Ask @PaulCantor:

what did you think about rap in 2015?

I guess it was okay.
At the mainstream and slightly sub-mainstream levels you had big records -- and in some instances, multiple projects -- from Drake, Future, Kendrick, Meek Mill, Wale, Logic, Jeezy, Rick Ross, Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler, Mac Miller. Shit, even Kid Cudi dropped an album. Pusha T drops tomorrow. I'm sure I'm missing a million other records (Tyga? Fetty Wap? Lil' Dicky?). So much stuff drops these days that it's hard to keep up.
But what I liked most about hip-hop this year, as in recent years, was that if you wanted to hear some type of music, by and large it was available to you. You might have had to dig around a little online, but you'd eventually get to it. Years ago, shit, it was very difficult to find music that wasn't physically available within some reasonable distance from where you lived. That's why things like underground radio were very important; even that, you were lucky if you could find a signal. To hear good shit, it took real effort.
By and large I think most arguments about hip-hop these days are either circular or irrelevant. In fact, other than the seemingly small debate about whether Drake should be penalized -- by who, exactly, I don't know -- for using a ghostwriter, there wasn't anything in hip-hop culture this year worth discussing for more than maybe five minutes, or however long it takes for Twitter to move on to the next Donald Trump tweet.
That's actually a good thing. For so long, hip-hop was about everything but the music. You know, even thinking back just a few years -- something like the Drake/Meek Mill thing would have spilled over into a thousand ancillary pieces (think: Game and 50 Cent). Now, at least publicly, it seemed like both guys really tried to just keep it as a musical thing. I can't recall either of them answering a single question about it from the press. They refused to make it a spectacle.
So yeah, again, I guess hip-hop in 2015 was okay.

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What would you tell your 21 year old self if given the chance?

Hindsight is 20/20 but I'd probably tell myself to get some really good mentors. I never really had any mentors, and sometimes that has left me in need of guidance with nowhere to turn but within. The plus to that is I've always been forced to listen to my heart. The minus to that is that I've always been forced to listen to my heart. Listening to your heart only works in the movies.

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Hello. I just wanted to say that the woman you're with is really beautiful.

Well, that's a really kind thing to say. Thank you for that.

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Do you think the robin thicke blurred lines settlement was fair even tho it wasn't a sample from the master recording ?

Desmond whitehead
Without looking at the entire lawsuit and really knowing the finer details, I think it's fair. Whether it's from a master recording or not, it would seem to me that the lawsuit was about whether one 'idea' looked to profit from another. And I don't think there's any way someone could listen to those two songs and not think "Blurred Lines" is a derivative version of "Got to Give It Up." They are just too similar.
If someone copied my shit and switched a few notes around to skirt copyright law, I'd sue the fucking shit out of them too. We need those laws to protect creators and make sure people get paid for the things they invent. If it takes a $7 million lawsuit to hammer that point home, that's fine.

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But Pitbull?

Well the bottom line is this -- these days the attention of people if fractured into a million different pieces. I think it's fair to say it's much easier to attract a niche audience than it is to build a mass one. Because what is mass really anyway nowadays? Hard to define. Arguably doesn't even exist.
You have to give credit to artists -- and I don't just mean musicians, but all creative people -- who can still talk to huge groups of people through their work. Because those huge groups are harder to reach than ever.
So I think someone like Pitbull, a Latin rapper from Miami who kinda got shafted by the hip-hop community -- remember, he was around for 10 years in hip-hop before he went mainstream -- deserves a little credit. This is a guy who so very obviously wanted to be something in rap, and the industry really wouldn't give him the time of day.
Then he goes and gets a bigger audience doing something else. How can you not appreciate that?

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What's next?

You mean like, in life or.... ?
For now, publishing another cool interview very soon. Something unexpected, with someone super off the radar that I think people will really enjoy. It's definitely an interesting story.

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How come u cosign so much corny shit

Define corny. I don't even know what that means. What's corny to you may be amazing to someone else.
In my heart of hearts I have extremely high standards. So high that I think practically everything that isn't a jazz fusion library record from 1974 sucks.
But mostly I've found that it's best to judge art by its intention.
What I mean is that I can't get mad that Pitbull doesn't make art rap, and say he sucks because he's not doing what I think he should be doing.
What I can do is acknowledge what he intends to do, which is make pop rap, then judge him based on the quality of that, whether he succeeds at it, so on and so forth.
Ultimately, I think there is a place for high art just as there is for low brow stuff. But if I'm going to mess with the low, I want the lowest of the low. Or what you might call 'corny.'

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why did AOL Music shut down?

I suppose it had something to do with it just not making sense for the powers that be over there.
I don't really have anything bad to say about AOL.
My working experience there was rather favorable and everyone I worked with was super chill. Sometimes things just don't work out.

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What was the last 'nice' thing you did for yourself?

I don't do anything nice for myself. I'm in a perpetual state of pleasing other people.

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Why didn't you go to SXSW? We could have hung out. Is it weird that I asked that?

Only slightly :-)
Ehh, I didn't go to SXSW this year (or last year, really) because nobody would pay for me to go, and it wasn't like in previous years when I had an artist performing and there was a real reason for me to pay my own way.
It's an expensive trip and most people who are there professionally have the bill picked up by whoever they work for. That's pretty dope, IMO. But frankly, if that wasn't the case, at least 80% of the industry and media people wouldn't be caught dead within 500 miles of Austin.
For whatever it's worth, I think SXSW is a great event and bitching about corporate brands being involved is some elitist bullshit coming from people who don't know anything about what it means to fend for themselves in the the jungle that is the new music + media economy.
No serious musician working today thinks brand sponsorship is bad. Record labels are broke and people don't pay for anything. There is no other way to make money.
If you think that a brand wanting to be involved in music is bad -- when there is no other way for creatives to really make money -- you should reassess your life.

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Why do you tweet so much?

Some days the volume of tweets is higher than others but for the most part I don't tweet that much anymore (but still more than other people).
For me the big deterrent in engaging with social media is the time investment.
Twitter was and still is just super simple.
You write some stuff, it goes out there and that's it. I have the app on my phone, so it's fairly easy to do.
And I have no shortage of ideas. I'm always thinking of and about things.
I recently went back and looked at my Twitter archive and it really is interesting to go through it, to see what you were tweeting back five years ago or whatever. The language you were using, the tone, etc.
Twitter has certainly made me into a better writer.
I know that is counterpoint to what people would think, but the reality of it is, if you're sitting there jotting thoughts down all day, it's impossible to not have that affect your writing skills.
It's made me a much better note-taker, and more observant person.
And I was fairly observant before. But now, I have this penchant for documenting EVERYTHING.
That's cool to me. That's technology being useful.

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wutz ur fav jazz lp

Archie Shepp's "Attica Blues"

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what's the best album out right now?

I don't know. Don't really listen to albums much these days.

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how can i send u music?

My email is in my twitter bio. I try to listen to most things people send me, even if I don't reply.

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Favorite books?

probably super generic answers but I re-read Herman Hesse's "Siddhartha" almost every year, and do the same with J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye." Re-reading a book is difficult IMO.

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What's more enjoyable, writing or making music?

Ehhh, they're both enjoyable in their own way.
I get more visceral enjoyment from making music. I hear it, so it's like, fuck, that sounds awesome. There's probably a little less thought involved.
Writing is more contemplative. It's like I'm just sitting there thinking, then typing out my thoughts.
A mix of the two makes for a really enjoyable life.

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do you like macklemore

I'm not as bearish on Macklemore as most music critics.
I recognize that what he does is important and relevant to a certain audience. His audience has ears like everyone else on earth and obviously they can't all be clueless. I mean, there has to be something they're hearing that they like.
Also, to the chagrin of everyone else, I'm not living in the year 1983. Hip-hop in its present form is an expansive global genre of music with fans from all walks of life. And the people who create hip-hop come from all walks of life. That's a good thing. We shouldn't put limitations on who can do this.
Saying that someone can't rap because they're white or they're privileged, that seems a little silly to me. Is it unfair? Yeah, probably. But shit, life isn't fair. And frankly, many of the people who have beef with Macklemore are a bunch of children of privilege anyway. Feels like their own white guilt is the reason why they are so vehemently against him.
Let that dude cook. Remember seeing him perform in front of nobody at all a few years ago, happy to take the stage. I was impressed then, as I am now. He won people over one by one. That should be applauded, not condemned.

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What do you think of the current state of rap media?

I don't know. Is 'rap media' even really a thing? What do you think about the current state of rap media? Probably the better question.
I can't really speak for anyone else, but I don't know what the rap media thing is or ever was. If you're a writer, you write about stuff. Maybe rap is one of those things, and you know a little more about that than others. That's cool. That doesn't make you a rap journalist, per se.
I mean, Jimmy Fallon is doing hip-hop-related jokes on his show every single night now. Is he a rap late night host? Are his writers rap writers? It's so weird the way we throw around these labels.
I've being writing professionally for ten years and at some point or another I've covered almost every major genre of music you can think of. I've also written about technology (I was a technology editor at a magazine), fashion, art, the internet, consumer products and more.
Not only that but I've also written songs, scripts, fiction, comedy, press releases, other assorted marketing material. None of that stuff is rap-specific. Maybe hip-hop is a component, but it's as much as hip-hop is a component of anyone who is invested in it and came up through the culture. It's in the DNA and the approach itself, not the subject matter.
I think we need to do a better job of getting away from labeling people and having a more open mind about what kind of work folks can do. If we don't do that, how can anyone who does this sort of thing actually grow?

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How do you produce your beats? how does the process work?

It's changed a lot since I started making beats. I used to use an Ensoniq EPS16 keyboard, then an MPC 2000.
I would sample records into the machines, chop up the samples, program them into their own little melody or whatever and then put drums behind them. Then I'd use other instruments, a synthesizer perhaps, to add different elements to the mix.
That was then.
Now, I usually sit at the piano or with a MIDI controller and try to work out an entire song from beginning to end first. I'll play the whole thing as an arrangement -- intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, b-section, etc. -- and then when I'm satisfied with that, I'll record it in Ableton Live.
Once I have something that resembles a song, I'll go in and start really turning the different elements into sounds. So the bass on the piano will become a synthesized bass, the top line melody will become something else, and so on.
I don't think that this process is good for churning out material fast. It's rather long and tedious. But I spent many years making "beats" and really didn't feel like I had as much success with it as I'd have liked.
I would sell a beat here or there, but more often than not, things didn't stick. You fail enough, and you see what you're doing wrong. What I was doing wrong was that I wasn't presenting complete ideas to people.
A beat is often only half an idea. It needs the lyrics to make it complete, and often it's very hard for an artist to see what they need to do to it to make it great.
If you treat your music like songs, they're much easier to sell. So yeah, that's my process really. Working out a song until it's done, then turning it into a completed idea.

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How did you score an interview with Paulina Gretzy?

Wow. You're digging in the crates, cause that was a while ago. I was super proud of that interview, cause it was the only one she had done at that time. That was the very definition of an exclusive.
I guess the not-so-short answer is that I was writing about her a bit on Complex. Doing the same shit everyone else was doing. Taking pictures off her instagram and making posts out of them.
When she made it onto TMZ for the first time, one of my good friends in Los Angeles mentioned to me that he was working with her on some music. He was really cosigning her as an artist, and I trust his opinion.
I told him I could probably set up something with Complex, not really even thinking about doing the interview myself (that came later). She was into the idea, and then we sorta pow-wowed on how to make it happen.
It took a while, because we had to smooth everything over with her and her lawyer, who I believe was managing her at the time. So from the initial conversation to it actually happening, maybe about a month had passed, and then there was four months of waiting for it to actually be published.
When I talked to her, the crazy thing was that she said that despite the fact that she was on all these websites, and there was all this controversy about her, nobody had ever really reached out to her for comment.
It was indicative of the media environment we have now, where everyone just posts up news, passively, without knowing if things are true or not. I think she obviously had some idea of what she was doing, but she was pretty young and probably didn't realize how creepy people could be online. Remember, this was early in the whole "we'll take everything out of your Instagram account and make a blog post out of it" era.
For whatever it's worth, I'm still a little sad we never got to hear her music. Maybe soon?
http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2012/08/paulina-gretzky-hot-complex

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you only can visit one website a day...which one do you choose?

tough question. Probably the main Twitter website, as it can give me access to a lot of information at once.

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what is a good tip for upcoming writers?

assuming you're talking about journalists (because there are so many different types of writers)? Here are three.
1. Look for the story that nobody else is telling.
2. Always try to put as many fine details into your stories as possible.
3. Read your articles out loud. Writing is like music. Pacing and rhythm is everything.

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whats ur favorite album of all time?

Tough to narrow it down but I think if we're talking about hip-hop, specifically, I would say it's Wu-Tang Clan's "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)."
I've written about this LP over the years (http://noisey.vice.com/blog/enter-the-wu-tang-36-chambers-20th-anniversary) and to me it really has held its own over time. Which is not something I can say for many hip-hop releases that came out in the early 90s.
From beginning to end, it's really just a perfect album. That said, I don't listen to it that often anymore and I might have to reassess what holds the number one spot in my heart very soon.

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What do you think people think of you?

I'm not sure people think of me at all, so I can't really say what exactly they're thinking of if they are.

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About PaulCantor:

Writer | Editor | Producer for hire: paulcantorbiz@gmail.com

www.soundcloud.com/paulcantor