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209 articles
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The Stranger

On Billy Joel’s sardonic gloom.

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Revelations

A gospel singer comes out.

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Guitar Drag

The author reflects on a ballad of racial injustice.

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Some Girl

A woman travels in a band on the way to their next show.

"With raised eyebrows, Jay crouched down, turned his hand up, and motioned wide. From the flat top, we could see oil rigs in the distance. A pair of buzzards looped in a slow figure eight. I wondered what kind of body lay out there on that red expanse, just out of my eye line, drying out under the sun into those bleached desert bones people put on fireplaces. They disgusted me, sure, but something about them called for touch, to feel those natural cracks in skulls, how similar we are to porcelain on the inside. Once we lose our connective tissue, we can show softer to those that put their hands on us."

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Papa

When James Brown died on Christmas Day 2006, he left behind a fortune worth tens, maybe hundreds, of millions of dollars. The problem is, he also left behind fourteen children, sixteen grandchildren, eight mothers of his children, several mistresses, thirty lawyers, a former manager, an aging dancer, a longtime valet, and a sister who’s really not a sister but calls herself the Godsister of Soul anyway.

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Mystic Nights

The making of Blonde on Blonde in Nashville.

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The Motherhood Gig

An unhappy mother yearns for a return to her creative roots.

"It seemed to her now like motherhood was a constant fall, a never-ending tumble. After she’d finished her nursery fresco and looked for surprise shapes in her sky, Marlee couldn’t find any meaning in the edges and swirls she had created."

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Invisible Strings

A young hopeful competes in an international air guitar competition.

"Aki nods sheepishly, says thank you. The American is last year’s champion. He was interviewed on the BBC and does Dr. Pepper commercials now on American television. 'Air Jesus'they call him. He slurps from a can of Sandels Finnish beer. There are contestants from twenty different countries, and each has a nickname. Aki—the Greek—goes by 'Air-istotle.' There’s the Belgian, Hans 'Van Dammage' Van Deer Meer and the Argentinian, Santiago 'Buenos Air-ace' Carrizo. Hirotaka 'Electric Ninja' Kinugasa is representing Japan."

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Outlaws

Dodging bill collectors, a couple stops at a motel on their way to Tennessee.

"See, Faye was an absolute saint of a woman. Kind, funny, understanding to a fault, but she was young, eight years my junior, and she lacked a certain seriousness about her. Everything to her was solvable, temporary, and the gravity of our situation - how much we'd fucked things up, how much we owed, and what a general shit-storm we were in - didn't seem to bother her for a second. Being with her then was like looking down one day and realizing you were sporting a fancy convertible when what you needed was a four-door sedan."

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More or Less

Tensions eat away at a relationship between a musician and his girlfriend.

"Something in her cadence caught my attention. What if…? I imagined the bass line with a new syncopation, a little shift in the rhythm that might liven the song. I ran the part in my head, but I wanted the instrument in my hands, to be certain. Somehow, Anna had wound up at the pier, although it would have been out of her way."

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Treading Water

A fragile relationship teeters during a family vacation.

"At the restaurant, I enjoy myself for the first time the whole trip: I try fried plantains and sopapillas, washing them down two real margaritas (made from tequila and lime; that’s pretty much it). There is a live band, and Inez pulls Alan up to dance. Her hips have probably never been told no. Erik and I watch from the table. He holds a hand out to me and raises an eyebrow. I shake my head."

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Do You Want New Wave Or Do You Want the Truth?

A punk heroin addict navigates 1980s Detroit.

"About an hour later, Harwell and Rollo were squatting (literal) in their squat (figurative) on Broadville, about a mile from the convenience store that had just fallen victim to their considerable wrath. They hadn’t said a word longer than four letters to each other since sprinting away from the Quality Dairy, and for the last thirty minutes they’d been listening for any movement outside, not sure if they’d been followed, or if Chavo and the night manager had enough information about them gathered from their several months of patronage to know where they hung their heads."

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Slights

A new boyfriend complicates the creative and personal relationship of two teenage musicians.

"I was asking if she had figured out the fifth part because we had worked on three or four different versions, and John said all our music talk was boring. Kenna looked at him for a second, and I could tell she was annoyed, but she wasn’t going to do anything about it. He was limiting her. The old Kenna might have dumped his Denver Scramble on his head. She just made a face."

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Listening Carefully

A boy attempts to find common ground with his troubled younger brother.

"Dad glanced at me and his eyes were angry and pointed, but I thought his stern look was the end of it. We pulled into Friedrich a minute later and dropped Tommy off with the other kids in front of the lower school, waiting under the graying sun to be led single-file into classrooms by their teachers. When we got to the middle school carpool, Dad drove right around the circle and back toward the exit without dropping me off. Normally I would’ve been excited at the prospect of being late for school, but as we pulled out onto the main road a thick sense of dread sloshed around in my stomach."

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Mr. Hannah Montana’s Achy Broken Heart

A melancholic Billy Ray Cyrus on the trauma of being the father of a famous 18-year-old girl, his friendship with Kurt Cobain, and his favorite mullet nicknames (Kentucky Waterfall and Missouri Compromise).

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Blow Hard

Scott Storch, a producer who earned six figures for beats he made in less than an hour, was worth an estimated $70 million. Then he blew it all in a bizarre cocaine binge.

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That Year in Rishikesh

A dying grandmother shares a story about meeting George Harrison.

"I went to my room a little catatonic, in a mixture of religious awe and fascination with my grandmother. I confirmed the information and yes, Rishikesh was that city in India where the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram was, where the Beatles had stayed in the late 1960s and where they had composed a bunch of songs. It was incredible that Gran had managed to associate the song I had played with all that. And remembered the song, and that it was by George, and included herself in the story, to boot."

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The Piano

After a divorce and in the midst of uncertainty, a woman impulsively buys an old piano.

"And now, X could not even appreciate the simple pleasure of background noise, for she could not play. She sat at the bench and looked at the keys, depressing one here and there, listening to the soft gasps of noise that vibrated from the strings inside the Steinway. She tumbled a few notes together; they sounded like little coughs, a disease she was uncertain of how to cure. She ran her hand over the smooth ebony finish; it reminded her of her pediatric patients, bubbled mounds of clay cherubs who had not yet been pulled like taffy into their angled adulthood."

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Naked Woman Playing Chopin

From the latest winner of the National Book Award for Fiction: a former nun's infatuation with classical music leads to unexpected connections and actions.

" At any rate, she played Chopin. Played him in utter naturalness until the Mother Superior was forced to shut the cover to the keyboard and gently pull the stool away. Cecellia lifted the lid and played upon her knees. The poor scandalized dame dragged her from the keys. Cecellia crawled back. The Mother, at her wit's end, sank down and urged the young woman to pray. She herself spoke first in fear and then in certainty, saying that it was the very Devil who had managed to find a way to Cecellia's soul through the flashing doors of sixteenth notes. Her fears were confirmed when, not moments later, the gentle sister raised her arms and fists and struck the keys as though the instrument were stone and from the rock her thirst would be quenched. But only discord emerged."

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Stagger Lee

Reverse engineering the details of a murder that took place in St. Louis on Christmas Night in 1895 from over a century of popular song.

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Playboy Interview: Snoop Dogg

“If I had been a straight-A student my whole life and had rapped about Jesus coming back to save us all, I wouldn’t get no media. The motherfuckers wouldn’t give a fuck about me. But since I’m telling the truth, and been through what I’m stressing and know what I’m talking about, I’m a threat.”

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The Making of The Chronic

An oral history of the Dr. Dre album.

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The Man Who Charged Himself With Murder

Trevell Coleman wasn’t sure whether he’d killed a man. But after 17 years, he needed to find out.

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Deadhead

The Grateful Dead’s afterlife.

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The Tragedy of Britney Spears

A profile of Spears at her nadir.

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Dance Dance Revolution

A field report from Electric Daisy Carnival, a three-night bacchanal in the Las Vegas desert attended by “100,000 wasted hedonists scantily dressed in furry underwear.”

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Genius: The Nickelback Story

How a loathsome band makes gobs of money.

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Slash and Burn

The rise of One Direction fanfiction that imagines the band members in relationships – with each other.

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This Movie Is Rated Wu

A profile of RZA, hip-hop artist and kung fu film director.

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Free to Be

Forty years after its release, the story of “Free to Be… You and Me.”

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"The Promise"

On Bruce Springsteen’s song, and growing up in a factory town.

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Down and Out in the Top 10

Grizzly Bear and the surprisingly crappy economics of indie rock stardom.

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Factory Girls

On the rise of K-pop.

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John Hammond, Jazz Promoter

A profile of the legendary producer at the beginning of his career.

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Return to the World as a Thought

The legacy of late hip-hop producer Paul C.

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Kurt Cobain: The Rolling Stone Interview

An interview with Cobain a few months after the release of In Utero.

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Neil Young Comes Clean

At 66, Young sobers up.

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Pink Slime

Inside the cluttered Los Angeles apartment of lo-fi auteur Ariel Pink.

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A Guitar's Life

An instrument’s impact on a handful of Texans.

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Kiss: The Pagan Beasties of Teenage Rock

On the road with the makeup-clad band.

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The House That Hova Built

An essay on Jay-Z.

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Punk Rock Fight Club

Inside FSU, the hardcore brotherhood where the wrong t-shirt can get you killed.
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The Mogul Who Made Justin Bieber

A profile of Scooter Braun.

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How Lester Bangs Taught Me to Read

The rock critic’s lasting impact.

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All This Light

A profile of Chan ‘Cat Power’ Marshall adrift in Miami.

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The Last Outlaw

A profile of Merle Haggard.

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Aquarius Wept

When the Rolling Stones played Altamont.

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We Are Alive

A profile of Bruce Springsteen.

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Billie Holiday

Watching the jazz singer in New York.

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Tracking The Biggest Star In The World

David Johnson’s unrequited correspondence with Jay-Z.

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Things Behind the Sun

Meeting Nick Drake, London, 1970.

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The White Negro

On jazz and the hipster psychopath.

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American Communion

The spiritual union of Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin.

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In Conversation: Spike Lee

The director on Obama, the state of black cinema, the Knicks, the Nets, the tragedy of public education in America, gentrified New York and why he lives on the Upper East Side.

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A Month on the Town

A veteran critic reviews 32 shows in 30 days.

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The Audition

On trying out for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

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Beat Boutique

On the surprising radicalism of library music – “music that has been composed and recorded for commercial purposes.”

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‘It Hasn’t Been a Disaster’

An interview with Pavement’s Bob Nastanovich on his career afterlife as a “a clocker and chart-caller” and occasional breeder at an Iowa race horse track.

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Chris Bell: That Don't Get Him Back Again

Listening to the Big Star songwriter, who left the group before dying in a solo car crash at 27.

His voice, on the recordings, is too sensitive. That's meant not as an aesthetic judgment. It wasn't too sensitive for the material, in other words. It was too sensitive for life. You listen to him sing, closely, and if you don't know another thing about what happened to him, you know that the guy with that voice is not going to last.

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There is No Crying in Show Choir

On the road with three high school show choirs and a dream.

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Jersey Boys

One night in Newark with Chris Christie and Bruce Springsteen.

“No one is beyond the reach of Bruce!” he screams over the noise of the crowd, and then screams it again, to make sure I understand: “No one is beyond the reach of Bruce!”

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Sleeping With Weapons

The bizarre story of the disappearance of “downtown legend” John Lurie after a former friend resolved to take his life.

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‘I Just Want to Feel Everything’

A profile of Fiona Apple.

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Suddenly That Summer

The people behind San Francisco’s Summer of Love.

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Country Music's Sparkle King

A profile of fashion designer Nudie Cohn, who made clothing for Elvis, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, and others.

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The Secret Life of Transgender Rocker Tom Gabel

A profile of the Against Me! frontman.

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The Beach Boys’ Crazy Summer

On tour with America’s first 50-year-old rock band.

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Amen! (D'Angelo's Back)

A profile of the singer as he returns to the stage for the first time in a dozen years.

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The Pretender

A profile of singer-songwriter Will Oldham.

He has settled into character as an uncanny troubadour, singing a sort of transfigured country music, and he has become, in his own subterranean way, a canonical figure. Johnny Cash covered him, Björk has championed him (she invited him to appear on the soundtrack of “Drawing Restraint 9”), and Madonna, he suspects, has quoted him (her song “Let It Will Be” seems to borrow from his “O Let It Be,” though he says, “I’m fully prepared to accept that it’s a coincidence”).

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The Devils in the Diva

A posthumous profile of Whitney Houston.

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Man Up Bieber

“Being Justin Bieber means having an endless number of T-shirts to destroy.” A profile of the pop star just after his 18th birthday.

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Word on the Suite

With flash, hip-hop echoes rock’s golden age.

When rock was at its peak in 1972, Americans earning the equivalent of $1m a year took just over 1 per cent of national income. In 2010, this group’s share of national income had grown to almost 10 per cent. At the same time, the average tax paid by these top earners almost halved. The rise of Jay-Z’s “new black elite” reflects the growth in numbers of the super-wealthy. But the opulence that he and West flaunt also reflects the growing estrangement of those at the top from the rest.

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Delta Dawn

“There was no Delta blues before there were cheap, readily available steel-string guitars. And those guitars, which transformed American culture, were brought to the boondocks by Sears, Roebuck & Co.”

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How Chicago House Got Its Groove Back

A look at Chicago’s DJ culture in the ’90s.

One day in 1997, Sneak promised his friend and fellow Chicago DJ Derrick Carter a new 12-inch for Carter's label Classic, then spent hours fruitlessly laboring over a basic, bustling four-four beat. Finally, Sneak gave in and smoked the J he'd had stashed for later in the day. When he came back inside, he carelessly dropped the needle onto a Teddy Pendergrass LP, heard the word "Well . . . ," and realized, "That's the sample, right there." He threaded Pendergrass's 20-year-old disco hit "You Can't Hide From Yourself" through a low-pass filter to give it the effect of going in and out of aural focus, creating one of the definitive Chicago house singles.

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Lay It Down, Clowns!

The Beastie Boys on tour in Los Angeles shortly after the release of their debut album, Licensed to Ill.

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Myths And Depths

A free-ranging conversation between music writers Simon Reynolds and Greil Marcus.

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The Stalking of Korean Hip Hop Superstar Daniel Lee

The story of a bizarre—and bizarrely effective—smear campaign.

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Music Is My Bag

A childhood spent with the oboe.

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Why Dick Clark Can't Say 'So Long.'

At 67, the American Bandstand icon remains “one hard-working mother.”

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Who Was Cowboy Neal?

Neal punctuated Jack’s riffing with his “yesses” and “that’s rights,” head bobbing on his neck like a novice prizefighter’s. After four years of New York nihilism and intellection, Neal – wiping Jack’s face with his handkerchief – Neal – who looked so much like Jack himself, an athlete like Jack – celebrated lover of women and sharer of Allen’s passionate dark soul – finally the long-lost brother who said, “Go ahead, everything you do is great” – “a Western kinsmen of the sun” – “a wild yea-saying over-burst of American joy.”

The life and myth of Neal Cassady, Beat companion and muse for Kesey, Wolfe, Kerouac, Ginsberg, The Grateful Dead and more.

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L.A. Weirdos

On singer-songwriters Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman and Van Dyke Parks.

I get the sense that the labels' attitude toward these guys wasn't altogether different from a parent's attitude toward gifted children: Get them through the system, but make sure to give them a clean little corner to doodle in and pat them on the head when they show you what they've done, whether you understand it or not.

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Guns N' Roses: Outta Control

On the road with the band:

Axl Rose is carrying on like an Apache. He stormed into his home state for a concert and compared the fans there to prisoners at Auschwitz. He showed up two hours late for a New York show and launched into a tirade against his record company and various other institutions, including this magazine. He steamrolled into St. Louis, and before he left town, a riot had broken out. During an encore in Salt Lake City, he got ticked off because the Mormons weren't rocking and said, "I'll get out of here before I put anybody else to sleep." Then he did.

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American Mozart

A profile of Kanye West.

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Leonard Cohen Unplugged

A profile from his days living as a mountain monk in Southern California.

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Ring My Bell

A history of the cell phone ringtone.

Many recent hip-hop songs make terrific ringtones because they already sound like ringtones. The polyphonic and master-tone versions of “Goodies,” by Ciara, for example, are nearly identical. Ringtones, it turns out, are inherently pop: musical expression distilled to one urgent, representative hook. As ringtones become part of our environment, they could push pop music toward new levels of concision, repetition, and catchiness.

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God & Worshipper: A Rock-and-Roll Love Story, of Sorts

He’s their hero, but he’s also their soulmate, the one person in the world who understands them. That’s why Stephen Wesley and the legions of fans like him can’t get enough of the Mountain Goats. And that burden is crushing Darnielle.

On the passionate relationship between fans and John Danielle of the Mountain Goats.

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Bruce Springsteen's SXSW Keynote Address

Delivered at the Austin Convention Center on March 15, 2012.

In the beginning, every musician has their genesis moment. For you, it might have been the Sex Pistols, or Madonna, or Public Enemy. It's whatever initially inspires you to action. Mine was 1956, Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was the evening I realized a white man could make magic, that you did not have to be constrained by your upbringing, by the way you looked, or by the social context that oppressed you. You could call upon your own powers of imagination, and you could create a transformative self.

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The Song Machine

How a hit Rihanna single gets made.

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Being James Brown

A profile.

When we're introduced, I spend a long moment trying to conjugate the reality of James Brown's face, one I've contemplated as an album-cover totem since I was thirteen or fourteen: that impossible slant of jaw and cheekbone, that Pop Art slash of teeth, the unmistakable rage of impatience lurking in the eyes. It's a face drawn by Jack Kirby or Milton Caniff, that's for sure, a visage engineered for maximum impact at great distances, from back rows of auditoriums.

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The Space Is the Place

On Abbey Road studios, the Beatles, and modern record production.

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Legacy of a Lonesome Death

In 1963, William Zantzinger was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Hattie Carroll and then immortalized – and somewhat defamed – by Bob Dylan. What’s he been up to since then?

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Desperately Seeking Kraftwerk

Searching for the reclusive band’s studio in Düsseldorf.

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Pavement: The Return of the Heavily-Favored Underdogs

Stylistically speaking, in terms of clothing, they arrived in shirts and pants and shoes (there’s really no other way to say it). They had haircuts, but it didn’t really look it. While other bands were mumbling or over-enunciating their dreary positions or penny-candy philosophies, Pavement kind of screamed for a generation. But they did it in a way that was so deeply American that it was almost Scandinavian.

Playwright Will Eno profiles the band and their cult as they grow up and prepare for a reunion.

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Radiohead's Runaway Guitarist

On Jonny Greenwood:

Greenwood is an anomaly: a musician who made his name with a rock band and who is now embraced by the modern-music establishment as an actual, serious composer. The night before the Alvernia session, he was onstage in an aircraft-hangar-size room at a steel plant in Krakow, performing the minimalist composer Steve Reich’s “Electric Counterpoint” for an audience that included Reich himself, as part of a weeklong new-music festival, Sacrum Profanum. (Reich is a fan; he praises Greenwood’s decision to have the string section play with guitar picks on “Popcorn Superhet” as “the first new approach to pizzicato since Bartok.”) He wasn’t the only performer at Sacrum Profanum with pop-music credentials — the bill also included the techno provocateur Aphex Twin and Adrian Utley, from the trip-hop band Portishead. But he was the only guy from a superfamous rock band whose singer has appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone.

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Does a Sugar Bear Bite?

A profile of Suge Knight, 29 and the C.E.O. of Death Row Records, before the deaths of Tupac and Notorious B.I.G.

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Björk’s Big Bang

The artist discusses her latest record, Biophilia, science and music education. 

Up until she developed a vocal-cord nodule a few years ago, Björk made a point of not investigating how that instrument worked. “With arrangements and lyrics,” she says, squinting over her coffee, “I work more with the left side of my brain. But my voice has always been very right brain. I didn’t try to analyze it at all. I didn’t even know until I started all this voice work, two years ago, what my range was. I didn’t want to let the academic side into that—I worried the mystery would go.”

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The Slap of Love

On House Xtravaganza and the life and death of its house mother Angie Xtravaganza, one of the stars of the documentary Paris is Burning, which brought vogueing and New York City’s transgendered ball culture into the spotlight.

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St. Leonard’s Passion

Leonard Cohen’s 2 A.M. set at the disastrous Isle of Wight festival, 1970.

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Whitney Houston: Down and Dirty

An interview with a young star.

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Where's Earl?

As the hip-hop group Odd Future rose to fame, their sixteen-year-old breakout star Earl Sweatshirt mysteriously disappeared.

(After a stretch at a school in Samoa, he seems to have reappeared yesterday.)

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Turbo-Folk Tycoon

On the Balkan musical genre Turbo-Folk, its ties to Serbian ultranationalism, and the strongman nightclub owner who brought it to Croatia.

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Soul Train Local

A history of Soul Train’s Chi-town origins.

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5.4

A fifteen year history of the music site Pitchfork detailing its prescient take on the relationship between culture and consumption.

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The Mother Courage of Rock

On Patti Smith.

It was easy for lazy journalists to caricature her as a stringbean who looked like Keith Richards, emitted Dylanish word salads, and dropped names—a high-concept tribute act of some sort, very wet behind the ears. But then her first album, Horses, came out in November 1975, and silenced most of the scoffers.

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Gil Scott-Heron: More Than a Revolution

"I don't know if I was as angry as much as I was misunderstood.  A lot of the things we did contained a lot of humor that went over people's heads."
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Interview: Laurie Anderson

The main thing that attracts me to Buddhism is probably what attracts every artist to being an artist—that it’s a godlike thing. You are the ultimate authority. There is no other ultimate authority. Now, for some artists that’s difficult, because they want to have the art police. They want to have the critic who hands out tickets and says, “That’s too loose.”
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Muddy Waters and Mozart

A memory of interviewing the late great songwriter Townes Van Zandt shortly before his death.

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Notes from a wedding: In the age of digital music and the relative bargain of a single DJ, wedding singer Kenney Holmes is determined to keep it real

A profile.

Because business ebbs and flows with the seasons and the economy, Holmes, who lives in Upper Marlboro, has always kept a variety of sidelines, including a job driving a limousine for nine years to put his oldest daughter through a private high school and college. These days, at gigs, he hands out a stack of million-dollar "bills" printed with his image and his current enterprises: bandleader, commercial mortgage broker, hard money lender (slogan: "Hard Money with a Soft Touch").

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Stumptown Girl

A profile of Carrie Brownstein, riot grrrl and creator of Portlandia.

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The Last Movie Maestro

A profile of John Williams.

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Chuck Berry Goddamn!

Now 85, Berry still records live music. He just doesn’t want you to hear it.

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Where We All Will Be Received

Paul Simon’s Graceland at 25.

The Paul Simon who, on a bus en route to New York City told his sleeping girlfriend that he was empty and aching and he didn’t know why, that Simon belongs to our parents. My generation may love him but he’s not ours. The Simon who is soft in the middle (or at least feels an affinity for men who happen to be), however, the one who reminds young women of money, who has been divorced and has a kid to prove it, and who has the means to catch a cab uptown and take it all the way downtown talking dispassionately while doing so about the comings and goings of breakdowns, that Simon belongs to us as much as he does to our folks because he is our folks.

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Rap in the Capital: Hip-Hop Tehran-Style

The tiny, insular Tehran rap scene.

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Excuse Me, Weren't You in the Fall?

Tracking down 40-odd members of the British band.

It's a Tuesday morning in December, and I'm ringing people called Brown in Rotherham. "Hello," I begin again. "I'm trying to trace Jonnie Brown who used to play in the Fall. He came from Rotherham and I wondered if you might be a relative." "The Who?" asks the latest Mr Brown. "No. The Fall - the band from Salford. He played bass for three weeks in 1978." "Is this some kind of joke?"

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Lex Luger Can Write a Hit Rap Song in the Time It Takes to Read This

A few years ago, before anyone knew his name, before rap artists from all over the country started hitting him up for music, the rap producer Lex Luger, born Lexus Lewis, now age 20, sat down in his dad’s kitchen in Suffolk, Va., opened a sound-mixing program called Fruity Loops on his laptop and created a new track... Months later, Luger — who says he was “broke as a joke” by that point, about to become a father for the second time and seriously considering taking a job stocking boxes in a warehouse — heard that same beat on the radio, transformed into a Waka song called “Hard in da Paint.” Before long, he couldn’t get away from it.
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The Decade in Indie

On the increasing tension between the pleasant, thoughtful indie rock of car commercials and those who insist on something weirder.

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I Want My MTV

An excerpt from a new oral history of MTV.

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Facebook, Spotify and the Future of Music

An orgy of free song-sharing seems to be exactly the kind of thing that the horrified labels would quickly clamp down on. But they appear to be starting to accept that their fortunes rest with the geeks. Or at least they’re trying to talk a good game. “I’m not part of the past—I’m part of the future,” says Lucian Grainge, chair and CEO of the world’s biggest label, Universal Music Group. “There’s a new philosophy, a new way of thinking.”
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Interview: Lil Wayne

GQ: Your relationship with your biological father seems complicated. Lil Wayne: He don't give a shit about me. And I don't give a shit about him. I know his friends be like, "Damn, nigga. That is not your son. Stop lying. Nigga, you could be living in a motherfucking ranch right now, nigga." You know, whatever your father's into, if you're rich, you're gonna get him that shit. I would've got that nigga all kinda harnesses, ranches—you know what I mean? I saw the nigga recently—I had a show in New Orleans. And I ain't afraid to put this out there, 'cause this is just how much I don't give a fuck about a nigga, and I want people to see how you're not supposed to be. I was parked at the hotel, and I saw him walking outside the hotel. Just walking back and forth. I'm like, "Look at this nigga! You gotta be looking for me." If Lil Wayne got a show in New Orleans, the whole of New Orleans knows. Basically, you're not there for nothing else but me. So I call my man on the bus. I'm like, "Nigga, that's my daddy." He's like, "Word? Oh shit. That nigga looks just like you!" So I tell my man, "Go see what's up." So my man goes to holla at him. He tells my man, "Oh. I didn't know y'all was here. I'm here waiting for this little ho to get o¬ff. Get off¬ work from the hotel." For real? That's when I was like, "Typical Dwayne Carter." So that's what's up with me and my real father. I don't want to look like his ass, but I do.
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The Soundtrack of Your Life

On the business of Muzak.

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The Ghost

A profile of Hank Williams III.

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The Life & Times Of M. Serge Gainsbourg

Gainsbourg decked out his home at 5 Rue de Verneuil in Saint Germain all in black, inspired by a time when he was younger when he'd somehow got the keys to Salvador Dali's house and made love to his first wife in every room while Dali was away. He even stole a small token souvenir in the form of a picture from Dali's porn collection. (Serge was obsessed with Dali and the pair later became friends. The title of 'Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus' - roughly translated as 'I love you, me neither' - was inspired by something Dali was once supposed to have said: "Picasso is Spanish - so am I; Picasso is a genius - so am I; Picasso is a communist - me neither.")
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Michael Stipe Has Great Hair

A profile of the R.E.M. frontman.

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Rick Ross's Simple Lessons for Bosses, Dons, and Bitches

Rick Ross was born William Leonard Roberts II in 1976, and he borrowed his stage name (and the associated big-time cocaine-selling hustler persona) from the legendary L.A. drug lord Freeway Ricky Ross. But the website MediaTakeout uncovered a photograph of William Leonard Roberts II when he was a Florida corrections officer. Most people thought that'd be the end of his career. Freeway Ricky Ross then sued him for stealing his name. None of it mattered. Rick Ross the rapper just sold more records.
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The Writearound: Vanessa Grigoriadis

An interview with Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone writer Vanessa Grigoriadis on the finer points of celebrity profiling.

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Noel Gallagher After Oasis

"At the end of the cycle of Morning Glory, I was hailed as the greatest songwriter since Lennon and McCartney," Gallagher recalls. "Now, I know that I'm not, and I knew I wasn't then. But the perception of everybody since that period has been, 'What the fuck happened to this guy? Wasn't he supposed to be the next fucking Beatles?' I never said that I was the greatest thing since Lennon and McCartney … well, actually, I'm lying. I probably did say that once or twice in interviews. But regardless, look at it this way: Let's say my career had gone backwards. Let say this new solo album had been my debut, and it was my last two records that sold 20 million copies instead of the first two records. Had this been the case, all the other albums leading up to those last two would be considered a fucking journey. They would be perceived as albums that represent the road to greatness. But just because it started off great doesn't make those other albums any less of a journey. I'll use an American football analogy since we're in America: Let's say you're behind with two minutes to go and you come back to tie the game. It almost feels like you've won. Right? But let's say you've been ahead the whole game and you allow the opponent to tie things up in the final two minutes. Then it feels like you've lost. But the fact of the matter is it's still a fucking tie. The only difference is perception. And the fact of the matter is that Oasis sold 55 million records. If people think we were never good after the '90s, that's irrelevant."
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Angel So Fly

An oral history of Aaliyah.

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Did Robert Johnson Sell His Soul to the Devil?

Another look at a popular myth.

For the longest time blues fans didn’t even know what their hero looked like—in 1971, a music magazine even hired a forensic artist to make a composite sketch based on various first-hand accounts—until two photos of Robert Johnson finally came to light.  The dapper young man pictured in the most famous photo, dressed in a stylish suit and smiling affably at the camera, hardly looks like a man who has sold his soul to Lucifer.

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James Brown: Soul Brother No. 1 (1933-2006)

An oral history of James Brown, from Macon to the top.

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Sly Stone's Higher Power

A profile of the reclusive musician.

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Birth of an MTV Nation

An oral history.

Tom Freston: We knew we needed a real signature piece that would look different from everything else on TV. We also knew that we had no money. So we went to NASA and got the man-on-the-moon footage, which is public domain. We put our logo on the flag and some music under it. We thought that was sort of a rock ’n’ roll attitude: “Let’s take man’s greatest moment technologically, and rip it off.”

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Douglas Rushkoff in conversation with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

"Jaye and I decided we didn’t want to have children. But we still got that urge to blend, to merge and become one. I think the heart of a lot of the romance in couples, whatever kind of couple they are, is that they want to both just be each other, to consume each other with passion. So we wanted to represent that. First we did it by dressing alike. Then we started to do minor alterations to our bodies. Then we decided that we would try as hard as we could to actually look like each other in order to strengthen and solidify that urge."
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Up All Night With Amy Winehouse

A profile of the late singer.

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Sniffing Glue

A youth set to the shifting sounds of CCM, Christian Contemporary Music:

This, by the way, is considered the ultimate sign of quality CCM, even amongst Christians: the ability to pass as secular. Every band’s goal was to have teenagers stop their grooving mid-song and exclaim, like a soda commercial actress who’s just realized she’s been drinking Diet, “Wait, this is Christian?”

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Daniel Ek’s Spotify: Music’s Last Best Hope

Is the streaming Swedish music service, now making its U.S. debut, the best shot the industry has at staying profitable and relevant?

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How The Internet Transformed The American Rave Scene

How a musical subculture evolved alongside a technological subculture:

Rave's rise mirrors the Web's in many ways. Both mixed rhetorical utopianism with insider snobbery. Both were future-forward "free spaces" with special appeal to geeks and wonks.

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A-R-E-T-H-A

A sit-down with Ms. Franklin.

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When Country Was King

Uncovering Southern California’s country music roots.

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Rocking The Most Hated Brand In America

A profile of new Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard, who in another life was a touring musician and hated Ticketmaster just like everyone else.

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A Free Man in LA

A profile of Justin Timberlake:

This need to succeed, to become his generation’s multi-talented Sammy Davis Jr., is part of what makes him appealing to filmmakers. “I needed someone who could be a Frank Sinatra figure, someone who could walk into the room and command all the attention,” says David Fincher, of casting Timberlake as Sean Parker, the Facebook investor and rogue, in The Social Network. “I didn’t want someone who would just say, ‘I know how to play groovy.’ You can’t fake that stuff. That’s the problem with making movies about a rock star—actors have spent their lives auditioning and getting rejected, and rock stars haven’t.”

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The True Life Confessions of Fleetwood Mac

Interviews with the band while “struggling to finish their very latefellow LP, a trouble child, called Rumours.”

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O Sister, Where Art Thou?

It is a story that seems almost impossible to believe: a group of female convicts, few of whom had ever played a musical instrument or taken voice lessons, forming a country and western band and becoming, at least in Texas, the Dixie Chicks of their day.
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New York Is Killing Me

A profile of the late Gil-Scott Heron.

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Patti Smith Interviewed by Thurston Moore

TM The only other time I saw you was in Bleecker Bob’s in the ‘70s. You walked in eating pizza and wearing aviator glasses and Bleecker Bob showed you an Ian Dury picture sleeve and you said, “I don’t listen to music by people I don’t wanna fuck.” PS (laughter) Yeah, that was me.
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Falling Comet

The rise and fall of “Rock Around the Clock” singer Bill Haley.

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Fantasia for Piano

Joyce Hatto, unknown to even the most ardent classical music collectors until late in her life, released a string of incredible performances of great works, distributed by her husband’s mail-order CD business. But how was it possible for her to record difficult works at such a dizzying rate? And if wasn’t her playing, who was it?

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How to be a Rock Critic & Here's How

Ah yes, you should also know that most of your colleagues are some of the biggest neurotics in the country, so you might as well get used right now to the way they're gonna be writing you five and ten page single spaced inflammatory letters reviling you for knocking some group that they have proved is the next Stones.
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Interview: Michael Stipe

When I hear music as a fan, I see fields. I see landscapes. I close my eyes and see an entire universe that that music and the voice, or the narrative, create. A music video-and any other kind of visual reference-is created by someone else. For me, as a music fan, visuals kind of steal away the purity of the song.
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Strange Love

A profile of Hole lead singer Courtney Love.

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Sailing By Ear

An essay on music and family, sparked by the author’s realization that his speakers sucked.

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Interview: Nancy Wilson

An interview with Heart guitarist and film composer Nancy Wilson.

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These Beats Work

On the producer Timbaland, then best known for collaborations with Missy Elliott, Aaliyah, and Ginuwine.

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Rude Boys

The birth of the Beastie Boys—an oral history on the 25th anniversary of Licensed to Ill.

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Jeff Bridges Makes a Decision

On what you do when you can do whatever what you want.

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The Zen of Eminem

A review/interview/profile:

Let's settle on the bald facts: Eminem has secured his place in the rap pantheon.

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"Astral Weeks"

A decade later, on the then twenty-three-year-old Van Morrison’s 1968 album Astral Weeks.

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Jay-Z’s Great Champagne Robbery

Reposted after it was pulled by The Atlantic:
How the little known $50/bottle champagne Antique Gold became the $300/bottle Armand de Brignac that Jay-Z "happened upon in a wine shop" and then featured in a video.
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The King of LSD

On the many lives and careers of Owsley Stanley (1935-2011), chemist, sound design innovator, and outback jeweler, whose name appears in the OED as a synonym for “a particularly pure form of LSD.”

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This Is It: Ten Years of the Strokes

An oral history of the Strokes.

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Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation? Part 10: 1999

“By the time we got to Woodstock 99 …” In a grim finale, the nineties get their Altamont.

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Playboy Interview: Bob Dylan

Six months after playing an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival, a rambling Dylan holds forth on style, songwriting, and fame. “People have one great blessing—obscurity—and not really too many people are thankful for it.”

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Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation? — Part 9: 1998

“You’re either with Korn and Limp Bizkit, or you’re against them.” The birth of nu-metal.

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The Last Wailer

A trip to Kingston, Jamaica to track down Bunny Wailer, a reggae legend now living “in his own private Zion.”

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Will Oldham Interviews R. Kelly

On Sam Cooke, theme parties, and the importance of McDonald’s-related jingles when street performing.

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Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

On the young and ascendant Frank Sinatra, “who ruled crowds by seductive magnetism and surrounded himself with courtiers, but had once been an adolescent alone in his room listening to Bing Crosby on his Atwater-Kent.”

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Playboy Interview: John Mayer

Here’s what I really want to do at 32: fuck a girl and then, as she’s sleeping in bed, make breakfast for her. So she’s like, “What? You gave me five vaginal orgasms last night, and you’re making me a spinach omelet? You are the shit!” So she says, “I love this guy.” I say, “I love this girl loving me.” And then we have a problem.
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Meet the Shaggs

From 1968-1973, the three teenage Wiggins sisters, guided by a domineering father, played their strange music at New Hampshire ballrooms and recorded a single album. The Philosophy of the World LP goes for over $500 today, but the intervening decades were not kind to the Wiggins’.

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Unpacking My Record Collection

Walter Benjamin, mp3s, and what collecting says about us.

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Winona Forever

A profile of Winona Ryder.

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The Real Syl

A profile of Chicago soul great Syl Johnson.

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Interview Transcript: Jay-Z on Fresh Air

Jay-Z on his new book Decoded, his parents’ record collection, and the real reason rappers have a tendency to grab their junk on stage.

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The Soul of a Man

On the mysterious life story of blues icon Blind Willie Johnson and a half-century of attempts to fill in the blanks.

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“I’d Like to Be Trusted Again.”

A profile of of Courtney Love.

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Excerpted from 'Listen to This'

“I hate classical music: not the thing but the name. It traps a tenaciously living art in a theme park of the past. It cancels out the possibility that music in the spirit of Beethoven could still be created today.”

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The Complete BMF Series

A single-page version of Shalhoup’s reporting on the Black Mafia Family, one of the largest cocaine empires in American history.

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More Dispatches from the R. Kelly Trial

Featuring the debut of the “Ghost Sex Defense.”

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Dispatches from the R. Kelly Trial

The “Shaggy Defense,” the “Little Man Defense,” and more—live from R. Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial.

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The Final Comeback of Axl Rose

Four years after a disastrous MTV performance had led him to avoid the public, Rose was back on stage.

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Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page & Rock Magic

In this profile of the band, William Burroughs is interested in two things: big-time rock shows and random conversational tangents.

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Madonna Rocks the Land

Scenes from Madonna’s first major tour and an author struggling to explain the 26-year-old’s massive, surging appeal.

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Kanye West Has a Goblet

A profile of Kanye West written in the style of an all-access magazine piece - using only quotes and statements that Kanye West has made on Twitter and other web outlets.

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In the Land of the Juggalos

Horror-rap’s annual festival draws thousands of clown-makeup wearing Juggalos - devotees of Insane Clown Posse - for a weekend devoted to spraying Faygo soda, rioting, and discussions of the occult.

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Penetrating Aether

When Bob Dylan met Allen Ginsberg; a chapter from Sean Wilentz’s forthcoming Bob Dylan in America.

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Orientalist Party Music

In the early 1960s, Middle Eastern guys in Brooklyn introduced America to Arabic rock-and-roll.

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Islam’s Answer to MTV

A new Egyptian TV channel called 4Shbab—“for youth” in Arabic—aims to get young people interested in Islam through music videos and reality shows.

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Van Morrison's Moments of Disbelief

An interview with Greil Marcus on the songs of Van Morrison and why people are afraid of imagined things.

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The Music-Copyright Enforcers

There is someone whose job it is to try to extract royalty money from anyone who plays music in a place of business. Most people do not react well to this request.

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Vanishing Act

The forgotten life of Eva Tanguay, perhaps America’s first rock star.

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The Stories of One Brooklyn Block

Vignettes of the residents of South Elliot Place.

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Toughing It Out

In March of 1991, Vanilla Ice had the #1 album in the country (To the Extreme), a movie about to be released (TMNT II: The Secret of the Ooze), and a dogged belief that his 15 minutes weren’t about to end.

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Face to Face: Alex Ross

An interview with New Yorker critic Alex Ross about his book The Rest is Noise and why there’s really no such thing as “classical music.”

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The “Thriller” Diaries

The story of the most popular music video of all time, including memories of a then-25-year-old Michael Jackson on and off the set. Director John Landis: “I dealt with Michael as I would have a really gifted child.”

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The Mad Liberationist

Born in Germany, raised in Montana, now living in New York, comedian Reggie Watts describes his style as “culture sampling.”

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He Didn’t Stop Believin’

In need of a new lead singer, Journey settled on an unknown 40-year-old from the Philippines whose clips they found online. Arnel Pineda was perfect: just a small-town boy, living in a lonely world.

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M.I.A.’s Agitprop Pop

The contradiction-rich world of Maya Arulpragasam.

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Mad About the Boys

Lou Pearlman, the guy responsible for the Backstreet Boys and ‘NSync, bilked his investors of $300 million and fled the country. But the boys say he was interested in more than just money.

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Whatever Happened to N.W.A’s Posse?

The where-are-they-now stories of MC Ren, DJ Scatch, Sir Jinx, Kid Disaster, Candyman, and everyone else on the cover of 1987’s N.W.A. and the Posse.

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Sinatra Song Often Strikes Deadly Chord

Karaoke renditions of ‘My Way’ have led to murders in the Phillipines.

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California Schemin’

How did a pair of young rappers from Scotland, laughed off the stage for their accents, land a deal with Sony and start partying with Madonna? They pretended to be American.

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The Passion of David Bazan

During the 90s, David Bazan was Christian indie-rock’s first big crossover star. Then he stopped believing.

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Growing up Gaga

From Stefani Joanne Germanotta to Lady Gaga: the self-invented, manufactured, accidental, totally on-purpose creation of the world’s biggest pop star.

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Inside the music business in China

As labels big and small attempt to gain traction in the world’s largest market, they’re learning that selling pop is never simple in the epicenter of piracy.