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've 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.
Written by David Drake (@somanyshrimp).
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Houston Rap’s Unsung Heroes: A Playlist by Lance Scott Walker for Wondering Sound
Lance Scott Walker—alongside photographer Peter Beste—has put together two books on H-Town's hip-hop scene: 2013's Houston Rap: Photographs and 2014's Houston Rap Tapes. These days, every other blog post argues that a song or artist is "underrated" or "deserves more attention"; here's a piece that actually delivers. Wondering Sound—the editorial arm of eMusic—commissioned Walker with an article highlighting forgotten or unheralded hip-hop that should change the way we think of Houston.
Kiss Forever: 40 Years of Feuds and Fury by Brian Hiatt for Rolling Stone
It's 2014, and Kiss is still touring. But they've never gotten a Rolling Stone cover. RS makes up for the oversight by dropping the definitive look at the group: the infighting, the triumph, etc. Behind the Music wishes it could have gone this in-depth. For the article's most interesting gems, check this accompanying piece, "18 Things You Learn Hanging Out With Kiss."
Jason Kidd's Bad Rap, Now 20 Years Old by Andrew Keh for The New York Times
How many people out there remember Jason Kidd's "What the Kidd Didd"? Jason Kidd probably wishes the answer was "no one," but as George Orwell once said, "Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations." And so the Times has produced a great exercise in journalism: interviewing Money B (of Digital Underground), who ghostwrote and coached Kidd through the process of developing what went on to become a true classic of g-funk.
Frankie Knuckles, 'Godfather of House Music,' Dead at 59 by Michealangelo Matos for Rolling Stone
For people who don't follow house music, it might be hard to understand Frankie Knuckles' impact. And house, although hugely influential across the globe, has never received the same attention by U.S. journalists as hip-hop. This is particularly true when it comes to coverage of the genre's origins. Frankie Knuckles was Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash combined, playing the role of both the originator and one of the most important figures in shaping house music's early sound. He was a truly revolutionary figure, whose efforts enabled him to travel the world playing music he loved.
The trap, of course, is that doing what you love doesn't mean you'll be compensated fairly for it. This struck me particularly when I downloaded the Knuckles-produced "Pressure" by Sounds of Blackness from iTunes shortly after Frankie died. The song was included on a Hed Kandi compilation with this cover art. Ahh yes: the sounds of blackness, and the marketing of whiteness.
Much of the earliest house music was manufactured on shoddy vinyl, sometimes literally recorded over pre-existing songs. And the business practices of label heads in that era were even shoddier. (Frankie was smart enough to play the long game, and so remained both relevent and in-demand throughout his career.) Many benefited from house music—everyone from Madonna to Skrillex—but not everyone was recognized, particularly within this country's borders. Many journalists wouldn't even cover the genre until it was repackaged in Europe and sold to us as "electronica" in the late 1990s.
In fact, this was house music's challenge throughout its run: in many places, its marketing was separated from its origins in the heart of working class gay black America. Sometimes it was called "pop." It "electronica." It was marketed as tasteful, bourgeoise, "rave," European, music for an aspirational class. Of course, it became these things, too. But morseo than in hip-hop—a genre whose origins have always been celebrated and, until recently, largely defined the genre's outlines—house's early story has seldom been given mainstream acknowledgement.
All this is to say: Michelangelo Matos' Frankie Knuckles obituary in Rolling Stone is the most complete and comprehensive one yet written, and an essential read for anyone with an interest in the real shape of popular music. Know your history.