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Baby Got Back Talk Premieres “Guilty Of Being Bright”

Baby Got Back Talk

Dubbed one of our 100 Rising Artists To Listen To In 2024, Baby Got Back Talk is committed to pushing boundaries and challenging stereotypes within the rock music scene by amplifying diverse voices that have often been overlooked or silenced. Their latest endeavor, a mixtape featuring BIPOC and female-identifying musicians, serves as a rallying cry for inclusivity.

In an exclusive interview, Baby Got Back Talk shares insights into their mission for diversity and inclusion in rock music with the release of their latest single and accompanying video for “Guilty Of Being Bright.” The new release serves as a musical counterpart to their frontman G’Ra Asim’s candid op-ed in the Boston Globe challenging prevailing narratives. Through their music, Baby Got Back Talk aims to rewrite the rules and amplify the voices of underrepresented communities.

Read more: 7 Female Punk Artists Leading The Genre

Their mixtape, “Articulate At That Level,” confronts the exclusionary attitudes prevalent in the music industry. It is also a direct response to Rolling Stone cofounder Jann Weiner’s excluding Black and female voices from his book, Masters. Through their advocacy of featuring diverse artists and reclaiming spaces traditionally denied to them, Baby Got Back Talk aims to inspire future generations.

In an exclusive interview to accompany the premiere of their new release, Baby Got Back Talk discusses the inspiration behind their music, their activism, and their vision for a more inclusive future in pop-punk and rock music. Watch “Guilty Of Being Bright” and read our chat with G’Ra Asim below.

​​Let’s delve into your latest music endeavors with Baby Got Back Talk. Your band curated a mixtape featuring BIPOC and female-identifying musicians within rock music, challenging the notion that rock ‘n’ roll is solely created by white, male-identifying individuals. Could you elaborate on your mission for the inclusion of minorities in rock and how it aligns with the music you create with your band?

Our new single “Guilty Of Being Bright” is the musical counterpart to my Boston Globe essay “A rollicking rebuke to the idea that rock isn’t Black music.” The song and music video were crafted to reinforce and remix some of the main ideas in the essay. As a band, we thought it would be exciting to create a tapestry in which we address related themes in several different mediums at once: essay, lyrics, music, music video, mixtape, images. All the pieces matter.

The mixtape cover art features our logo superimposed on the neck of a famous sculpture called “The Thinker.” We chose this image as a way of writing ourselves into the “philosophical” tradition to which Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner claims Black folks and women don’t belong. We also made museum-style object labels for every band on the mixtape. This is to historicize their importance and emphasize their stature. Punk bands are rarely recognized as “high art” to begin with. Legitimacy is even more likely to be withheld from people of color and women. So, we wanted to subvert that in a fun way. 

Your song “Guilty Of Being Bright” seems to challenge traditional punk/pop-punk narratives while also fostering a unique sound and bringing together a diverse group of individuals in your band. Can you discuss how your band collectively advocates for inclusivity and diversity within the music community?

Our main focus is writing good songs and playing killer shows. To whatever degree we end up advocating for inclusivity and diversity, it’s by being ourselves and by signal boosting the rad things our friends are doing. We’ve collaborated with the African American Policy Forum on a music video for “When They Go Low, We Go Six Feet Under.” It focuses on the Say Her Name movement, which amplifies and politicizes the stories of Black women affected by police violence. “Model Minority,” our diss track about anti-affirmative action activist Abigail Fisher, is also a fan favorite.

The video spoofs My Chemical Romance’s iconic “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” clip to comment on the misleading but pervasive idea that marginalization is trendy. Questions of race, gender, and belonging pop up in The Most Interesting Band in the World, an original comic we created with Lorena Reyes. You can also read about how the vibrant multiculturalism of New York City bodegas informs Baby Got Back Talk’s music in the new book Tschabalala Self: Bodega Run

The opening verse of “Guilty Of Being Bright” speaks volumes: “When middle finger politics/Turn to rules of thumb/Could it be that we refused/The shape of punk to come?”. Is there a line in the song that stands out as a rallying cry for the band?

There’s a couplet in the chorus that goes, “So why not burn down the old stomping grounds/Turn down the heirlooms that we found.” It alludes to the regressive aspects of the punk movement and rock music more broadly. Attitudes like Jann Wenner’s, or like the ones expressed in Minor Threat’s “Guilty of Being White,” are a part of rock history and its present. But as a community, we don’t have to passively inherit that stuff. We can choose what to embrace and what to eschew. I continue to believe the shape of punk to come is positive, peaceful, and inclusive. Realizing that possibility one day means confronting some unsavory things in the meantime.

The title of your track, “Guilty Of Being Bright,” is quite evocative. What inspired the title, and how does it relate to the themes explored in the song?

Elder punks will recognize the title of our new song as a nod to Minor Threat, whose most boneheaded tune is called “Guilty Of Being White.” That song laments the unfair portrayal of white people as complicit in anti-Blackness. If that’s a bummer, imagine what it’s like to be unfairly subjected to anti-Blackness. Underestimating Black folks’ intelligence-including but not limited to doubting our capacity to “articulate” and “philosophize”—is one of the most common and tiresome expressions of anti-Blackness. Which is part of what BGBT is getting at by changing white to bright. 

In your recent op-ed for the Boston Globe, published in mid-February during Black History Month, you reference the inspiration behind the mixtape’s title, “Articulate At That Level.” This title directly stemmed from Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner’s assertion that “women and artists of color ‘just didn’t articulate at that level’” in response to his exclusion of female/BIPOC voices in his interview-focused rock music book titled Masters. If you had the chance to speak to Jann, what would you convey to stress the importance of inclusion and recognizing the significant role of Black people in shaping the genre of rock music?

We would probably thank him for the phrase “Articulate At That Level” because it’s a hilarious and awesome rallying cry. He’s the Mitch McConnell to our Elizabeth Warren. He unwittingly hooked us up with our own “nevertheless, she persisted” moment. You probably can’t dismantle the master’s house using the master’s tools. But you can definitely have a laugh with the master’s gaffe. 

As a Black frontman in the pop-punk genre, how do you navigate the challenges and stereotypes associated with it, knowing that rock ‘n’ roll has its roots in Black culture?

A band’s job is to be themselves to the greatest extent possible. The world asks most of its inhabitants to do the opposite. As artists we have license–if not obligation–to resist that in the most electric fashion we can manage.

What inspired you to actively fight against the stigma that Black voices are not foundational in rock ‘n’ roll?

I’m a fan of Damian Abraham’s Turned Out A Punk podcast. At the conclusion of most episodes, Damian implores his listeners to “make your own culture.” He usually mentions this in connection with the fraught political moment that we’re living in. It was his call to action that got me thinking. The small-scale interventions we make to address sprawling social problems can have an impact. That’s what motivated our band to make Articulate. We hope that our body of work inspires others to make their own culture in turn.

As we look to the future, how do you envision improving representation in pop-punk and rock music to embrace a wider array of diverse voices and perspectives?

One simple and immediate step might be for tastemakers in our scene and our industry to check out the bands on the Articulate At That Level mixtape and shower them with love and opportunities. 

How do you hope your music and activism will inspire future generations of musicians, particularly those from marginalized communities?

What’s Fat Mike up to? I wonder if he could get around to adding an Articulate At That Level exhibit to the new Punk Rock Museum he founded in Las Vegas. If part of that museum’s purpose is to capture the spirit of punk to inspire and activate future generations. Let’s get it in the annals that we don’t take Jann Wenner’s nonsense lying down.

Is there anything additional you’d like to say to your fans, colleagues, the music industry, etc.?

Thanks to Wiretap Records, Earshot Media, idobi Network, and our listeners for rocking with us. Thank you to Carla Troconis for the canny eye and steady hand she brought to directing our new music video. She’s a true philosopher of rock and conspicuously guilty of being bright. 


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