ComplexCon returns to Long Beach Nov. 6 - 7 with hosts J. Balvin and Kristen Noel Crawley, performances by A$AP Rocky and Turnstile, and more shopping and drops.
Secure your spot while tickets last!
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.
- - - -
ARE YOU DONE SAYING NICKI DOESN'T REALLY "RAP" YET? OK COOL, LISTEN TO "LOOKIN ASS N****" by Lauren Nostro (@LAURENcynthia) for Noisey
The song itself is kinda shitty and only further muddies the long and complicated history of "the Nigga" in popular culture/the public sphere (but that's another matter for another time). Here, Lauren channelled her inner Kerouac with this off-the-dome, fuck-with-me-you-know-I-got-it missive to Nicki's new video (which I actually like). It was the perfect salvo to accompany NABIL's minimalist aesthetic in "Lookin Ass N****" and the only piece to offer the ultimate kicker: "Remember when everyone had that whole 'Control' circlejerk for what seemed like three months? Yeah, me neither." You can't teach that kind of writing. —Jason Parham
Young Thug: Came From Nothing by Will Stephenson (@willstep_) for The Fader
Spending a day and night with Young Thug, The Fader delves into his "weirdness" while seeking the method to his madness and his music. The feature is good for anyone who needs a primer in why people like Thugger so much: he's charismatic and almost purposefully irreverent. Case in point? His matter-of-fact retelling of a story of how his father stalked the man with whom his mother had an affair. The article has some great photography as well. —Justin Davis
U2 – “Discotheque” by Tom Ewing (@tomewing) for Freaky Trigger
Famously, writing about music has been compared with "dancing about architecture." It's a phrase intended to describe a writer's impotence in the face of pop music's elusive grandeur, stuck with such imprecise, clumsy tools as words. Anyone who has read truly great music writing—writing which illuminates and deepens your relationship with a piece of art—knows this is flawed. (And why can't dance be inspired by architecture, anyway?) The phrase does, however, adequately capture the inherent difficulty of music writing.
That difficulty is magnified when you're trying to trash a bad song, and can't even rely on enthusiasm as a motivating engine. And even more difficult, if you aren't into seeming petty or vindictive. Consider Tom Ewing's piece on U2's "Discotheque," then, a master class in negative criticism. This is how you dismantle a song, uncover the hubris at the heart of rock music trying to play hip-hop's game. To make the knife twist in such a way that the record feels less like an evil in the world, and more like a disappointment to everyone—U2, fans of U2, fans of art, and to the song itself. —David Drake
Blind Date: Odd Squad's Fadanuf Fa Erybody by Jeff Weiss (@PassionWeiss) for Pitchfork
Odd Squad—a Houston-based hip-hop trio that included Devin the Dude—released an underrated mid-'90s rap tape called Fadanuf Fa Erybody, which became something of an unsung classic. Although certain tracks (like the self-effacing comic realism of "Fa Sho") would end up later Devin records, for the most part, the album remains an underrated gem. Jeff Weiss spoke with the group members on the album's anniversary, 20 years later. —David Drake
Remembering a Hip-Hop Harbinger in the Bronx by Andrew Boryga (@borywrites) for The New York Times
Lemoin Thompson III—also known as Buddy Esquire—passed away this year at the too-young age of 55, in a freak accident of smoke inhalation. He was known, however, to his older friends primarily as the "Flyer King," for creating hundreds of handbills for some of the earliest parties in hip-hop's early years. Boryga joined Grandwizard Theodore, Afrika Bambaataa, and Charlie Ahearn at Thompson's funeral, and wrote a thoughtful piece on the artist's inspirations. —David Drake
From "Gutta" to Glory: An Interview with Young Money Yawn by Justin Davis (@OGJohnny5) for Noisey
A number of music legends have come from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, from Teddy Riley to The Clipse, from Missy Elliott to Lex Luger. But new rappers rarely make the national press. Justin Davis (a Complex contributor) wrote about one artist could be an exception, a talented young rapper who goes by the unique moniker Young Money Yawn. No doubt you'll be hearing more from him soon—and you'll remember where you heard from him first. —David Drake
RELATED: The Week In Music Writing [Last Week]