My creative existential crisis started last summer. I'm not talking about the anxiety, fear and loneliness that accompany a global pandemic. For the record, I quiet that screaming little voice with reruns of The Office and napping. It's a more vexing kind of irritation; a gnawing sensation that never fully goes away. The anathema of creatives, 1099ers and Type A types: Keep working. Hustle harder. You're only as good as your last hit. No days off.
For journalists, the past year has largely been a calendar of empty squares with interviews, events and concerts in the balance. And those ersatz Zoom interviews are a bungle of poor audio, unflattering angles and distracted subjects. It's hard enough to get a rapper to pay attention in-person, but try it while he's on vacation in the desert somewhere in the Middle East (True story). Seriously, can I just log off forever?
The new normal is made worse with an ever-morphing media landscape: Ongoing layoffs. Slashed mastheads. Freelance budgets gutted. Everyone is vying for the same paltry opportunities as real estate dwindles (or becomes gentrified, but that's a whole other story). It's hard to know if social media is cathartic or masochistic. Despite the Great Reset, which ostensibly should be a good thing for overworked and overwrought millennials, my timeline is littered with requests for job leads and colleagues leaving the industry altogether due to financial duress or burn out. Those of us hanging on feel survivor's guilt, compelled to project the mantra that we're living our best lives. The schism between the haves, the have nots and the tone deaf is real.
2020 has shown me how fragile, fraught and well, fucked up the life of a creative can be. There's daily headlines of bad leadership, debates over paywalls and the feeling of having to justify our worth. And the pressure to constantly pivot and become a multi-hyphenate is real. Why hire a writer for a well-crafted, researched 4000-word cover story when an unpaid intern can softball questions on Instagram Live? Or, just circumvent the whole thing and have celebrities "write" their own interviews. I wonder what that rate-per-word is...
It's not surprising then, that this is the era of the newsletter. Journalists are following savvy artists like Jay-Z and Taylor Swift--who want autonomy and ownership of their master records--and taking control of their words. It's a media mass exodus as journalists--established names at prestige publications to newcomers--are starting their own thing. Sure, there's credibility in having a recognizable byline but as someone who has freelanced for nearly every music publication for over a decade, there's something deeply unsettling building a portfolio on sand; constantly dealing with overzealous editors, SEO-optimization or the dreaded 404 errors after a publication shuts down and erases your work (It's happened at least twice to me). What's more powerful than an ego boost is freedom.
Welcome to Deluxe Edition. This weekly newsletter is my reporter's notebook. Inspired by rap's obsession with deluxe albums, think it as the b-sides of the life and times of a music journalist. Go beyond the bylines for my hot takes on hip-hop and pop culture, random thoughts, exclusive interviews and freelance confessions as I write my first book: Fashion Killa: How Hip-Hop Revolutionized High Fashion.
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