In this episode of Stuff You Should Know, hosts Chuck and Josh discuss the history of hip-hop, from The Sugar Hill Gang to the present. They add their own personal history, which includes stories of attempted breakdancing and well-intentioned clothing choices.
Dan Charnas, a veteran hip-hop journalist and one of the first writers for The Source, talks with Jesse Thorn about the history of the hip-hop music business and how executives and entrepreneurs turned an underground scene into the world’s predominant pop culture.
Andrew Rice, contributing editor for New York magazine, spoke about his article on Jay-Z’s business acumen with James Braxton Peterson, director of Africana Studies, professor of English at Lehigh University, and founder of Hip Hop Scholars. Together they delve into the financial side of Jay-Z’s career.
If you were around in the ’90s, you might recognize Michael Rapaport from movies like Zebrahead, Poetic Justice, and Higher Learning. In 2011, he came out with a documentary on A Tribe Called Quest. He talks to The Treatment’s Elvis Mitchell about his love of hip-hop, his childhood in New York City, and his experience filming his favorite artists.
Got a favorite podcast episode on hip-hop? Share it in the comments.
Our latest Exclusive comes from Andrew Rice, a contributing editor to New York magazine whose work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic and Bloomberg Businessweek. He’s been featured on Longreads many times in the past, and we’re excited to feature “The Miracle Man,” a story that Andrew wrote in Uganda as a fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs, about a pastor accused of working for the devil. See an excerpt here.
p.s. You can support Longreads—and get more exclusives like this—by becoming a member.
Our latest Member Exclusive (sign up here to join) comes from Andrew Rice, a contributing editor to New York magazine whose work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic and Bloomberg Businessweek. He’s been featured on Longreads many times in the past, and we’re excited to feature “The Miracle Man,” a story that Andrew wrote in Uganda as a fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs. He explains:
“This piece, ‘The Miracle Man,’ is one my all-time favorite articles. On one level, it’s a small tale of scandal—the sort of colorful story that you only pick up on if you actually live in a place, and one you’d have a hard time selling to a New York editor. But I think it speaks volumes about an enormous transformation of African society: the rise of a new brand of evangelical Christianity, which doesn’t always conform to American expectations.”
Selected according to a complicated (read: entirely arbitrary) judgment of their degree of difficulty and technical execution, and listed in no particular order. Full disclosure: I’ve written for several of the publications cited on this list, but I’ve excluded from consideration any writer with whom I’m personally acquainted.
When it comes to degree of difficulty, delivering an interesting Mitt Romney profile is like nailing a reverse four-and-a-half somersault. But this story succeeded—not the least of which due to its brilliant packaging, which included a now-infamous cover photo of Romney with cash coming out of his suit pockets and the accompanying headline: “Mitt Romney and the 1% Economy.” Written without the (perhaps dubious) benefit of an interview with Romney, the story nonetheless managed to summon up the Republican candidate’s history of creative destruction, and tied that to the big story of the moment, the Occupy Wall Street protests. If Romney ends up becoming the Republican nominee, as still seems likely, the themes of Wallace-Wells’ profile will likely define the coming political year.
Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit argues, MacFarquhar writes, that “personal identity is not what matters.” But a profile is, by definition, an evocation of a person’s identity. How do you fulfill the requirements of the form on Parfit’s own, rather forbidding, terms? MacFarquhar didn’t make use of any scenes, or quotes of the traditional “he said” variety, conveying Parfit as a sort of disembodied intelligence. By all rights, this experiment should have been about as interesting to read as, well, a philosophy textbook. But the power of Parfit’s ideas about the nature of consciousness and ethics—and MacFarquhar’s skill at conveying them colloquially—made the piece sing to me.
Are you interested in reading about a shadowy industry that attempts to predict and profit from gigantic, multibillion-dollar disasters? Great—me too. Now that I’ve got you interested, I will disclose that this article is actually about the reinsurance industry. This is the bait-and-switch trick that Greeley pulls off admirably in this piece. This was the cover story for Businessweek’s 9-11 anniversary issue, and aided by some very good cover art—something the magazine has been justly praised for lately—the piece managed to tell its readers a story that touched on the past while telling them something new.
A detective story masquerading as a celebrity profile—or maybe it’s the other way around?—this was in an issue that kind of hung around on my endtable for a few months before I got around to sticking it into my bag for a long plane flight. Then it completely sucked me into its world. I won’t even pretend that I’m young enough to care about the rap collective Odd Future, or the fate of its missing member Earl Sweatshirt, but the outcome of this story, which I won’t spoil, offered an (ahem) oddly plaintive reminder that so many of our musical idols are, after all, just kids.
This was my absolute favorite story of the year. Journalism from Africa often conveys the continent in broadly collective terms: tribes rival with one another, rebels fight the government, the downtrodden suffer or rise up. Bearak, who used to be stationed in the Times’ Johannesburg bureau, took one of those distressing mass phenomena that fill the inside pages of every day’s newspaper—an outbreak of xenophobic violence in South Africa’s township slums—and gave the story a terrible specificity. I particularly admired the way Bearak dissected the chance intersections and misunderstandings that led to a lynching, and dispassionately explained the cosmological worldview of the victim’s family about his death. In the end, Bearak resists the natural tendency to isolate a single villain and hold that person up to condemnation, despite the murky evidence, because that’s what the mob did, albeit in an incomparably more brutal fashion.
Bonus: Longreads Logrolling List
I’m lucky enough to be friends with a bunch of really talented writers, and it seems a shame to exclude them simply on the grounds of our acquaintance. So, here’s a list of really great articles written this year by people that I happen to know and like. You can take these endorsements with a grain of salt, of course, but I urge you to click and judge for yourself.
The Gulf oil spill turned out to be less overwhelmingly catastrophic than some doomsayers predicted, but it still left behind some troubling lessons. This is the story of a disaster that happened beneath the surface, and in conveying that narrative with great depth and nuance, the story pulls off a truly difficult feat.