In 2012, within the span of two months, North Carolina lost two of its most famous and most loved musical voices, Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs. This was my tribute to them.
Where Were You on 9/20?
I was talking to a friend recently about police violence against people of color. It hasn’t stopped. According to January 2023 data from Mapping Police Violence, Black people are still three times more likely to die at the hands of police than white people, even though they were 1.3 times less likely to be armed.
North Carolina Hardcore: Paradise Lost
It seemed ironic to me that two of the loudest, most prolific, and most politically vocal bands on North Carolina’s so-called new music scene of the mid-1980s represented a silent minority, shunned as if they were the black sheep of the South’s new musical family.
The Indie-Rock of Ages: Christian Bands Change Their Tune
The handful of fans has swelled into a formidable crowd, swaying along to the intense squall of guitars, hands waving in the air, eyes tightly shut as if everyone is praising God. Everyone is.
The Coup: Sorry to Bother You
This Oakland outfit continues to create danceable manifestos for the masses: “I got scars on my back, the truth on my tongue,” front man Boots Riley raps. “Tell Homeland Security we are the bomb.”
Phil Ochs: Song of a Soldier
A highlight of my career as a music journalist was being asked to write liner notes to a box set of music by my all-time favorite singer and songwriter, Phil Ochs — and then getting a Grammy nomination for my work.
Erykah Badu: Hello, It’s Me
By 2012, Erykah Badu had undergone a beautiful evolution from pioneer of late-’90s neosoul to hard-hitting, politically inspired, space-funk godchild of George Clinton. I needed to talk to her. And so I did.
TV on the Radio: We’re an American Band
With the recent election of Barack Obama as president of the United States, TV on the Radio may have been the most American band making music in 2008. Little did we know then that the country would face a vicious and sustained backlash that continues to threaten our democracy.
Beat Generation in the Generation of Beats
Chuck D looked at me quizzically, his furrowed brow barely showing beneath the bill of his black Raiders cap. “Sure,” the rapper said as I handed him a yellowed copy of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. “I’ll read it. Sounds interesting.”
The Death of Sampling
I had been writing about the issue of digital sampling in hip-hop for several years in the 1980s. When a judge’s ruling in 1991 forever changed the way hip-hop would be made, I wrote this followup.