Tagged: open letter

An Open Letter To Wale

This letter was also featured on Passion of the Weiss

Hello Wale, are you there? It’s me, Slava.

You might not remember me, but I remember you. We were first introduced in 2007 when I downloaded your mixtape ’100 Miles & Running’ off the strength of your Justice collaboration. I appreciated your punchy delivery and cheeky lyrics, where a punchline could take multiple bars to fully unfurl and obscure sports references ran rampant. I appreciated the fact that you were able to poke fun at yourself while still seemingly enjoying the process of making music, figuratively looking up to Jay-Z on some songs and laughing off your inability to sing on others. I appreciated that you lent a voice to Washington DC, an area that up until then had gone relatively ignored by young rap fans as myself. You were Wale, and your mission statement was clear: you came to get it.

Our affair continued throughout 2008 to 2010 as you released three more mixtapes, this time relating your life to Seinfeld; a surprisingly original and hilarious concept. In the opening track for The Mixtape About Nothing, you shined using the “what’s the deal with…” lead while sampling the iconic TV baseline and pondering about pertinent social issues, the state of hip-hop, and the struggle of getting popular on blogs. This was a few years before #KushAndOrangeJuice and almost five years before the tumblr-wave, making your NikeTalk-influenced bravado a cutting edge display of bringing insignificant issues to the fore-front. These tapes also featured guest verses from artists that were far removed from my current listening habits. I was introduced to acts like J.Cole, Big Sean, Jean Grae, Skyzoo, and the newly-solo Pusha T & I was reminded of the existence of Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz and Memphis Bleek. You were a humorist, you were a curator, you were self-aware, you were Wale – and you were still here to get it.

In 2009 you made my top 5 new rapper cut, the benefits of which included having your shit played incessantly in my car and having your back-story regaled to my friends. I mentioned your name in the same breathe as Jay Electronica and J.Cole for “who had next” and your appearance on the cover of XXL as a freshman bolstered my confidence in you. A cover you shared nine other hip-hoppers, three of which would go on to break industry norms and pave their own lane successfully for varying periods of time: BoB, Kid Cudi and Currency. I spent my hard-earned money on buying a physical copy of Attention Deficit to play in my car and wasn’t even mad at what I heard. Sure, you seemed to have veered away from your original humor and self-awareness, but the resulting project was still open and raw, albeit slightly saccharine in it’s delivery and beat choices. It also featured enough Canadian talent in a pre-Drake environment that I had to applaud it on principle. Looking back, the album featured two cuts that would go on to foreshadow how the rest of your career would shape up: 90210 and Pretty Girls. Both songs were directed at the women who deemed themselves too good for simple men such as yourself, and you poked fun at them for being so judgemental and for having so little life … ambition. You were still Wale, but now you had a better idea of how you would go about getting it.

On February 5, 2011, my world came crashing down around me. You announced that you would be signing on to MMG, a newly formed crew led by the corpulent captain Rick Ross. You promised that this wouldn’t affect anything about your music and I was naive enough to believe you at the time. As the months went on it seemed that either this new position on MMG had emboldened you to become more brash and abrasive than ever, or that you had duped me from the start and that your earlier image was just a quickly deteriorating facade. You promised a new project and compared it to Reasonable Doubt with your earlier tongue in cheek quips about wanting to be the new Jay-Z seemingly animating themselves into a beast of a burden that weighed heavily on your shoulders and my perception. This new album would be titled ‘Ambition’ and would have you inspiring the “pretty girls” that you had previously made fun of. I listened as you promised to take them under your dreaded wing and encouraged them to pass the bar instead of waiting beside it for free drinks or offered them the path of being more than the video girls you lusted for on your last album. It was an album for sorority girls, about sorority girls. You became a new Wale, and I didn’t know which “it” you were trying to get anymore.

And now here we are. Your new album, which features a stone-carved bust of yourself on the cover, which I’m sure you have installed on a pedestal in your house that pops up to reveal your secret stash of diced pineapples, is promised to be “different” but I don’t believe it. The leading single is obviously targeted to those same “ambitious” girls that were the focus of your sophomore project and the only thing that feels different about your recent appearances is that you seem to have adopted a headwrap similar Maya Angelou‘s famous 1970s look. Your ego seems to have been weakened even further, to the point where you’ll lash out at innocent Twitter personalities or Toronto Raptors announcers for the smallest things. You seem to have become more preoccupied with staying famous at all costs, only to hate the side-effects that come with it. I wonder if your inclusion to MMG has become more of a curse than a gift. You joined an extravagant group where you were unable to speak on decadence because your boss has filled that lane, nor were you able to describe the rise to riches because your shrieking label-mate had already filled that role. You were pigeon-holed into rapping about shoes, depleting sports references, and ambitious women. Will I listen to your new album? Yes. But I know that I won’t be listening to the same artist I heard on 100 Miles And Running. Your name is still Wale, but in my eyes, you’ve lost it.

A Guide To Swizz Beatz Ad-Libs

This list was also featured on Noisey

Sometimes when I listen to music from the early aughts, I find myself thinking “damn, this artist could’ve become so much better if only they had decided to invent their own ad-libs before using them to a degree that teeters on grating”. Nowadays, catchy ad-libs are as necessary to a new rapper‘s success as having a living, breathing DJ was in the early 90s. Ad-libbing is a fairly new occurrence and, as with most trends that have been recycled to be cool again for 2013, it originated from Dipset. Jim Jones was the renaissance man of ad-libs, using them to create his own call-and-response system with his ‘libs acting more like audio annotations than space-fillers. Shortly after, Young Jeezy ran in the complete opposite direction with dumbing his ad-libs down to one word and mixing them with a healthy dose of noises and grunts to distract the listener from the fact that he was ending most of his bars with the same word and playing it off as a punchline that you could only “get” if you’ve ever injured your wrist from a dope-boy related incident. Finally, we have Rick Ross, who dumbed the ad-lib game down even further by making it as guttural and monosyllabic as possible, proving Jeff Weiss right once again as he became the third and therefore most successful person to pick up on the trend.

But the Godfather of ad-libs, the man most notorious for inserting himself into every popular song to have been released within the last seven years and leveraging that success to become the creative director for everything you kind-of-want, has perfected the ad-lib game. I’m talking about Swizz Beatz, a true American hero and an inspiration to us all. Not just for managing to marry Alicia Keys, but for finding an ingenious way to receive a writer credit on every song he’s on by doing the bare minimum amount of work. Most recently, Swizz has found a way to sneak onto Jay-Z’s ‘Open Letter‘ to the media by informing us that we ‘GON LEARN TODAY!!!’ and in turn, causing this writer to rank nine of his best (worst?) ad-libs. Full disclosure, I’m counting an ad-lib as something that takes place within a song, not in the introduction to said song, which is why you will not see “SHOWTIME” nor “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN” on the list.

As Seen In

This is a pretty neat ad-lib because of both how often it’s used in the song and how it’s never used again afterwards. It’s clear that Swizz wanted “Ultra” to be a thing so badly that he was willing to force it on us in the form of a repetitive chorus but Jay’s #powermove of never letting the song escape the internets put a damper on that plan.

As Seen In

Sometimes an ad-lib is great in spite of itself, as was the case with Fancy. Employing Swizz Beatz to run the chorus of your song guarantees you’re in for his phrase du-jour sprinkled liberally which, in this case detailed all the items one must have ‘did’ to be considered fancy, huh? But the ‘g-g-g-go head’ is instrumental in both starting the song off at a party tempo, as well as helping it transition it to the underwater sea-castle-vibe that Drake invites you to swim to for the second half.

Lighta In The Air
As Seen In

Swizz has a tendency for asking you to put things in the air. Most recently it was when he asked us to put one hand/middle finger up there for Kanye, but before that there were lighters. It makes sense that this was one of Swizzy’s earlier ad-libs, as it’s at least 3 times longer than most of his earlier work and is actually a sensible command if you’re watching the Ruff Ryderz and/or Phish. I’m still waiting on the command to put my touchscreen/smartphone in the air though.

As Seen In

This may be the perfect ad-lib in terms of branding and ease of use. Gatdammit could easily slip into the average listener’s lexicon without them knowing it until they accidentally purchase some Reebok shoes, upon which they let loose a loud “gatdammit” from the inside of a footlocker. It’s almost like being one of the secret cylons in Battlestar Galactica, but also a douchebag.

As Seen In

Remember playing freeze tag with your friends at recess? Remember how much fun it was to never be allowed to play because of your frail and malnourished frame, causing you to stay indoors and work on your production skills in the hopes that one day, your rapping cousin would call on you? Remember how you said you would make your enemies pay by making them watch you get inexplicably successful? FREEZE!

Let’s Werk!
As Seen In

“Let’s Werk” is just one letter away from “let’s twerk”, which makes Swizzy both a trendsetter and cements his reputation as a man of the people, employing them to grind their hardest with the expectation that they can work their way the same level of success he’s attained. Come to think of it, Swizz is the closest thing we currently have to an Orwellian Big-Brother figure, except instead of a Two Minute Hate we receive a Three Minute Motivation. Albeit with slightly more EDM infusion.

As Seen In

As an artist, one of the worst members you could have on your team is a yes-man. However, as a non-artist, becoming a yes-man is the best way to make some money and tour the world while receiving groupie run-off. With his “RIIHT” ad-lib, Swizz plays the part of the affirmer throughout the song. If he’s working with someone else, it’s a boost to their ego; if it’s his own song, the constant pats on the back lead to a feeling of indestructability which in turn, lead to marrying Alicia Keys. My point is, if you’re ever feeling down-in-the-dumps, just pay someone to walk around with you while repeating “RIIHT” and it will all get better.

Ya’ll Gon Learn Today
As Seen In

Ad-libs generally are not purposely funny. But neither is Kevin Hart, so in the mind of Swizz it would make perfect sense that he would marry both of them into a new way of irritating the masses. More of a threat than a promise, “Ya’ll Gon Learn Today” is sprinkled throughout Jay-Z’s Open Letter, making what could’ve been a good song into just a mediocre one. If there’s anything you can learn from Swizz Beatz, it’s how to double-dip and receive both a producer and a writer credit for the same song.

Vroom Vroom
As Seen In

Fuck. Yes. Engine. Noises. The only thing that literally everyone can sing-along to is onomonapetic phrases, which is the only thing keeping Big Sean’s career afloat. I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall during the making of Start It Up. “This song is going to have a lot of metaphors about cars” “HOLY SHIT DID YOU GUYS KNOW CARS GO ‘VROOM VROOM’?!?!” “Yes Swizz we knew th..” “VROOM-VROOM-VROOOOOOM”

A Supervillain’s Reply to Warren Buffett

This article was also featured on Points In Case
Dear Warren,

Why don’t you go fuck yourself. How dare you sit in your ivory tower trying to give me advice on what to do with my money. While not all of us may have been born with the talent to build fortunes from scratch, I pride myself on being very good at what I do. You see, I’m a super villain, and without giving too much away I can tell you that I’ve been responsible for two ‘natural’ disasters and one successful presidential run (not Barack’s; too expensive) in the last 3 years. So how about you take a step back before something bad happens, okay grandpa?

You ask for a ‘shared sacrifice’ from the ultra-rich and that’s very cute in theory, but I have an army to equip and a lair to furnish. What do you expect me to do, give back my riches and move this fortress to Detroit? They may be cheaper, but ‘attack canaries’ don’t instill the same fear in the hearts of my enemies. Have you ever considered that I enjoy my money just as much, if not more, than your precious middle class? I take care of it Warren! Look at how high my credit rating is, while the average peasant’s is lower than your ball sack.

Last year my federal tax bill was $6,166,376 which may not seem to high to you, but I feel that it could be lower. Way lower, like nonexistent. I’m not feeling the recession, but I definitely don’t want to start now.A recession may be bad news for you, but here’s some math that you’ll be able to understand without the aid of an abacus; high unemployment, plus low employment confidence equals a surplus of henchmen. Do you know how difficult it is to find good peons in a good economy when everyone is full of self esteem? I haven’t hit numbers like this since ’99! In fact, I’ve been able to rape twice as many acres of foreign soil this year thanks to all the extra manpower. 

Your main problem seems to be with people who make money from money, which means that you and I have no beef. I make my money off evil schemes, manipulating the stock market and white slavery, but I haven’t been in the business of printing money for years. That’s what you meant, right?

You think many of the mega-rich are very decent people, but you forgot to include the ultra-mega-rich like I who are also ultra-mega-douche-bags. One doesn’t simply become a super villain by sitting around signing Giving Pledges and participating in philanthropy all day. You gotta crack some skulls if you want to make an omelette.

You may think it’s my duty to give back to the country, but what if you’re wrong? What if the only way to get rid of the economic problem is through getting rid of the burden. I know you’re probably not interested, but I’ve been working on something called an ‘Impoverished Impaler’. 
Why don’t you stop by my lair after you’re done getting your vagina reupholstered and signing all your pledges?


A Resignation Letter from a Former Hipster

This article was also featured on Points In Case

The following is a resignation letter from the most respected man in a society as secretive as Skull and Bones and as influential as The Illuminati. It was found in a place where one would expect to find such a letter—in a very secretive place few people have access to (write your own fucking joke). I’ve wanted to put it in a place where nobody would ever look, so I’m posting it here:

If you’re reading this letter it means I’ve left this wretched society. Sure I loved the exclusive perks and god-like adoration, but enough is enough.

Perhaps I’ve gotten ahead of myself; “What society is this you speak of?” Oh, didn’t you know? There’s this thing called the Hipster Aristocacy, and it’s kind of a big deal. At least, it used to be…

I’ve been a part of the Aristocracy for about ten years. We always operate in secret, seeking out the coolest things before they’re even on the buzz radar of teenage girls in LA or angsty New York Jewish boys. I’ll never forget my first assignment: scoping out Justin Bieber’s baptism. Back then, we had an eye for talent, and I would serve loyally to the pursuit of “alt.” I was behind the rise, fall, plateau, plummet, and eventually skyrocketing success of Amy Winehouse’s career (I didn’t kill her, but we knew it was coming). But after all these years of trying to be on the cusp of edginess, I woke up this morning and realized, I’m mainstream. So today, I hang up my studded Vibrams and pursue another path.

We used to be able to keep a secret to ourselves. Sure we would tell the “peons” about the next big pop act, but we had our own indulgences. Do you know what I heard in the mall when I was getting my antique watch repaired? Mumford & Sons. IN THE MALL. How did we let that one spill, guys? How did the general public get a taste of our alt-juice? You “peons” may not know this, but we were actually on Twitter in 2001, before it even existed. It was a great way for us to communicate, but now every bro can, and has, leeched off our buzz by spying on our twittersations. And that’s just the music! I can’t even count how many times I walked into a bar last month and saw people drinking PBR unironically!

I’m not the only one choosing to leave, but I am the only one willing to admit we’ve gone “lamestream.” The others have their own subtle ways; just last week I saw Alabaster sneaking an iPod onto the castle grounds when he knows that we only allow the iRiver. Speaking of the castle, it doesn’t even look buzzworthy. When we first set it up in that gentrified ghetto it was just our kind, but years after kicking the poor people out we’re now faced with a stampede of SUVs and chain restaurants. Not only that, but the pastel wallpaper looks so January 2011 and the shag carpeting on the inside is trampled to bits. I blame Tiffany for putting mountain bike tires on her 10-speed so that she could get more traction. Everyone is secretly looking for work too. Rumour has it that Geophf even applied to Urban Outfitters and spelled his name “Jeff” on the resume.

Maybe it’s time to stop being so “alt” and take a step back. The gentrification was great while it lasted, and maybe being mainstream isn’t so bad; the Olive Garden they opened up down the block has great bread. No, it’s not kosher or gluten-free, but I don’t care anymore if my chest piece tattoo starts to sag with my man-boobs. I’ll just wear a shirt and tie every day; I have a closet full of knitted ties anyway and now that Justin fucking Timberlake wore one in that movie they’re mainstream, so I guess it all works out.

It’s kind of freeing, this feeling of being stale. I hope all my brothers and sisters follow me out of their ivory towers (literally) and wade into the lame, er…mainstream.

Forever yours,

Gabriael Coqurnilius

An Open Letter to My Fellow Bus Passengers

This article was also featured on Points In Case

Greetings fellow commuters,

You might know me as the guy who gets on the bus every morning at 7:26AM. This is not by choice. I’m not anti-car, or looking to reduce my carbon footprint. I’m not doing it to “be green,” since I hate the environment as much as the next person and would love the chance to throw some more carbon into the air by driving. But since buying a car and the insurance that goes with it is pricey, I prefer to use what I like to call my “public chauffeur.” Since we’re all in this together, I think it’s important to look at some of the key issues that are making our time together less enjoyable and work together to fix them.

First of all, I’d like to address the guy in the back with the $300 phone who can’t afford headphones but still insists on waking up to Wacka Flocka Flame in the morning. Unfortunately for you, since there are no VIP booths on the bus, you’re forced to sit out here with us common folk. So unless you’re taking requests, turn that shit off. You don’t scare me with your straight brimmed hat.

My second issue is two-pronged and deals with high school girls. The last time I typed the words “two-pronged” and “high school girls” in the same sentence I was asked to “have a seat over there” by an older gentleman and his film crew, so I’ll be sure to choose my words very carefully. Maybe I’m just bad at reading signals, but I don’t understand why you would wear skin-tight “yoga” pants and then act offended when I try to put you into the downward-facing-dog position. Also, you may not be aware of this, but other people can hear you when you’re talking out loud. This includes the story about “Shelly gobbling cocks at Jake’s last party” that you mentioned 10 minutes ago. I don’t know Shelly or Jake, but  since I sometimes forget to bring a book or music on the bus,  I’m forced to deal with my own imagination. And now I’ve constructed this horrible mental image based around Shelly’s insatiable appetite and a barrel full of detached erections, so for the love of God keep it quiet.

I think we can agree that getting your own seat on the bus is one of the small joys of life; greater than enjoying a sunny afternoon or raising a newborn, but not quite as blissful as using a bong for the first time. For this reason, I think we should include a “standing-only” pit for the larger commuters. The small seats are restricting anyway and if a Snorlax sits beside you it will make your commute miserable, so a standing pit that sorts you according to your BMI is something we should think about. Not to mention you burn more calories by standing up than sitting, so until we figure out how to get some treadmills on this bitch, you’re standing, fatty.

Finally, I’d like to take a minute and commend our driver. He or she (but probably he) is out there every day weaving this large aluminum box in and out of traffic and interacting with hundreds of douchebags a day while only being a little bit drunk. Of course, “bus driver” is the only job left where you can be openly racist and not get in trouble. White kid gets on with a transfer? Glance at it and nod. Ethnic person tries to get on with a transfer? “Let me see this shit, I’ve heard about those forged transfers your people have been printing in your basement meth labs.”

In closing, I’d like to thank all of you for filling my morning with the sights, sounds, and sometimes smells that fill my morning commute. I don’t know where I would be without you.

Probably walking.