Is Rock 'n' Roll Dead Or Does It Just Sound Different?

Cisco Adler is a Grammy Nominated rock musician and producer best known for his work with the group Shwayze, who has also collaborated with Mike Posner, The Internet and Cody Simpson. He is also the son of legendary producer Lou Adler, whose work with Carole King and The Mamas & The Papas (among others) led to his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2013. In a guest opinion piece for Cell Vision Adler explores the perennial question, is rock ‘n’ roll dead?

by Cisco Adler

Rock is DEAD. We have heard this over and over and over since its birth. And it always seems to find a way, much like life. To think of rock as something that can die is the first problem. It isn’t an organism, it’s a feeling. It isn’t an elder statesman as much as it is an infinite child. Curiosity killed the cat, but for rock, curiosity kept it alive.

It started in the delta blues and was taken by white men trying to make money off of it . I say this as not only a white male, but a rock ‘n’ roller. I think of myself as more of a rock ‘n’ roller than a white male, but I am also not foolish enough to think the color of my skin doesn’t entitle me to privilege so I accept my fate and title. As a white male I understand what we have done. Purged and profited off of other cultures.

As a rock ‘n’ roller, I have tried to remain open minded, and always looked forward towards the evolution of the genre, to the point that the word rock ‘n’ roll is dated and maybe that terminology is what’s dead and should not be applied further. The truth is we are in a post-internet, post-genre, Post Malone society. Maybe I’m different as I am also a child of rap music and hip-hop, and found it to be “my music” in a similar way that my parents found rock ‘n’ roll to be their music. Hip-hop was fresh and dangerous and told a story I didn’t know. I grew up not only listening to rock ‘n’ roll in my parents’ cars and out of our living room stereos, but also in studios, as my dad, Lou Adler, is part of the fabric of rock music and music in general. Hip-hop was the first thing I found that he didn’t have an effect on directly or literally create, even though later I have come to realize that hip-hop was heavily influenced by rock ‘n’ roll both old and new in sampling and in soul.

I fell in love with hip-hop, and to me that love was rooted in the same feelings that rock ‘n’ roll was rooted in and conveyed to those that fell in love with it. Today, as SoundCloud rap has become an actual viable genre of music, we are seeing a similar thing to what we saw with punk rock. It is most definitely the new punk rock. It took an art form that was aging and becoming stale and breathed new life into it by taking influence from the Internet age, the warped tour/emo era, and the walls of lonely bedrooms--much like garages served that purpose years before. This, to me, is as rock ‘n' roll as anything I’ve seen in years. It just sounds different.

So my general conclusion is that rock ‘n’ roll is not dead at all. It just sounds different, and the elders in the genre don’t get it or don’t want to get it, and can’t see that they have influenced a new genre of their family tree, and instead of praising the beautiful flowers they condemn them as per usual. This isn’t true of all rock ‘n’ rollers.

Travis Barker is a legend to these kids and realized the connection and link early and is now making music with a new generation who are very clearly the bastard children of Blink 182. There are others, but their names don’t matter as much as their existence does. Art gives birth to new and different art. This is what life does. So rock is, by default, NOT DEAD. The circle of life is unfolding before our very ears. And it will continue. And as the circles are concentric and get smaller and smaller until they get bigger and bigger and so on, the lifespan of these new genres is shorter and shorter until it gets longer and longer. Everything ebbs and flows. Every action has an opposite reaction. Soundcloud rap led to a proliferation of “guitar beats” as these kids mined the songs of their youth and now we have emo-rap. A defiantly punk rock genre of whining and emoting about the problems of the youth. Does this sound familiar? It’s really just emo-rock, which was a counter punch to the overproduced pop-rock and hip-hop an era before. Do you see what I’m getting at? The snake eats its tail and shits out something new and awesome. It’s all rock ‘n’ roll to me.