On The Agony of Making Year End Lists

On The Agony of Making Year End ListsImage via Huffington Post

Written by Damon Young (@verysmartbros)

“Fuck” he said to himself.

He couldn’t believe what time it was. It was Thursday, December 5th. 4:36 PM. He thought it was closer to 3:45. He was wrong.

He thought it would just take an hour. Maybe two if he got clever. But no more than two. It was 4:36 PM now, though. Which meant it had taken him close to three. And he still wasn’t done.

“Fuck.”

It all started on Tuesday. His editor asked him to do a list. An end of the year list. Of the year’s best rap albums. He knew it was coming. Although he only actually liked two albums that year, he started compiling a list of the “best” albums in his head days before his damn editor even sent him that fucking email at 6:21 AM. On a Tuesday morning. What compels someone to compose and send an email like that at 6:21 AM on a Tuesday morning? He was probably listening to NPR while he wrote it. And eating celery. With a fork. That asshole.

The list was due Friday. He was only getting $150 for it. So he didn’t want to spend more than two hours doing it. If he broke it down that way, it meant he was working for $75 an hour. And, if he was working for $75 an hour, he could justify spending $100,000 for his MFA just to spend afternoons writing up top 10 lists in his bedroom. Or bus station Au Bon Pains. Well, spiritually justify. Not intellectually. Or, sadly, romantically. He had a PornHub account. A paid PornHub account. His professors would be proud.

He wasn’t smart enough to 'get' Kanye’s genius. Or maybe he just knew Kanye was full of s**t. Either way, he was smart enough to know that praising Yeezus would make everyone think he was smart.

He blocked two hours out of his busy (ha!) Thursday schedule to write the piece. He liked calling what he did “pieces.” Sounded important. Distinguished. Much better than gotdamn motherfucking “listicles.” Just typing that word made his fingers feel like lice.

He had a game plan. Include four or five major label releases. Two or three more obscure releases. And a couple wildcards to show how irreverent and cool he was. Maybe he’d put Eve’s Lip Lock on the list. He’d hadn’t even listened to it. Shit, he didn’t even know Eve released an album this year until he was on Wikipedia. On Stevie J’s page. But he had decided. It was going to be the “7th best rap album of 2013.” He’d put it right between J. Cole's Born Sinner (6th) and Earl Sweatshirt's Doris (8th). Maybe Eve herself would retweet the link the piece. Probably not. But still. It’s good to dream. Is Eve even on Twitter? He didn’t know.

Kanye West's Yeezus, of course, would be first. He wasn’t smart enough to “get” Kanye’s genius. Or maybe he just knew Kanye was full of shit. Either way, he was smart enough to know that praising Yeezus would make everyone think he was smart. And he did actually like “Black Skinhead.” During that week in July when he worked out for two days, he’d listen to “Black Skinhead” on the elliptical. It made him feel like Tarzan. He needed to go back to the gym. He liked saying that he “needed to go back to the gym” to people.

He’d put Danny Brown's Old second. He wanted to like Danny Brown more than he actually liked him. But he did like him. He was also scared of him. Kinda mirrored his feelings about guacamole.

The write-ups were smooth. Easy. Quick. He had a system. Write an average of four sentences about each album. If you write more than four, be more serious. Say things like “deconstruct” and “narrative” and “intersectional” and “pussy.” If you write less than four, be more snarky.

Then, something happened. He was writing about Pusha T's My Name Is My Name. He listed it 5th. But it was his favorite album of the year. So much so that he even memorized a Big Sean verse for the first time. Which was easy. Because Big Sean verses are like gym class. In 2nd grade. At a school with no gym.

He had a system. Write an average of four sentences about each album. If you write more than four, be more serious. Say things like 'deconstruct' and 'narrative' and 'intersectional.' If you write less than four, be more snarky.

Anyway, he had an existential crisis. A crisis of conscience. A motherfucking crisis. It wasn’t quite like Jerry Maquire in Jerry Macquire, but it was close. If this was his favorite album, why was he making it 5th? Who had he become? Who was he becoming? He didn’t recognize himself. He looked at the mirror ap on his iPhone just to be sure. Yup. He didn’t recognize himself. His fingers trembled. He started to sweat. No, that wasn’t sweat. It was tears. He was crying. Silently. But still crying. He hated himself.

Then, something else happened. He had an epiphany. He was going to be honest. He was going to be true. To himself. To his talent. To his heart. If he was going to write gotdamn fucking listicles, they were going to be great. They were going to come from his soul. No more lies. No more half-assed irony. No more going through the motions. He was a gotdamn writer. He had a gotdamn motherfucking writing degree. So he was going to write. Dammit. Yes! He was going to write. He was going to be free.

He glanced at his monitor. 4:36 PM. “Fuck.” he thought. He had no idea it was that late. He thought it was closer to 3:45 PM. He thought about making some edits, bumping My Name Is My Name to the front of the list, and filling the rest with the truth. His truth. But that would take too long. He wanted to leave by 5. Needed to catch the 5:30 Catching Fire matinee today. It was two dollar Thursdays. He’d only seen it twice.

He didn’t make any edits. He finished writing at 4:55. Jay Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail was 10th. He was trolling. He actually thought it should have been closer to 5th. But he knew 10th would piss off Jay-Z stans. Who’d angrily retweet it. And comment. And that would lead to more clicks. Which would lead to more money from the asshole editor.

Maybe $200 next time, even. $100 an hour was easy to justify.

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