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Diogenes Brito, a designer at Slack, writes about his decision to make the skin color of the Add to Slack button brown.

Why was the choice an important one, and why did it matter to the people of color who saw it? The simple answer is that they rarely see something like that. These people saw the image and immediately noticed how unusual it was. They were appreciative of being represented in a world where American media has the bad habit of portraying white people as the default, and everyone else as deviations from the norm.

Though not explicitly a companion piece, design and tech leader John Maeda’s, Did I Grow Up And Become The Yellow Hand? is the perfect pairing. Maeda plumbs the pitfalls of racial inclusion as both a tried-and-true path to greater creativity, and a later-in-life embrace of his own colored identity.

I can now, a decade later, remember how much I simply tuned it all out. I thought back then as well, “This is the way that it is.” And rely on what I had learned to be right. A simple algorithm. Don’t complain. Withstand. Don’t cause problems.

Undergirding both pieces is the tension between race and color. Though I’ve written about those same tensions, what I find refreshing is that in talking about things like the color of an Emoji icon, the discussion moves past mushy things like feelings. Ideas and politics become practical once the pixels hit the screen, so to speak. These two designers both come to the conclusion that identity is not something that can or should be wrapped into the larger wet blanket of ‘universality‘. Identity cannot be ignored. This leads to better design. And a wider gamut of ideas in the marketplace.

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LAFF16 Filmmaker Announcement

I’ve been waiting to say something like this for years. My first feature film, “72 Hours: a Brooklyn Love Story?” will make its World Premiere in competition at the LA Film Festival. It is a tremendous honor and I couldn’t be more proud. See the trailer here, or sign up for updates on the project at the film’s website. I’ll be updating this space regularly throughout the festival process.

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After a recent two-week trip to Morocco in which I shot several thousand images, I have much to share. The question is format. For the first time, I’ve been exploring printing the work.

The trip covered Marrakech, Fes, the Atlas mountains, the Merzouga Dunes and more. So much to see, and even more to visit again on a future trip. Or, better yet, let’s find somewhere to sip mint tea and I’ll share the images in person.

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72 Hours a Brooklyn Love Story? is a feature film about love and coming-of-age that I wrote and directed. The project was developed with Reel Works, an organization that mentors youth filmmakers in Brooklyn, and was inspired by a short documentary film by one of the students there.

Shooting took place in neighborhoods as far apart as Brownsville and Ft. Greene, Bushwick and Flatbush – traversing the great distances that many teens cover on a daily basis. 72 Hours made its premiere at the LA Film Festival in 2016.

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This post by Jason Kottke is one of my favorites. I’ve re-read it several times since it was first published in 2012. In it he considers two approaches to running a business, but it’s the commingled sense of fret and wonder that makes it worth the repeated visits.

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This essay by Crag Mod asks the question, “will digital books ever replace print?” Call it a state-of-digital-books referendum. Beautifully written and digitally bound.

To read a book once is to know it in passing. To read it over and over is to become confidants. The relationship between a reader and a book is measured not in hours or minutes but, ideally, in months and years.

Recently, a hardcover of Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire was gifted to me. Because I rarely read in print these days (other than magazines), I bought the book from Apple as well. The idea is that I don’t have to wait until some imagined future where I make time to read the books on my side table every night, I can just read the thing anytime. A dual-platform experiment — one not quite undertaken in Mod’s essay, but perhaps a best-of-both worlds approach, for now.

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A recent film project took me all over the city — and the boroughs. These shots were caught in between. All happen to have been captured in Manhattan. The last two happen to have been captured a half-block apart.

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One could have an entire career photographing Coney Island. Numerous photo books and essays have been shot in the area. In his recent guide to the neighborhood, Scott Newman showed some of the highlights. The mix of people and vistas is unlike any in the city. The socioeconomic forces that make the area both a tourist attraction and one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city come across in every direction one looks. Immigrants, subsistence fisherman, bikers, lovers, tourists. It is impossible to be comprehensive. Here are a couple recent snaps.

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Great characters and writing by Jordan Ritter Conn. A dose of reality about the silent majority of athletes with professional aspirations:

For some of the players on tour, this is how their basketball lives end: not at their college senior day or an NBA retirement ceremony, but on a Wednesday evening in a Berlin suburb, with the teammates who’ve beaten them out for jobs, wearing jerseys that bear the logos of a two-bit agency and a charity they’ll likely never hear of again. Their dreams have been fading slowly. Here, they finally die.

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When I showed up yesterday, I didn’t know it would turn into a photo essay, there was just a feeling that I wasn’t yet done thinking about a musician who had been a part of my life. The mural site was in biking distance. I spent the day shooting photos and meeting fellow travelers. There was a charge in the air. And the little papi with a P! logo in his head is just the prelude.

Please, click here to see more.



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Andrew Kelley invited me to the studio the day I shot this pic of Sean Price in 2011. He was recording his verse on the Wu-Tang album Legendary Weapons. After recording that night, he lit up the assembled crew of rappers and industry folks with his lyrics and sense of humor. He spoke of the struggles of raising a teenager. When I shot this image, he was digging through a laptop to pull up an Alchemist-produced song from his upcoming album. He played it back for the room, rapping along to his own voice. You never forget meeting your idols.

In the shot, though it’s cropped, he’s wearing a Duck Down records baseball cap. Whole swaths of my personality have been formed by excessive listening to the Duck Down crew’s string of amazing records in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Price was one half of the duo Heltah Skeltah. But in the record industry shakeup of that time, the crew became less productive. Out of them all, Sean Price’s transformation into another type of artist, his ability to persevere and forge a new creative identity as a solo artist is something I’ve always had great admiration for.

Rest in Power.

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With the current beef over ghostwriting in hip-hop, here are some thoughts that went out earlier as a set of tweets:

  1. I never had a problem with Dr. Dre rapping lyrics that Ice Cube wrote in NWA… *because* everyone knew that Cube wrote them.
  2. When I was a teen with a rhyme book and a graf book, the worst thing you could be was a “biter.” In other words, Be Original.
  3. Adidas built a multi-year campaign on that concept. But before it was marketing, big-“O” Originality was the bedrock of hip-hop culture.
  4. Whether in dance, lyrics, or graf – coming with something new was the point. In fact, one of the first hip-hop films is called Style Wars.
  5. The idea of rapping another person’s lyrics confounds the raison d’être of being a rapper – putting your own voice out. Being heard.
  6. It’s hard enough for black and brown folks to have a voice in this oppressive society. Then we invented hip-hop.
  7. Rap is not perfect. And it has had carpetbaggers and plagiarism from the very beginning.
  8. The beef between Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five is just one example.
  9. Yet rap has a bodily aversion to “fakers”; it’s one reason Drake has always had haters among purists in spite of demonstrable talent.
  10. Like, “is he really tough? Or is he just saying that on a record?”
  11. But people have also confused “realness” or authenticity with street-cred. Q.E.D. 50 Cent.
  12. 50 Cent and Drake represent opposite poles of the same thing: an in/ability to express a life-force that transcends the self.
  13. That force: I will call ∞, and some might call God. Expressing that force through hip-hop is important because…
  14. Our bodies and intellects have been denigrated, disparaged by a society that hates us. In response we pick up the mic. We say, “I am here.”
  15. The power of an original voice: hearing it makes you feel just as alive, just as present as the human being emitting it.
  16. The power of an original voice: it shoots straight through the drudge of everyday life and explodes in your brain. They call it dope.
  17. As a fan, it is dope I want. It is dope I demand. In the meantime I’m willing to settle for rap beef. Let’s not confuse the two.
  18. Ghostwriting is small beans. Original expression is art. I want art. From rappers, and everyone else. ∞

All that said, here’s a whole bunch of new hip-hop by artists most of us probably haven’t heard, mixed by DJ Wally Wonder.