License to Ill

Black journalism in the pages of the 'Voice'

Members of the Rock Steady Crew dancing in Riverside Park, 1983
photo: © Martha Cooper
Members of the Rock Steady Crew dancing in Riverside Park, 1983

This doesn't even begin to talk about the utterly outrageous liberties I got to take with the English language high and low here because, as was explained to me—by that amazing staff of editors who midwifed and made the paper sing in the '80s: Christgau, M. Mark, Kit Rachlis, Vince Aletti, Ross Wetzsteon, et. al—the Voice was a writer's paper, where editors were encouraged to help you say what you wanted to say in the way you wanted to say it and stay vaguely consistent with the style manual. The degree to which I and others were able to take this notion and run buck wild with it was confirmed for me years later when Vernon Reid told me that upon first encountering my early work here, he didn't know what the hell I was talking about but he knew I had to be a brother. Point being that for myself and Nelson, Stanley, Barry, Lisa, Thulani, and others, the Voice was once upon a time a place where you could actually get published (and get paid) to think long and hard about the meaning of being Black in a style and form that was racially motivated, and maybe even racially overdetermined for some overwhelmed readers' tastes, but never dull, if only because of how furiously we were all riding our own prose dilznicks and cliznits. We were the sheet, knew it was our time, and let the record show, we all wrote as if we knew it.

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