Mark Slobin’s concept of micromusics attending to a greater “umbrella-like overarching structure” becomes clear when looking at nu-metal. Using this as a guiding principal, the subculture of nu-metal can be understood as a reflection of a specific and important time in the past 30 years of American cultural production. In a piece for SPIN, Charles Aaron goes about describing the impact that mainstream attention from white audiences had on hip-hop and black culture, and in doing so uses a framework of cultural hybridization. Aaron attempts to discover what cross-cultural acceptance of part of black culture had on the economically and socially powerful white populations in the United States.

As hip-hop culture reached white youth before it reached white elders, it became legislated through perceptions of impact rather than the impact itself; Tipper Gore’s landmark creation of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC henceforth) was a response to “vulgarity and sexualization” that in turn politicized black art. Originally founded in 1985 to censor rock lyrics, the PMRC eventually latched on to popular music as their target. Writing about the founding of the PMRC and its impact on censorship Claude Chastagner points out that “while black music had been directed at the black market, no one had really objected; it was only when white youth began to be attracted that the attacks really began.”[86] Nu-metal was an integral part of this censorship process, one that saw the infamous Parental Advisory sticker being on nearly every nu-metal album released. It is worth nothing that the sticker more likely than not directly contributed to the sales of nu-metal albums – it was another easy, and public way of non-conformity.


Nu-metal was vulgar, psychosexualized, and violent, but it was also a reflection of white kids being into black culture. In nu-metal fans rejecting the grunge and punk movements, they were embracing what Aaron refers to as a musical miscegenation. Aaron (writing in 1998) points out that:

While many publications, including SPIN, have sincerely chronicled and bemoaned the so-called death of alternative rock as a relevant, creative genre (circa 1996, say), what actually faded with alt-rock is a belief in rebel style that exists independently of African-American culture. This was the secret legacy of punk rock (indie rock and grunge) in America — it offered a handbook of cool for whites that basically ignored the existence of black people. What’s happening now is that rock’n’roll is going back to its miscegenated roots. Like suit-and-tied black professionals donning kente cloth and attending the Million Man March, rock’s white fans and performers are undergoing an intense re-darkening process.[87]

If this is taken as such, nu-metal was one of the most complete, early examples of a cultural desegregation that occurred in the last decade of the 20th century and is ongoing today. It is here that the untangling the knot of nu-metal becomes more complex; its possible that a music that was willfully self-involved and aesthetically unpleasant became an unconscious vehicle for a profound change in the cultural output of the United States. Beyond that alone, the subculture that drove this change was mired in a suburban middlescape that championed capitalism over creativity, and achievement over happiness. The “burnouts” of Gaines’ Teenage Wasteland were the same kids for whom nu-metal resoundingly mattered and for whom fighting the censorship sent down from above was tantamount to a life or death struggle.

There is no absolute topology of the triangle between fan, artist, and the art itself, but even a rough understanding of each factor reveals a fundamental complexity in networks of cultural production. Korn means something vastly different to Jonathan Davis than it does to someone in Poughkeepsie, New York listening to Korn on their way to parochial school in the morning; however, they are both valid.. Deftones, Korn, Limp Bizkit, and especially Rage Against the Machine sound like that journey to school in the morning for a generation of kids that were put to suburban pasture before they even had a chance to protest. Transgression – sonically, aesthetically – was good enough when the other option was encouraged conformity. Towards the end of the SPIN interview where Davis is guiding Neil Strauss around Bakersfield, a sentiment appears that encapsulates where nu-metal came from and what it means. Fittingly, Davis asks: “So, what did you think of Bakersfield?” To which Strauss responds: “It’s a shitty place to live and a shitty place to visit”.

“Now you understand,” he [Davis] says triumphantly, “and you’ve only been here a few hours. Doesn’t it make you want to start a band called Korn?”



[86] Claude Chastagner, “The Parents’ Music Resource Center: From Information to Censorship” Popular Music 18 (1999), 183.

[87] Aaron, “White Boy Says Yo”, Rolling Stone.



I’d like to extend thanks first and foremost to my advisors, Dr. Leonard Nevarez and Dr. Justin Patch for their willingness to take on a thesis in which the word Korn is used 41 times. That was deeply kind of you. I’d like to thank Clyfford for being the best instigator a boy could have – without you pushing me to do my thesis on something I cared about this would have been a hideous process. Thank you Sasha for not being skeptical about this “angry boy music” but also never once allowing me to believe I couldn’t do this (or anything) well in this world. Thank you Seth and Val invaluable editing help; I promise I’ll learn the difference between manner and manor after I graduate. Thanks to Tom for feeding me and never being mad that I spend most of my time in the basement. Thank you to Sophie for support in every way, including “how do I cite things?” text messages all the time. Thank you to 124 for not ever asking why I was listening to Limp Bizkit at 2am – I know you could hear it. Finally, thank you to Olivia for not shanking me after the 28th time we listened to “Voodoo” by Godsmack in the fall, and being the truest compatriot over these last 4 years.

This thesis is dedicated to my brother, who gave me everything, and also his CD case when he left for college.



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Beastie Boys

Licensed To Ill 1986 (Def Jam Recordings)

Black Sabbath

Paranoid, 1970 (Vertigo Records)


Around the Fur 1997 (Maverick)

White Pony 2000 (Rhino Entertainment)

Drowning Pool

Sinner 2001 (Wind-Up Records)


The Slim Shady LP 1999 (Interscope/Aftermath)


Godsmack 1997 (Republic Records)

Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden 1980 (Harvest Records)


Korn 1994 (Epic Records)

Life is Peachy 1996 (Epic Records)

Follow The Leader 1998 (Epic Records)

Limp Bizkit

Three Dollar Bill, Y’all 1997 (Interscope Records)

Significant Other 1999 (Universal Victor, Inc.)

Linkin Park

Hybrid Theory 2000 (Warner Bros. Records)

Rage Against The Machine

Rage Against The Machine 1992 (Sony Entertainment)

Evil Empire 1996 (Epic Records)

Battle of Los Angeles 1999 (Epic Records)

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Blood Sugar Sex Magik 1991 (Warner Bros. Records)


Every Six Seconds 2001 (Island Records)

Wu-Tang Clan

Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) 1993 (Loud Records)

See also this custom Spotify playlist.


Previous: Chapter One
Click Click Boom

Chapter Two
Heavy Metal

Chapter Three:
Bulls on Parade

Chapter Four:
Freak on a Leash