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Nirvana was my gateway to a completely different world than the one I had known, and there was no way for me to turn back."When I listened to rock music as a kid, it often felt like I was sneaking past the guards of racial barriers and into a cool party I wasn’t invited to. M.” was the rap equivalent of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in terms of opening my eyes to a new world). There’s a sense of defiance that comes with liking something you’re not “supposed” to like; in a way, I knew I was sabotaging the uniform order among black kids my age.His music was the soundtrack to my life, his taste put me on to the Velvet Underground, Beat Happening and the Raincoats, and he was an avid feminist who completely divorced himself from the alpha male mentality. There were few things in my life that made more sense.

Most children tend to find role models pretty close to their own image, but I wasn’t afforded that privilege, since only white people seemed to do the things I wanted to do.But let’s talk about what that means: Aside from the band’s racial makeup, there’s the notion that they meld art-rock with traditionally “black” elements of music: R&B-indebted crooning, polyrhythms, full-on funk. Ex’s Friend: Well, because you’re black and you like indie music.“The Wrong Way”, the opening track from their full-length debut, , touches on a resolutely black experience forged within the confines of a mostly white genre: “Woke up in a magic n*gger movie,” sings Kyp Malone. It wasn’t malicious, but it prompted me to do some serious thinking about stereotypes.But I didn’t want to feel that way." There was no individual precedent for my love of alternative and punk culture. But mostly, it felt like something I could claim for my own, a part of American culture that wasn’t handed down to me or illustrated in history books. It was something that was happening right now, and regardless of the color lines placed between it and me, it was something that I was a part of. With my flat feet, nasal voice, and the crisp pronunciation I learned from watching teen movies on TV, the teasing was almost understandable.My family and neighborhood friends all exclusively listened to contemporary rap and R&B, the former not truly capturing my imagination until a year later (Wu-Tang Clan’s “C. When you’re young, you emulate people you think are cool (particularly, people who look like you), and this game of pretend ultimately shapes your aesthetic and values, if you find a shape that fits. I pored over skateboarding catalogs and begged my mother for Alien Workshop hoodies.

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