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What she discovered was often hilarious, sometimes outrageous, and forever fascinating. Now, the author shares Kids Serve Too! And yet it is vexing in its restraint, pre-emptively silencing any retaliatory efforts. We are living in a time of great pettiness. A big star can grow two sizes by doing something very small. Bhad Bhabie chucked a drink at Iggy Azalea and cemented her status as a memetic folk hero. Pusha T lobbed a literal baby into the middle of his rap war with Drake. The next level of beef is always the high road — ascending to that rarefied realm of conflict where put-downs are joined seamlessly with self-respect.
Amanda Hess is a critic at large for The Times. She writes about internet culture for the Arts section. From the vocal singularity embodied in Aretha Franklin to the otherworldly dance moves of Michael Jackson, black folks have long expected rigor from our R.
Being the best in R. I grew up hearing debates about the worthiness of this or that singer devolve into shouting matches, the assertion that a favored artist could sing but not really sang being an affront to your system of taste and judgment. Mariah Carey was always an easy win. In a single verse, her melismatic contralto might argue with her teasing falsetto, alternating between lower and higher notes until she sounded more bird than human.
Her desire for cross-genre acceptance is part of what pushed her to write and arrange songs for herself that few other human beings could cover. Through the mids, to listen to a Mariah album, from lead single to deep cut, was to marvel at a maximalist pulling off her excesses, every run more dazzling than the last. And yet by the end of the aughts, she had begun receding behind her production, talk-singing and whispering where she used to overaccentuate each phrase.
The rumored loss of her voice seemed to mark the end of an era altogether. Few people argue over the voice of a singer the way they used to, but R. But the terms by which we expect rigor from these artists have changed, too. Contemporary R. The preferred feel is that of a raw outpouring of emotion alone in a bedroom with a laptop. To see R. The track has a few elastic moments at the top of verses, but for the most part, Carey maintains a syncopated, crooning sing-speak.
She comes down from the vocal stratosphere to some place closer to the younger R. What makes it different from her previous attempts at less ornate vocal arrangement is the confidence Carey exudes. This new phase of R. She has always been a quick study of current trends, and as a writer on 17 of her 18 No. Carey possesses a mischievous sense of humor best employed on Eminem diss tracks that is fit for our current age of trolling and lyrics made for memes. Over the past three decades, Mariah the vocalist has been so singular that other Mariahs went overlooked — the canny recognizer of trends, the pop star who pushed her label to make unlikely hip-hop collaborations happen and the songwriter who was funnier than people understood.
Mariah, queen of glitter and lover of glamour, might never pull off a down-to-earth visual aesthetic, but she still possesses the tools to make music that embodies that feeling — and she has had these tools for years. Last year, in a span of months, Meek Mill went from solitary confinement in a Pennsylvania prison to releasing an album that debuted at No.
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Sentenced at 21 to prison and years of probation, the year-old rapper has spent his entire adult life in and out of courts and prison, often for noncriminal violations like not adequately reporting his travel plans. But proved transformative. Along with writing an op-ed for The New York Times and appearing on national news shows, the rapper helped start the Reform Alliance, an organization dedicated to getting one million Americans out of the prison system.
How long did you work on the album? Probably eight months. Since I came out. I usually take about eight months to produce a piece as well. I feel the same way. So much of what you write is sociological, a study of the neighborhood. Your being from Philadelphia made me think about W. One of the older guys probably gave it to me. This was known as the first sociological study of black Americans in the country.
He was trying to understand why black folks lived the way they lived. And the social problems he identified — poverty, crime, illiteracy, white discrimination — are the exact same things you talk about years later. That was my life coming up, so it was normal. You said you were on the honor roll? I used to be, until, like, third grade. There was another book I got in prison, about black kids — the fourth grade, things go wrong and grades start to decline.
That was my life. Mine was because I moved to a different neighborhood, rougher than the one I came from. Yeah, but I never believed that. I used to say I was going to be a normal story of the ghetto. Was school easy for you? Pretty easy. Even if I ran the hallways, I would still be fairly good.
Later on, when I really stopped trying, I was put in disciplinary schools. It was like a jail.
You get strip-searched before you go in, fingerprinted every day. One day I just climbed over the gate and left. It was a public school organized like a jail? In other words, it was early conditioning for what everybody assumed your future was going to be. When I finally went to jail, I already knew everybody. Everybody I went to school with was in the jail. What were you put in that school for?
Fighting and acting up. I said in one of my raps, I was acting up in school because I thought it was cool, but really I was hurt. What type of motivation do you get if your mom is on drugs? Your self-esteem is automatically just low. Some people have the determination to shoot to the top. I always say anger is an easier emotion to deal with than pain.
They hurt, they torn, they scarred. Michelle Alexander. I went to public school. The books were falling apart. They probably still got the same books from when I was in school. I read a lot as a child, mostly because I was grounded all the time. Then we had a black-studies course in high school, and I became obsessed with black history because it felt like, for the first time, the world made sense.
You would see your community and how people lived, and they would tell you we just did not want better. But I could see how hard people worked, and they still could not get ahead. Studying history calmed me. The most I ever read was in prison. Reading made me process the system. Because I am already a conspiracy theorist.
People locked in the basement for 23 hours a day, being beat by the officers. Yes, the 13th. So you were first arrested — for the original charge — at 19? My first arrest was actually going to school. In sixth or seventh grade. I got caught and went to jail for trespassing. My mom had to come get me. Selling crack. When I got back, I had to get back in the street and start really selling weed to get me a lawyer, because everyone who had a public defender got crucified.
My mug shot has my face swollen, both sides of my face beat up. You know how his hand got fractured? Yeah, punching you. He charged me for him punching my face. They said I pointed a gun at them. That always stuck with me. But if you were on probation and began smoking weed? I barely sleep from so much trauma. Sometimes you just want to smoke and go to sleep. This is your dad right here. My mom was a probation officer. In a place with no public transit, they would drive to work and get violated.
That makes no sense. If you gave me three months, that is not lenient. In prison, you were and-1, right? Isolated all but one hour a day? Nobody can. I kept blacking out in the middle of the day — not passing out, but like falling asleep. Twenty-three and a half hours a day. Come out to take a shower, back to your cell. When did you realize that you had a platform, and that you should use it to advocate for more than yourself?
When I saw the support people gave me. He keeps going to jail. I caught one case at the age of I am I have never been back to prison for a crime. Basically all billionaires except me. Robert Kraft saw me in prison, and he was like, How are you still smiling? He was like, If that was me, I would be depressed, mad, angry. Yeah, but that comes from my environment. So how do you deal with the trauma? I just override it.
Rapping is one of my therapies. The saddest thing I can think about is Lil Snupe, an artist I had signed, got killed at 18 by a grown man. That bothered me a lot for two years, but I suppressed it and never really addressed it. Then one day, I started realizing that had damaged me, and I thought about it a lot.
Do you actually think Reform Alliance can change the system? That will be a big win for a lot of kids who will enter the system and probably would have gotten 10 to Hell, yeah. I got a mean team with me. How many people does it take to write a No. Aubrey Graham, a. Drake, is the first voice we hear, though his verse will be abruptly cut off. Just wait till it drops. In , the Swiss producer Ozan Yildirim, a. Oz, was given an email address that supposedly belonged to Travis Scott. Keep sending. Oz got help with a synthesizer sound from his friend Mirsad Dervic, a.
M-Dee, an appliance salesman who makes music on his days off. Oz also used a sound from a pack of samples created by the German producing duo Tim and Kevin Gomringer, a. Things telescope from there …. Kid Hood. Big Hawk, who was killed in The beat grinds to a halt with a series of distorted kick drums before moving to its final section. He was producing for local M.
Music crew, of which Young is a member. Young helped Scott in crafting lyrics. Jonah Weiner is a contributing writer for the magazine. His last feature for the magazine was about the director Adam McKay. Tay Keith: Zach Boisjoly. Mirsad Dervic by Ozan Yildirim. I was under pretty deep. I, at least, assumed that Ally would turn into somebody like Brandi Carlile, a songwriter whose singing regularly reaches the stratosphere but who we can tell is grounded and real because she holds a guitar the way, for some of us, a lawyer holds a degree from Yale — and because Thanks, craft-neutral manager!
But these women are grilling that cheese. Why did you do that — do that, do that, do that, do that — to ME? But I watched Ally perform it with my hand to my mouth. This song is confection and sex and feel-copping. Jackson thinks so. As much as I wanted to save this sexy, damaged, doomed man, on this, we disagree. It is a staple of singalongs, the sort of song that gets belted out by groups gathered at marshmallow roasts and swimming pools. Its recent history is clearer. In November , Pinkfong, a South Korean educational brand, released a hopped-up rendition with an accompanying animated video.
It was this clip that inspired the hashtag BabySharkChallenge, instigating a viral craze that has racked up more than two billion YouTube views and spawned unnumbered spinoffs starring everyone from Indonesian farmworkers to Filipino marines to Cardi B to, undoubtedly, your friends, your family, your baby trussed in a shark costume. Jody Rosen is a contributing writer for the magazine and the author of a forthcoming book about bicycles. The video opens with the Carters dressed in gorgeous suits hers a Peter Pilotto in pink and red; his, sea-foam green Dries Van Noten standing — alone — in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.
Whose history belongs in our museums? The video and song meditate on this question. The history of black people has too often been presented as little more than a curiosity. During the 16th century, Africans were exhibited in the Vatican, and in a young Congolese man called Ota Benga was forcibly kept at the Bronx Zoo.
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Even now, landmark museums like the Louvre tend to exhibit artwork that depicts Africans and their descendants as household servants and domestic workers. One great complexity regarding the couple is their overt embrace of capitalism. Are they disrupting the status quo or reinforcing it? But just beneath all that spending seethes an abject rage. Love is hard, unflattering work that sometimes requires setting aside ego and reputation.
What would a world created entirely by and for black people look like? They are asserting that they belong. Are we even sure that the genre ever happened? Pop punk married punk power chords with the singable hook of a radio hit. The aesthetic was embarrassing, even in its time — circuses, graveyards, men in eyeliner. Want to fantasize about murdering your ex? For a brief, fun lapse in those dubious years, such thoughts were best expressed in a high, clear whine, interspersed with bouts of indiscriminate screaming. To me, at 14, it was more than visceral, a soundtrack for a time of hormonal disarray.
Like most rappers of this latest generation, these influences evolved in a post-streaming world, where albums existed as free-floating tracks, somewhat detached from imposed genre labels. Rap music turns on its habit-forming beats, and pop punk thrives on earwormish hooks. Accounting for the keen melodrama of both genres, it makes perfect sense that a hybridized form would triumph in this new streaming ecosystem. Juice WRLD is not the first or only artist to work in the emo-rap subgenre. The troubles of this music scene have been well covered; in brief, they reflect the real perils of our time — gun violence, a crisis of masculinity, dual drug and mental-health epidemics.
If the pop-punk songs of decades past were grandiose enough to be written off as camp, then the latest wave of emo-rap seems somehow right-sized for the terrors of our moment. Jamie Lauren Keiles is a writer in Queens working on a novel about smoking. A couple of weeks before she would step onstage to accept the Grammy for Album of the Year, Kacey Musgraves was under the covers in the bedroom at the back of her tour bus, pondering the nature of the universe.
She had a little unexpected time on her hands. A show in Chicago had been canceled, thanks to the polar freeze that had descended over the Midwest, leaving her stuck in the middle of a vast tundra with a buildup of tour adrenaline and nowhere to put it. Later, she would stand in a diaphanous scarlet Valentino dress at the Grammys, giving a speech that could, given her tone and reputation, be read as subtly anti-authoritarian.
Not so much. And very responsibly! Enough to be able to get outside of yourself and see a different perspective or point of view. What makes Musgraves such a resonant figure right now, in fact, is the way her response to a dark, anxious moment in human history is to move willfully closer to lightness, to stillness, toward the possibility of a world that comes in more colors than red or blue. When she talks about art thriving in this climate, she means it — just not in the same sense as, say, angry punks railing against the Reagan administration.
What she means is that right now, the best rebellion involves turning off the hate and making space for hope. I missed her in Chicago, where everyone was trapped inside, the streets vacant apart from the odd extreme-weather junkie taking photographs of ice floes. I had indeed seen her Instagramming this kind of mysterious, late-night Discovery Channel-type stuff — the sort of thing teenagers once saw at the IMAX theater on a field trip after getting stoned. How did she get into it? And yet even in her early years, when Musgraves looked more the part of your average Nashville aspirant, in cowboy boots and blond highlights, there was always a kind of poise, an innate regality that set her apart.
This, perhaps, is the other side of her East Texas grit — the one that manifests less as yee-haw joy and more as D. Musgraves grew up in Golden, Tex. She would make it happen on her own terms. And not in a baller way — like very small-business, check-to-check kind of a thing. But they made all their own decisions. Growing up, she had a Spice Girls poster in her room — Ginger, with her wild tattoo, made a strong impression — and listened to emo rock bands like the Used and Dashboard Confessional.
There was, of course, the requisite period in which a teenage Musgraves turned her back on the whole cowgirl thing. But this rebellion turned out to be short-lived. I want to mix that in with something modern. This is a big-deal event in the business; its attendees are queen-makers in an industry in which success is still determined by access to radio airwaves. A young woman takes the stage at the legendary Ryman Auditorium, the so-called Mother Church of country, about to play the song that could make or break her career. A star is born. For Musgraves, performing alongside Dolly Parton at the Grammys, winning Album of the Year, presenting an award at the Oscars — all of this is unequivocally her dream.
Wait, I can use my brain, sit on my ass and make a living?
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By the time Musgraves eventually located her particular voice, it was already honed to a sharp edge. Back on her bus, in Wisconsin, after playing to a couple thousand freezing fans who arrived lit and ready to party, Musgraves decompressed again. I enjoy it! She puttered around her kitchen, making mugs of ginger tea. She might have scrolled through the looks her stylist had just sent through for the Grammys; she was still searching for something just right to match Dolly Parton. If I ever have a girl, it could be cute to give her P.
Sparkles, or Makeup Beauty, or whatever, you know? Lots to do. She carries her Bluetooth speaker from room to room with the tender devotion of a mother cat ferrying kittens across a flooded stream. Over the last year, an increasingly dominant voice in this mix has been Post Malone, a year-old sort-of-rapper from suburban Dallas. Like most other post-Drake stars, he is an amphibious rap-singer who likes to brag about his vast wealth and sexual conquests — except when he is spending long soulful interludes lamenting exactly those things.
But Post Malone, my daughter helped me understand, is popular as much for his persona as for his music. He is a superhero of silly, sloppy, irresponsible ease — a hard-living, cheerful goofball whose happiness makes everyone else happy. He seems to smile with extra teeth. Everything he does seems half-accidental.
He first learned to play guitar because he was extremely good at the video game Guitar Hero. He chose his stage name using an online rap-name generator. His real name is Austin Post. This sort of giddy misidentification is, in fact, the key to Post Malone. He is not exactly a rapper but is also not not a rapper. His musical roots reach down to country, metal, folk and rock — online, you can watch him play loving covers of Bob Dylan and Nirvana.
And yet his megasuccess has mainly come under the umbrella of hip-hop. He says he prefers to think of himself as beyond genre, which is convenient, because he has sometimes been head-slappingly inarticulate on the subject. Post Malone, in other words, is a big roiling mess of contradictions. No wonder he is so popular with teenagers. This also makes Post Malone a perfect fit for Spider-Man, the canonical story of awkward adolescent empowerment. We meet the teenage Miles Morales in his bedroom, alone, doodling and bobbing his head to the bouncy hit about a dysfunctional relationship.