As Told To

By Jewel Wicker

The south still has something to say.

#6・
23

issues

The south still has something to say.
By Jewel Wicker • Issue #6 • View online

When Briana Younger emailed me to ask if I’d write four blurbs for NPR’s newly released Southern Rap Canon, I was ecstatic. Then the anxiety set in. It’s hard to verbalize how overwhelming it is to write about the significance of an album like Goodie’s Mob Soul Food. (The anxiety I felt was similar to what I felt when I curated Spotify’s Black History is Now pop-up exhibit in New York earlier this year.) I barely pushed myself to submit my draft and I hadn’t even seen the list of phenomenal contributors at that time. The imposter syndrome that set in when I saw my byline alongside names like Maurice Garland, an OG who mentored me during my college years, was THICC.
But, in addition to the anxiety I feel when I receive projects like this, I also feel an overwhelming sense of purpose. I read a lot because it’s fun to me but also because I want to be able to document and contextualize history that has long gone ignored. I hope you’ll engage with these projects as much as possible, even if you are doing so in a critical manner. (One of my favorite moments from the Spotify exhibit was when a group of high school students grilled me on artists they felt were missing from the pop-up. Some of the artists had been featured on earlier lists but didn’t make the cut for various corporate reasons. Other, just hadn’t been featured because we had a limited amount of space. Regardless, every single question was valid. When documenting history, we have a responsibility to be as representative and as comprehensive as possible.)
For so long marginalized people have been told that our stories weren’t being told because there wasn’t an audience for them. We know that’s never been true but every share of a project such as NPR’s recent southern rap canon helps to provide concrete proof. (And, it helps content creators demand the rates we deserve.)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT (a few of my bylines from the past two weeks):
See above!
I’ve written about this in previous newsletter issues but in this reported essay, I spoke with a few reporters and a Loyola University graduate about this year’s racial reckoning in media.
It’s no secret that I love digging through newspaper archives and writing about the history of Atlanta institutions. I didn’t write about John Lewis directly following his death, but I really enjoyed writing about the civil rights legacy of Ebenezer Baptist Church ahead of his funeral.
When a new editor asked me if I had any pitches that spoke to “Black joy” in June, I immediately thought about this pitch.
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO & WATCHING:
I didn’t engage with a lot of new content last week because I was prepping for forthcoming assignments. I did spend some time revisiting some of the Atlanta staples that were featured in NPR’s southern rap canon, though.
“Whistle While You Twurk” - Ying Yang Twins
Ying Yang Twins, Whistle While You Twurk, Producer-Director, Cathy Irby Durant
Ying Yang Twins, Whistle While You Twurk, Producer-Director, Cathy Irby Durant
DG Yola’s “Ain’t Gone Let Up”
DG Yola - Ain't Gon Let Up (Official Video)
DG Yola - Ain't Gon Let Up (Official Video)
This podcast looks at the 2005 death of 21-year-old University of Texas student Jennifer Cave and the two students who were convicted. The cool thing about this podcast is that it’s reported and produced by professors, students and recent UT grads who are determined not to fall into the typical inhumane pitfalls of the true crime genre.
This podcast looks at New York public schools and the roles that seemingly well-meaning white parents can play in issues that plague them, specifically segregation.
RECENT READS:
Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey
Trigger warning: This book kept me up at night after I listened to it on Audible. It’s an exceptional and gut-wrenching look at domestic abuse and its familial impact.
I’ll admit I wasn’t as familiar with Trethewey, a Pulitzer winner and poet laureate, so it did not dawn on me that Memorial Drive meant the street here in Atlanta, until I began reading the book. There is a ton of historical context that local readers would find interesting about Trethewey’s time in Atlanta.
If I haven’t convinced you to read this book, you should check out my former coworker Rosalind Bentley’s feature on the memoir for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Flo Milli Summer by Hunter Harris for Vulture
Speaking of southern rap, this profile of Flo Milli by Hunter Harris, who describes the rapper’s flow as “playfully schoolyard, a cool girl’s “na-na na-na boo-boo”–style taunt; it’s a mantra and a meme all in one” is worth a read.
John Lewis’s Final Fight by Wesley Lowry for GQ
If you haven’t read this exceptional obit on founding father, John Lewis, I highly recommend it. (And, of course, Lewis’ own words, published on the day of his funeral are a must-read, too.)
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Jewel Wicker

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