And that is a shame. You can hear the reality of what Kurt Cobain is expressing in his music and it is a shame that he chose a way to liberate himself, but that's what I feel he entered into. The lyric, "A hole in the head where the love won't grow/The hole in the head where the love can't go" is about the fact that he went to a place where it was a literal dead end. Kind words couldn't get to him. And the part I love about ["Saint Cobain"] is where everything drops out but the bass and drums and a sample from the song "Free Nelson Mandela." The point of "Saint Cobain" is that his spirit is free.

CP: Let's talk for awhile about race relations. It is 11 years since you started the Black Rock Coalition. As someone who is an integrationist in philosophy, what do you think of this drift toward a more ethnocentric society?

Reid: Well, I think it is because of the fact that people truly don't want to love one another, probably because our parents have a vested interest in--certainly there are parents that try to raise their children is a nonracist way, but it is still about how you live your life and who your friends are. If your child sees that you don't have black friends then it becomes a question of who [black people] really are for that child. You can be saying, "Don't call people this or that," but if they never experience an actual person for whatever reason; you know, kids learn by example. Children really are the battleground. That's why I did the artwork for Mistaken Identity, with the guitar-playing thing there. It's like "let's have a discussion.

It's like the OJ Simpson thing, which is not as easy or as uncomplicated as people may think. Remember, when people were up in arms about the OJ Simpson verdict, Hootie and the Blowfish were selling 13 million records. So race relations are not as automatic as people believe. The idea that all black people think OJ is innocent is fallacious. There are plenty of black people who are no less down with the folks and down with the cause that think he did it. Do you know what I'm sayin'?

CP: But the pressure to go against that kind of racial orthodoxy is greater.

Reid: Well, certainly there has been pressure about that all my life. To have a life, to have a self, costs something. What unites us all is that we are born into families where people who are our parents, or whoever is in charge, have a vested interest in what we turn out to be, and it is a struggle; the point when you define yourself, that's when the real fun and games begin. You're not always going to be with your lads or your mates. You're going to step off at some point--or not. For some people--like those in the Japanese culture--it is much more important to be part of a group. To not have a group identity is madness in traditional Japanese culture.

CP: Many people define themselves in relation to other people.

Reid: Absolutely. It's like the "keep it real" movement in hip-hop, which revolves around this whole idea that there is a central identity that we all have to participate in and have to agree that there is an empirical truth. Even having an argument threatens it. Do you ever notice sometimes when you have a disagreement with someone and they fight incredibly hard, that it has transcended something; it's not just disagreeing with the subject at hand, you are disagreeing with the entire family line. You're disagreeing with that person's great grandfather.

CP: I know what you mean. But in terms of attitudes toward "civil rights" the prevailing sentiment on the family line has flipped with the current generation.

Reid: Sure. Because they know there is no teeth in it. The generation saw what happened. But the moral high ground has descended to where, you know, people are embracing OJ Simpson like he's Emmett Till. It's absurd. I've shifted my rage from a kind of stand-on-my-soapbox umbrage to the absurdity of it all. Surrealism in Europe was affected by the brutal circumstances of war. The surrealism here absolutely exists in our racial relationships. CP

Ryan Peck contributed to research for this story.

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