some writin bout writin

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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.

How the Free Internet Is Eating Itself

Welcome to the Post-Writing Web

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.

they see the shine, i’m from texas

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I mean there was no way that two members of Screwed Up Click remaking a Screwed Up Click song was going to suck, but I’m still pleasantly surprised by how damn joyful Lil Keke and Big Pokey’s “Southside Groovin'” is. Big Pokey wins the “whose verse was best?” contest that S.U.C. rarely played when they freestyled, just because he uses the term “chillaxin’.” While listening to this I started doing the Southside, aka the dance Lil Keke talks about in “Southside” (no relation).

u were always on my mind, broh

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Throughout Glenn Danzig’s reign of darkness and doom over all things heavy and hard, he’s always been looked at as a pissed-off 16-year-old’s conception of what a Real Man From Hell ought to be, and that’s with good reason—duke does NOT fuck with shirts, even when he’s showing off his book collection, which includes a special edition of the bible where Jesus kills a kid. But I prefer Glenn’s softer, more sensitive side, the side that writes songs like “Sistinas” and “Life Fades Away” (for Roy Orbison) plus that other song from the Less than Zero soundtrack, and the first half of a handful of Danzig songs where he pretends they’re gonna be regular prom songs but then the guitars really kick in and they become prom songs from hell. Anyways, ol’ Glenn tacked on a real Adult Contemporary-ass cover of “Crying in the Rain” to the end of the Skeletons cover album last year, and he keeps threatening to do an entire Danzig Sings Elvis project, which I for one cannot wait for.

Anyways, listen to him sing “Always On My Mind,” which is the first hypothetical song from Danzig Sings Elvis. If this shit actually ever comes out it’ll be both mine and my dad’s favorite album of [insert year here, broh].

AY MUTHAFUCKA AY MUTHAFUCKA AY MUTHAFUCKA AY

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ANNOUNCEMENT TIME, I already tweeted this BUT, through the blessings of the WordPress gods I now own the drewscoolblog domain, which means this blog is slightly more of a thing than it was a couple days ago. So to celebrate, the staff here at Drew’s Cool Blog has unanimously decided to post “Ay Muthafucka,” one of my favorite—uh, our favorite, I’m speaking on behalf of the whole staff of Drew’s Cool Blog here—songs off There’s a Situation on the Homefront, one of the funniest rap albums ever. Bliggity bow blow, click “play” on the Bandcamp player below and you’ll reach the promised land. I’d try to get into the byzantine lore of Kenny Dennis aka KDz aka Killa Deacon aka Mista We Hoop Outside, but I don’t want to get some of it wrong and offend Kenny, plus it’s more fun to dive dick-first into it all yourself.

she callin my phone she so irritating

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Trouble has been one of the best rappers in Atlanta since, like, ever, but it feels like for whatever reason he hasn’t quite gotten over nationally the same way his peers have. Which is a shame; dude can fucking rap, and he’s been dropping gems consistently for years. But hey, not all’s fair in love and hip-hop, but lately Trouble-Trouble has garnered a little momentum from his guest appearance on Young Thug’s “Thief in the Night,” which is notable for both being an excellentely excellent song as well as Trouble’s amazing acting in its music video—he uses money to cover up his face to show he’s shocked, he wears a blazer with no shirt in the strip club, and his and Thugger’s high five at 3:47 is one of my favorite rap video moments of the year. He really carries the song despite it being on Slime Season 2, and it gives me hope that one day he’ll be as big as a Thug or a Rich Homie Quan or whoever.

To that end, he’s recently released a new track with Fetty Wap, and while it’s not as urgent as “Thief in the Night” or as unconventional as his turn on Lucci’s “Key to the Streets,” it’s further proof that Trouble has as much personality, pizzaz, and flair as anybody else in the crowded field of Atlanta talent. Fetty and Trouble match perfectly here, maybe they can get together with Alley Boy and Monty and do a DuckZoo tape or something.

don’t play with me i’ll get you popped on your hoverboard

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N.O.R.E.’s Drunk Uncle tape was going to be a confirmed must-listen wild ride just off the strength of the Uncle Buck-referencing cover and the fact that there’s a skit of N.O.R.E. taking a piss that’s somehow “produced by Charlamagne the God”????? Like, does that mean Charlamagne was recording the sound of N.O.R.E. peeing? Or is that actually Charlamagne peeing and they just pretended it was N.O.R.E.? I dunno, but it’s a totally pleasant surprise that there are actually a few jams on this thing, basically whenever N.O.R.E. just gets to go crazy with beats that sound like late 90s Neptunes beats. “Want Me Dead” = good; “Want Me Dead” + what might be a years-old hyperactive T-Pain hook = even better. N.O.R.E. on “Giving It Up” = good, especially when he raps “This is that music you shouldn’t listen to!”; all the other dudes on “Giving It Up” = wait, why didn’t he and Vince Staples do a reggaeton song for this? And then it’s hard to fuck up N.O.R.E., Nature, Royal Flush, and Kool G. Rap on “Queens.”

But probably my favorite track on the tape is “Get Money,” which is produced by Swizzy and finds N.O.R.E. threatening to shoot someone off their hoverboard (see the title of this post). While that line will age about as well as an open bottle of Boone’s Farm, it is funny as fuck right now.

michael jackson with the work cuz i make the j’s start dancin

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Last night Lina, Nora Ephron, and I finished the OJ Simpson FX show. I really liked it, except for whenever the show tried to be meta (i.e., the Kardashian kids chanting their last name while watching TV, that guy yelling the phrase “PLOT TWIST” after that one plot twist involving the judge’s wife, etc.), but that’s just my personal preference.

The casting was amazing when it was spot-on, and even better when it wasn’t. Which is to say, literally what the fuck was going on with John Travolta the entire season were the makeup people just caking his face in silly putty before he went on set why didn’t his eyebrows move the scene where he listened to muzak in his car the Hawaiian shirt the Hawaiian shirt THE HAWAIIAN SHIRTTTTTT.

Travolta aside, I very heavily fucked with how the show managed to argue—and this is perhaps just how I read it—that OJ more than probably did it, or at least had something to do with it, yet the only logical course of action was to declare him not guilty. The final speeches by Chris Darden and Johnny Cochran really lay this out fairly plainly. As Darden points out, there really was a shit-ton of evidence linking OJ to the murder of his ex-wife and her lover, just straight-the-fuck-up, hammering the point home by cutting to the look of horror on the face of David Schwinner’s Robert Kardashian, who now fully understands he’s been aiding and abetting a murderer. But beneath the if-it-doesn’t-fit-you-must-acquits and loquacious razzle-dazzle of Johnnie Cochran lies a damn good argument that because of the institutional racism of the L.A.P.D., as well as the virulently racist attitudes of Mark Fuhrman who found key evidence in the case, there was reasonable doubt that the L.A.P.D. might have decided to skip a few steps and pin it on OJ because of his race.

To celebrate OJ getting off (AGAIN!), I spent this morning listening to a shit-ton of OJ da Juiceman, because he’s the fucking shit and the past few weeks of watching the OJ show reminded me he probably didn’t just take his name because he really likes Tropicana. History has certainly absolved Texaco Shawty in a way it didn’t the actual Juice—one went down in history as murderer and a sideshow, while the other is the pioneer of a the trap-Animaniac rap style that’s become a template for many an Atlanta rapper and ATL rap imitators the world over.

I wouldn’t begin to pretend to be some sort of great OJ scholar, but I can definitely say that his track “I Got Work,” off Alaska in Atlanta 2, is an incredibly fun rap song. OJ’s always plentiful energy seems boundless here, and the Metro Boomin’-produced beat is one of the better flips on Bangladesh’s “A Milli” template.

But hey—enough of my yakkin’. Listen to some freakin rap music.