The 11 alternative weeklies of Voice Media Group are responsible for a tremendous amount of music writing: This year, we produced thousands of pages of printed stories and tens of thousands of blog posts. We're proud to present the very best of that work in the second-annual Voice Media Group Music Writing Awards.
William Michael Smith (left, photo by Chris Knight) and David Thorpe
Each of the 11 music editors around the country selected his or her favorite articles from 2013 in two categories: blog posts and print stories. A judging panel composed of Senior Music Editor Ben Westhoff, Houston Press Music Editor Chris Gray, and me (I'm music editor of the Dallas Observer) then voted to pick the winners, who will get a cash prize.
This year's best blog post is David Thorpe's "The Ten Best Male Rappers of All Time," originally published on the Village Voice's Sound of the City blog. It revealed the disparity in the way men and women are discussed in music writing with brevity and force.
His debut album, Illmatic, is still regarded as one of the best rap albums ever recorded by a man. Extraordinarily, the album was created with a team of almost all male collaborators, including Q-Tip, DJ Premier, Pete Rock and fellow male rapper AZ. (Somehow, despite all the testosterone in the room, it didn't even wind up sounding like the score to a dick-flick.) Nas was hot enough -- both on the mic and in that baby face of his -- that even female artists took notice: He married singer Kelis in 2005.
We asked Thorpe to send to send us a little information about himself, and here's what we got:
David Thorpe is a protein that in humans is encoded by the LBP gene. LBP is a soluble acute-phase protein that binds to bacterial lipopolysaccharide (or LPS) to elicit immune responses by presenting the LPS to important cell surface pattern recognition receptors called CD14 and TLR4. He lives in San Francisco and writes occasionally.
This year's best print story is William Michael Smith's "Mr. Record Man," a thorough and thoughtful account of Willie Nelson's time in Houston and how the city shaped the legend we know today. It was published in the Houston Press the week Nelson turned 80.
According to Patoski, Chapman and others who have traveled on [Willie] Nelson's bus, he's a quiet guy who likes scrambled eggs after a gig, a glass or two of white wine, a lungful of killer reefer and picking some Django Reinhardt with sister Bobbie. This is the Zen Willie of today, the one who wrote the koans collected in his 2012 book Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.
But back in his Houston days, Nelson was a hard-partying little dude. Larry Butler recalls many nights when Nelson was too drunk to drive home, "so he'd just spend the night with us."
"Willie loved a good party, and he'd drink right along with everybody else," adds Butler. "Of course, that wasn't helping his marriage any, but Willie's always been Willie."
And here's a little background on the author, William Michael Smith:
Born and raised in Odessa, Texas. Graduated Permian High School in 1968 and University of Texas - Austin in 1975 with Radio/TV/Film degree. Attended University of Texas - Austin Graduate School of Journalism 1975-76. Worked in the oilfields much of his adult life, living in Alaska, Netherlands, Singapore, and New Delhi. Returned to the U.S. in 1987 and resettled in Houston. Taught high school journalism five years at Eisenhower High School. Adjusted energy insurance claims for five years. Began writing for the Houston Press in 2002. Has also written for No Depression magazine, Paste, and Westword, and the Edmonton Journal. He's an Associate Editor at Texas Music.