If there’s one thing that is equally appreciated and celebrated by all cultures, it is music. Music defies gender, skin color and race, and it brings people together in a beautiful and harmonious way. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Music is the universal language of mankind,” and I’d have to agree with him. We’ve all at one time in our lives felt a personal connection to a song, whether it was because of its heartfelt lyrics or hypnotic beat, and that’s why music is so powerful.
I was born in 1980, so even though I was very young at the time, I remember listening to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album and watching Madonna’s scandalous “Like a Prayer” music video. Although I love the cheesy keyboard and saxophone riffs of ‘80s pop music, I most fondly remember the music of the ‘90s. As an adolescent/teen during this time, the diverse music of this decade shaped me in every way possible, influencing my overall attitude and style.
To me, the music of the ‘90s was groundbreaking in many ways. Not only did pop, rock and rap start mixing unique messages of defiance and independence, but the artists who performed these songs were uniquely mixed. When I think back to the musicians who I watched on MTV and listened to on my first ever CDs, there were many who were mixed race, and as a mixed race individual myself, it makes me feel proud to have supported them.
I’m a huge fan of hip hop music, especially what was popular during my adolescent years. I loved that Run DMC and Public Enemy brought hip hop to the forefront of music in the ‘80s, and that Tupac, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. made it even more mainstream in the ‘90s. One of my earliest memories of hip hop from that decade was of Kid ‘n Play, a duo from New York who made catchy songs like “Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody” and movies like Class Act. Christopher “Kid” Reid had the most amazing hi-top fade in the history of rap, and he happened to be of Jamaican and Irish heritage. Another great hip hop band of that time was Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, whose Eazy-E tribute song “Tha Crossroads,” was constantly played on my JVC boombox. One member of the group, Bryon Anthony “Bizzy Bone” McCane, was half African American and half Italian.
I also listened to a lot of R&B during my middle and high school years, some of my favorite artists being Boyz II Men, SWV, Jodeci, Tony! Toni! Tone! and Babyface. I realize now that there were many mixed race musicians who I stayed up late listening to on my Newport News, VA 103 Jamz “Quiet Storm” radio station, such as: Mariah Carey (African American, Venezuelan, Irish), Sade (Nigerian, English), TLC (member Chili is West Indian, African American, Native American), En Vogue (member Cindy Herron is African American, German, Swiss), Lenny Kravitz (African American, Russian, Jewish) and Vanessa Williams (African American, Welsh, Native American).
Just like every other confused high school kid who was trying to find my sense of self, I also had an alternative rock and grunge phase where I listened to nothing but Seattle sound bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden. Rage Against the Machine was my go-to band when I needed to let off steam. I simply needed to play “Bulls on Parade” once and then I felt so much better. It turns out that lead singer Zack de la Rocha is Mexican American, German and Irish, and guitarist Tom Morello is Irish, Sicilian and Kenyan. When I wanted to relax and stop worrying about AP exams, I would listen to the Foo Fighters’ album “The Colour and the Shape” and put “Everlong” on repeat. Pat Smear, a guitarist for both Nirvana and Foo Fighters, is African American, Native American and German.
I’m sure that I only touched on a handful of mixed race artists that I listened to during the ‘90s, but my point in doing this was to share how the music of this era was an amazing “mixed nation” of artists who were able to influence my entire generation and diversify the music scene. Most of these musicians and bands are still rocking out hard today, and they have paved the way for a new generation of currently popular mixed race musicians like:
Source: Urban Islandz
Drake (Jewish Canadian, African American), or Kid Cudi (Mexican Native American, African American)
Source: Hollywood Beauties
and Alicia Keys (Italian, Scottish, Irish, African American).
Finally, I leave you with a Spotify Playlist that includes all of the ‘90s musicians mentioned in this post. I hope that it takes you down memory lane.