Incognegro VI: Saul “Slash” Hudson

There are lot of musically gifted incognergoes in the world, but none rock harder than Saul Hudson, a.k.a. “Slash,” founder of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver.

While a lot of people love late 80s/90s era “hair” guitar bands, the only one I ever liked was Guns ‘N Roses. I was into New Edition at the time and didn’t realize I liked them until “November Rain” came out and MTV played the long format version of the video 100 times a day.

Maybe it was the cinematic feel or the orchestral sound or the fact that it was an epic rock ballad, like everything ever made by Queen. But around view 50 of the song I didn’t know I liked I realized what it was.

It was Slash.

If you haven’t seen the video, my God! Stop reading this now and click here! But if you have seen it you’ll remember that around around 4:12 into the video Slash walks out of the church and into the desert and plays, what was at the time, the most “awesome thing ever” while a desert twister tosses that tangly mane and a cigarette clings on to dear life between his lips.

While my current “most awesome thing ever” varies between the Giants beating the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and cheap vanilla flavored coffee from Huck’s, Slash’s guitar solo from “November Rain” is still in the top 20, tied with Prince’s guitar solo on “When Doves Cry.”

It’s that good.

Since then Slash has reigned as king of the incongergo rock guitarists in my heart. (Sorry, Roxie Roker’s son.) And it’s not just because he can rock, oh no. It’s also because God gave us the same hair.

Now while mine is considerably shorter, it’s equally as unmanageable. And while Slash, I’m sure, doesn’t do anything to his ‘do, I seriously couldn’t live without conditioner and lots of hair product otherwise no one would ever be able to see my eyes either.

I also like the stove pipe hats. Tribute to Lincoln perhaps? And the ubiquitous cigarette. And the crappy T-shirts, leather and denim. You know exactly what to get Slash every birthday (besides fine grain alcohol, Colombian blow, some Hendrix and ass-less chaps). And as long as it doesn’t have a Hot Topic tag in the back–I gather he’d prefer Goodwill–he’ll likely wear it.

As an artist Slash pops up on his fair share of non-GNR/Velvet Revolver work. He was the only good thing on Michael Jackson’s crappy hit “Black or White” from the Dangerous album. Mike was more up to snuff on “Give In to Me,” also on Dangerous, also featuring Slash.

(It was his best rock guitarist collaboration since Steven Stevens ripped it up on “Dirty Diana.”)

Along with being nattily outfitted as a memorable rock deity, Slash also has a stamp on his sound and style. You know his music just by listening. You know his look even if you’ve never heard of GNR. Slash is so iconic in the guitar/metal/rock world that he got his own featured spot on the game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. You have to beat him in the final level of the game and after winning he becomes a playable character. To be honest, I never paid a lick of attention to Guitar Hero. (It’s all about Dance Dance Revolution.) But I was in love when Slash popped out of a dude’s mouth in a commercial for the game.

Slash gets his not-black-black person credentials for being the son of a white Brit and a black American costume designer, born in London and raised in Stroke-on-Trent in Straffordshire. At 11 his parents moved him to Los Angeles where later the rock bug would get him. At fourteen his granny hooked him up with a guitar and the rest was rock legend history.

Said Slash to Rolling Stone:

My big awakening happened when I was fourteen. I’d been trying to get into this older girl’s pants for a while, and she finally let me come over to her house. We hung out, smoked some pot and listened to Aerosmith‘s Rocks. It hit me like a fucking ton of bricks. I sat there listening to it over and over, and totally blew off this girl. I remember riding my bike back to my grandma’s house knowing that my life had changed. Now I identified with something.

Thank God. He could have grown up to become one of those boring not-black-black-people who live ordinary lives as doctors, business executives and St. Louis politicians.

No, no. Rock God is much better.

This entry was suggested by Snob reader Starrie. Thanks, Starrie! If you have any Incognegro candidates to recommend, just email me or post your suggestion in the comments below.

24 thoughts on “Incognegro VI: Saul “Slash” Hudson

  1. Slash reminds me of Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy fame — he does look like him a lot.He does not seem to discuss his racial identity a lot. Does he talk about it in his book ?

  2. thanks for doing slash in this “incognegro” segment…i’ve always dug gnr and i always kind od knew slash was half black even though he doesn’t say it out loud in his book…”starrie”

  3. He doesn’t seem to talk about it. He may fall into that incognegro category of incognegroes who avoid discussing race, but it seems like I always knew he was half-black, even back in the late 80s, so he obviously didn’t keep it a secret. He was also raised around his mother’s family which I’m pretty positive was full of black people.I don’t know. Us black folks can be brutal on black people who take up “white” occupations, like hard rock guitarist wearing stovepipe hats, listening to Eric Clapton and Aerosmith. Prince only gets a pass because he also sings R&B, otherwise he’d be an unknown to most black music lovers too.And most black folks I know won’t even touch Lenny Kravitz because he does so-called “white” music.I’m like, he’s channeling Jimi Hendrix and Jimi Hendrix was a black dude who played with Little Richard. STFU. Let the black people rock, I tell you! I wish more black people would rock. We invented the damn thing. We could at least attempt to work in the genre from time to time.But this comes from someone who really loves almost all forms of music and thinks a few more black rock, country, jazz, blues and classical musicians would be nice for a change. We already have too many damn neo soul artists anyway. There are like 15 bootleg Erykah Badus. And I’m heavily biased in my neo soul. If you’re not Erykah Badu or Sade, you just need to sit down. And yes, I’m talking to you India.Arie.

  4. @snob, I do agree that lots of black people are very brutal to black people who do not fit the r&b status quo however, i don’t necessarily agree with slash’s stance of not discussing his racial identity.addressing it sends a positive image to black people and the entire community. i can’t stand it when black/mixed-race celebs try and pretend like their ”race”/races don’t exist. Sounds harsh but lol, I have always thought that. can’t believe he was born in staffordshire. that place is just pure farmland!

  5. aulelia: Yeah. I get that annoyance. I think its kind of wimpy, you know, to just dance away from the issue, but as long as they’re not running around bashing blackness (like saying things like, “I’d never date another black person,” and so forth) I usually give them a pass. I wish people would talk about it to at least be an example to biracial kids and black people, but I don’t know his personal situation. He might have his reasons. I dunno.Just don’t say black girls are “loud,” “fat,” “attitudinal” or “belligerent” and I’ll give you a pass. You can love you some white folks without spitting in my face.

  6. So…you finally got around to Slash. I’ve always loved Guns and Roses. What an incredible band. I won’t even get into Axl’s brilliance and mania.Great story Snob. Yeah, he doesn’t discuss his incognegro status like Wentworth Miller who the press loves to pick on (my poor future husband).I agree though…as long as they aren’t talking trash about black folk, I’ll leave them in peace.

  7. danielle: I totally forgot to put in my column how GNR famously trashed the Riverport Amphitheater in St. Louis County when I was in high school. Axl went nuts on someone in the front row who was videotaping the concert. He got pissed and cut the show dramatically short and left the stage. Then mayhem broke loose and chairs went a-flyin! Axl would later get arrested in New York on a warrant from Missouri for inciting a riot.Good times. Mama Snob still reserves this memory in her “White people behaving badly” file whenever folks say it’s too dangerous to hold hip hop concerts. Out of all the shows, R&B, rock, rap or otherwise in Missouri, the GNR show was the only one (that I know of) that ended in a riot.

  8. Hi Snob…Have been reading your blog for a minute and I am really enjoying it, keep up with the good work…I enjoy alls kinds of music except country or the different formats of heavy metal.It’s kind of funny because I remember when they were doing some rock documentary and Lenny Kravitz was talking about black rock guitarist and he called “Slash” out saying he had a black momma. LOLIf you are up for some suggestions for some more black incognegros…Vin Diesel is a good one…

  9. I really think you have to have a certain mindset before you take it upon yourself to wear a stovepipe hat. Slash easily pulls it off, Busta rhymes might be able to get away with it, and Flavor could wear it because he just dosen’t care.

  10. i did read slash’s book..and he, like you said grew up with black mama and it was his black grandma that gave him the money to buy his first guitar…he sort of alluded that his mother was a bit “free” with her love and with raising him and his brother…in the acknowledgements, he reinterated that both his parents were very supportive of him, ect but he does not get into the race thing…he speaks very freely about his drug usage…seriously, some black people are just not into other black people and i can respect that if that’s how you feel, but i agree, trashing black people rather than admit you prefer something else is just uncool….it’s true, we can be very brutal to black people who take up “white” occupations…i do remember when gnr had a song that came out that had the “n” word in it…people lost their minds and tried to say gnr was racist even though slash is half black and is the son of an immigrant…i am one those folks who loves almost all music as long as it’s good….except for country…just can’t get into it…lol…*starrie*

  11. I once couldn’t STAND country, but you can’t live in Bakersfield, Calif. for five years and not have some country music crawl up in you and make some space. I don’t own much country music, but I did develop a taste for Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood and Merle Haggard. I also like Dolly Parton, but I liked her before I moved to Bakersfield. As a kid, she was the only country star I’d heard of.What traditionally turned me off from country is the nasal singing. Country is essentially blues music with a twang. They sing about the exact same things and are popular in the same regions. They even share a state, Tennessee, as their music headquarters (country in Nashville and blues in Memphis.) And they’re artists often cross over with one another. Elivs straddled both genres. Ray Charles did too. Buck Owens covered a Chuck Berry song and had to deal with a backlash from the “purists” who thought a Berry song was to “racial” for Owens.Country has a very, um, let’s say discriminating audience. He had to do several public apologies and make a pledge to never, ever play anything but country music.But if you remove the nasal tone and change up the guitars, all pop country songs are G-rated R&B songs that would be sung by Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown. Like Rascal Flatts “What Hurts the Most.” I’ve continued to be shocked, SHOCKED, that no R&B act has covered this song. In the 1990s the covers between country and R&B were fast and furious, but I’m just flummoxed that big voiced divas (like Mariah Carey) or up-incomers (like Chris Brown) or traditional R&B artists (like Brian McKnight), have not done a cover. It’s begging to be pimped out by someone with Beyonce’s chops.Or at least Celine Dion’s.

  12. As far as country goes, I really like it. Dixie Chicks would probably be my favorite. I like Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. I also like Sugarland. Their song “stay” does sound like a blues/soul/ r&b song.But as far as beyonce’ or chris brown covering “what hurts the most” I don’t think it should be done. Just for the simple fact that I actually LIKE the song a lot. The last thing I want is for Beyonce’ to come and mess it up with her over excessiveness or chris brown to attempt to do it some justice with his sub par mediocore voice. I like them both in their respective genres but some songs are better left uncovered if not done by the right person.FYI, the pop singer Cascada did a cover of What hurts the most. Its pretty decent.

  13. i should say that i’ve gotten more tolerant of country music over the years…i lived in phoenix, az for 14 years after all…one of my supervisors treated me to country thunder a ferw years ago …i saw faith hill,tim mcgraw, the dixie chicks, and some beautiful singing cowboy in very tight jeans and a cowboy hat that i can’t remember his name…and i did enjoy myself…i was the ONLY black person there and there were dixie flags and a whole area devoted to alcohol…i didn’t feel like my life was in danger so it was cool..i listened to lots of country music like dolly, and glenn campbell and others because i grew up in the 70’s before music stations got formatted…once the radio stations started separating the music, i really didn’t listen to alot of country music…all that whining does put me off, but then again, i like more aggressive music…lol…*starrie*

  14. 1990: I’m just in shock that no one has attempted a cover. In the mid-90s R&B and country singers were jackin’ each other left and right for songs. It was even more ridiculous than it was back in the 1950s and 60s. I remember how Brian McKnight and Mark Wills had “<A HREF="“ REL=”nofollow”>Back At One” out in 1999 at the same time. It was Brian’s song.Mark Wills also jacked “Almost Doesn’t Count” from Brandy.There there was All-4-One who’s country pilfering knew no bounds, releasing their version of “I Swear” the same year John Michael Montgomery released his version.While the 90s shenanigans were hilarious, business-wise this made excellent sense. Record company’s knew there was very little, if no overlap between the R&B and country listening audience. Usually both sides were militant towards the other. But the style of song could be dramatically changed just by no singing through your nose. It was money in the bank. So while I don’t want Beyonce to necessarily butcher “What Hurts the Most” just AMAZES me that no one has ganked it. No one in the hood knows who Rascal Flatts is. Hardly anyone watching MTV or VH1 knows who they are. They could easily rework the song for a pop/R&B artist and watch the coins fall from the sky.And Mariah Carey, if she could, um, hold it back a little until the end, would have done a great cover of it around 1995 before Mariah let her Bronx hang all out.Now, well, she could probably still put it off, but you’re asking a lot when you as an R&B diva to hold back until the end. Maybe Jordin Sparks instead. She’s still too new to be a ginourmous bitchasuarus right? I’m sure if Clive Davis told her not to start busting ear drums until the end she would listen.Alicia Keys could probably do well with it too, but it’s not really her style of song and I don’t think she’s into country-R&B rip offs. And also, the internet may make it harder to surprise R&B and country audiences by sneaking in near identical versions of their tunes with slight nasal twitches and guitar arrangements.As you can probably tell, I think way too much about this particular subject, but if some agency wants to give me a grant for it I will gladly write a non-fiction book about the crossover between Country, R&B and blues.

  15. Mariah Carey as bitchasuarus rex? If they made an action figure of that, I’d buy it in a second. Could be a bigger monster than Mecha-Streisand.

  16. Mr. Hudson is the only thing I like about Guns n Roses, but it’s not really his fault or theirs, either (well, except Axl). No, it was GnR fans that turned me off- stupidly, I admit- because they called me a fag and a pussy for liking Prince. But that’s my problem, of course, and not Slash’s. May he continue to stomp on the terra, walk tall, and kick ass.

  17. keir: You suffered Prince discrimination? Right after racism and sexism my most hated -ism is Princeism. I’m like, “What the hell, yo? He’s the most awesome musician of all time! Why hate for people liking it? So the dude likes to wear panties? So what!”The best thing about Prince (and believe me, there are a lot of things wonderful about Prince) but the best thing about him that if you meet someone, a complete stranger, who says “hells yeah” to some Prince that person basically just said “I get along with everyone, gay/straight, black/white, rich/poor. I’m open-minded and I would rather DMSR than TXT MSG! I don’t worry about being cool because I am the cool.”That’s what being a Prince fan means. I can still remember me and that big gay black dude in LA. We didn’t know each other, but we sang “Nothing Compares 2 U” out loud like we were a pair of long lost lovers because we were in the place where the Lakers play basketball and Prince was center court rocking our worlds.He looked like Cee-Lo.Shit. He might have BEEN Cee-Lo. I was all about the Prince that night but …You see what I mean. That’s beautiful. The world would be a better place if more people listened to Prince music. I’m going to start a diversity workshop that is nothing but that.

  18. I loved GNR because of Slash, back in the day.Other Incognegro candidates:Cash Warren (Jessica Alba’s babydad and son of Michael Warren of “Hill Street Blues” fame)Nicole Richie

  19. Yes, that was beautiful. Of course he’s the most awesome musician of all time, but good luck trying to explain that to one’s fellow eighth-grade white suburban OC urchins when they get on your case for digging “Electric Chair” and “Housequake.” Come to think of it, Prince was probably the only redeemable music I listened to in junior high. People came around eventually, as I knew they would, and all was soon well.When I was in college, my brother and a friend of his would attempt to break each others’ will via Prince & Michael Jackson. See, whenever this friend heard anything from “Thriller” he was just compelled to dance. We’re talking a Syd Barret rock geek suddenly shaking it like a fool. He had his revenge, though- he knew exactly how to get my brother on the floor: deploying “Sexy MF” at the drop of a hat. Of course I had been so overexposed by that point that I was inoculated from such cheap ploys, but then I had to start a band with them.

  20. Im a GNR lover myself, but I think my biggest issue with Slash is that he, with his Black self, allowed Axl (and GNR as a whole) to record a not-so-racially-nice lyric on one of their albums. I thought homeboy should have said something about that, but no, he didnt. L

  21. What about Terri Seymour? She’s Simon Cowell’s girlfriend. I got into an argument with a girl who said she wasn’t black. I was like, “yes, she is.” Anyway, I just looked her up on Wikipedia and it said she’s of English descent and never knew her father. Whatever. She’s becoming a bit of a mystery. Didn’t Vin Diesel also say he never knew his father? Anyway, maybe you should have a list of suspected black people. I’d put Minnie Driver on the top of that list. She needs to go on African American Lives and have her DNA analyzed. Stat!

  22. nadra: You had me rollin’ on Minnie Driver. But she does have such a distinct look that she doesn’t look Nordic or Anglo. She doesn’t look Mediterranean either. She looks like some weird mix of Celtic, Russian and Turkish … maybe. God only knows, but Minnie does have soul, I’ll give her that.As for Cowell’s lady friend, I thought she was either black or part black. She definitely has the look. (Brown skin, curly hair) One can argue that she’s biracial, but dude, that kind of hair only comes from one type of people on earth and those people came out of Africa. Even the frizziest of Jewfros don’t look like the Afro my dad has rocked since the 1970s.I think too many people are too rigid about what makes someone black or not. It’s not like being black is an insult or anything. It’s not like wanting to acknowledge you’re part white is a rebuke of blackness. And I feel that if you’re biracial you shouldn’t feel any more pressure to be one race than the other. I like it when people give a shout to everyone in the family tree. If a few Negroes fall out when you shake that tree, help them up off the ground and give them a big hug, I say.But I will check Terri Seymour out to see if she’s an incognegro. But I’m pretty sure our suspicions are right. Your friend there must be smokin’ something. Kinky hair don’t lie.

  23. I love Slash’s work!! He’s amazing and so is his book!! And some people might have not even read the book, because he does to say he’s half black, A LOT!! So it’s either you didn’t read it and lied, or oyu just got it twisted. I’m just wondering who the new singer for Velvet Revolver is!! I love tha band! I just wanna see Slash live in concert again!! Slash is the best thing to hit Rock N’ Roll, live on Slash x3

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