When you Google “Black metalheads,” the first result is a Quora questioning “Why are black metalheads relatively rare?” A possible answer is found a few search results down — a New Yorker article from 2019 titled “Heavy Metal Confronts Its Nazi Problem,”
Though I like and listen to a diverse array of genres, from Dancehall to Death Metal, Grime to Grindcore, I consider myself at heart, a Black Metalhead. Not only do I enjoy black metal, but naturally, I am also Black. The pun amuses me. Not everyone, however, agrees that the two go well together. I have had many fellow Black people tell me directly that my musical tastes make me “less Black.” In high school, I was frustrated because it felt like I needed to act out the walking stereotype of a Caribbean immigrant, despite being second generation on my mother’s side. People seemed to think I needed to speak patois and only listen to hip hop, dancehall and soca.
I thought that perhaps this phenomenon was exclusive to liminal mixed-Black folks. I eventually met other Black people who loved metal like me, and was surprised to hear that no matter what shade of Black we were, from dark to light, most of us had been treated as if liking metal made us less Black. There is a certain type of music that Black people are assumed to like, notably hip hop, varying forms of rap, R&B, and for those in the diaspora, various genres from their cultural roots. It makes sense that Black people like these genres, as we birthed them even more directly than metal. Black people are the backbone of much of western and popular music. Metal is tied to the blues just as much as rock was birthed from it. Having said that, defining someone as more or less Black based on their musical preference is judging us by the same stereotypes that collectively harm us.
Several weeks ago, I came across two videos online of Nigerian weddings full of Black people moshing and headbanging to System of a Down and other metal music. Just a beautiful sea of Black metal fans. I remember remarking to myself that though the transatlantic slave trade to the Caribbean made it impossible for me to know my African roots, maybe there is some Nigerian in me, because these are my people. Twitter user @William_Njo felt similarly, tweeting “There’s so many Black rockers in my mentions [heart eye emoji] I feel SEEN! Glad to see the community is much bigger than I thought. I salute ya’ll”.
In the series Black Metal, I hope to share the diverse tastes and talents of Black metal, from musicians, to their fans, to communities like Botswana’s famous metal scene, showing the world that the interests of Black folks are just as diverse as the world we have influenced.
About Oualie (They/She)
My name is Oualie, like the beach, and I am an emerging artist and writer in Mohkínstsis/Calgary. In my final year of my BFA at AUArts, I work with what is close to my heart, and what fires my tongue. Of particular interest to me are Black and biracial experiences, mental health, anything related to arts and creativity, and critique for a better world.