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In the fall of 2010, I had the courtesy of interviewing a young rapper, largely unknown out of serious hip-hop circles, named Kendrick Lamar. The interview was for a 300-word profile to be published in XXL magazine, what I believe was the first piece of print journalism done on him.

At the time, he was on the Independent Grind Tour with Tech N9ne, performing a mere 20-minutes each night alongside labelmate Jay Rock, promoting his now-classic mixtape Overly Dedicated.

He was thoughtful and self-assured, wise beyond his years. Though his voice barely rose a register, he saw himself one day being mentioned amongst the legends. …

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Yesterday I went to an estate sale in Morristown, NJ. I have begun going to these sales on the weekends, because I am either interested in buying random ephemera or I am simply bored.

To be honest, it’s hard to tell you exactly what I am hoping to find.

This particular sale was at the home of a man who ran a small recording studio out of his basement, garage and shed. It appeared, from looking at the detritus of what was left, that his main business was corporate clients; all throughout the basement studio, which featured not only a vocal booth but a live room as well, were CDs and tapes of sound libraries, many of which he had either made himself or was using to facilitate his process. …

Last night I began looking, as I often do late in the evening, at photographs that had been taken months ago, a year ago, two years ago. We can do this so very easily now, what with Google Photos, Apple Photos, cloud storage systems that store our photos in perpetuity. There is something to be said about their storage of these photos, how they collect these memories, perhaps harvesting that data for purposes unclear. But this is not that.

No, what I realized looking at these photos, specifically the ones dating to January or February, was how my wife and child smiled in them — how they played, rather carelessly, in the videos that accompanied the pictures. I thought, looking back at them, that this was what life looked like before it all changed, before the virus came, before the cities went up in flames, before the poverty struck, and the deep-seated anger hidden inside of many revealed itself anew. …

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