My Ten Favorite Articles That I Wrote in 2014

Last December, I highlighted my ten favorite articles that I wrote in 2013, and I’ve decided to try it again this year.

First, here’s a quick summary of my 2014: I continued writing for the Austin Chronicle, mostly covering local news. I’m still the opinion editor for The Horn and still occasionally contribute to the Dallas Observer and The Dallas Morning News. I’ve kept writing for the Texas Travesty, which was named the “Readers Best Local Non-‘Chronicle’ Publication” by the Austin Chronicle (and during the fall, I was the Travesty‘s Senior Food Critic). At school, I’ve studied and written about a variety of topics, including history, Christianity, and hip-hop. In the spring, I rapped for charity. In November, I started working part-time for Pluckers Wing Bar, handling marketing and donations.

All in all, I wrote over fifty articles this year. Below, in chronological order, are the ten of my articles from 2014 that I’m most proud of:

1. “For popular rapper, an unusual calling card: sobriety” – The Dallas Morning News – February 14:

I grew up reading The Dallas Morning News‘ Points Section every Sunday morning, and those articles definitely helped inspire me to write. So it was a dream come true when my essay about rapper Macklemore and his struggle with addiction was published in the Sunday Points section.

2. “Facebook ‘Threat’ Case Unresolved” – Austin Chronicle – February 28:

While an especially frustrating case to cover, the story of Justin Carter is an important story for me  – and anyone else who values free speech. My reporting on the case was even cited by NPR.

3. “Online Privacy: Technical, Political, or Both?” – Austin Chronicle – March 28:

As a result of whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s leaks, many Americans are becoming more conscious of their online privacy and security. I interviewed multiple experts for the story, including Phil Zimmermann, Elissa Shevinsky, and more.

4. “Stand up to injustice, even if you stand alone — and remember the ‘tank man’” – The Dallas Morning News – June 5:

The Tiananmen Square protester known simply as ‘Tank Man’ has long been a hero of mine, so I was grateful to get to write about his heroism, twenty-five years after the event.

5. “The Texas GOP Stands on a Platform of Ignorance” – Reason – June 28:

Reason is one of my favorite publications, so I was honored to write for them. Earlier this year, the Texas Republican Party’s 2014 platform condemned homosexuality, arguing that being gay “must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle.” They even supported reparative therapy, a controversial practice aimed at helping homosexuals embrace their “authentic” heterosexual identity. And I wasn’t too happy about that, so I wrote about it.

6. “The Best Bible Verse-Checks in the History of Rap” – On Faith – July 29:

In 2013, I explored the profane by writing about “The 30 Most Disturbing Songs of All Time.” This year, I strayed from the profane and focused on the sacred – I wrote about the best Biblical allusions in hip-hop.

7. “A.Dd+ Chronicle Their Nawfside Love on New Nawf EP” – Dallas Observer – August 12:

Just this last week, Dallas hip-hop duo A.Dd+ won three Dallas Observer Music Awards – Best EP, Best Rap/Hip-Hop Act, and Best Live Act. Back in August, I interviewed the duo about their Nawf EP – which pays homage to ‘Nawf Dallas,’ the neighborhood where the duo is from (and where I’m from as well).

8. “Talking Songs with Joe Purdy” – The Horn – September 10:

Joe Purdy is one of my all-time favorite musicians, and I had the privilege of interviewing the singer-songwriter before covering his concert in Austin.

9. “Pluckers is the bomb – ISIS is not” – Texas Travesty – September 23:

If there’s one thing I love, it’s Pluckers Wing Bar. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s war. So I connected the two in one of my (hopefully) humorous articles as the Texas Travesty‘s Senior Food Critic.

10. UFC Fight Night Pounds the Erwin Center” – Austin Chronicle – November 24:

While I’m generally not too big of a sports fan, I do enjoy MMA, and I was lucky enough to cover a UFC event for the Chronicle. And before covering the event itself, I had the chance to interview UFC featherweight Cub Swanson.


Rhetoric of Hip-Hop Blog 1 January 24

This is the first of a series of blogs that I will write over the semester for my class, Rhetoric of Hip-Hop, at The University of Texas at Austin.

Why is it important to have debates about hip hop? (Why should anyone who is not a hip hop fan care? Why do you care personally?)

Hip-Hop, on a personal level, isn’t something I like; it’s something I live. I’m not even sure how I was first introduced to hiphop. It seems to have always been a part of me, who I am. It’s changed the way I think, I dress, I talk, I write and the way I view the world.

As Slug of Atmosphere put it in “Party for the Fight to Write”:

As a child hip-hop made me read books
And hip-hop made me wanna be a crook
And hip-hop gave me the way and something to say

Having never had an imposing physical frame, one of my earliest realizations that words could be used jabs and uppercuts was through hiphop. I’d spend hours analyzing lyrics on RapGenius or watching rap battles on YouTube. Long before I was competing in formal academic debates, I was battling over beats in the lunchroom.

But even on a more academic and societal level, hip-hop is important in countless ways. Obviously as a multi-billion dollar industry, hip-hop has a significant economic impact. But as some rappers have noted, hip-hop is not only “about dollars” but also “about change.”

Few forms of art provide better insight into culture than hip-hop. Hip-hop, arguably much more so than most other artforms, represents a voice for a community that has historically been voiceless, poor young urban Blacks and Latinos. Hip-hop provides a window into our culture as a whole, especially regarding issues of race, gender, history, politics, religion, and more (although I unfortunately don’t have more room to elaborate here).

Because hip-hop so strongly affects so many aspects of our society – even far beyond hip-hop itself – it’s especially important to be studied and understood, even for those who aren’t necessarily rap fans.

The One and Only Definitive, Exhaustive, Absolute List of the Ten Best Songs of All Time (in no particular order)

See also: Article Recommendations (August 8, 2013)

“Imagine” by John Lennon, Imagine (1971)

“You may say I’m a dreamer… but I’m not the only one.” John Lennon’s magically powerful single from 1971 is a truly historic song that in many ways embodied some of the time’s idealism.

“A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke, Ain’t That Good News (1964)

R&B legend Sam Cooke may not have made his catchiest song with “A Change Is Gonna Come” but he did make a song that defined an era. And if, like me, you can’t get enough of this song, it has a significant number of covers – including some by Beyonce, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and more.

“This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie (1944)

Arguably the best protest song of all time, “This Land Is Your Land” was written by Communist folk legend Woody Guthrie. Guthrie was upset with how unrealistic Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” was, so he wrote this beautiful song to ask in reply, “Was this land made for you and me?”

“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On (1971)

Is anyone smoother than Marvin Gaye? I don’t think it’s possible. But the soul legend didn’t only use his voice for love songs; in 1971 he released the powerful “What’s Going On,” which was inspired by an incident of police brutality.

“American Pie” by Don McLean, American Pie (1971)

Singer-songwriter Don McLean brilliantly singing mysterious lyrics is as American as “American Pie.” (Okay, sorry for that one.) Supposedly, when McLean was asked about the meaning behind his cryptic song, he replied “It means I don’t ever have to work again if I don’t want to.” True.

“Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A, Straight Outta Compton (1988)

So much of hip-hop culture today came “Straight Outta Compton,” thanks to the legendary gangsta hip-hop group N.W.A. Ice Cube with the opening verse, followed by MC Ren and then concluded by Eazy-E – the song is dope throughout. The song, and the group as a whole, completely revolutionized not only hip-hop, but our entire American culture.

“Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963)

In “Blowin’ in the Wind” singer-songwriter Bob Dylan asks questions more beautifully than anyone has since Socrates. Enlightening, confusing, ambiguous and yet undeniably enjoyable, Dylan’s famous song deserves its spot on this list.

“Lose Yourself” by Eminem, 8 Mile (2002)

The single off the original soundtrack for his movie 8 Mile won an Oscar – the first rap song to ever win. Having written and produced “Lose Yourself,” Marshall Mathers flawlessly rides from word to word in one of the most inspiring tracks of all time.

“In The Ghetto” by Elvis Presley (1969)

A powerful story about the devastating cycle of poverty, “In The Ghetto” is arguably the King’s most touching song.

“Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang (1979)

“I said a hip hop, the hippie, the hippie to the hip-hip-hop and you don’t stop.” That simple and catchy rhyme opened 1979’s “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang – which is considered to be the very first popular rap song. The originals deserve respect.

Beyond Business & Basketball: A Look at Mark Cuban

Many people, especially us Texans, are very familiar with Mark Cuban, but the owner of the Mavericks and investor on the show Shark Tank (among many other things) rarely discusses his interests outside of sports and business, so I figured I’d ask him.

For a man who seems to do/has done it all, Cuban was not only easy to reach, he also replied to my email within a few hours, which is a rarity from anyone, let alone a multi-billionaire.  Maybe it shouldn’t be very surprising because, as anyone who has watched a Mavs game or followed him on Twitter, Cuban isn’t exactly shy.  (Just for the record, the NBA has fined him nearly two million dollars since he bought the Mavericks in 2000.)

Continue reading

Healing from Heartbreak: A Review of Josh Ritter’s The Beast in Its Tracks

On March 5, 2013, the release date of his newest track album, singer-songwriter Josh Ritter posted a hand-written note on his website, part of which read: “The Beast In Its Tracks began in heartbreak, but (for me) it has come to stand for everything that happened after.”

Continue reading