Introducing ‘Articulate at That Level,’ a Mixtape Spotlighting Musicians of Color and Women Philosophers of Rock

When questioned about the absence of women and people of color in his book “The Masters,” Jan Wenner of Rolling Stone explained that he aimed to showcase philosophers of rock and believed that “women and artists of color just didn’t articulate at that level.” However, he may not have foreseen G’ra Asim, a musician, punk, and English professor, eloquently challenging his outdated perspective in a thoughtful rebuke featured in The Boston Globe.

Jan Wenner’s views on women and people of color in rock music reflect a longstanding issue in the music industry, where marginalized voices have often been overlooked or marginalized. Throughout music history, women and people of color have made significant contributions to rock music, yet their achievements have frequently been downplayed or excluded from mainstream narratives.

For example, women have been pivotal figures in the development of rock music since its inception. Artists like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, often referred to as the “godmother of rock and roll,” influenced countless rock musicians with her pioneering gospel-infused style in the 1940s and 1950s. Similarly, figures like Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, and Patti Smith broke new ground in the 1960s and 1970s, challenging gender norms and reshaping the sound and image of rock music.

Likewise, people of color have played an essential role in shaping the rock genre. Early rock ‘n’ roll pioneers like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Bo Diddley laid the foundation for the genre with their innovative guitar work, electrifying stage presence, and infectious rhythms. In the 1960s and 1970s, bands like Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Funkadelic further expanded the boundaries of rock music, infusing it with elements of funk, soul, and psychedelia.

Despite these contributions, the music industry has often perpetuated stereotypes and barriers that have hindered the recognition and success of women and people of color in rock music. Jan Wenner’s remarks about their supposed inability to “articulate at that level” are reflective of this systemic bias and serve to perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

However, the reality is that women and people of color have consistently demonstrated their ability to excel in rock music, both as performers and as thinkers. By challenging these outdated attitudes and amplifying their voices, we can work towards a more inclusive and representative music industry that celebrates the diverse talents and contributions of all artists.

Baby Got Back Talk Band
Baby Got Back Talk Band by Gina Tereza.

G’ra Asim and his incredible band, Baby Got Back Talk, curated “Articulate at That Level,” a mixtape that amplifies the voices of musicians of color and women artists who are true philosophers of rock. This playlist offers a glimpse into the cutting-edge sounds emerging from today’s underground scene.

These artists are not tokens, but pioneers leading the charge in alternative music in 2024. As Lenny Kravitz rightfully noted, it’s essential to recognize the contributions of black artists to rock ‘n’ roll music and history.

Releasing “Articulate at That Level” during the country’s time of collective reflection on Black legacies and futures is one step forward in the reclamation Kravitz advocates. You should support the artists on this mixtape mainly because the songs rip.⁠ And as a bonus, if enough people spread the word, tastemakers won’t be able to claim there are no intellectually compelling women or artists of color in rock — unless they happen to be living under one.⁠

– G’ra Asim

Support these incredible artists because their music rocks, and help challenge the notion that intellectually compelling women and artists of color don’t exist in rock. Together, let’s ensure their voices are heard loud and clear, leaving no room for outdated stereotypes to thrive.