidence of hip hop, the anarchy of punk and the cool culture of the African-American experience. Yet, the feel goes deeper than the kinky pompadour, or the lime-green hi-top sneakers over skinny jeans. It’s deeper than Lupe Fiasco’s Kick, Push, Janelle Monae’s head toss and brown-bodied mosh pits. Afro Punk is a flavorful pot of gumbo with all the ingredients that your grandmother passed down, along with some modern pop elements that goes beyond black music. The creativity of this new movement comes from the isolation that African-Americans felt from the predominantly white punk audience. Punk stepped into the scene in the mid 1970′s, while blacks were primarily associated with Disco. Yet, through this musical ethnic cleansing, like under the radar revolution always begins, there were black pioneers of punk from its birth. The true redemption comes when the “Afro- punk is no longer needed and rock and punk are synonymous with its African American contributions.
Cocoa Cure: Seems like many forgot their James Brown/Jimi Hendrix roots. What do you say to those that say Afro and Rock is oxymoronic?
Nikki Lynette: I’d call those people musically ignorant & ask them not to speak until spoken to. LoL! The only reason I fall into the “Afro Punk” category is because I’m a black girl who does rock/pop/hip hop and the idea of black rockers is so new to mainstream America. Honestly, I don’t understand why its so bizarre to people. The biggest star of all time was Michael Jackson. He won three American Music Awards for Favorite Pop/Rock Album for “Dangerous.” Look at Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Tina Turner…some of the biggest black artists in musical history embrace rock & roll. So to me, it’s abnormal for people to find ME abnormal.
Cocoa Cure: Do you feel the genre of “Afro Punk” is represented enough on radio compared to more commercial pop/rock genres?
Nikki Lynette: It’s hard to say, because “Afro Punk” is such a vast category. There are the black punks who merge rock & hip hop like me, but there are acts who do that minus the pop influences, like Game Rebellion and Whole Wheat Bread. Then there are acts like Skunk Anansie that do sort of harder alternative rock and have huge success overseas, but only have a cult following in America. And while Skunk Anansie might not have hella radio play here in the states, they were asked to do a song specifically for the movie Sucker Punch which came out recently. Radio is a funny thing. You can have a movement going on & fans & music playing on major networks and NO radio play. At the end of the day, anything that doesn’t fit radio’s format isn’t going to be played. I am hearing a lot more rock inspired hip hop these days, which is cool because it helps open up the doors for artists like me. A lot of my friends who are straight up punk kids hate that music & call those artists posers for commercializing the rock sound without being a part of that culture or lifestyle. I disagree, I’m not a pure rocker like that. I’m sort of a hybrid. I love pop music, for a while N.E.R.D. was the only contemporary act that I had to inspire me to keep moving forward doing the style of music I do. I love the fact that I live in an era where black artists like Bruno Mars & B.O.B. & Kanye & Rhianna can get away with singing over rock guitars on mainstream radio.
Cocoa Cure: You’ve enjoyed some commercial success with the support of MTV featuring your music on hit shows like “The City” and “The Strong Survive” on “Jersey Shore”. How did you get this incredible opportunity? Do you feel that the public is waking up to new music?
Nikki Lynette: Last year, I did this competition called Artist On the Verge through Ourstage.com and New Music Seminar. I was the only black artist, solo artist, female artist, and urban artist who made it to the finals. I ended up competing with full out rock bands, me with my little tracks I produced myself. It was a nationwide competition and I won 2nd place so it got me some recognition. MTV called me shortly after an offered me a music licensing deal. I didn’t know until I got the contract that the licensing agreement included VH1 as well. VH1 really only uses music from artists who are more well known, so it was a whole year before I got my first placement on VH1 -“ three months ago, to be exact. I had to get my name out there a bit more first. The licensing has really helped me and my Team Bad Ass movement a lot. Its crazy, the pop/rock inspired tunes I do have never been played on the radio (except for when DJ Flipside or DJ Protege have thrown my tunes into their mixes on B96, which is the ONLY mainstream station in Chicago that has shown me love) but they work for MTV, VH1, Showtime, and Fox. So I definitely can say for a fact that people are waking up to music that breaks boundaries. I’m proud to be part of the new skool that’s changing things. This rocks.
Cocoa Cure: How would you describe “The Popularity Contest-?
Nikki Lynette: “The Popularity Contest” will be my 1st full length album. I’m so stoked to be working on it. It’s sort of a conceptual project. My “Roses N’ Guns” mixtapes are vastly different from my EP “The Strong Survive.” While “Roses N’ Guns” shows off my versatility as a rapper more than anything, “The Strong Survive” is my best example of who I am as a singer, songwriter, and producer. “The Popularity Contest” is a blend of those two sides of me. I am doing most of the production myself with my co-producer Matt Hennessy, and that is taking the project to a whole different level because of the fact that I’ve got a Grammy winning engineer producing tracks with me. I also am doing records with Da Internz, and not because they’ve produced for major artists, I could care less about that. I’m working with them because they are creative as hell & they get me, they understand my sound and believe in it. I also brought composer Ethan Stoller on board because of the fact that he is a film composer (he’s done music on a few of the Wachowski Brothers’ films, some theatrical trailers, etc.) and because Popularity Contest is a conceptual project, I needed somebody who can help me execute the overall feeling I’m going for…. I prefer to focus on making strong projects, not just a few good songs here or there. We are all still working on my album. Who knows when it will ever be done. LoL. I’m not putting it out until I have some sort of a deal for it. I ain’t doing all that work myself. NO WAY!
Cocoa Cure: If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?
Nikki Lynette: N.E.R.D., Lenny Kravitz, Gorillaz, Fall Out Boy, Daft Punk, The Dungeon Family, Will.I.Am, Foo Fighters, either member of Outkast….ummm….you know. People who totally rock. And if it was one of those “in my wildest dreams” scenarios, then I’d choose Prince, Tina Turner, or Slash, hands down. All girls can dream, right?
Cocoa Cure: Any new projects coming up?
Nikki Lynette: I am working on my new mixtape “Roses N’ Guns 2: The BADDER ASSED mixtape that rocks” that is scheduled to drop on May 18th on DJBooth.net, but I am considering pushing the release date back, because I like to take my time with projects. My “Roses N’ Guns” series is basically all about mashing up hip hop, rock, and random tidbits of popular culture. I have features with Dwele and Krayzie Bone on it that are both BANGERS (if I do say so myself.) I’m excited about it. I think I have a voice that is rarely heard in hip hop. You hear from girls who are rattling off the names of expensive drinks and fancy cars, and girls talking about how awesome their body parts are, and you hear from girls who do the straight up, back packer, “b-girl thing” thing. I might drop a few punch lines about how great my boobs are every now but I’m also not afraid to show that I’m no dummy in my lyrics. For the most part, my tunes are about the views, opinions, and experiences of folks who are “different,” folks who don’t blend in with the general population. You know, people who didn’t grow up sitting at the popular kid’s table. Folks who are individuals & do their own thing. New skoolers, people who are defining the new “cool.” I have fans of different races from all over the world now who are part of my Team Bad Ass movement. We all have more in common than we know.
Cocoa Cure: What would you say to the undiscovered artist, hustling to break ground and get their music heard?
Nikki Lynette: Don’t wait for people to help you. Nobody helps you -˜til you help yourself. If there’s no place for you in the industry, so what? Stop bitching. Start a revolution.