Unlocking the Truth

Unlocking the Truth, the nation’s hottest new heavy metal band is made up of three Black teens. (AP photo)

It’s not enough that three preteens from the Bronx have played the mainstage with metal performers at Coachella or fell into a $1.7 million record deal with Sony Music after only months of playing in and around Time Square.

But, the group — Unlocking The Truth — has taken the music industry by storm.  From the stereotypical look of the band – sharp fades, wiry afros, and a kick ass attitude – the group has made such an impact on the industry that a new documentary based on their rapid ascension, “Breaking A Monster,” was featured in movie theaters nationwide on June 24.

Unlocking The Truth, features vocalist/guitarist Malcolm Brickhouse, bassist Alec Atkins and drummer Jarad Dawkins, all 7th graders and “Breaking A Monster,” the documentary, will chronicle their leap from weekend street performers to professional musicians.  Rather than simply mimicking the behind the scenes docs, “Breaking A Monster” is a coming of age tale that allows viewers to witness both their personal and professional growth.

Embracing the artists connected with the sound, proved an entirely different issue.  According to Morton Sanders, who spent 12 years at KROX-radio in Clarksdale, Mississippi, music executives have historically moved the goal post delineating rock from other genres based on the race of the performers.  As a result, rock music – whether contemporary, hard, or metal – also moved unceremoniously in and out of Black culture.

Influenced heavily by the riffs and tempos of blues and gospel, by the 1960s, rock music had taken a backseat culturally, to the soul music factories that were Motown, Stax, and Philadelphia International Records. In short order, some of the most prolific Black rock bands left the business, moved to Europe, or changed their styles. In the 80’s and 90’s Black rock acts such as Living Colour and Ice T’s Body County led a resurgence of Black rock bands.

“Race and sometimes racism played a part in shifting the rock genre out of Black hands. A lot of times, as soon as a Black face was associated with a particular sound that Whites enjoyed, record labels, radio stations and club owners, pulled back from it,” retired radio personality Sanders told the AFRO.  “Today, it is the same way, except there are certain unwritten rules about where Black musicians and singers belong.  If you see a Black country and western singer, you take pause, if it is metal, like the teens in New York, you do a double-take.”

Juliette Harrison, a Maryland-based blogger whose work examines the intersection of race and music told the AFRO that while there was an overwhelming fear, years ago, that integrated airwaves would lead to full-scale racial integration, too often, Blacks do not feel comfortable listening to, performing, or supporting musical genres that are considered ‘White’.

“I loved classical country music as a child growing up in PG County, and I mean the George Jones, Hank Williams sound, but in a space where go-go was king, I felt obliged to keep that to myself,” Harrison said in an interview.  “This is Black Music Month, and the reality is that every type of music Black people put their hands to becomes, by proxy, something they own.  We are country, we are rock, we are metal, we are classical — if you don’t believe me check out Mickey Guyton sounding like an incarnation of Patsy Cline, or Noelle Scaggs with the group Fitz & the Tantrums giving classic rock a new tone.  This year, try embracing the other parts of your heritage through music.”