The Reagen Era

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate July 2001

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Sublime Bridging Racial Groups The song "April 29, 1992" by the group Sublime, an all caucasian ska/rock group, differs from mainstream modern music in that it proclaims social injustice in American ghettos, which is a subject ordinarily reserved for African-American rap groups. In doing this, the song provides a rare opportunity for caucasians to empathize with minorities about police brutality. Through musical style and lyrics, the song creates a bridge between the two audiences.

The song is about the band members' involvement in the Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles, and their beliefs as to why they occurred. The last part of the song takes on a slightly argumentative tone, challenging what they see as popular misconceptions about the riots. Often rap groups, which are almost always exclusively black, are blatantly racist towards whites when focusing on police brutality. The police are often generalized as being white, and that the only reason they are unjustly cruel is because they are racist.

This implies that only minorities are mistreated. In lines 20 through 27, Sublime expresses disagreement that the riots were only for the minorities, and contend that everyone was fed up with the police mistreating everyone: They said it was for the black man They said it was for the mexican But not for the white man But if you look at the streets it wasn't about Rodney King It's about this f***ed up situation and the f***ing police It's about coming up and staying on top or screaming 1-8-7 on a mofo cop It's not written in the papers, but it's written on the walls National guard smoke from all around It is an important point to make in bridging white and black cultures that there are white people who live in the ghetto. It is a common misconception that only minorities live in ghettos, which feeds generalization and stereotyping. Sublime explains in the very beginning of their song that they were there for the Los Angeles Riots: April 29, 1992 there was a riot on streets Tell me where were you, you were sittin home watching your tv While I was participating in some anarchy By explaining this and detailing that they too were out looting they refute stereotypes and force us to look at the behavior and the situation rather than block that all by focusing on those committing the acts.

Sublime's musical style as a whole and especially in this song is a perfect model of blending racial culture. The basic beats and melodies are a form of ska, which can best be described as a punk version of reggae. Ska's audience is generally white, and although ska usually is not very mainstream, Sublime has had the good fortune of a soaring popularity. The lyrics of this song, on the other hand, are similar to a rap form, which is most often related to black culture. Outside of the political issues wrapped in this song, the fact that Sublime branches out into rap style lyrics helps young white kids relate to rap more easily than normal rap, which is often hard for whites to identify with because of it's closely-knit relationship with black culture.

As a young white person and someone who has witnessed police cruelty, I find it very easy to relate to Sublime. In all of their songs they have a certain facts-of-life approach that would be hard not to connect with in some way. This is a relief compared to the songs about falling madly in love or life as a big time cocaine dealer that a lot of groups are singing about today. More and more though, the songs that have real messages and are real to life are becoming popular and you can already see the effects of this on kids today. Kids today are more aware of life and have a better sense of equality than any generation yet, and that continues to grow.