I've been wanting to profile Bryan Espiritu, designer behind The Legends League line of streetwear, for some time now. Thankfully my editor, Chris, believed this story had merit, and luckily I was orbiting close enough to Bryan to gain a little trust. It's way less personal than the 2 hour conversation we had in his living room, but I think it serves as a nice intro/snapshot of what he's built over the past six or so years. Read the story in full at The Grid:
"Using radical self-acceptance as branding isn’t the usual methodology for streetwear success, which is what makes the growing ubiquity of LL among its core demographic—young, sometimes disenfranchised, hip-hop minded men—so important. “It’s something I say a lot: There’s no room for vulnerability in this game, so I’m trying to build some,” Espiritu says."
Like last year, 50 of the best songs from 2013 in no particular order:
FKA Twigs - Papi Pacify
Drake - Worst Behavior
Austra - We Become
Isaiah Rashad - Like That (*technically a 2012 release, but a discovery so compelling I couldn't leave it off)
PARTYNEXTDOOR - Wild Bitches
Drake - From Time (Atu & Sango edit)
Bonobo - Towers (Ft. Szjerdene)
Blood Orange - Chosen
Travi$ Scott - Quintana
Kelly Rowland - #1
Toro y Moi - So Many Details
Kanye West - Black Skinhead (FlyLo/Thundercat mix)
Ciara - Wake Up No Make Up
New Jackson - Sat Around Here Waiting
Kaytranada - At All
Chase & Status - Count On Me Ft. Moko
RP Boo - The Opponent
Special Request - Soundboy Killer
Laurel Halo - Serendib
Migos - YRN Ft. Young Thug (A late entry that is so wacky it bests "Hannah Montana")
Earl Sweatshirt - Chum
Washed Out - It All Feels Right
Ty $ - Paranoid (I prefer the official, no-B.O.B. version)
Kanye West - Send It Up
Future - Shit
SZA - Aftermath
Bizzarh - Trans Phat
Quadron - Better Off Ft. Kendrick Lamar
The-Dream - IV Play
2 Chainz - Used 2
Ying Yang Twinz - One More Time (Rihanna "Loveeeee Song" sample FOR. THE. WIN.)
Cam'ron - Instagram Catfish Ft. Sen City
Future Brown - Wanna Party Ft. Tink
Kelela - Go All Night
Justin Bieber - PYD Ft. R. Kelly
Justin Timberlake - Don't Hold The Wall
Beyonce - Rocket
Gunplay - Bible On Tha Dash
Pusha-T - Suicide Ft. Ab-Liva
Naturally Born Strangers - Tie Breaker
Dom Kennedy - Pleeze Ft. Nipsey Hussle
Rich Gang - Tapout Ft. Wayne, Birdman, Mack Maine, Nicki Minaj & Future
The Game - Ali Bomaye Ft. 2 Chainz & Rick Ross (late Dec entry that kept me in fight mode all year)
Nguzunguzu - Mecha
M.I.A. - Warriors
Stylo G - Badd Ft. Sister Nancy
Spooky - Coolie Joyride
Burial - Come Down To Us
Thundercat - Heartbreaks & Setbacks
Kenna - Relations (An Ode To You And Me)
MOST PLAYED ALBUMS
1 - Pusha T My Name Is My Name
2 - Kanye West Yeezus
3 - Drake Nothing Was The Same
4 - Jai Paul Untitled
5 - Thundercat Apocalypse
6 - Bonobo The North Borders
7 - Quadron Avalanche
8 - Kelela CUT 4 ME
9 - PartyNextDoor PartyNextDoor
10 - Toro Y Moi Anything In Return
I was #blessed to be asked to issue a snap judgement review of the very high profile, brand new Beyoncé album by SPIN. As a long-time Bey fan, I feel I was able to provide a level-headed appraisal of the album as a whole, without resorting into the quick-trigger tropes surrounding her feminist bona fides. Read the full review over at SPIN.com:
"Earlier this year, Beyoncé released a laptop-filmed HBO doc and allowed a GQ writer to report on her personal archive. For someone so visible, she's fiercely hands-on with her material and personal image; in a man, that might be seen as shrewd and private, but critics seemed to brand her as some kind of Vaseline-teethed control freak. Perhaps her particular brand of feminism isn't the genteel faux-humility of Lean In — it's a bit more brashly capitalist — but isn’t that just good practice and brilliant logic for someone who is an industry unto herself?"
Despite Kanye West being undoubtedly shit at articulating his ideas, they are most definitely present. Music is the aggregator for these ideas - largely aesthetic impulses - and we see them presented through his music videos, stage shows, street style, product, and interviews. 2013 was the year West became the lodestar for the liberation of the contemporary black male. His vanity is political. He is his own hype man, because who else (in western capitalist society) is fighting for his right to succeed (on western capitalist terms)?
I tend to agree with these ideas, because I enjoy Kanye West's music and because it is a fact that not one of his albums has been a flop (808s, the album that kicked off his 'weird' streak, is experiencing a resurgence of interest, but it was also his third consecutive number one release and "Love Lockdown" and "Heartless" did well on the charts). This is not something you can say for any other artist - that they possess a practically impenetrable discography. West has not had flops; he has not had a Kingdom Come or a Nastradamus. But I mostly agree because West grows even more committed to the idea of innovation in pop music and his fame is growing as a result (the notoriety is attendant). Esoteric doesn't always mean exemplary but, at least within rap, you can feel the slackening of boundaries, the ripple effect of West's experimentation on a genre that is too big and sprawling to hew to any single mode of expression. Kanye has influenced a generation with a vision that is so stridently devoted to hip-hop and what it means for young people and their expression, that he is forcing it to find new ways to survive.
"For me, giving up is way harder than trying," West considers in the interview with documentarian Tomas Koolhas, posted below. He is consumed by his passion and often struggles to articulate or reconcile his conflicting beliefs with a prevailing sense of entitlement to the life of a creator. (And why shouldn't he be just as entitled - with all the attendant arrogance and privilege - to see himself that way?) This clip treats West as an equal, and indulges the intellectual and contextual trappings afforded to his (white) peers. He opens it by praising the interviewer's father, architect Rem Koolhaas, and Miuccia (Prada), and this genuflection isn't met with confusion or anti-intellectual derision. Sure, he raps, but he understands that his creative (and possibly spiritual) survival hinges on more than the stale, fear-filled tropes of what hip-hop is. Regarding his willingness to be open about that learning process, he says: "What matters is the people who are sparked by it."
A brief profile for The Grid on area rapper Rich Kidd, a rising star and one of the funniest most charismatic guys I've ever had the chance to interview.
"We pause the interview so Rich Kidd can greet and pose for photos with Jun, a geeked-out Japanese fan. “I’m a DJ in Japan and I used to play your song ‘No Idea’ with Kojoe [a Japanese rapper] and Talib Kweli,” says Jun, who is five months into his Toronto stay and appears to be in shock. “That’s a classic! I can’t stop smiling.” Settling back in his chair, Rich says, “That’s how I know Rich Kidd Shit”—an ongoing, seven-volume mixtape series—“works. It helps me connect with different people around the world.” Toronto artists are no longer inhibited by the infrastructure-related frustrations faced by earlier hip-hop and R&B acts, he explains, because they no longer need record labels or traditional media outlets. “Thank god for the internet, man. Drake made his name because of the technology. The scene is better than it was five or 10 years ago because the artist is in control. We can target who we want—not just in our own country, but in different places.”
I wrote this piece for ROOKIE about my mom's decision to go back to school and how the process of exercising her own agency changed my perception of her. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to write for a publication like ROOKIE; I do what I do because I felt so weird and lost growing up - I want girls like me to have something that helps it hurt a little less.
Lots of people really enjoyed the piece and that makes me happy. But it feels important for me to share that writing through something so personal was an exercise in working through anxieties related both to writing and my personal life.
I am very happy about the relationship I have with my mother; it has evolved into something resembling mutual respect, and that is more than I could ever ask for. But I wouldn't say I am close with my family. We don't speak every day. My mom knew I wrote this piece, but I haven't even asked her what she thought of it. The thought of it actually terrifies me. That caveat is important. My relationship with my family has been tumultuous over the years and I don't want this piece to infer that I have some feel-good-y, "normal" relationship with my mother because I don't feel like I do.
I'm not sure why that is yet, but it's something I think I can work through via writing. Knowing I struggle with the nuances of interpersonal relations, it feels good to know I can prompt conversation, praise, and respect through sharing the most visceral part of me - my feelings. Most of the time people don't want to know how you feel.