I’ve been meaning to do this post this for a few weeks, but I had a feature run in the September issue of Penthouse that I’m pretty proud of. I asked my editor, the indomitable Mish Way, if she’d be cool with me putting it on my blog––as of now, Penthouse‘s features are print-only––and she said yes as long as I told the good readers of Drew’s Cool Blog where they could buy the issue online. So, again, buy the issue online. It’s also got a crazy feature from the great Seth Ferranti, which is worth the price of the issue alone.
Anyways, here’s a scan of the piece. The title is a very obvious Janet Malcolm reference. The scan is text-only because I originally made it so that I could send it to my mom.
Thanks a ton to everybody who was nice enough to speak with me for the piece, and thanks to Emilie Friedlander, Paul Blest, and Philip Marschall for having a look at it before I filed and telling me whether it sucked or not.
The other day, WordPress sent me an email telling me that my domain name had expired and I needed to buy it again. Despite having not posted something on here in, like, six months, the fact that I have a blog––and that I think that said blog is cool––is central to my identity. Without drewscoolblog.com, I am nothing. Samson without hair. Gore Vidal without a million stories about famous people. Late-90s Puff Daddy without his mother, his two sons, a new girlfriend, an ex, two personal assistants, Shyne, a personal photographer, a video cameraman, twenty producers, engineers, songwriters, a bodyguard, and his biographer. So, I coughed up a hundred bucks and bought the domain again. To celebrate, here is a very good Spice 1 song that I bought a 12-inch of the other day:
Let me go on the record as saying that Blac Youngsta’s Fuck Everybody tape is real real good. He’s from Memphis, which is the state next to North Carolina, which is where I am currently typing this at two in the morning, and he’s down with Yo Gotti’s CMG clique. Between CMG’s Blac Youngsta and Snootie Wild both making dents in the scene and its amazingly named b-teamer Wave Chapelle, Gotti’s proven himself a more apt judge of talent than your favorite rap blogger and/or Elliott Wilson (who is no one’s favorite rap blogger).
I first heard Blac Youngsta when Charlotte’s Power 98 played his record “Beat It” with Rich Homie Quan a while back. “Beat It” is pretty heavily dominated by Quan and so by design it’s doesn’t show Blac Youngsta’s magnetism the way Fuck Everybody tracks like “School” or “Gun On Me” or “Hustler for Mine (feat. YFN Lucci)” do, but a co-sign from a reliable radio presence like Quan is often what it takes for a buzzing Southern rapper artist to cinch radio play in markets outside their hometown.
Similarly, Power 98’s also been spinning YFN Lucci’s “Key to the Streets” and D.R.A.M.’s “Broccoli” a good bit lately, both of which illustrate the previous principle (“Key to the Streets” is by no means the best that Lucci’s Wish Me Well 2 has to offer, but it’s got Migos and Trouble on it; “Broccoli” features Lil Yachty who despite being a relative newcomer is so popular that radio can’t ignore him), as well as this weird contrition the music industry apparently has about dudes getting their beats jacked. Drake, of course, cut off the momentum of D.R.A.M.’s “Cha Cha” by turning the song into “Hotline Bling.” And Lucci, who’s been steadily building momentum in Atlanta ever since the original Wish Me Well, got undercut by goddamn Bryson Tiller, who used the “Perfect” beat to make some shitty song that ended up being dude’s breakout single (there’s some contention online about whose track actually came out first, so this might not actually be a case of industry astroturfing in favor of Tiller, and even if it was it could have just been bad luck. Regardless, I am probably going to hold it against Tiller until the sun engulfs the earth.)
Anyways, the point here is that history is evidently correcting itself, and oh yeah this blog post was originally supposed to be about Blac Youngsta’s “On Me,” so you should listen to that. K love you bye
The other night I listened to Bobby Brackins’ album, because sometimes people do weird shit while they’re walking their dog. Anyways, I actually found myself enjoying what’s ultimately a peppy, low-stakes rap-n-bullshit album that’s much stranger than it needs to be.. The intro features Ty Dolla $ign which should be enough to make you listen, G-Eazy’s half-assed verse on “Hot Box” is oddly comforting if only because it reveals him as the hot/generic Roach Gigz clone he was always meant to be, and “Fuck Boy” kinda sounds like a ratchet version of Roxy Music except not at all.
But I’m not going to sit here with a straight face and tell you to listen to a Bobby Brackins album all the way through—I’m a contrarian but I’m not THAT much of a contrarian. But I’m totally comfortable with sitting here and telling you to listen to Bobby Brackins’ “My Bride” all the way through. Between the wall of fuzzy, shoegaze-y guitars and Bobby’s first verse in which he gushes to his mom about how excited he is to get married, the song is less B-Legit and more Belle & Sebastian or Built to Spill or some shit like that. It’s completely fascinating, and besides you already clicked the link so you might as well listen to the damn song.
Sup y’all! I’m sitting in a chair, blogging. That chair is in North Carolina, which is sick because North Carolina is sick. I haven’t posted a lot on my cool blog lately because I’ve had other shit to do—namely, I’ve been working on this one long ass article and driving across the country with my college roommate and compulsively googling foods that my dog can/cannot eat on my phone—but now I’m stationary, and according to my Benghazi Twitter Acrostic of the Day calendar the year is half over, so I thought I would tell you about the music that I listened to and thought was good.
Before I start, a disclaimer: I spent approximately zero time this year listening to Chance the Rapper, Radiohead, Anohni, James Blake, Car Seat Headrest, or Zayn Malik. I will get around to them I promise, maybe. This list is by no means comprehensive and if you can think of some shit that I didn’t include on this that I might enjoy, please hmu up on Twitter and tell me what to listen to.
Lil Yachty – “Minnesota”
When Yachty first dropped I didn’t like him, and this should have been my first sign that I am getting old as fuck. Now that I like this song, I am officially young again.
Buck – “Faces”
My college roommate Nolan showed me this song on our drive from Los Angeles to North Carolina, and we ended up listening to it about a billion times in the car. Buck is an openly gay bro-country singer, and as long as he keeps making songs as good as “Faces,” he is going to be famous as fuck.
Pinegrove – “Old Friends”
Yet another song my old college roommate Nolan showed me on our cross-country journey. Pinegrove is not more bro-country, but they capture the same small-town existential angst that Buck taps into. Instead, “Old Friends” lands at the intersection of pop-punk and alt-country, minus the annoying bits of each. Somewhere Ryan Adams is listening to this and trying to invent a time machine so he can go back and write this song instead of these guys kinda like a hipster version of Biff and the sports scores in Back to the Future II.
Kvelertak – “1985”
Imagen Holdsteady but kvlt.
Curren$y/Alchemist – “Vibrations”
The entirety of Curren$y and Alchemist’s Carrolton Heist is incredible, but this one really takes the cake for me. Curren$y makes unassailable rap music for adults. You cannot fuck with him, especially when he takes a New Orleans classic (Juvie’s “Ha”) and rewires it to embody smoky N.O. jazz.
Classixx f. T-Pain – “Whatever I Want”
I never stopped loving T-Pain.
Kevin Gates – “2 Phones”
Truly an anthem for our times.
Future – “Perkys Calling”
Not sure if this is ;( or :”) but we’re definitely dealing with mixed emojis here.
White Lung – “Kiss Me When I Bleed”
There’s something about this track captures the ineffable spirit of survival in the face of fuckshit.
Denzel’s Imperial is to Memphis-influenced militant Miami hell-rap as Fugazi’s Repeater is to hardcore, which makes “ULT” whatever song from Repeater is most like “ULT.” That metaphor realllllllly fell apart there, sorry. Let’s say “ULT” is like “Turnover,” if only so I can get the fuck out of this blurb and onto the next blurb.
Diarrhea Planet – “Headband”
Ambitious stoners who make rock turn in a slab of genuine stoner rock, as sublime as any nug Kyuss ever dropped.
Spark Master Tape – “Tenkkeys”
This song is good.
Lil Uzi Vert – “Money Longer”
This song is also good.
Pictureplane – Technomancer I’ve always had a soft spot for Pictureplane, and his cyber-sexual technopunk makes more sense now than ever before.
Lil Ugly Mane – Oblivion Access
Anybody who raps, “Your third eye’s just a fuckin’ hole in your head” is A-OK in my book. Lil Ugly Mane has threatened that this is his last album, and if it’s true, at least dude went out on a high note.
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
I didn’t put these albums in order but this might actually be my favorite album of the year. The underground-rap version of Jay’s The Black Album, minus the retirement talk, plus an issue of the LRB.
YFN Lucci – Wish Me Well 2
Probably my second-favorite album of the year? YFN Lucci man, fuckin’ a.
DJ Burn One and the Five Points Bakery – Thousandfold
The ATL country-rap stalwart made a yoga album with his band. This is basically everything I could ask an ambient record to be—challenging and full of texture when I want to tune in, unobtrusive when I don’t.
OK that’s five albums, that’s good enough, I have other shit to do bye.
OK, uh, well, look. Here’s what’s up. Swag Toof are a rap group that I am friendly with. Their members are named Ouija and Choirboy. They live in New York, they are really cool guys, and I happen to enjoy their music a lot. Ouija and I DM about random bullshit on Twitter a lot, and recently he sent me their new EP, which they’re calling Rainbrella. I really liked it, so I asked him if I could premiere it on my cool blog. Ouija said yes, and now that is what is happening right now.
Ouija noted via DM, “You can search for this bitch by emoji it’s fucking lit Drew!” And while I don’t understand emoji or general technology stuff enough to verify this, I did read a thing about how you can now search Pornhub by emoji, so I don’t doubt that if you searched for Rainbrella on Soundcloud by the purple umbrella emoji you’d probably find it.
ANYHOO, so Rainbrella is basically what you’d get if Smashing Pumpkins had listened to a bunch of Three 6 Mafia and also had access to AutoTune. It’s fucking dope and extremely strange, and if you don’t like it then you clearly have not done enough drugs in your life. Ouija told me they created the lyrics for this EP collage-style, layering stream-of-consciousness lyrics on top of each other until they had something extremely dense and expressionistic that makes me feel like I’m stoned even when I’m not stoned, it’s cool I promise. Xany, nobloodnotears, and That’s Creep produced, and Swag Toof recorded and mixed this in 24 hours.
Download it on Bandcamp here (they said just enter $0.00 as the price), download it via Mediafire here, and if you wanna buy some shit from them do that here.
One of the many exceedingly cool things about Cam’ron is his willingness to jump onregional tracks and not Drake ’em all out. A few months ago he lent New Orleans’ Calliope Var (who’s currently serving a five-year prison sentence for racketeering) a verse for his exceedingly hot track “You Ain’t the Only One.” Prob my favorite recent Cam track besides “Go Outside,” an exercise in high Killa Comedy worth of Cam’s hero Larry David.
OH ALSO KILLA SEASON THE ALBUM TURNED TEN TODAY!!! Listen to Killa Season the album then immediately watch Killa Season the movie then listen to Killa Season again. That movie went Platinum.
Anyhoo, this track is off Calliope’s new tape Convicted, which you can grab here.
Last night I went to the Modern Funk Fest put on by the good people at MoFunk Records. The Egyptian Lover was the headliner and he was great obviously, but before he went on a bazillion MoFunk artists took the stage and ripped shit apart to the point where I’m still trying to put everything back together again. XL Middleton, Moniquea, and Diamond Ortiz took turns fronting the songs (XL can play the fuck out of the keytar and Diamond is like the funkiest white dude ever to look like Mac Miller, btw) but by far my favorite moment of the night was when they called Reality Jonez from XL’s other label Crown City Entertainment to the stage to perform “Just Say Yes,” the song that I am now embedding below. Jonez looked kinda nervous right before he started performing, then all of a sudden he BERST out into what is now my new favorite song. The best thing about Reality Jonez, besides the fact that he specified you spell his name “always with the Z,” were his Stevie-esque dance moves, which in time caused his extremely dope and chill gold chain to ease out of his shirt. It was the best, he was the best, Modern Funk Fest was the best, bye.
One of the odder, more maddening elements of Prince’s life was how much disdain dude for people using the internet to listen to his music. He never uploaded his music to YouTube, and whenever anyone else tried to upload one of his music videos or even some live footage his lawyers hit them with a takedown notice. But now that he’s gone, his fans have started to upload footage from his live shows to YouTube, which is great because HOLY FUCKING SHIT PRINCE WAS THE SHIT BACK IN THE DAY. Like, not to discount his 2000s-era show centered around guitar pyrotechnics, but his shows in the 80s were some other other other other other other other other other other shit.
The best part of the above show, from 1987 at Paisley Park, happens a little over an hour in, when he starts playing “Housequake,” and OUT COMES MOTHERFUCKING MILES DAVIS IN A PURPLE SUIT AND HE AND PRINCE START JAMMING. Watching them go back and forth, Prince dancing and shooting off his shimmery energy in every single direction while Miles stoically paces the stage, is electric. There will never be a cooler moment than when Miles pauses his trumpet solo to give Prince a thumbs up, except for maybe a couple minutes afterwards, when Prince kisses Miles on the head.
Prince’s stage banter is also fucking amazing, too. Once he starts having his band jam towards the end of the set he starts yelling shit like “Y’all ain’t gone go home til you get your asses kicked, I can see that right now! Is that a fact? You want your asses kicked? LET’S KICK SOME ASS!!!!” and “I GOT OIL ON MY HANDSSSSS, BUT I’M A FUNKY MAN!!!!!” and “YOU BIG SEVEN EYED GROVER FROM SESAME STREET LOOKIN…”
Anyways, this show is the best and even though somebody already uploaded it to YouTube I decided to upload the audio of it so you can listen to it in your car without having to use YouTube on your phone because that shit’s a nightmare. (Download here.)
Couple housekeeping notes about the upload: I originally found this show on a tape trader site that the big homie Jeff Weiss linked out to, but you had to download the files one by one and they weren’t labeled properly, so I figured I’d slap a little metadata on ’em and zip the whole thing up to make things a little easier for everybody. The Miles Davis part is all on the last track, but if you just skip to the Miles Davis part then you have clearly missed the point of listening to Prince live.
If you only come to this blog because I post rap songs on here, just scroll to the bottom of this post, I put one of my favorite Freddie Gibbs songs down there.
Let me start off here by saying I’m not trying to call anyone in specific out, and I by no means wish to discount the beyond exceptional efforts of my peers, basically all of whom are talented and kind and extremely hard workers and care deeply about what they do. What I’m about to talk about is a systemic issue and is by no means the fault of any individual or outlet in particular.
So, disclaimers and intra-post directions to good ass Freddie Gibbs songs aside, here goes:
A generation ago, people my age and younger who worked in media would have been reporters at newspapers or magazines. Older editors would have taught us stuff, and we would have learned that stuff, preferably in a plucky and charismatic manner. Sadly enough, high-level positions for older editors rarely exist these days, and when they do they’re at pubs such as the New Yorker, WaPo, or the New York Times, which are decidedly not the publications I’m talking about here. Instead, most of these older editors have found different jobs, jobs that do not punish them for not understanding how Snapchat or Taylor Swift works. Without their mentorship, edit staffs become less learning environments and more environments where you just sort of have to figure it out for yourself. This isn’t to say that there aren’t older editors out there who take time to mentor young writers, it’s just that these people are rare, and now “old” is, like, 35. And they’re also probably too busy dealing with something more important than putting eyes on that 800 word post you’ve got on whether the new Beyoncé thing was feminist enough, so you’re really just going to figure this one out for yourself.*
As you probably know if you’re reading this, genuine reporting/staff writer jobs are extremely rare and have, for the most part, been replaced with titles such as “Assistant Editor” and “Associate Editor.” (Although shouts out to the four people I can think of off top who hold down staff writer jobs at places that aren’t Gawker).
Despite the fact that they’ve got the word “editor” in their titles, jobs like these are less genuine editor jobs of the past and feel more like “traffic cop” sorts of gigs. These are essentially entry-level positions where you’re expected to field, prepare, and disseminate a certain number of “pieces” of “content” per day. You might be writing these posts yourself, aggregating from various primary sources (i.e., looking on a bunch of different subreddits and trying to find weird news stories right as they’re going viral but making sure none of your competitors have written them up already). When you’re not doing that, you’ll be dealing with longer pieces which for the most part, you do not have the time to write. The point is, if you’re a editor who’s low on the new media totem pole, you’re going to be expected to be churning a bunch of crap out. Because of the amount of posts required of many of these editors, they tend to work with a pretty large stable of reliable freelancers who are super professional and know how to turn around quick, clean, well-written copy that is in need of minimal restructuring and note-giving. (The flipside of this is a lot of suuuuuuuuuper shitty writers can sort of get by for years without people knowing they’re shitty, because they’re adept enough at providing their editors with poorly written stories that nevertheless are filed on time and give editors enough to work with so that they can just rewrite the entire thing with minimal effort. Every website secretly has at least one of these writers regularly contributing to it.)
Once you do this low level editing job long enough, you tend to assign and edit so much stuff that you end up internalizing what makes a good piece of internet journalism, and start to understand that often all a web editor (who, again, is dealing with a massive workload) is looking for is someone who can make their job even slightly easier. So, after a couple years on a job like this, you’ve probably built up a nice rep for yourself through a bunch of pithy tweets, plus you have enough experience to potentially command fairly reasonable rates, especially if you’re good enough to make an editor’s job super easy so that they can get on to the other nine bajillion things they’ve got to work on. (In the past couple of years, freelance writing rates have risen dramatically, for a number of reasons which I won’t get into here. But suffice it to say there’s a lot of work out there, and if you work the system you can get some fairly handsome compensation for not, like, that much labor on your end.)
All of this is to say, it’s very possible that we’ve reached a point where, for a certain class of website, many writers have more experience in both life, and the actual editorial process, than the editors they directly work with. That’s fine I guess, and again I’m not knocking anyone in particular, but it does lead to a certain lack of depth in the sites that are structured in this way. The writing’s fine, but it’s nothing special or distinct, because editors often lack the time to help fine-tune a writer’s words other than try to make everything as clear and accurate as possible, because once this piece goes up there are probably three or four others in the queue. And yeah, an editor can learn whatever they need if they google hard enough, but mainlining a bunch of knowledge in an afternoon doesn’t allow you to process it in the same way that picking it up over the years does—without an older, more experienced editor around, it can be hard to discern which details are important or ultimately trivial.
And because of this, it can be hard to discern between what’s a good idea and what’s a bad one, especially when you have only existed in newsrooms where “good”=”this article got a lot of traffic” and “bad”=”no one gave a shit about this article.” And once, as a young editor , you throw up a few bricks—i.e., poop out a poorly thought-out story that causes a Media Twitter firestorm, or put a bunch of effort into a genuinely interesting story that you’re really passionate about but nobody ends up reading—a weird strain of editorial conservatism can rear its head. And by that I mean editors at these millennial-oriented sites tend to run stories that won’t offend hyper-vigilant media types—often, young editors see Media Twitter as a microcosm of the entire world, when in reality it’s just like a group of the last remaining people on earth who think working in media is actually cool. And more than that, they end up primarily writing about things with these huge built-in traffic hooks (i.e., the Super Bowl, celebrity deaths, awards shows, Drake, memes, Drake memes), because they don’t want to piss anyone off and because it’s really hard to convince someone with access to YouTube videos and gifs and porn and shit that a 10,000 word longread on the global footprint of Sealy’s box spring factory in Donald Trump’s best friend’s dad’s hometown or whatever is worth 25 minutes of their time. Instead, it’s much easier to just run stuff that talks about the stuff that people are already talking about, in a slightly more intelligent/interesting/unconventional/funny manner than most people have the time to come up with themselves.
And if every website is using the same group of maybe 300 people (who, again, are being edited for clarity and accuracy rather than style and tone) to write about the same topics, then, well, it’s all the same!
Anyways, here’s that Freddie Gibbs song:
BTW, here’s some stuff that I read that influenced my thinking while writing this.
When Bitcoin Grows Up (this final piece’s influence on the piece that you just (maybe) read, if any, was pretty indirect, but it’s really good so read it if you’ve got some time to kill)
*After I wrote a version of this post, I sent it to a friend, who spent years as a well-respected reporter before recently becoming an editor. She pointed out that while yes, this “new media landscape” doesn’t provide young writers and editors a lot of opportunities for mentorship and guidance, it does allow for writers to immediately write about things they care about instead of sticking to their garbage beat at the local newspaper and hoping a better position opens up eventually. The internet and the general reshuffle of publishing makes it so there’s no more line you have to wait in before you can start publishing at a lot of places that might have seemed impenetrable 25 years ago—because that place has a website, and they need to put some dang posts up on it. So it’s not like everything’s bad.