Top 15 Afro-Punks

With the seventh edition of Brooklyn's Afro-Punk festival happening at the end of this month, we figured it was a perfect time to ruminate on and enumerate the Afro-Punk phenomenon—no easy task. Punk, on its own, is a head-scratching concept that encompasses more than just three-chord rock and roll—it's an attitude, a social movement and a commodity. Once you throw race into the equation, all hope of making sense of it seems to go out the window. The hardest question is, Where do you draw the line? The Afro-Punk festival has been renowned for including punk-influenced but not necessarily punk acts on its bill, like futurist soulsters Janelle Mone and Cee Lo, helping spread the idea that Afro-Punk is a state of mind, not a set style. With this list we set our sights on groups and artists with punk at their core. And yes, there are artists we regretfully left off, such as Brooklyn newbies Cerebral Balllzy, who are performing at Afro-Punk this year, and veteran guitarist Bubba Dupree, who played in the D.C. hardcore band Void—proving that whatever Afro-Punk is, it boasts a broad and diverse universe of gifted and revolutionary artists.  

15. Kele Rowland Okereke


As the frontman of British postpunk behemoths Bloc Party and steward of his own electronic solo project, Kele has become an enigmatic part of the indie-rock landscape. Bloc Party's 2000 debut, A Silent Alarm, ushered Kele and his bandmates to international stardom with its propulsive, danceable, guitar-driven songs and Kele's big, Bono-style hooks. With Bloc Party, Kele has used his whiny wail to touch on everything from xenophobia on "Hunting for Witches" to urban romanticism on "Signs." Bloc Party went on hiatus in 2009, which allowed Kele to releaseThe Boxer, his electronic-centric solo debut. Bloc Party is said to be back in the studio currently recording a new album and planning a fall reunion tour. 


14. 24-7 Spyz 


People make the mistake of comparing Living Colour with the Spyz. Like LC, 24-7 had an eclectic sound. But the Spyz, hailing from the South Bronx, often took their music to the extremes of divergent genres, switching in the same song from soulful sounds to breakneck hardcore. In this sense, they share more in common with the schizo reggae and punk outfit Bad Brains. Although the Spyz were never critics' pets or extremely commercially successful, they've been highly influential. Huge bands of the last decade like System of a Down and Incubus owe a great debt to 24-7 for showing them how real metal could mix and mash with funkier musical forms. It seems there is a growing interest in groups like Living Colour and Fishbone—let's hope that interest extends to 24-7 Spyz. Not for the band, but for all the kids who've never heard their "Pay to Cum"--meets--"Stairway to Heaven" jam, "Heaven and Hell."



13. George Bernard "Bernie" Worrell Jr. 


As a founding keyboardist of the legendary Parliament-Funkadelic, you wouldn't think Bernie would have had much time for a bunch of punks fresh from CBGB. However, the man behind the sizzling Minimoog synths on hits like "Flash Light" teamed up with the Talking Heads in the '80s to give them some much-needed funk. His warbled keys were a crucial component to the 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense. The landmark film showcases Worrell's screaming synths, especially on the performance of the Heads' hit "Girlfriend Is Better," which also features David Byrne's famed dance with a lamp. 


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