Thinking about Kaur and her success reminds me of another young, talented, Canadian artist: Drake. Both Kaur and Drizzy are among the most successful artists in their respective fields, now and of all time. Whether you like them or the genres they operate in or not, chances are you’ve heard of them. And if you look into their numbers, you’d see that their success is not a matter of opinion, it’s a fact. So, objectively speaking, they must be the best, right?
On January 17th, Marshall Mathers — aka Eminem — quietly released his 10th major-label album, entitled Music to Be Murdered By. The title and cover image are a nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s eponymous work from 1958, and the “Alfred” interlude and outro are the famed director’s orated introduction and closing from his own album. But Eminem didn’t use the theme to make a concept album. Instead, with production by Dr. Dre, Tay Keith, and D.A. Doman, among others, the 64-minute album has Eminem performing a balancing act that invokes his crude alter ego — Slim Shady — with rabid foolishness. It has him rapping alongside younger artists such as Juice WRLD (in his first posthumous musical appearance) and Young M.A, all while still trying to provoke nostalgia by emulating his D12-era self and sharing the scene with established rappers like Black Thought and Royce Da 5’9”. Unfortunately, for a body of work that takes its title from the so-called “King of Suspense,” the album leaves the listener largely unmoved.
I stopped using the TTC when I discovered that I could bike my way through the city instead. I bike my way now through shadowy neighbourhoods, through the slips and knots of intersections. At the intersection of Bloor and Yonge, I enter the interdimensional shift of this land we call Toronto. Sacred and occupied Anishinaabe land. Sometimes you don’t claim the land, the land claims you.
Circles is Mac Miller’s first, and likely only posthumous release. The album comes seventeen months after the singer/rapper was found dead in his home from an apparent drug overdose. His death sent shockwaves throughout the hip-hop and music communities at large.
With the end of 2019 came lists and awards from media outlets about the past ten years in review. Among these was the declaration by The New Republic that Rupi Kaur was their writer of the decade. Kaur, at only twenty-seven years old, is known as an “Instapoet,” and owes much of her success to her highly popular Instagram account where she publishes short poems accompanied by distinct line drawings. Kaur currently has 3.9 million followers, and her posts alternate between coloured photos—often of Kaur herself—and poems made up of black text on a white background. Social media poetry tends to follow a similar structure: aesthetic, brief, and easily digestible.
I have seen so many reviews of books which try to convince you to pick it up and read using a string of adjectives. This novel is inspiring, confident, delightful. The prose (it is always prose) is handsome, remarkable, elegant. The dialogue is crisp, witty, fit for the screen. I am always left unconvinced by this language. I want to read good books, books that could be called delightful or elegant or what have you. But what I really value in writing is its ability to engage me deeply.
While people may say, “oh, it’s nothing, anybody could do it,” that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do or understand. Like flying a plane, knowing how to write well takes more than knowing the function of the buttons at your disposal. Yes, it’s helpful and possibly important to know the descriptive elements of visual art or the narrative flow of classical music when it comes to writing, but it is not enough to make one’s writing great.
“An autobiography is a book a person writes about his own life and it is usually full of all sorts of boring details,” wrote Roald Dahl in Boy: Tales of Childhood, in which he, rather ironically, describes his childhood and the experiences that influenced him into becoming an author. Autobiographies and memoirs have been present in literature for centuries.
Climate disasters, endless Middle Eastern conflicts, nationalist uprisings, xenophobia, and government surveillance. Most societies today are combatting at least one of these predicaments. The increased speed at which information travels has made people aware of problems that should not be persisting in a progressive social order. Aside from being a unifier of sorts and an aid to the consolidation of voices, mass communication may have contributed to widespread cynicism, making us distrustful of the principles and norms around us.