Mychal Denzel Smith’s musical upbringing sounds a lot like mine: copious amounts of hip-hop that was deemed “underground,” “backpack,” or (perhaps most conspicuously brandished) “conscious.” Elitism disguised as authenticity. Yet, with the recent returns of Black Star and Kendrick Lamar, Smith found himself unmoved — and in this crystalline essay, he unpacks exactly why.
The idea of becoming conscious has always been a nostalgia trap, a way of propping up reverence for a bygone era as a critique of the present, to suggest the waywardness of the youth is the true villain of progress. Moreover, it was always more of a posture than a true worldview, a ready-made aesthetic identity for those of us who were too afraid or too unable to develop real personalities.
The reviews editor at Pitchfork writes about the effects of streaming music on listeners and artists, the differences between passive and intentional music consumption, and the overall loss of our individual connection to music.
The more time I spend on Spotify, the more it pushes me away from the outer edges of the platform and toward the mushy middle.
Gone are the filigrees and the autobiography of the song and how it existed in the world to you, the listener. Instead, everyone’s experience is now the same.
“How the unlikely star became a phenomenon hidden in pop-cultural plain sight, influencing a generation of groundbreaking artists.”
“Even those most irony-poisoned among us can wrap ourselves around the fullness of Pure Moods as a pop object that’s completed its natural tour of meaning: a curio first taken in earnest, then as a joke, now as a museum fixture that holds both forces in its heart at once.”
Personal volatility and musical unpredictability merged in the hip-hop artist known as ODB, and with time and help capturing the lightning in the bottle, he focused his singular style into a hip-hop masterpiece.
Pulp Fiction and Garden State created a successful model for soundtracks, but movie directors are now moving away from the curated mixtape formula, and having musicians create idiosyncratic scores to set their films and soundtracks apart.
Twenty years after this famous pitch-correction technology beautifully modulated Cher’s voice in her hit song “Believe,” Auto-Tune has proven itself not a fad but a fixture. Where did it come from, and what does it do exactly?
Critic and reporter Stephen Kearse considers the tragic life and death of young rapper XXXTentacion, and the nature of fandom.
On a two-year road-trip, a couple let their trip memories affix themselves to music from their old CD collection. In the process, they discovered the value of this outdated digital medium ─ not records, not streaming services, but CDs ─ for a certain kind of deep listening.
On the 20th anniversary of Radiohead’s OK Computer, Anwen Crawford writes an analysis of — and love letter to — the album that “manages to suspend time at the speed of sound.”