End-of-year list season is well underway, which means it's a good time to browse some slideshows, see how critics' judgments match up with your own tastes, and seek out the albums that passed you by. Or, if you're an artist, call up the media outlets that didn't feature your album and verbally threaten their writers.
Or, actually: wait. Don't do that. That's a terrible plan.
Too late. DC-based rapper Wale called up Complex's offices earlier this week, reports Complex, to express his disappointment that The Gifted, his pretty-good album from 2013, wasn't pretty-good enough to make Complex's Top 50. Writer Insanul Ahmed took the call:
Wale claimed that staff members at Complex had a personal bias against him, then started shouting and making threats.
“At this point, you know it’s got to be personal," he said. "You telling me it’s not personal. It's like a bold face lie. To be omitted from every type of list that y’all do or be at the bottom of it or every type of way that y’all can omit me, ya will.”
But then he went further:
When I tried to explain how our lists are formulated, Wale cut me off: "I swear to God I’ll come to that office and start knocking n****s the fuck out," he screamed. I tried to talk to him calmly. "Alright," he said. "I'll see y'all tomorrow. Get the security ready."
That's all caught on recording. Wale never showed. Later attempts to invite Wale over—presumably without the knocking-people-unconscious part—were declined.
So, a friendly memo to recording artists: critics haven't hatched a conspiracy against you come year-end season. In most instances, in fact, the way year-end lists are formulated at music publications is remarkably boring. Individual writers submit their own lists. Editors tally the results. And—voilà—a master list is born.
There's no Big Agenda at play. Of course, groupthink plays a role. Of course, more writers heard Yeezus than Wale's record, so not all candidates get an equal foot in the door. And, of course, critics are fickle, inconsistent beasts. Hence the phenomenon that a publication will occasionally give an album a mediocre review, then crown it on a year-end list. Alas: the review was one writer's opinion, the list a tabulation of many. Occasionally, several music sites, for that reason, will make public the individual writers' lists.
Oh, and another thing: if you do feel compelled to threaten those who didn't love your record, don't threaten a journalist. They've got recording devices and active Twitter presences and all sorts of ways to call your bluff. There is such a thing as bad press.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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