Any idiot can see that Detroit is a musical mecca. And for the past couple years of my life, I’ve seen what the teenagers listen to in my neighborhood, in my school. I hear the CD players blasting, I hear the discussions about the artists, and, on the surface, I see a community fueled by, basically, hip hop.
As an African-American fan of heavy metal (everything from Black Sabbath to Shadows Fall), I dive into the depths of hell on a daily basis. And metal is an outsider genre in my world.
I’ve noticed some kids listening to what others do simply to fit in, and all they know is what’s fed to them through television, radio or an Internet connection.
So, I talked to a few kids at my school — those who watch videos, download songs and are current on what’s happening in pop culture — to find out what music they really like and how they discover it.
Named for its purpose, University Prep High is home to many who make music a part of their lives. Since this school has mostly African-American students, I was expecting the majority of students to be strictly into hip hop.
Sixteen-year-old Brandon Winfield is actually involved in music. I know for a fact that he digs hip hop; every time I see him he is either rapping or listening to it. The East Side Detroiter is an aspiring music producer and he’s into Eminem and Jay-Z.
Winfield says that every genre of music offers at least something worthwhile. “With music, you have to look at everything.”
His comment opened my eyes a bit.
I talked with another student, Lakeisha Fisher. She’s a 15-year-old who likes hip hop, R&B, country and rock. She says she likes country and rock because the songs and lyrics are more “heartfelt.” “You can find things in all kinds of music,” she says.
I was beginning to realize that maybe I was, as a metalhead, the close-minded one. Then again, for years I was shut out from neighbors and some schoolmates for my musical and lifestyle choices (and I lost whatever need I had to be accepted).
But Winfield and Fisher couldn’t represent the entire school body. So I talked to Kiara Brooks, a 15-year-old classmate who’s a fan of hip hop and R&B.
“I like Usher,” she says. “And if he put anything out, I would buy it regardless. I try to listen to every type of music. But a lot of it doesn’t click because I like what I like. When it doesn’t give me that feel of quality, then I won’t like it.”
Brooks’ comments are surprising because, though she is fan of specific types of music, she still considers all kinds. She’s an independent thinker.
But how are these students finding the music? And does an artist’s glossy image and presentation have an influence on the songs they like?
“I buy CDs. I try to get samples from other people to see if I actually like it first,” Fisher says.
“I buy CDs based on the quality of their music,” Brooks says. “I won’t buy the CD if I know it isn’t good. But if it’s an artist that I really, really love, then I buy the record regardless of the sound.”
“I find music from everywhere,” Winfield says. “I watch videos, I listen to the radio and I buy CDs all the time. When I do buy them, I try to listen to the whole CD before I buy it. Unless there is someone that I know is sweet.”
Though everyone has their faves, they’re not as close-minded as I had thought. It’s that diversity that makes school an interesting (but difficult) experience; there might not be much racial diversity, but there is open-mindedness. Of course, not everyone is, as you know, open-minded.
I might not know the mind-set of your average Detroit teen, but I saw glimpses of the insides of their heads, what they’re thinking and feeling.Kent Alexander is 15-year-old Metro Times intern. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org