Do metal lives believe that Black Lives Matter? Some major acts associated with the metal, hard rock or hardcore scenes would like it to be known that the answer is yes, and are giving fans a chance to put their chests where their mouths are using the vital communications medium of merch.
The T-shirt with a Black Lives Matter message fashioned to duplicate the style of Black Sabbath’s purple 1970s logo began life as an unsanctioned homage. But after Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello was spotted wearing one, demand for the shirt grew to the point that the webstore for the now-defunct Black Sabbath has added an official version of the item, with a promise to donate all net proceeds from the $25 shirt to Black Lives Matter. (It’s not the first gesture by the remnants of Sabbath to the BLM movement. Two weeks ago, the website advertised that 10% of sales would go to the NAACP in honor of George Floyd.)
Insane Clown Posse, the hip-hop/horrorcore duo of some renown and proudly ill repute, is also out to prove that aggro does not equal racist. The act has used the moment to revive a T-shirt that portrays its clown avatar ripping apart and setting on fire the Confederate flag, with a message on the reverse side that reads: “F— Your Rebel Flag.”
— Insane Clown Posse (@icp) June 16, 2020
In ICP’s case, there’s a song to go with the shirt — the 1991 number “F— Your Rebel Flag” from the duo’s “Carnival of Carnage” album. In that number, ICP resort to typically homicidal themes, with lyrics that — characteristically, for the duo — imagine the deaths of flag-bearing racists (“You don’t care who it offends / You say it’s your right / Well it’s my right to sock you dead in your lip” is among the more printable lyrics).
It perhaps goes without saying that groups with largely white fan bases and lots of mosh-pit energy may not be down with these messages, and indeed there has been trolling, although a lot of followers have spoken up about the shirts and messages being entirely in character for the groups, if not their entire fan bases.
Wrote one supporter on Instagram, “I love the fact that people are bitching about Sabbath ‘getting political.’ Like, have you read the lyrics to any of their songs? They literally have a song called ‘War Pigs.’ Sit down.” And: “Good for you guys! Makes me proud to see bands I like stepping up. Ignore the trolls. If they don’t like you because you say that innocent people shouldn’t be murdered, then they were never your real fan.” Detractors wrote: “Now they support terrorism. BLM is all about black supramecy (sic)and white genocide.” Or: “Just disappointed that everyone jumps on this band wagon.”
Among ICP fans, the biggest objection seemed to be that there is any representation of the offensive imagery at all, even though that’s part and parcel of the whole idea. Tweeted one fan, “Listen we love a strong Insane Clown Posse merch moment but I wish that F– Your Rebel Flag shirt didn’t have a pic of the actual flag on it. Even if it is on fire.”
The effort to divest the hard rock scene of Confederate imagery found a less expected adherent earlier in June when M. Shadows of the band Avenged Sevenfold wrote an essay apologizing for his group’s own past use of it and supporting Black Lives Matter.
“This is not a fight our fellow Americans should be going through alone,” Shadows wrote. “If someone says, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ and your response is ‘All Lives Matter,’ then maybe take a look at the core of that reaction. Every life is valuable — that is a given — but right now the lives of the oppressed require our undivided attention.” Avenged Sevenfold drew a lot of support for Shadows speaking out but also a considerable amount of online derision.