By Terah La Vonda, 16, Angelus Plaza
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Illustration by David Tran, 16, Warren HS (Downey)

I was listening to System of a Down on my CD player at school. The blaring beat from my headphones drew my teacher over. She pulled on one of my headphones and asked me what I was listening to.

"Heavy metal," I said.

"Heavy metal?" she said looking surprised. She said that she didn’t know that blacks listen to that type of music.

I was surprised by her comments. She thought that certain races are limited to one type of music. If you’re white, you love rock. If you’re black, you listen to rap. Some people might think her comments were harsh, but I know my teacher and know that wasn’t her intent. But I do think it’s closed-minded.

I think that rock and rap have a lot in common, especially when it comes to loud, off-the-wall beats that annoy old people. But really, rock and rap have collaborated for the past 30 years and no one seems to complain.

In the ’70s, deejays recycled rock instrumentals all the time. Rappers took portions of Dennis Coffey‘s "Scorpio" and Aerosmith‘s "Walk this Way" instrumental to rap over. In the ’80s, Debbie Harry, otherwise known as Blondie, produced "Rapture," which featured Fab Five Freddy and Grandmaster Flash. But I think the most famous rock-inspired rappers were Run-D.M.C. who remade Aerosmith’s "Walk This Way" in 1986, followed by the Beastie Boys‘s hit singles such as "Fight for your Right" and "No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn." The list goes on and on.

I think that blend of music is cool, but wondered what others thought. So I asked my friend, Emilio Zelaya of Hamilton High School.

"Different people have different likes and dislikes, whether they’re black, white, brown or yellow, and that’s what makes music such a great thing. It creates something in common with different races. It’s wrong to label rock as white music and rap as black music, because in today’s society, it’s simply not true," he said.

My friend Sebastian Burnside from Dorsey High School says he’s not surprised to hear that people think certain races only listen to certain types of music.

"I’m around close-minded people five days a week at school while attending Dorsey. There are race wars here and gangs, so it’s not a surprise to me that people still believe that a certain genre of music is limited to a certain race," he said.

Sebastian is black and Puerto Rican and mostly listens to metal like Marilyn Manson, Tool, Drowning Pool and System of a Down.

"I’m also the lead singer of a garage band that’s made up of some of my friends," Sebastian said. "So I’m totally against the state of mind that rock is only for whites and rap is only for blacks."

Dealing with the race thing

But not everyone is as comfortable as Emilio and Sebastian are with the race thing in music. Take Eminem, for example. This scrawny white guy from Michigan came on like an atomic bomb into the rap world, which is heavily dominated by blacks. He followed Vanilla Ice who came onto the scene earlier with "Ice, Ice, Baby." But after that song wasn’t popular anymore, he wasn’t cool anymore. I think white people were scared to rap after Vanilla Ice, because he became the laughing stock of the rap world. He shamed every white rapper from stepping into the rap world, because it was supposed to be a black thing.

But Eminem is still holding strong after a few years and three CDs. Some say that his music has bridged a gap between black and white music. Others say he’s just a clever marketing tool created by Dr. Dre who knew that white kids would buy CDs made by a white rapper. I guess prejudices in music do exist. Other music producers slept on Eminem’s talent, but Dr. Dre put the stereotypes aside. I think that was big of him.

Despite everything Eminem says, like impregnating Spice Girls or killing his wife, he’s never really said the N word in a song, and because of that, I think he’s extremely aware of race in his music. In his song called "Criminal" from his Dirty CD, the N word is bleeped out. I think if he ever did say the N word, then the rap industry could turn against him. If that happened, no one would support Eminem.

On the flip side, there are some black rockers. A guy from Sevendust, LeJohn, and a guy from P.O.D. was black, too. I haven’t heard much about them and don’t know what to say about them, except that they exist. So different races do perform in genres of music that feel dominated by other races.

My friend Tatiana Gallegos of Notre Dame High School doesn’t consider race when she picks her music. "To me, music is a form of expression, so it isn’t based on race. It’s based on how it makes you feel," she said.

The way I see it is that if you can’t understand music, you can’t understand the world. I think the same argument can be made about different races. Whether it’s race or music or whatever, if you close your mind to something, you really lose out.