Hip-Hop Writing Worth Reading

Super Empty

Stop And Listen To The Flowers

In a disorienting and distracting world of push notifications and buzzing pockets, artists and fans are well-served to remember that the greatest joys in life are worth waiting for.

Super Empty illustration by ©Annalee Rigdon.

Super Empty illustration by ©Annalee Rigdon.


We live in a very “neat” time.

When I was asked to write a piece about quality versus quantity, I realized that it was kind of unsuitable to try and insert my own perspective as if it were the “industry standard” because art, as a whole, is subjective.

My favorite artist (see: James Fauntleroy) writes more songs for other folks’ albums than he does for himself and boasts an impressive RIAA certification track record, without any qualms about the timeliness of a debut album or anything of the sort. He’s known for making hits for Jordin Sparks and Justin Timberlake, and can be found tucked away in your favorite rappers’ deep cuts, but we rarely see him boast, “New music coming soon!” which is refreshing in a present-day ecosystem that brings renewed anxiety and anticipation upon every refresh. Fauntleroy peppers the music landscape with a variety of contributions, none more significant than the ethereal EP’s of his secret-supergroup, Cocaine 80’s. All of this culminates in the ethos of his art, which feasts upon our inability to peg the times when he will come and go. It generates a respect that is usually reserved for Adele, or Beyoncé. And while I have heard just about any of his session demos that are retrievable via YouTube or a deep Google search, to the average listener, his ubiquitous contributions go largely unnoticed. Is this simply because we celebrate fanfare instead of form?




When a good friend first introduced me to a producer named Burial, I was immediately annoyed at the feeling that I had missed something. His sophomore album, Untrue, has received critical acclaim ever since its release in 2007. He’s collaborated with big acts such as Four Tet and Thom Yorke, and his second project has been hailed as a landmark project for the dubstep/electronic music genre. He’s released a handful of EP’s and lengthy singles since 2007, but has yet to revisit the “studio album” format.

And honestly, nobody cares.

None of my friends care. Twitter doesn’t care. And yet, at the same time, there’s a new Kendrick Lamar video that was just released and it has already been viewed/reviewed/dissected and shared by millions.

We salivate over short clips of Aubrey Graham’s studio activity and rush to designate whether his next offering is worth the time we gave his prior work… so obsessed with quantity & quality that it’s hard to realize that he probably doesn’t care what we think anyway. It hurts my heart to say that. But as a disciple of the Ocean Church of Anonymity, I’ve had to appreciate patience, care & respect.


In his most recent offering, Blond(e), Frank Ocean flipped my world on its axis with a simple phrase. This phrase made up for all four years that I spent scouring Tumblr, Twitter, Reddit and various nondescript music blogs looking for show footage, studio leaks, gum wrappers... anything that would give me even a whiff of whatever essence could be compacted into disc format. This phrase, relegated to the final track of what could very well be his last album, snapped me back into the reality of my duties as a human.

Four months before the release of the album, I was sitting in my apartment with no lights on for the fourth day in a row. I tried to take a shower, forgetting that water heaters require electricity. I couldn’t even look myself in the mirror, ashamed that I had let things get so out of hand. I was focused on so much that I had neglected what was within my control. I had to relax but couldn’t, knowing that when the sun went down my home would be below freezing.

That summer, I got my hands on the album and magazine that I waited for months to receive. Within an hour I would hear the words and sounds that I had dreamt about. I was fresh out of money and patience, but my wait had culminated in a single moment of vulnerability beyond compare. It was long overdue and yet completely on time. Just like the money for my bills.

“I’m just a guy, not a God…sometimes I feel like I’m a God but I’m not a God...”

I waited four years to be reminded that, I too, am not a God. Everything that I want can’t come tomorrow because tomorrow holds a virtue that we don’t possess today. I could bust my buns to make an album in a week (see: Genesis 1:1), but that’s not how I’m wired today. That’s not in the cards for me. It could work out very well, or it could just become a vacuous gripe for #NoDaysOff. It could become the standard that folks hold me to.

Just because we don’t get that new song, it doesn’t mean we are unworthy, or an artist is lazy, or doesn’t care about us. Maybe that song that we need doesn’t yet have what it requires to touch our auditory cortex properly. There is indeed a science to listening to music, and we are complex human beans. Let’s take the time between projects to grow into ourselves and celebrate the complexity in which we exist. Let’s enjoy the moments we have with our favorite songs from 2006, while remaining genuinely interested in what’s to come tomorrow.

I invite all people to embrace the time we have together — with what we create, and what we objectively destroy with quickly-drawn opinions. Chris Brown’s 45-track album may not be for me, but for someone that lives upon the lyrics of his work, that’s exactly what they need. Regardless of opinion, the fact still remains: with art, we will always have to wait and see.


Ace Henderson is a rapper, an actor, a model, a writer, and a thinker living in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

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