Sunday Best

Recapping the past before we leap into the future.

Sunday Best

Happy Sunday, everybody. Hope you're well. I'm doing extremely well, because typing these words means I'm sending the first Super Empty email out in forever.

As promised earlier in the week when this whole re-launch was announced, a host of old pieces from Super Empty iterations past (and a couple that ran in other publications) have been put up for you to read, and hopefully to be shared around as a sampler of what this project is all about. From reviews of individual albums (like Tab-One's Glory In The Weight), to deep-dives when a song becomes a smash hit (Craig Carter's piece on "North Cack"), to eulogizing out-of-state artists who nonetheless made their mark here ("I Love NC, Thank You") — the intent is for a scope of coverage that reflects the breadth of hip-hop music that emanates from the Old North State, and the many ways it impacts those of us who hear it.

This coming week, new pieces kick off. For now, enjoy the oldies.

I Love NC, Thank You (2018)

The last thing published on the Super Empty site in 2018, this piece was written shortly after the passing of Mac Miller, as many of us tried to grapple with a loss that felt unusually hard. For those from NC, his numerous connections to the state only made it hit closer to home.

How "North Cack" Became The Biggest NC Anthem in a Decade (2018)

For this part-explainer, part-interview, Craig Carter talked to filmmaker Kid Ethnic (aka Saleem Reshamwala) and rapper G Yamazawa to talk about "North Cack," and how it went from a no-budget video on a back-country Durham County road to a viral hit and a new NC anthem.

Never Been Better: The Rise of J.I.D (2018)

A few months removed from torching MotorCo Music Hall on his tour through NC, I wrote about JID signing with Dreamville, the electricity of The Never Story, and how it all added up to something the label had never had before: a potential second breakout star behind J. Cole.

Black Thought, Eminem, and the Two Faces of Aging in Hip-Hop (2018)

Disclaimer: This one had nothing to do with North Carolina at all (but such liberties can be taken from time to time when you're a tiny operation). In 2018, the colliding events of Black Thought's 10-minute Funk Flex freestyle and Eminem's abysmal Revival album prompted a deeper look at two men who share the distinction of being among the best to ever do it, but little else — and what their divergent paths say about growing old in hip-hop.

In addition to those oldies but goodies from 2018, I've also brought over to the SE. archive two pieces originally published by Indy Week, centered around the release of two great albums: a profile of producer/engineer Khrysis as he was releasing the showcase album The Hour of Khrysis in 2021, and a straight review for Tab-One's Glory In The Weight from 2022. If you don't have time to read the articles, I recommend at least taking the time to listen to the albums.

A Moment of Khrysis (2021)
Hip-hop producer Khrysis has spent years behind the boards. With his new album, he’s stepping into a new role: leading man.
Glory In The Weight (2022)
Over its 13 unhurried, meditative songs, Tab-One’s 2022 release ‘Glory in the Weight’ drips with wisdom and peace of mind.

Last but not least, some housekeeping — I've posted an explainer on why, starting with all new articles this coming week, reading the site (beyond short previews) will require an email subscription. Don't hate me. Or at least, read the explainer, and then hate me.

“Members Only”
The power of an email address.

In this final section of the first email of SE's 2024 reboot, I have a confession to make: as much as I love NC hip-hop (obviously), I love publishing and media and journalism just as much, or maybe even more. Super Empty is back because of the opportunity it represents to honor both.

There's plenty of reason to be disenchanted when looking around at the news/media business these days — even when "news" is interpreted broadly enough to include seemingly frivolous music and art writing like this. Shrinking revenues, overstretched teams, decreased local coverage, layoffs: with the exception of The New York Times, it's happening everywhere. And while much is still murky, one thing that's abundantly clear is that no business model or crop of benevolent billionaires is waiting in the wings to make the problems go away. The solution, if we're to have a future where everything we read isn't written by AI or pooped out in the form of listicles — is still very much to be figured out. And we all, whether as producers, consumers, or something in between, have a part to play.

I hope that in these old articles, and in the new ones to come, and in these emails landing in your inboxes over the ensuing weeks, there's not only a significance in the articles themselves, but in something larger that I'd like to think they represent — that as discouraging as things may feel, we all have the power to make a change at any time. To try something new. To see if this time, maybe it works. Or it doesn't work, but we learn the thing that'll make it work the time after that. All based on the belief that, eventually, it will.

There's a certain naivete to that, something even a bit childish — maybe not unlike the childish spirit that was guiding us when we first fell into our love of music. Optimism and positivity have their place. So do analysis and critique. In re-launching this project, I see room for it all. I hope you do too.