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 […]
Over the weekend, The New York Times Magazine published a twist on its annual “Songs That Matter” package: “Songs That Got Us Through It.” The newest is overall a remarkable project, stuffed with keen criticism. But Smith’s piece, which feels for the pulse of aggression in today’s and yesterday’s hip-hop, stands out — as bracing […]
It seems like everyone in the world loves “Fetch the Bolt Cutters.” So why don’t I? On the isolation of disconnection.
In one simple sentence in 1914, Columbus Bragg, an African American writer, helped codify the Blues genre, though he’s largest forgotten.
But really, what is a musician’s voice if not distinctive? Isn’t that… good? Entire pieces have been written about the voices of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, so American and vital and wise in their manly scratchiness, like unshaved bristle and whiskey and dirt. Man voice make music good. Woman voice music bad: Too high. […]