There is as much good music writing now as there has ever been. There are gross inequalities in the system still, in who gets heard and who is silent. But more than ever, people are able to let their experiences and expressions be heard.
Thinkpieces, essays, reviews and features: the internet has overwhelmed us with writing. There's so much of it out there, and it's all so easy to lose perspective. The more our Facebook feeds tell us what's worth reading, the less likely we are to stumble across something outside of our worldview.
In an attempt to get a handle on all of the music writing out there, we've decided to put everyone up on the music writing we enjoyed reading during the course of the week. If you've read something that we've missed, feel free to put it in the comments.
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"Interview: Murder Dog’s Black Dog Bone on Hip Hop’s Most Successful Underground Magazine" by Andrew Nosnitsky for Red Bull Music Academy
From the 1990s to the mid 2000s, the pages of Murder Dog magazine covered huge swaths of hip-hop artists ignored by the traditional, East Coast-oriented press. An unusual magazine, it was founded by a Sri Lankan immigrant who went by Black Dog Bone, and who—particularly early on—conducted many of the interviews in the magazine himself. Unlike The Source, Vibe, or XXL, who primarily covered artists with profiles modeled on those conducted by mainstream magazines, Murder Dog was typically front-to-back interview transcripts: opportunities in the pre-Twitter era for rappers unfairly ignored by the hip-hop press to have a voice. This included everyone from UGK—who Murder Dog covered before the rest of the rap press—to the Insane Clown Posse to rappers from Native American reservations.
In Andrew Nosnitsky's essential interview, we hear the real behind-the-scenes story about Murder Dog magazine's rise, how a Sri Lankan immigrant came to be one of hip-hop's most important recorders of hip-hop culture, and takes a (depressing) look at the future for hip-hop publishing. —David Drake
"I Know You Got Soul: The Trouble With Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Chart" by Chris Molanphy for Pitchfork
Get ready for some meta stuff with Chris Molanphy's charting of the charts. This is a deep but comprehensive overview of Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop ticker and an analysis of its troubles. Molanphy begins with the extremely pop-heavy Top 10 R&B/Hip-Hop list on November 30, 2013, and goes back all the way to 1963. On the way, he tackles the revisions of Billboard's number-crunching methods, the surprisingly overt whiteness of chart snapshots over the years, and the evolution of the music itself. How did Psy's "Gangnam Style" end up on the Hot Rap chart? Is/was Robin Thicke a legitimate R&B artist? What does objectivity even entail for an industry, business-focused giant like Billboard? All these questions answered and more in this (admittedly) #longread, but brushing up on history never hurt anyone. —Sydney Yeo
"Betty Wright, The Woman Who Put the Soul in "Sanctified"" by Leon Neyfakh for The New Yorker
Who is Betty Wright? A 1970's soul singer, vocal coach to J. Lo and Lil Wayne…and the artist responsible for the seemingly-misplaced but no less powerful sung prayer in Rick Ross's "Sanctified". In this New Yorker piece, Leon Neyfakh digs into how Wright's "serious hostility toward hip-hop" evolved into a "kinship" with its stars as "momma" and mediator. Since she resolved her grievances with sampling, she's worked with everyone from DJ Khaled to Jay Z to Kanye, giving her two cents in the booth and in life lessons. Through stories revealing Wright's hand in shaping Miami hip-hop, Neyfakh crafts a personal, honest profile of the woman behind the voice that leaves us wanting more of Wright's signature soul. —Sydney Yeo