This week three of the best pieces of music writing spoke to the conversations happening between musicians and the people heavily engaged with their work — Bowie reaching out to Scott Walker, Kendrick Lamar anticipating listeners' reactions to his songs and the cementing of hip-hop as the "lingua franca" of men's wear.
Kendrick Lamar's long awaited album good kid, m.A.A.d. city is just under a month old and has already been deemed a classic by many of the Compton rapper's fans. For Jeff Chang writing at BuzzFeed, the album represents a potential sonic shift in hip-hop. Lamar has not invented anything, and his production, flow and content, though executed well, are not cutting edge. Instead, the innovation lies in the way Lamar approaches his subject matter. Analyzing the tracks on the highly praised album, Chang paints a portrait of, not only Lamar's coming of age, but of a cultural journey from emotional despair to reconciliation. Chang writes that "if the hip-hop generation emerged largely out of a traumatic break in cultural and political leadership, the post-hip-hop generation rises from a sometimes nearly disabling self-awareness." —Briana Younger
Pushing Ahead of the Dame has a rather impressive writing goal: "David Bowie, song by song." That's not just songs from albums, but b-sides, singles, live performances not tied to previously recorded songs and even rumored Bowie tracks. The writer is now up to Black Tie White Noise, Bowie's first solo release after some time with Tin Machine. But the Thin White Duke was at a musical crossroads in 1993, and can be heard digging into his past with a cover of the title track from The Walker Brothers' 1978 reunion album, Nite Flights. It was the first hint that Scott Walker was thinking deeper and danker, but as writer Chris O'Leary dissects in his epic-length essay, there is oh-so much more subtext happening between these two visionaries: subtle lyrical references to each others' works, competitive production techniques, but mostly, Bowie's undying fandom for Walker, and Walker, in his own way, repaying it. —Lars Gotrich
Hip-hop as a culture (not just the music) has often found ways of inserting itself into the lives of those who may not even listen to the genre. One can see inklings of hip-hop in the most obvious and the least expected industries; the world of fashion is both. As Jon Caramanica points out in a New York Times article in the internet generation, people are no longer discovering fashion in the latest issue of Vogue or or in the streets of Paris, but instead from street-style blogs and music videos. Caramanica says for this group, "hip-hop is the filter, not the text, providing a worldview that preaches the values of opulence and peacocking." Tumblr especially has been the place where a devouring of men's fashion, collected under #menswear, has taken root. The result is a fusion of hip-hop rebellion and traditional style that makes blazers and bowties a little less Urkel and a lot more Kanye. —Briana Younger