Three Articles I Thought a Lot About Today

1. Let’s Listen to This Mixtape a PR Person Sent to Me By Mistake

Waypoint’s Austin Walker adds another timeless entry to one of the internet’s greatest genres of writing: Live-Blogging a Disaster. Not strictly a live-blog, this time-stamped deep-dive into a mixtape accidentally (?) sent to Walker, the Editor-in-Chief at Vice’s new gaming-focused site Waypoint, is a journey through the hip-hop soundscape that only someone with a warez’d copy of digital turntabling software could construct. Like an art scholar critiquing the header image collage you made for your Angelfire Tenchi Muyo fansite with a pirated copy of Photoshop 4.0, Walker is mercilessly understanding. He knows when to shame and he knows when to “same. tbh.” He also knows when to drop a link to…

2. How America’s Surveillance State Shaped The Sound Of Rap

Now my only real familiarity with T.I. was his guest verse on a Justin Timberlake song, so the accusation (or lament (or mere statement of fact?)) that he had “gone pop” was baffling at first. I knew enough about him to know he had gone to prison, but knew nothing about what prison had done to him artistically until now. Reading this article in the break room at work I wanted to turn to any of my coworkers and ask them how such a ludicrous situation could happen, how artistic expression could be so severely state-influenced, but I didn’t think any of them would have any more familiarity with T.I. than I do, or an opinion deeper than a nicer phrasing of “Well, he shouldn’t be rapping about that stuff anyways.” And to be fair I can’t say that for sure about any or all of my coworkers, but I can guess because it’s that gulf between what we feel someone should be doing and what someone should be allowed to do that is where the real darkness of oppressive systems lie. The type of things made explicit in young adult dystopias and science fiction is a very real thing in the real world, just as an implied consequence instead of an actual construction. And even when those systems are thwarted, it’s hard to feel that it’s for the best because…

3. Supreme Court Overturns Conviction in Online Threats Case, Citing Intent

I hadn’t thought about this case in a couple of years, since last hearing about the run up to the Supreme Court hearings on On the Media. And to be clear, I don’t know what the right decision is to make in this instance, though I’m not sure I can fault the Supreme Court for erring on the side of “freedom”. Twentieth century popular songwriting has led everyone to assume a level of autobiography from singers and songwriters that I’m not sure is legitimate. As a listener, I believe Jay Z when he tells me about how he dealt crack so hopefully I won’t have to go through that, but only because believing him when he mentions that (many times) is more enjoyable than listening to him count. I believe Taylor Swift when she sings about love, or when Beck has a breakup album, or when Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie has a broken heart. But I don’t believe Eddie Vedder knew a kid who spoke in class or that Paul McCartney knew a woman who literally kept her face in a jar. Fiction can be autobiographical, but it is also still fiction, and nothing is less true than a rhyme. Elonis v. United States may be a poor example of that test, particularly because his wife felt the lyrics were very real and credible threats, but I will facetiously point out that I don’t believe Courtney Love or Marilyn Manson ever got their asses kicked by the dude from The New Radicals.

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