"White Baby" by "The Blankz", is a song being bounced around the internet lately. The band was founded when Tommy Blank (a.k.a. Slope Records founder Thomas Lopez) approached musician Jaime Blank (Jaime Paul Lamb) to collaborate on a recording project. The Blankz are a five-piece punk band comprised of friends who are all veterans of the Phoenix music community. The group’s name, which all of the members took on as their own in homage to their musical heroes such as the Ramones.
The band’s first single “White Baby,” is a loud, fast, and, insanely catchy take on his story as a white child adopted by a Mexican-American family, and the personal journey that led him from a conflicted childhood to the present. Displayed across the back of the 7” record sleeve is the text from a piece of paper that held everything he knew about his birth family.
All teenagers grapple with questions of identity—who they are, and what sort of person they’re going to be as they grow up—but among adopted kids, these types of internal struggles can be much more complex. Compounding Lopez’ challenges, at that time it was extremely unusual for a white baby to be adopted by a Mexican family in Arizona, and aside from one friend who was raised by his grandparents, he never met another kid with a story similar to his. And though his entire family was loving and supportive, for better or worse his combination of caucasian features and Mexican last name sometimes made him stick out to others.
At the public school he transferred to when his family moved to downtown Tempe, it was often for worse. “Kids at school were ruthless, and in your face. They’d call you everything and want to fight, but most of it came down to, ‘you don't look like a Lopez,’” he says. Though he was smart and inquisitive, the bullying got to him and he dropped out.
By his teens, Lopez was fully immersed in the city’s burgeoning punk scene. Phoenix might not have had the notoriety as New York or Los Angeles when it came to music, but the people who were there were dedicated, and the community of like-minded misfits extended far beyond city limits. “On the weekend if you went to a raging party in the desert or somewhere, there were people from high schools 30 miles away and you’d end up knowing them because the scene was so small. Back in the 80s, it was ‘what show is this weekend?’ It was one show, and that was the place to be.”
Like many underground music communities, the Phoenix scene provided a sense of community and belonging for people who didn’t—or couldn’t—fit in with the mainstream but it also had a dark side that could be tempting for those looking for a different kind of escape. Through friends in the scene, Lopez began experimenting with drugs, and over time his casual use morphed into dependency. “I've got to be honest, there were not a lot of positive things that came out of my youth,” he says. “Most of it was just a confused kid trying to carve his own path and figure out what he was doing—and trying to find the acceptance, too. I already had my whole identity thing due to my adoption, and there was a lot of hardcore drug abuse and rocky relationships with punk rock girlfriends who were just as screwed up as I was.”
Though it hasn’t always been a smooth path, Lopez wouldn’t be the same person he is is today without the ups and downs along the way. In the lyrics of “White Baby,” he asks “what’s my destiny?” That question may have once been the source of anxiety, but now with Slope Records, the Blankz, and an ever-expanding network of family, friends, and artists, he’s looking forward to next chapters of his life story.
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