I have been reading Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography Steve Jobs, and in it he describes Jobs’ “reality distortion field,” in which Jobs appropriated reality to fit his own singular focus. It is a tool Jobs used to speak things into fruition and to empower his employees to make the impossible possible. His colleagues often despised his rigorous, borderline irrational demands, but in the end, these high expectations often benefited the final product, and for that, the surviving workers thanked him.
I think anyone with unconventional goals needs to occasionally bend reality to fit his or her vision. You can’t lose grip on reality, but a blind faith supported by hard work seems like a tried and true recipe for success.
This mix is the soundtrack heard upon entering your own reality distortion field. It touches on spirituality and features dancehall sounds with some obvious sounds of digital distortion — just to remind you that you are momentarily dissociated from reality.
Are you working or just wasting your time? Did I mention that you’re still on my mind?
NOTE: This mix was meant to include “Somewhere in Australia” by Louis Val as track 6, but the track was removed from Soundcloud.
Young Thug has long been a divisive character in hip-hop. People complain that he sounds funny, he acts funny, and he dresses funny. We are now a good 2 years (and hundreds of songs) into his meteoric ascension to mainstream consciousness. I felt it was fitting, especially before his rumored name change to No, My Name is Jeffery, to put together the Young Thug ‘Greatest Hits’ so far. Something to finally explain to the Young Thug doubters, who have somehow blissfully ignored all evidence of Thug’s greatness up to this point, definitively why the Atlanta native is rap royalty. Unfortunately, I was not the guy who could adequately put this together. To create the mix and write about what Young Thug means to him, I employed the talents of Sun-Ui Yum, a rising junior at Harvard and an expert on all things Young Thug.
Written by Sun-Ui Yum. Follow him on Twitter here.
I think the first rap song I ever cared about was “Stronger.” The first rap album I ever listened to was My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and the first rap artist whose every move I followed in as uniquely comprehensively as Twitter push notifications allows for is certainly Kanye West. Watch the Throne is the first album I ever stayed up all night in bed to listen to, and Yeezus is the first album for which I scoured YouTube for live videos of live DJ performances of unreleased songs. I think I knew every word to “New Slaves” months before the album. I’m not sure when that singular fixation shifted away from Kanye West for me, but the moment I realized it came earlier this year, when I couldn’t listen to The Life of Pablo without thinking of Slime Season 3.
I don’t really think it’s fair to make any sort of argument that Young Thug is a better artist than Kanye West – I’m sure there is one somewhere, and almost certainly one that I could formulate, but not one that I could comfortably write and get behind and stay behind, especially as I look at the list of Billboard Hot 100 singles under Kanye West on Wikipedia. What I do know is that Young Thug songs have logged significantly more plays than Kanye West songs in my iTunes, that Young Thug is the reference point around which all other artists rotate for me, and when the rare moment strikes that whatever music I’m listening to doesn’t click and I would almost prefer to be in silence, Young Thug drags me out of the pit without fail.
It has always been a pretty definitive fact that Young Thug can rap circles around people (just listen to how he winds up, then unravels on “Mine”), but it is increasingly clear that he has legitimate, legitimate hits in the arsenal. Kanye West knows, Travi$ Scott knows, Gucci Mane always knew – so does T.I., Usher, and Tinashe. It has also always been pretty clear that Thug has pushed the boundary, and everyone has followed – but we didn’t know that he was pushing those boundaries in 2016 with music that was recorded in 2013. At some point, his new project Jeffery is going to drop under some name. It will likely be the newest music Young Thug has ever recorded and released under a project. While it is clear that Thug is only moving up, it is impossible to predict in which direction he will veer. Will he be a full-blown pop star? A Travi$ Scott that simmers just under the radio radar? A cult hero? That is why this is the most important milestone of Young Thug’s career, a clear demarcation with a before-and-after. Who knows what it will be exactly? You just know it will be good.
Original image by Harley Weir
Candor is a concept emphasized in Creativity, Inc., a fascinating book written by Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull where he dissects the standards and practices that make Pixar a creatively rich work environment. Catmull posits that candor is “the key to collaborating effectively.” One way of ensuring candor from collaborators is by taking the power to enact change on a project completely away from the one doing the constructive criticizing. In other words, the people offering advice on your project have no say over what changes are implemented. The original content creator maintains full creative control over their work. Candor also requires an openness from the person receiving the criticism. Remember: they are critiquing the work, not you as a person. Ideally, the people offering their candid suggestions are creative problem solvers whom you respect.
Expanding this idea, I would argue that relationships are a form of collaboration, and therefore, candor is essential in any healthy relationship (romantic or platonic). This requires an openness from both people. The problem is that we don’t talk to each other’s faces anymore. We talk to our phones. It is often much easier to chuck your phone in disgust and never respond to someone than actually face an unsavory text head-on. The artists on this tape do not mince their words. It begins with Kelechi offering sage advice on “Advice,” works its way into some mysterious singer feeling sexual on NEIKED‘s “Sexual,” and finally, Brad Bonds avoids getting too involved on “Too Involved.”
Girl you crazy like Harley Quinn, I’m just joking babe, you a ten
Note: This is basically a Tape Tuesday, which is a feature I ended two months ago. The main distinction is that there is no “free download” option, out of consideration for the artists. That is something that wasn’t sitting right with me and felt unfair to the mostly independent musicians being showcased. More generally, music consumerism is shifting away from downloads and ownership into the exciting (and scary!) realm of cloud streaming services. Also, now I have the surprisingly liberating freedom of putting out SoundCloud playlists on any day of the week — not just Tuesdays.
I was having a talk with my cousin the other day and telling her the one down side of having a music blog and always searching for new music is that sometimes I don’t have time to stop and smell the roses. This Thanksgiving week, I’ve decided to concentrate on one playlist I’ve compiled of songs that have been either posted on this blog or that I’ve intended to post on here that are just downright GOOD songs. This is me stopping and smelling the roses. Feel free to join me by downloading the songs individually by right clicking and saving, or download the entire mixtape at the bottom through usershare.