Op-Ed: Punk Your Visibility

May 25, 2022

“I don’t give a fuck about your party at the end of the day. I want to know about your values and how those values hinder or help others. This is the reality for me and a lot of people who look like me…non-white….

You fucked with the wrong generation.” –Jason Aalon Butler

As you can tell, the frontman for rock band Fever 333 had zero fucks to give when he posted what would be considered a manifesto to the “Wrong Generation” in the wake of George Floyd’s murder on the band’s Instagram page. But, a lot of angst took place in the year of our Lord, two thousand twenty—which sparked culture-shifting movements. One of which was the resurgence of the pop-punk genre.

What was that old saying—everything old is new again? Pop-punk seems to fall in that category, thanks largely to Tik Tok. Technically, I’m a Gen X-er (1980, baby!), but I’m more a Xennial—analog childhood, digital upbringing. Not to have a “back in my day” moment, but I can recall the days of hanging with my skin folk after school who preferred jamming to Bad Brains, Green Day, and Fishbone over Biggie, Nas, and Wu-Tang. They preferred kicking around a Hacky Sack or kick-pushing into a kickflip than kickin’ it on the basketball court. Dark and drab was the fashion wave compared to vibrant, logo-dominate fits like Karl Kani, FUBU, and Walker Wear. The cool kids called them “emo.” But, these friends of mine were the epitome of punk. So, this new energy of all things Black Alternative amongst Gen Z—from the style, culture, and music—isn’t anything new. It’s just more in your face, on uber DGAF levels.

“Being on the tail end of millennials, I watched the era of ‘being mean to be cool’ be a thing,” said Jer in a Slate interview. The musician and content creator for Skatune Network, a Tik Tok page that celebrates all things alternative, continued, “Gen Z just skipped over the ‘being mean/pretending I don’t like it’s part and just like what they like.”

Thanks to Tik Tok, more eyes are witnessing pop-punk’s revival for the first time through hashtags like #PopPunk—which clocks over 1.8 billion views this year and counting—#BlackAlt (92.5 million views), #AltPOC (164.5 million views), and #BlackGoth (45.5 million views). And what is it that they’re seeing and hearing? New voices, new perspectives, and new music from artists that represent them, like Pinkshift, Action/Adventure, Nightlife, and Meet Me @ the Altar.

“My hopes for the next generation of Black teenagers getting into alternative culture is that they feel welcome,” said Meet Me @ the Altar lead singer Edith Johnson. “I hope they feel included, I hope they feel loved, and of course, I hope they don’t feel alienated. I hope they know that this is their space too.”

Guitarist Téa Campbell, in a New York Times article last year, summed up the genre’s rebirth amongst her generation succinctly. “Pop-punk didn’t go away. I think the mainstream just stopped paying attention.”

Not anymore. Shit done changed.