You can’t really know where you’re headed unless you know where you’ve been. For that reason, we’re taking a look back at Pazz & Jop 2012 to drill down into the ballots of contributors and voters who participated. Maybe amongst the rubble we’ll find clues about what lies ahead for music lovers in 2013. Here, Grantland staff writer Rembert Browne defends his ballot.
Rembert Browne. Who are you, how many times have you voted in Pazz & Jop, and why on earth should we trust you?
I’m Rembert. I’m a staff writer at Grantland. I’m also a New York inhabiter and Atlanta native and mid-twenty-something and all that. My first time voting in Pazz and Jop And I never said you should trust me.
But I don’t think I disappoint. When given the space to elaborate.
Never. Well, the first question I have is simple: How does it feel to be literally the only person who voted for 2 Chainz?
I’m proud. It’s also proof that I don’t think of myself as a music journalist, yet. I guess, because 2012 was my first full year of, what they call, “professional” music writing, I still am in the mindset of a consumer and fan first, “critic” second. And I don’t know how long that’s going to last, but right now I’m happy it exists. And I think my list, reflective of a year of having my brain be all over the place, pushing myself to write about all types of things, shows how scattered, imperfect of a year it was for me.
What went into your decision making? Things you listened to the most?
Albums I surprised myself in coming back to, after the initial rush period. That was a big indicator for me in what were my albums of the year, beyond simply the ones I enjoyed. Because I enjoyed a lot more than ten albums. But it was that surprise factor of not growing tired of an album that really did it for me.
That seems to be the recurring thing most people have told me. It’s a replay factor. The only selection in your Top 10 that’s not either rap or R&B is Japandroids. What do you think got them that spot?
Weird/great story: I’d listened to their album, and liked it, because a few of my co-workers (Chris Ryan, Andy Greenwald, Robert Mays) all raved about it. Really liked it, but then sat it down. I realized later that I never listened to it in the appropriate setting (never loud, never driving in a car). Anyway, a few months after it came out, Pitchfork writer/occasional Grantland contributer Ian Cohen went on this weird Tweeting spree where he listed his ten (or maybe fifteen) favorite moments from the Japandroids album, but super specific, listing the time stamp ranges that were the “best moments.” So I listened to all of them. And he was right. And I listened to them super loud. And then I went back and listened to the album really loud. And then couldn’t stop listening to it. And that’s my Japandroids story.
That was a good Japandroids story!
It’s not the worst one, I know that much.
Were you surprised that Big Boi’s record didn’t get more love from the public?
I was. I really was. And I still don’t really know why, because I can’t accept that it was “too experimental.” “In The A” didn’t become the banger that they thought it would be, and I think since that became some what of a letdown, people lost interest in the album
What was it about the album that you gravitated towards?
To me, it was the only direction Big Boi could go, trying new things with his voice, collaborating with different artists, experimenting with different sounds. I think it’s how he saves himself from ending up like Andre, bored and uninspired. But beyond all of the philosophical stuff, there are songs on there I still listen to, and, like the first solo album, I can listen to it from front to back and it’s a bit of a rollercoaster.
You wrote a pretty ballin’ post for Grantland all about the year in 2 Chainz. I feel like no rapper really encapsulates 2012 more than that guy.
Yeah, that was one of those things that, in my head, was nineteen times shorter than it ended up being. Because not even I had any idea he did that much.
How long did that take you, by the way?
About seven hours, between finding all of the stuff, typing it up, and having all that take place on a LAX layover and then on a plane back to NYC.
Let’s talk about the appeal of 2 Chainz. Is it really just his ability to guest on anything and everything?
I guess my feelings on 2 Chainz all boil down to the seemingly effortless reemergence, which is extra special for me, because I actually remember Tity Boi quite well.
Do you remember the first time you heard Tity Boi?
I remember his verse on Ludacris’ “We Got,” from Chicken-N-Beer. Because there’s the line “and I’m throwing techs like an NBA ref /I got all gold guns like they came from Iraq.”
Only 2 Chainz could sell that line.
That was a point of laughter amongst my boys and I whenever that album came out, 2003 I think.
Were you in Atlanta then?
Yeah, that was high school. In Atlanta, the best place on Earth. That was an incredible time to be from Atlanta, my high school years, because we owned the music industry. And when I went off to college, all the music was Atlanta music, and I was the Atlanta kid, so that was beautiful.
How do you feel that shaped the taste you have today? Where’s the love for Future on your ballot?!
I like Future. I like Pluto. When “Turn Out The Lights” came out, though, I thought he was done. I will never figure out how that song caught on. That’s one of my great life mysteries. But I do like Future.
The growth of Future’s popularity this year has been one of the most fascinating things to follow in music.
I’ll never forget being at the XXL Freshman show in 2012 in April, and seeing him come out with the Astronaut.
How crazy did the crowd go?
Not very crazy. They were kinda weirded out, because at that point, it’s was more fashionable to say Future was trash. In the same way that nine months later, it’s very fashionable to say Future is a genius.
This is what I’m talking about. The evolution is nuts.
Yeah, it’s wild. “Same Damn Time (remix)” with Diddy is one of the more enjoyable tracks in recent memory, though. But most of that is Diddy assault on multitasking, as well as his listing of magazines he saw at an airport kiosk once.
Ha, absolutely. Let’s talk a little bit about Kendrick, your number two album and number one single. To be honest — and I love the record — I was very, very surprised at the universal acclaim for it. I didn’t really see that coming. Maybe I should’ve. Is the album an instant classic?
As a debut, I think it will hold up for a long time
What do you love about the album?
It’s a fantastic album, and it’s still growing on me. I like the sequencing of the tracks, I like the storytelling nature that it has, I like the features (except Dre on “Compton,” that song just isn’t good), but it’s not dependent on the features. Kendrick’s the star of that album, which is great. Except for maybe “Poetic Justice,” which is a tad bit greater because of Drake than Kendrick.
“Compton” isn’t a good song?
I can’t. The hook. Makes me uncomfortable. No matter how decent the verses are, that hook is paralyzingly bad. Which was a shame, for me, listening to it over and over and over again because I still don’t skip it, because it’s the song about his home. And you want that one to be good. But, you like it, other people like it, so it’s not a failure. I just don’t like it
I think I just really like hearing Dre rap.
One thing I love about the album — and I think Pazz and Jop proved a point, as did the conversation we just had — is that every song on that album is someone’s favorite song on the album.
Absolutely. Okay, let’s talk about your number one. How many times did you make out to Miguel in the year 2012.
When didn’t I? That’s an easier conversation. I’m so proud of that album.
What do you mean by that?
All that album has to stand up on is how good it is. Miguel‘s got no posse, so it’s not like he’s part of a collective that’s pushing his stuff, and there was no real scandalous/gossipy story that helped get him more buzz. It was just him. It could have just been an “Adorn and friends” album, but instead, even with the monster single, he found a way to make a complete album. So I guess that’s what I mean by “I’m proud.” He kinda bucked the system and came out on top.
Totally. And, damn, “Adorn” is such a sexy song. Another person defending their ballot told me something like, “There is no better time to make a move than when ‘Adorn’ kicks in.” But on a level more than just making out, the song just sounds sexy.
The water drop.
Oooh. God bless that water drop. Both Miguel and Frank are in your top three. Since it’s similar music, do you think one could’ve happened without the other, and vice versa? How much do you think Frank’s hype leaked to Miguel, etc.? Does that question make sense?
Makes sense, but I lump Frank and Kendrick more together
That’s interesting. Maybe apply that question to that, then.
While very different artists, in my head, I have Drake, Kendrick, Frank, and J Cole in a group of artists, ones with very very popular mixtapes, ones that were treated as albums, that have had varying levels of success in their post-mixtape album life. Trajectory-wise, I think of those four together
Makes total sense. Out of Kendrick, Frank, and J Cole, who has the next Take Care?
Don’t know who has it, but I think Cole needs it the most.
Yeah, he really does. To be honest, I kind of forgot he exists.
I think his second album, a follow-up to a very successful debut (one that, like Thank Me Later, was good but not as enjoyable as the So Far Gone/Friday Night Lights), is more make or break, career wise, because he isn’t as much of a public figure, than say Kendrick or Frank’s second albums. Take Care had to be 50 times better than Thank Me Later for me to stay as interested. But then it was, and it bought him like 5 more years
What do you see happening in Pazz & Jop 2013?
That’s a weird question. But I like it.
Good. Then answer it!
I don’t know, I guess that’s also slightly a “What do you see happening in music in 2013” which I don’t have a hold on yet. I do feel like this year, just as things cycle, will be a bigger, better year for rock.
Anything in particular you’re pumped about?
To listen to more types of music, like country music.
Variety is the spice of life. Okay, Rembert Browne. Congratulations! You have successfully defended your ballot! How does it feel?
IT FEELS GREAT. I COULD DO WITHOUT THAT EXCLAMATION MARK, BUT YOU CAN’T WIN ‘EM ALL. But seriously, that was fun. Still proud of myself for being the one person who is vulnerable enough to admit their Chainzian love.
And we thank you for it.
Interview by Eric Sundermann.
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