Play It Cool This Weekend Reading List

Featuring: breaking the shackles of your hotep bondage, setting the record straight on Missy Elliot once and for all, the political impact of the open letter, Solange bringing us all to tears, a piece that finally isn't about loving white men, and what it's *really* like to quit your job.

By Wallace Mack

Her Eyes Were Watching The Stars: How Missy Elliott Became An Icon

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Elle

This is one of the most fantastic profiles you will ever read on anyone, dead or alive. Taking a deep dive into the life of the legendary Missy Elliot, Ghansah extends a grace and cultural understanding that I'm not sure non-black writers are able to give black artists. Things this piece does really well: the research on Missy's life and career is sublime, it draws amazing literary, artistic and historical parallels, it is easily digestible, and even the biggest Missy Elliot fan will walk away from this piece having learned something new. For bonus points, anything that invokes the spirit of Alice Walker is an automatic must-read. This is the kind of work I aspire to as a writer. This really is mandatory reading.

Reading Came First: How I Journeyed From Hotep to Black Queer Feminist

Myles Johnson, Black Youth Project

It's difficult to admit that, for a lot of us, our journey to self-realization involved a hotep phase. I certainly had one in high school and still have the continent of Africa and Eye of Horus tattoos to prove it. In this piece, Myles Johnson explains how he escaped a black history that went against his very existence, and instead began to consume critical and factual work by black and queer and feminist authors. His secret: reading. If you're a hotep (or an undercover hotep) and you've landed here, this is a great place to start 👀

Solange Wrote the Most Powerful Letter to Her Teenage Self

Solange Knowles, Teen Vogue

Solange wrote a really self-reflective letter to Solange's of days past, and if you're like me and have no fucking idea what you're doing in life, then you need to read this. 

The Intimate, Political Power of the Open Letter

Emily J. Lordi, The Atlantic 

As writers, I think many of us want to believe in the power of the open letter, even when we can't necessarily *feel* that they make a difference. In this piece for the Atlantic, Emily Lordi confirms that whether you feel it or not, open letters continue to be paramount in our struggles for change. This piece is a reflection on a new collection of open letters, Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times by Carolina De Robertis. Covering a gambit of writers like Mychal Denzel Smith, Darnell Moore, Kai M. Green, Marlon Peterson, and James Baldwin, you may want to check it out if open letters are your thing. 

I Quit My Job To Chase My Dreams. I Almost Gave Up On Myself In The Process.

Michell Clark, michellcclark.com  

In 3 acts, Michell Clark takes us on the journey of deciding to leave the "security" of the corporate machine, the reality of being jobless and the aftermath of his faith in the universe, and in himself. In doing so, he extends grace to a lot of people. I think it's easy to write angrily about people who suck on the path to your creative and career freedom; your old boss with unrealistic expectations, your friends who may not understand your visions or goals, and even your parents who grow impatient with your slowing career progress. But to write about people who have let you down and extend those actions grace isn't always an easy thing to do. This is exactly what Clark masters in this piece.  

Black Men Loving Black Men Is A Revolutionary Act

Darnell Moore, NewNowNext

Darnell Moore is the newly knighted Editor-At-Large of Cassius, a fresh online destination for Black millennial content. But before that, he'd always been one of my favorite writers and thought leaders. In this piece, Moore explores his relationship with his father and first boyfriend as pillars that develop his relationship preferences. In the past few weeks, we've seen an outpouring of essays by black writers, begging to be accepted for their desire for interracial relationships. Moore says it best, "Black men loving black men is, as the deceased black gay writer Joseph Beam opined in the 1980s, a “revolutionary act” because every moment a black man is transgressive enough to love what he has been socialized to hate he commits an act of insurgency."

Oh yeah, a weekend vibe! Be safe guys!

Play It Cool This Weekend Reading List

Featuring: a living legend who's been insulted by Nina Simone multiple times, my birthday joy, some cultural appropriation, a really dope college editorial, and those digital booklets that y'all pay dust. 

By Wallace Mack

Do You Remember When Icons Could Preach and Boogie?

Dayna Evans, NY Mag

If you're as obsessed with the black intelligentsia of years past as me, you'll enjoy this mini interview with Jessica Harris, a major culinary writer of the '70s and '80s. Detailing her relationships with friends, other big names like James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Nina Simone and Maya Angelou, you'll learn a little something new about all of your #faves. It's a look into the life of a legend who still remains, while most of her legendary friends have passed on. Harris released her 13th book this week My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir. I just bought it and I think you should too!

You Can’t Beat Pablo If Ya Work Ain’t Sellin: Appropriation, Truth, and Capitalism

Devyn Springer, Zine

When having conversations about cultural appropriation, we are often derailed by our inability to actually define the phrase. Using a recent Nicki Minaj bar "you can't beat Pablo if ya work ain't selliiiiinnn'", Devyn Springer argues that one of the evils of cultural appropriation can be seen in our tendency to position Picasso as the standard, and not the Sub-Saharan African art forms that influenced his work. "The case study of Picasso, who became a household name and million-dollar entity, allows us to see capitalism position itself as a ruthless, individualist system where the true artist’s work can easily be stolen once art becomes commodified."

A Candid Conversation About Rap Culture’s Pervasive Disrespect Against Black Women

Lakin Starling + Juliana Pache, The Fader

Two black woman staff writers at The Fader round-table the importance of listening to black women. Read this, internalize this and act on what you learn from this. Spoiler alert: they drag YesJulz to hell and back.  

FORNEM | 001

The Maroon Tiger 

Jayson Overby is the graduating Editor-In-Chief at the Maroon Tiger of Morehouse College and one of his final projects with the college newspaper will certainly go down as his best. FORNEM or "for them" is a visual and written dedication to the rise of the new "Black Dandy." Using the Black hairstyle "waves" as the muse, the editorial argues that "The Black dandy isn’t just the well-dressed man who wears bespoke suits and is sartorially inclined, but it’s also the boys on the block donning grills, gaudy Nike Tech Fleece suits, and 25-millimeter gold-plated kite screw- back earrings." If nothing else, check this out for the bomb ass photos. 

The Failed Experiment of The Digital Album Booklet

Ann-Derrick Gaillot, The Outline 

When is the last time you actually scrolled through a digital album booklet? I love them, but I'm aware that they aren't particularly popular. Digital booklets certainly have not served the purpose for which they were designed, from the perspective of artists and consumer. In this piece, Gaillot breaks down why. 

What It Means To Swing

Wallace Mack, Playinitcool

Ew, I just referred to myself in the third person for the sake of consistency. This week, I wrote a piece about my birthday and how blessed I feel to be alive. Why would I not include my own work in MY weekend reading list 😉


Oh yea, here's a birthday weekend vibe!

Play It Cool This Weekend Reading List

Featuring: pulling up at the club VIP (gas tank on E), our mother's manicures as radical acts of self-care, Black kids dying young (even on CP time), but when they do live, what it's like to grow up as a Black girl, even with all the weapons around you. 

By Wallace Mack

Lil Boosie, ‘Wipe Me Down,’ And The Ballad Of Baton Rouge

Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, MTV News

"Wipe Me Down" will always have a special place in my heart and last week it turned 10. In this piece, Abdurraqib explores the song in four parts I. Shoulders, II. Chest, III. Pants, and IV. Shoes. By weaving in the cultural importance of the song's roots in 2007 post-Hurricane Katrina Baton Rouge, he breathes life into the never aging cult classic. Abdurraqib is also a poet and it shows. This essay is a master-class on music writing and seriously you need to read this shit right now. 

For Black Kids Like Jordan Edwards, Time Is A Fragile Illusion

Jason Parham, The Fader

This week we've seen many reported pieces about yet another young Black boy killed in our country. Jason Parham pays his respects to dearly departed Jordan Edwards here, but so much more, he discusses time as a really weird and scary paradox for Black Americans. "...how can we ever go about our daily lives free of terror, death, and displacement, if time, the very thing black people are trying to grasp, was never ours to have in the first place?" 

a Black girl.

Sharifa Leggett, 20sfor20s

Inspired by a column over at Toi Bly's The Neue Neue, Sharifa Leggett recounts days past as a Black girl. What makes this piece most special is the authentic tone of voice Leggett uses in her writing. Similar to greats like Toni Cade Bambara, Leggett is able to write from multiple vantage points but is consistently true to her own voice. 

My Mama’s Manicures Taught Me How To Take Care Of Myself

Nichole Perkins, BuzzFeed Reader

In her final piece as a BuzzFeed Emerging Writer Fellow, Nichole Perkins positions the manicure as an act of self-care. This is a personal story that centers the life-long bond between mother and daughter. 

Weapons: A 3 Part Series On Violence

Myles Johnson, Zine (Philadelpha Printworks) 

In this piece, Myles Johnson analyzes violence in 3 parts: interpersonal violence, violence disguised as empathy and institutional violence via capitalism. It's a brilliantly written piece with very intimate spots. Johnson has a natural gift for drawing parallels and does so beautifully here. It's a long read, but it's certainly worth it!


Here's a dancehall edit of "Walked Outta Heaven" by Jagged Edge that you didn't know you needed for the weekend!

Play It Cool This Weekend Reading List

Featuring: America's bloody and disgusting obsession with guns, a conversation about men experiencing sexual assault, some Frank Ocean stanning, memes as a new and defining part of the Black experience (+ why we need to protect them), and a beautiful eulogy from one black artist to another. 

By Wallace Mack

Say What You Meme, Meme What You Say

Jason Parham, The Fader

Jason Parham is a senior editor at The Fader, and an editorial inspiration of mine. Most of Jason's work approaches music, sports, and culture from a historical lens, and anyone that knows me can tell you that my favorite thing on Earth is drawing parallels. In this piece, Jason discusses how communication between black peoples continues to evolve, and how the meme has become the latest addition to our collection of shared experiences. "Memes, to me, were such a mode and a language until suddenly they seemed less so. I don’t yet know what will happen next, how we will learn to speak anew, only that we will continue to make our way across the digital Black Atlantic, eyes ever forward."

Zeke Thomas Speaks Out for the First Time About Being Assaulted

Carl Swanson, The Cut

So often, our conversations about sexual assault neglect the many ways in which men experience it too. When we are having conversations about men who experience sexual assault, it's usually a reactionary backlash at #feminist and how "da #feminist never talk about dis!!" More often than not, gay men are never able to claim stake in the conversation. That is the importance of this interview with Zeke Thomas.   

What Bullets Do To Bodies

Jason Fagone, HuffPost

In conversation with Dr. Amy Goldberg, a trauma surgeon with 30 years of experience in Philly hospitals, Jason Fagone explores the side of gun violence that many are never exposed to: what it looks like in hospitals. Definitely adding a [TW] to this one for graphic recounts of gun violence and a few (well shot) photos of what bullets actually do to bodies.

What's Going on With Frank Ocean's New Songs? 

Craig Jenkins, Vulture

I am a self-confessed Frank Ocean stan. I admit this, am proud of it, and never attempt to hide it. In this piece,  Craig Jenkins explores Ocean as a songwriter (because he's a damn great one) and explores how the function of his writing has evolved over the course of his musical career. Ultimately, Jenkins declares that Frank Ocean is offering depth and ambiguity to pop music, something that the genre hasn't had at once in quite some time. 

Barkley L. Hendricks Painted Black People as We Are

Antwaun Sargent, VICE

First thing first, if you aren't following Antwaun Sargent on Twitter, today is your day to make that happen. Sargent is a passionate writer, dedicated to telling stories that center art and the condition of the black artist. In this piece for VICE, Sargent pays homage to the recently and dearly departed Barkley Hendricks, one of his favorites. Sargent reminisces on his first exposure to Barkley's work, expressing how the art resonated with him as a young queer boy. In a very surreal full-circle moment, Sargent recounts his first interview with Barkley, an interview which he felt wasn't going so well until the end when, artist to artist, Barkley tells Sargent: 

"You focused too much on the politics and not the art."

Of that moment, Sargent says, "It was a lesson that has forever changed the way I look at art."


Oh yea, btw, new SZA this week. Get into that!

Play It Cool This Weekend Reading List

Featuring: Kendrick Lamar and the Hotep nation, a magical black woman that wrote about a magical black woman, the obliteration of R*chel Dolez*l, Gucci being awkward again, magazines are lit as fuck and more people should enjoy reading, and why we have to protect Bresha Meadows. #freebresha

By Wallace Mack

Gucci’s Diversity Drag

R. Eric Thomas, New York Times 

"The fact is, putting a group of black people wearing vibrant clothing in a room and asking them to dance does not a revolution make. Especially when it has to be framed in the look of revolution 50 years past in order to be acceptable." If you're like me and thought the new "soulful" Gucci campaign was a little... odd, check out this piece. "It’s just drag. This is soul as drag."

These Bronx Gardeners Are Fighting The System By Growing Food

Amara Thomas, The Fader

Black women are the fruit of this earth. This has never been more literally or figuratively true than in this piece about "three women of color working out of gardens in the Bronx and how they are mobilizing against the system and uplifting their communities in the process."

The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black

Ijeoma Oluo, The Stranger

There is nothing left to say about Rachel Dolezal. She's done. She's finished. Ijeoma Oluo blows her to smithereens in this interview for The Stranger. She is now nothing more than a myth— a mere memory of the past. I couldn't be more grateful. 

Kara Walker's Next Act

Doreen St. Félix, Vulture

My first encounter with the work of the infamous Kara Walker was during the opening of her Brooklyn exhibit A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby. Ever since I peeped game, I knew but I didn't know-know like I should have. Let me make one thing clear— if you're interested in reading one of the most brilliant and poetic interviews with and about one of the most brilliant and polarizing figures of the contemporary art world, get into this. Doreen St. Félix uses her words here in a melodic tribute, from one black woman to another, and she really is every #journalismgoal I could ever imagine. 

How We Can Work Together To Keep Our Nation’s Youth Out Of The Prison System

    Lakin Starling, The Fader

    Our little girls are living in a world where they are being imprisoned for fighting back against their abusers. We all need to get angry and we all need to get active. If you know anything of 15-year-old Bresha Meadows, then this piece is for you and subsequently, if you know nothing of 15-year-old Bresha Meadows, then this piece is for you. Lakin Starling, a staff writer for The Fader, interviews Mariam Kaba (@prisonculture on Twitter) an informative and outspoken online persona. Mariam is a real-life prison abolitionist, community organizer, and all about action personality that we can all learn from. #freebresha

    Kendrick Lamar, Israel and Being Damned

    Myles Johnson, OKAYPLAYER

    Myles Johnson just so happens to be one of my favorite writers (ever) and this week, he wrote about one of my favorite rappers (ever). In this piece, Johnson addresses the elephant in the room regarding Kendrick Lamar's third studio album— the black Israelite references. Myles tackles what it's like to be an artist that's "learning in public" and reconciles his own learning and development with Kendrick's. 

    All Eyez On Vibe Magazine's 1996 Death Row Cover

    Justin Tinsley, The Undefeated

    Vibe Magazine was one of my first loves. Seriously though. While my adolescent peers spent time exploring the things that fulfilled them, I was finding myself getting lost in worlds of words. I've always loved books, but magazines held a special place in my heart. One of the very first mags I remember begging my mom to buy at the grocery store checkout counter was Vibe— the July 2006 issue with Outkast on the cover. I'm pretty sure it was with that issue in my hands (along with an adoration for all things BET and MTV), that I started to develop a love and appreciation for the intersection of music and culture.. In this piece for The Undefeated, Justin Tinsley explores the magazine as an influencer of popular culture, more than a mere depository for celebrity gossip. Some things make the blogs, and others the blog does make... 

    btw, James Fauntleroy put this out on 4/20. Enjoy!