|Photo of the Daxing International Airport by Hao Wen (Architect: Zaha Hadid)
Rick Rubin, the legendary music producer, interviewed André 3000 back in December 2019, and I finally got around to listening to their conversation earlier this week. It's deep and rich, and has stayed with me for many reasons.
In it, André -- an artist so proficient and multitalented, "brilliant" doesn't even begin to describe him -- confesses he hasn't made much music in a while, that it's hard for him to create it. He has his own way of describing the obstacles, but what I heard him say was that there are two categories of things that get in the way:
The first resistance point is that as one gains knowledge and experience, one becomes so discerning that it's hard to get excited about things. He talks about not feeling like he's doing anything really new, or fresh. It's like he's boring himself.
The second is the oppressive weight of other people's expectations. Not a fear of criticism, but just the sheer intensity of the scrutiny he now knows to expect with every single track he releases.
In a way, I suppose they both boil down to wanting to feel free, and not knowing how to access freedom.
There are moments during the interview when he describes the environment in the Dungeon, the basement studio-rehearsal space-crash pad where he and a tight-knit collective of Atlanta hip hop artists used to spend countless hours experimenting, writing, recording, and practicing. In this space, where they could just play, try things out for each other and get instant feedback on how they sounded, there was freedom to try and fail, but also: connection, community, collaboration, feedback, trust, companionship.
Hearing him talk about the layers of isolation he's experienced due to fame, touring, and his own inner critic, I found myself wishing he could reunite his Dungeon crew, or assemble a new one. I want that for him. I want that for all of us.
These past few months, I've felt like I found my new Dungeon crew. I've been looking for them for years, and I can't express the relief and gratitude I feel to have a team of co-conspirators again in my daily work life.
I'm wishing you all freedom, and whatever combination of connection, encouragement, and companionship creates a spell circle around your magic.
P.S. The subject line this week comes from an exchange at the 10'30" mark, when Rubin asks, "Who have you been listening to lately?" and André describes Steve Reich (and instrumental music in general) as "music that I can have my own thoughts to."
As someone who's sensitive to sound, and lives with three not-so-quiet people, I've spent a lot of energy during quarantine carving out quieter spaces where my thoughts feel less cluttered. What's your equivalent when it comes to mental space?
A no-police alternative to 911, designed and coded by formerly incarcerated software engineers. We are no longer surprised (video | text), by adrienne maree brown.
Things to make your business / work life better
These wholesome TikTok videos star the school receptionist we all wish we'd had.
Savouring the last days of summer with this recipe for charred and raw snap peas with burrata.
All the makeup-wearing femmes I know are obsessed with Cheekbone Beauty, especially their lipsticks. Bonus #1: the company is Indigenous-owned, cruelty-free, and low-waste. Bonus #2: they make fun Instagram filters.
Buying books through Bookshop.org -- and audiobooks through Libro.fm -- and supporting Black-owned bookstores.
One last thing…
Cobra Kai leads with nostalgic comedy, but it follows through with a pretty deft dismantling of toxic masculinity tropes. Well worth a watch.
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