REBELMATIC is easily one of the most important modern Black Punk/Hardcore bands playing and recording today. Their appearance at Afro-Punk in 2017 was lauded by many for being a saving grace of a festival many felt had left it’s Black rock and alt roots.
REBELMATIC fashioned themselves from the rubble of the New York heavy rock scene abandoned by gentrification and the unlikely infiltration of pop music on the NYC underground… and quickly found themselves a refreshing addition to New York nightlife. They have become an iconic band with fans including HR of Bad Brains and Angelo Moore of Fishbone.
A writer once described REBELMATIC as “James Brown in a mosh pit.” The band shares Brown’s soul, rhythm, urgency and social awareness wrapped in a Punk aesthetic.
Let me start with a brief history of Rebelmatic. I came up with the name and concept a little over a decade ago when an associate from high school and I were speaking about fusing some of the influences we had in different genres of music — hardcore, punk, funk, and hip hop. My first band at the time was a short-lived hardcore/punk group called Short Notice, and from there I delved into hip hop, specifically as an MC in a hardcore band. Our mission was to merge the message of the hip hop we grew up on like Public Enemy, N.W.A (especially the anti-Police brutality war cry “Fuck The Police”) and the Black conscious era of hip hop we were inspired by with the unadulterated passion and fury of hardcore/punk.
The greatest thing I learned from punk was that if there isn’t a band talking for you, or you feel like you have something to say that isn’t being said, do it yourself. So we did.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about why we felt it was important to release our latest song, “Insult to Injury.” We are in 2020, and Black People are being lynched. That’s not a metaphor. It’s not hyperbole. It’s just the plain facts. Three black men, Robert Fuller, Malcolm Harsch, and Dominique Alexander, were found hanging from trees. Robert Fuller and Malcolm Harsch in California, and Dominique Alexander in Manhattan. All three have been ruled as “suicides.” We are in a climate where going for a jog as a Black Person leads to being on your last run (Ahmaud Arbery) because of an angry mob of white supremecists. This is a climate where the same people who are paid to serve and protect you kneel on your neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until you die on video for the whole world to see (George Floyd). It’s a climate where an EMT Worker (Breonna Taylor) is executed by blood-thirsty police in a scenario where there wasn’t even a knock on the door when the two suspects they were searching for were already in custody. Countless black trans folks lose their lives, including Tony McDade and Nina Pop… and the deaths of these people doesn’t even make headlines. Also in this climate, the President of the United States decided to campaign on Juneteenth in Tusla, Oklahoma — home of one of the worst acts of domestic terrorism in history — adding insult to injury. All pun intended. The stage was set to bump the release of our video/song.
We’ve always spoken out about these things in our music. Go listen to “Don’t Shoot,” “Stolen,” and “Reckless Eyeballin.” With everything going on, it was only right to be more urgent with the release of the song and video. We’ve never shied away from talking about topics that tend to be taboo in the hardcore/punk world. Our music has spoken from the heart since the inception of the band. Our new album, Ghost In The Shadows continues to do that. It’s an artistic expression of joy, pain, and the celebration of life.
Let’s make one thing clear: Black People are not a monolith. I think hardcore/punk isn’t used to bands being unapologetically Black. The scene tends to subscribe to the same ACAB ideology, but with us it’s deeper… It’s not a motto, it’s a plea to STOP KILLING US! Bands like Rebelmatic, Maafa, and The 1865 have been speaking about topics that the punk community isn’t used to hearing for a while, especially coming from a Black perspective. The reality is the Black artist has been tokenized and weaponized and we are not going to stand for that shit anymore. We are not asking you to tolerate us, and we are not looking for your approval. We are here to express ourselves to the fullest extent. We are standing on the shoulders of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Robert Johnson, Jackie Brenston, Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton, and many other voices who weren’t heard or quelled because it was deemed too Black.
Furthermore, someone once said that art should reflect the times we are living in. Our music is of the times, and there has always been a long list of artists that spoke up about injustices in the world and we are a part of that tradition. We embrace Punk Ethos (DIY), which Black folks have always done historically (i.e. Black Wall Street, Nation of Islam, Black Panther Party, Young Lords and the whole Hip-Hop culture). I’m speaking about self-reliance. Our consciousness is from a different place. All of us in this band have, in our own lifetime, dealt with the perils of racism. Being chased home. Being called Nigger. Chants of “Nigger go home” at a battle of the bands. So for us, it’s not a matter of why we face these things, it’s about how we’ve always responded. It’s always been deeper than music.
Music is the vehicle we use to express those experiences and more importantly, our humanity.
Rebelmatic’s Ghost in the Shadows is out August 28 via Red Right Recordings.