Letter #102

Hello, hello, hi, hey, hello,

How are you? I’d imagine you probably finish work today? I’m writing this from a few weeks ago, but last night would’ve been our team drinks at work, so I’m probably not feeling amazing right now. Hopefully you are, and I’ll be back to being human shortly! After all, it’s only FIVE DAYS TO CHRISTMAS.

Anyway, I’m supposed to be on hiatus. So, after last week’s excellent guest letter from Nick (big thank you), we have another brilliant guest in the editors chair. Welcome Arun Sudhaman, all the way from Hong Kong. I met Arun about a decade ago, when he was a UK advertising and PR editor at Haymarket, and I was desperate to impress him with my ad-chat (I was still new to adland!). Needless to say I think we spent that conversation (and every subsequent one) talking about music instead. Arun set up the Holmes Report, which is an editorial and commercial platform covering the global communications scene. His letter and mixtape are literally straight out of Hong Kong, and it’s a blinder. Expect honesty, and protest music (on a big hip-hop tip).

Right, that’s me done for the year now! Have an amazing Christmas and New Year, and I’ll speak to you in 2020. Much love to you for your support this year, and I’m looking forward to everything next year brings for us!

Jed x

PS. New here? Here’s how it worksHere’s what you’ve missed so farAnd this is me.

📚 The notes 📚

Hello from Hong Kong! …[Wait for it]… …[There it is]…

Yes, we’re all fine. I mean, we’re not really. But it’s cool. We’re safe, at least. For now.

A little flippancy, if you will. Please don’t take it the wrong way. Like many things that have become uncomfortable features of our lives here over the past six months (hello tear gas!), the admission that you are dialling in from Hong Kong is enough to send even the most staid conference call into an unexpected tizzy.
Thankfully, these lovely letters are a million miles away from that level of awkwardness. And we truly do appreciate the concern. Given everything we have lost — faith in our leaders, our institutions and our future — it’s one of the nicer things that we have left. And, lord knows, we need all the emotional support we can get. Trying to describe our Hong Kong state of mind during these long, perilous months is a fiendishly difficult task. I would direct you to this masterful piece of writing by Karen Cheung in the New York Times, which not only captures the helplessness and guilt that so many of us feel, but also the trauma, the futile search for normality and, yes, the lure of self medication.

Luckily, we still have music, a safer self-medicant than most. And, if nothing else, Hong Kong’s troubles have helped me reconnect with my first love; hip hop music. Not only does golden-era boom-bap remind me of my childhood growing up in HK, but these tunes now seem to carry special resonance amid our current predicament.

‘There’s a war going on outside’ intones Mobb Deep’s Prodigy on Only the Strong Survive, as the spectre of police brutality looms large. Goodie Mob’s Cell Therapy breaks down the evils of the surveillance state and Nas’ One Lovespeaks directly to a society where disproportionate numbers of our youth are now locked up. Public Enemy’s Welcome to the Terrordome and Ozomatli’s Embrace the Chaos serve as a kind of shorthand for the mayhem that has regularly engulfed these streets.

Of course, hip hop is neither the only protest music nor the only type of music that features on this list. Hole’s Doll Parts reminds me of the toll taken on a fragile community. Cannonball by The Breeders helps me make sense of how we got here. And Seu Jorge’s peerless cover of Life on Mars captures the essential absurdity of this everyday struggle.

So as this city teeters on the edge, I am drawn both to the music of my youth, and the music of the youth. At a time when ‘just hangin out’, as legendary producer Large Professor puts it, is enough to get you arrested. All of those lyrics and soundscapes that depict the realities of life outside the system have come to life in my beloved city, a reminder of hip hop’s potent appeal to the marginalised. But even the most mournful situations, embodied in The Wailers’ Burning and Looting, carry a thread of optimism. No matter how dark the circumstances, I’d like to think that Love Will Save The Day.

📃 The tracklist  📃
  1. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Burning And Looting
  2. Mobb Deep – Survival Of The Fittest
  3. Goodie Mob – Cell Therapy
  4. The Roots – Now Or Never
  5. Jamila Woods – Blk Girl Soldier
  6. Erykah Badu – Soldier
  7. Rapsody – Nine
  8. Little Brother – Hiding Place
  9. Main Source – Just Hangin’ Out
  10. Gang Starr – JFK 2 LAX
  11. Nas – One Love
  12. Ozomatli – Embrace The Chaos
  13. Mos Def – Hip Hop
  14. Femi Kuti – Truth Don Die
  15. Public Enemy – Welcome To The Terrordome
  16. The Breeders – Cannonball
  17. Kendrick Lamar – good kid
  18. Poor Righteous Teachers – Gods, Earths, 85ers
  19. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth – They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)
  20. Nas – The World Is Yours
  21. Solange – Lovers In The Parking Lot
  22. GZA – Shadowboxin’
  23. Frank Ocean – Lost
  24. Underbelly – HK State Of Mind
  25. D’Angelo – The Charade
  26. Blackalicious – Brain Washers
  27. Hole – Doll Parts
  28. Gnarls Barkley – Who’s Gonna Save My Soul
  29. Seu Jorge – Life On Mars?
  30. OutKast – Liberation (with Cee-Lo)
💥 If you enjoy this letter, then please take a second to forward this email, or share this link with a recommendation on Facebook or Twitter 💥
See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

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