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Kendrick Lamar, Hip-Hop’s Newest Old-School Star

The young M.C. is on a quest to become the best rapper in the world.

‘Everybody just wants to have fun, be with the scene,” Kendrick Lamar said when we met in his cramped quarters inside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn last fall. “Certain people get backstage, people that you would never expect. . . . You ain’t with the media! You ain’t into music! You ain’t into sports! You’re just here.” The rapper, now 27, had just finished his set as the opening act on this stretch of Kanye West’s Yeezus tour, and he was sitting low in an armchair in his trademark black hoodie surrounded by exactly those people.

PUBLISHED: June 25, 2014
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4978 words)

My Lower East Side

A young transplant is drawn to the lively and fast-changing New York neighborhood a great-great-grandfather left behind.

Cringe if you want, but we wouldn’t have been the first to turn a shiva into an open house. We’d all like to believe that our legacies are larger than a rent-controlled apartment, but this is New York, where mortality and mortgages are intrinsically linked. The sad truth is when your lease on life is up, your family members will whisper, possibly over your cold, dead body, about what will happen to that Brooklyn Heights brownstone you purchased in the 1960s for $80,000.

PUBLISHED: June 20, 2014
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2631 words)

Woo Cho Bang Bang

In Brownsville, Brooklyn kids are joining gangs whose territories are based on the housing projects where they grew up. The warring gangs have helped made Brownsville the "murder capital of New York":

Prosecutors and detectives still don’t know when the battle of Brownsville started or what it was over. Some think it grew out of a perceived slight at a dance-hall party in one of the warring projects, whose turf is separated by about ten blocks. But the authorities did establish a connection to the current group of principals by the summer of 2010, when a series of shootings, allegedly by Hoodstarz members, wounded two associates of the Brownsville Fly Guys (a gang aligned with the Wave Gang). In October, one of them died from the injuries.

Two days later, in what was likely B.F.G. retaliation, the purported Hoodstarz leader, 16-year-old Hakeem (“OCC”) Gravenhise, was ambushed in front of his apartment building with a fatal barrage of gunfire. His mother witnessed the shooting. There have been no arrests in his murder.

PUBLISHED: June 19, 2014
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5179 words)

Common Core, in 9-Year-Old Eyes

A fourth grader at Public School 397 in Brooklyn struggles as he prepares for the exams aligned with the Common Core standards.

Ms. Alcindor did not know what to do about his academic difficulties. Her English was too limited to be of much help with homework, and she had never heard of the Common Core. She was away from the house most days, working a $10.50-an-hour job as a nursing assistant, and the triplets’ father no longer lived with them. But Ms. Alcindor knew that Haelleca (pronounced HALL-UH-kuh) was doing something right, judging by her pile of awards and her zeal for reading. “You must help your brothers,” she told her daughter.

PUBLISHED: June 14, 2014
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5098 words)

For a Respected Prosecutor, An Unpardonable Failure

Evidence of a convicted murderer’s possible innocence sat buried in a case file for more than two decades. Now, a prosecutor in Brooklyn will have to answer for the mistake.

On the afternoon of July 18, 1990, James Leeper, a newly minted homicide prosecutor in Brooklyn, had to make a challenging closing argument. The man he had charged with murder had mounted a substantial defense—offering plane tickets and video footage indicating he had been vacationing at Disney World when a man named Darryl Rush was shot dead in front of a Brooklyn housing project. Leeper acknowledged to the jury that it seemed like the "perfect alibi."

PUBLISHED: June 4, 2014
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4960 words)

A Fight Is Brewing

They’re identical twins, both world-renowned beer makers, and they hate each other:

The Danish press has caught the conflict’s biblical whiff, casting Mikkel and Jeppe as sworn enemies. Thomas Schon, Mikkeller’s first employee, told me that the twins suffer from a pronounced personality clash: “It was a big relief for Mikkel when Jeppe moved to Brooklyn. It was like the Danish beer scene wasn’t big enough for the two of them.” Mikkeller’s operations manager, Jacob Gram Alsing, said that the subject of Jeppe “is very sensitive for Mikkel to talk about.” Mikkel himself put it this way: “You know Oasis? The Gallagher brothers? They were one of the most successful bands in the world, but those guys had problems with each other.” With twins, he said, “it’s a matter of seeing yourself in another person, and sometimes seeing something you don’t like.”

PUBLISHED: March 26, 2014
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4681 words)

How Much My Novel Cost Me

Writer Emily Gould on writing books, going into debt and navigating relationships. An excerpt from MFA VS NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction:

It was more like the failure occurred in tiny increments over the course of two years, after which it was too late to develop a solid Plan B.

I spent some of the advance on clothes that no longer fit my body/life, but mostly I spent it on taxes—New York even has a city tax, on top of the state and federal kind—and rent. I lived alone for three years in Brooklyn, paying $1,700 a month ($61,200 all told) for a pretty but small one-bedroom within eyeshot of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway. I also spent $400 a month on health insurance. At one point I thought I would find another full-time job after finishing the book, but then I must have convinced myself that teaching yoga part time would better enable my writing. I also thought that I would immediately start another book, which I would sell, like the first, before I’d written half of it. In order to believe this I had to cut myself off from all kinds of practical realities; considering these realities seemed like planning for failure. In retrospect it seems clear that I should never have bought health insurance, nor lived by myself.

PUBLISHED: Feb. 24, 2014
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5586 words)

My Life As a Young Thug

Mike Tyson reflects on a childhood spent on the streets of Brooklyn, being bullied, getting into fights and stealing—and then meeting a man who would change his life:

"We sat down, and Cus told me he couldn’t believe I was only 13 years old. And then he told me what my future would be. ‘If you listen to me, I can make you the youngest heavyweight champion of all time.’

“Fuck, how could he know that shit? I thought he was a pervert. In the world I came from, people do shit like that when they want to perv out on you. I didn’t know what to say. I had never heard anyone say nice things about me before. I wanted to stay around this old guy because I liked the way he made me feel. I’d later realize that this was Cus’s psychology. You give a weak man some strength, and he becomes addicted.”

AUTHOR:Mike Tyson
PUBLISHED: Oct. 20, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5061 words)

Easy Money

The writer on his experience being on the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?":

"Did I mention on my questionnaire that I could perform a serviceable impression of Chewbacca? Did I offer that up to them as proof of my willingness to give them whatever they wanted in exchange for a chance at their money? Yes. Yes, I did. The rest of my interview in the cramped bowels of the Apollo Theatre was merely a formality. I would be good on the show because of X, Y, and Z. When I was twelve, I was an actor in a sex-ed video starring Bill Nye the Science Guy. I would spend a million dollars on the world’s greatest first-anniversary present for my wife. Can I do the Chewbacca now? Of course I can. It is a great and unholy sound, and for several seconds all talk in that room came to an end. A guy who recognized the noise for what it was clapped from somewhere back in the line. I boarded the train back to Brooklyn, uncertain that I had succeeded, though I needn’t have doubted the Wookiee’s allure. Two weeks later, I received a postcard informing me that I was part of the 'contestant pool,' and a week after that a producer called to tell me that my episode would shoot in seven days’ time."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 21, 2013
LENGTH: 23 minutes (5816 words)