As long as I’m posting here, I should probably share some of my recent work because I’ve done a lot since I last made one of these posts! Here’s more or less all the major stuff I’ve done since November, in roughly reverse chronological order by publication. I’ve also bolded stuff about the artists I think are particularly worth paying attention to, and, incidentally, those are some of the best reads, in my opinion:
YG Makes a Grab for Hip-Hop Royalty at the “My Krazy Life” Release Party (Complex, 2/21/14)
The Best 50 Albums of 2013 (Complex)
Album Review: Lo-Fang: Blue Film (Pitchfork, 2/13/14)
Album Review: Tink: Winter’s Diary 2 (Pitchfork, 1/30/14)
Album Review: James Vincent McMorrow: Post Tropical (Pitchfork, 1/21/14)
Album Review: Jonwayne: Rap Album One (Pitchfork, 11/12/13)
My Year in Music: Kyle Kramer (Pitchfork)
The Top 50 Albums of 2013 (Pitchfork)
Here’s the Real Reason Clay Aiken Could Get Elected to Congress (MySpace, 2/7/14)
OP-ED: DO NOT MODEL YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE AFTER JUSTIN BIEBER By Your Dad, Who Is a Business Analyst (Noisey, 1/24/14
ALL’S WELD THAT ENDS WELD: HOW QUE WENT FROM BUILDING NAVY SHIPS TO BEING RAP’S NEXT BREAKOUT STAR (Noisey, 1/23/14)
SCION AV PRESENTS “@MCTREEG EP,” A 7-TRACK EP BY TREE THAT MASTERS SOUL-TRAP; PLUS READ OUR LENGTHY INTERVIEW (Noisey, 1/21/14)
YOUNG SCOOTER: THE COUNT OF MONEY, KIRKWOOD (Noisey, 12/31/13)
MIGOS: THE VERSACE POWER RANGERS (Noisey, 12/23/13)
LIL BIBBY: SETTING UP THE PERFECT SHOT (Noisey, 12/20/13)
SCION AV PRESENTS “CASHE RULES,” A 5-TRACK EP WITH CHASE N. CASHE (Noisey, 12/12/13)
YG: KRAZY, SEXY, KOOL (Noisey, 12/3/13)
KEVIN GATES: LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS (Noisey, 11/18/13)
Also, here are some of my favorite Complex Music blog posts, either because they were fun to write or I like the music (should be pretty clear which is which):
Nipsey Hussle Shares His Latest Crenshaw Tour Leak, “Between Us,” Featuring Atlanta’s K. Camp
Lil Wayne, Meek Mill and Nicki Minaj Join YG’s “My N****” For A Star-Studded Remix
Ibn Inglor’s “Cold Storm” Video Is The Perfect Weird Thing to Watch on a Winter Night
Listen to This Excellent Blood Orange Album Outtake, “West Drive (Profit Vocal Dub 2)”
Junglepussy Enlists Tink For the Badass, Shy Guy-Produced “Curve ‘Em”
Soul Trap Gets Celebratory on Tree’s New Song, “Like Whoa”
Download Lil B’s New 101-Song Mixtape, “05 F*** Em”
Listen to Fredo Santana’s Glorious, Auto-Tune-Drenched Single “It’s Only Right,” Produced by DJ Kenn
Who Has The Answers Anyway? Sway, The Anti-Defamation League Respond to Kanye West
Find Out How Lil Wayne Takes His Coffee, Learn About His Deodorant Preferences and Tour His House in His New Vlog, “Weezy Wednesdays”
I recently bought a copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, and it has the best blurbs. How many books get glowing write-ups from The New Yorker, the Greensboro Daily News, and Telephone Engineer & Management? For that matter, how many books get reviewed by Telephone Engineer & Management period? What if you were the book reviewer at Telephone Engineer & Management? What kind of books do you think that person pushed to cover? Anyway, shouts out to all my engineers and managers out there looking for a guide to composition that’s truly a nonpareil.
I should add that Telephone Engineer & Management unfortunately appears to no longer be in print. R.I.P.
I still feel very hopeful after I finish a song, like I’m going to save the world or something—that feeling dissipates as soon as people hear it and that doesn’t happen.
— Bill Callahan
129,653 people like this
I went to almost every major music festival in Chicago this past summer and I left feeling underwhelmed, confused, and sad. More than just festival fatigue, something feels inherently different (maybe even wrong) about contemporary music festival culture. This story for WBEZ is part of a longer story I’m working on and hope to release later this year for This Recording. You can read my essay for WBEZ here.
Media coverage on the Monday following Lollapalooza always felt a little ridiculous to me. Yes, music publications and websites always covered the performers, but a gaggle of online gossip and celebrity entertainment websites always covered the festival, too. However, their coverage steered largely toward who was there, what they wore, how much swag they posed with, and what parties they attended. Lollapalooza was not a music festival so much as an interchangeable word to document celebrities in their leisure time. Lollapalooza could have been Coachella or Bonnaroo. Who played that weekend? Who cares? The star of a CW television show took selfies at a downtown club locals rarely frequent!
All he needs to do is promote the release through a performance art project at a swanky Detroit gallery, beating Call of Duty: Ghost in one sitting while rapping “Survival” the whole time. Sprinkle in a few references to French painters alongside the Kardashian jokes, and the guy who once rapped the words “I’m jerkin’ but this whole bag of Viagra isn’t working” will be welcomed into the art world with open arms.
I also made some jokes/speculative wagers about Eminem this week.
I guess I am mostly, like, a “music writer,” but one thing about me is that I really love coffee and am kind of a huge nerd about it. This is a long list I made about some places that are worth trying if you also want to be a huge nerd about coffee.
So Macklemore â a straight man â wrote a pro-gay-marriage song called “Same Love” that begins with him attempting to identify with actual gay people by revealing that he thought he was gay as a child because he liked to draw. At the VMAs, the song made him the central face of LGBT, with actual gays and lesbians only orbiting around him…
A question about Macklemore. Hip-hop artists are often criticized for being homophobic, misogynist and hateful toward groups other than themselves: Eminem, the last white rapper to reach this much success, used to drop f***** regularly and had to perform with Sir Elton John to get his LGBT cred. (Does Em have LGBT cred?) Macklemore, too, is straight and white. This, as Tumblr well knows, gives him privilege. He cannot pile these things up and explode them: they are who he is.
But to his credit, he chooses to rap about topics subversive for his genre. Kanye raps about “New Slaves” and drops $300 jeans; Macklemore raps about how $50 shirts are bullshit. He raps about gay rights, which, as he put it last night, are “human rights.”
Macklemore has become extraordinarily popular — as an independent artist, let’s remember — by making music that people like. He has an immense spotlight. He chooses to take that opportunity to spread a positive message. This is a hip-hop star who takes a Rolling Stone reporter to his AA meetings, by the way. Macklemore doesn’t give a shit about fronting.
So, the question: is Macklemore, by his privilege, unable to best communicate this message? How can he be the most powerful ally: by speaking out to his considerable audience, or by using his moment to step aside and let the voices of the afflicted, like singer Mary Lambert, be heard? Or by avoiding the subject entirely?
I ask this with complete sincerity. I’m sure opinions will differ. But I find it disappointing that a writer — a white male who writes about hip-hop for a living for an alternative rock magazine, dude, pause — who just months ago was calling out homophobia in hip-hop feels the need to call out an essentially positive action for not being positive enough.
Let’s talk some more about “Same Love,” since I’m being portrayed here as denying Macklemore the necessary praise for making a song about gay marriage. “Same Love” is fine, which is what I said in the little blurb linked at the top here. I took a purposefully blasé tone when describing the song because it mostly makes me feel nothing either way — I don’t think I would’ve ever written about it had I not been asked to.
That having been said: “Same Love” is being presented as progressive — by Macklemore, by MTV, by its defender here — where I find it naggingly regressive. The chorus was written and sung by a lesbian, but that it grounds an argument for gay rights in the language of bigots is weird and dispiriting. Should we be celebrating a song that mimics the thesis of the conversion therapy group that decided in June to shut itself down? Mary Lambert sings, “I can’t change, even if I tried” while the conversion therapy group essentially says, “We can’t change them, even though we tried.” These are not sentiments I feel particularly moved to applaud. To answer Rawkblog’s question directly: Macklemore can be a better ally by not dragging queerness back to a question of biology. (And this is to say nothing of the whole “when I was in third grade I thought I was gay because I liked to draw” thing. Imagine if Macklemore — a white rapper — opened a song by saying “when I was in third grade I thought I was black because I liked rap music,” then rapped about being black in America. Obviously this would never happen because it would be career suicide.)
Macklemore is also being presented — here at least — as subversive. But calling him “subversive” means that he has undermined a system — in this case the culture of hip-hop — from within. But he has not done that. Because he is an Independent White Rapper from Seattle, what Macklemore — with the help of his fans — has done is staged a takeover. No one denies this — it is his story, and it is celebrated. The residual effects of “Same Love” being a party to this are theoretically positive, but as white people — Rawkblog and I — we can’t speak personally on how it feels to have your culture overtaken by people who want to preach to you about materialism and homophobia. But as a gay person I can say that I don’t see bravery in the genesis of “Same Love.” And I sure as hell don’t see subversion.
Kanye West, to use Rawkblog’s example, is subversive. For his entire career he has chipped away at the notions of masculinity in hip-hop and hip-hop culture from the inside. Like, he produced for Beanie Sigel and then started wearing sweaters embroidered with teddy bears and tight khaki pants. That’s subversion. And then because his clothes kept getting tighter Kanye had to publicly affirm his straightness because 50 Cent implied that he might be gay. Macklemore will never have to assure rap fans that he’s straight, partly because “Same Love” already does that. Le1f is subversive. Danny Brown is subversive. Frank Ocean is subversive. Frank Ocean — who sings on songs by Jay-Z and by his friend Tyler who liberally uses the word “faggot” — has one radio hit, and it’s about loving a man. That is subversion. Frank Ocean has to endure rap lines like “No Frank Ocean, I’m straight.” Frank Ocean has to get in fights because other singers call him a faggot. No rapper is ever going to tell his audience that he is straight by rapping “No Macklemore.” Macklemore is never getting into a fistfight over his sexuality. So yes, because of his privilege Macklemore is unable to best communicate “this message,” even if the message is the very basic “gay people are humans, too.” His voice can certainly help to further the “cause” but to consider him a vanguard — or even especially progressive — you have to ignore history, reality, and, yes, his privilege.
And no it’s not hypocritical to bemoan the homophobia in Charlamagne lambasting Mr. Cee while also bemoaning the execution of “Same Love.” Only if you take an incredibly simplistic view of each situation — person A has said something “negative” while person B has said something “positive” — can you then hold them up against each other. Criticism is much more than just tallying morality points. At least good criticism is.
Read what Jordan wrote.
Doing the thing where I post links to my work way late again. I didn’t even see this one go up, but here’s a list I made about cool rap songs made by teenagers.
If Photon resembled a musical pleasure palace of the future, it’s because the game took advantage of custom, state-of-the-art light and sound technology, relying on the tight scripting of its soundtrack for cues like “intruder alerts.” During these events, automated alien forces would start unloading mayhem on any player who didn’t hide in time. Elite players learned to avoid these moments by memorizing the game’s engrossing soundtrack—a recording that wouldn’t have existed if the members of Fleetwood Mac didn’t enjoy an occasional night of high-end go-karting.
I have become Noisey’s chief nerd correspondent, I believe. This is maybe the best Internet discovery I’ve ever made. Also, laser tag rules.
The impression that something sinister and unbalanced is afoot is pervasive: For one thing, Deltron and Dan the Automator are pretty much the strongest enemies in this area, while Dr. Dre and Snoop Lion are the only ones you can reliably beat as Level 1 Kanye. No offense to the Deltron project, which is great, but this is roughly equivalent to a regular RPG making, like, a skeleton the hardest enemy in a dungeon and having you build up to fighting it by defeating a bunch of dragons that also happened to have made The Chronic. And the fact that Kid Koala is a threat while E-40 and Too $hort are nowhere to be found—you might as well have a fantasy RPG where you spend the whole time fighting rare kobold subclasses instead of orcs!
I played the Kanye RPG, obviously.
While Memories Speak suggested an artist with strong pop instincts, Indigo Summer often seems more like the work of someone with substantial musical talent and an eye for aesthetic details who doesn’t have much to say. Nylo is drawn to signifiers — Audrey Hepburn, the movie Donnie Darko — that are such familiar tropes of cool that they have been smoothed out to near meaninglessness. Her musical approach is also surface-level, approximating the airy formlessness of neo soul in a secondhand way, leading to wispy R&B that sounds pretty but feels indecisive.
This is the first thing I wrote for Pitchfork!
Did some digging and found out some #history. My favorite is Spa, where the gimmick was that it featured 16 brands of bottled water.