Wicked (Good) Vibes Blog

What is a “Riddim” or Where Do I Get That Song?

I want to address some basic issues that, as a DJ, people have asked me in regards to urban music in general, and specifically to what is generally called “dancehall” music. I’m not going to go into what really defines something as dancheall at this point, because it can get a little messy, depending on whose definition you are using. I’ll leave that for a future entry.

In promoting and playing dancehall and other music, besides the usual “what song did you play?” questions, one of the biggest questions I hear is “where do I get that”?  Though Shazam does work for a lot of music, there is a lot it doesn’t seem to work for and to be able to navigate the world of dancehall music, it helps to understand some basic principles.

The Jamaican record industry works on principles that are a little different from the US.  Here in the US most artists release songs or “singles” that come out by themselves or as a preview of a number of songs that form an “album”.  Most of the time the instrumental or backing track of a song is unique, meaning it is separate and copyrighted and different from other artists songs.  Artists frequently do “cover songs” where an artist redoes another artist’s song in their own special way, but usually the lyrics and melody are very similar to the original, even if the artist gives it their own flavor.

Here is the original version of the Nine Inch Nails Song “Hurt” and a cover version by Johnny Cash. The similarities should be obvious. Johnny Cash did not take the backing music and write new lyrics, he put his own spin on them.

However one prevalent aspect of the Jamaican record industry is that a producer will either make or acquire an instrumental backing track and record several different artists who write DIFFERENT lyrics using the same instrumental backing track. The instrumental backing track is called a “riddim”.

Here is one of THE most massively successful riddims ever produced, the Diwali riddim produced by Steven “Lenky” Marsden (follow him on twitter @LenkyMarsden) This is the instrumental version of it with no one singing or speaking over it.

And here is Sean Paul’s “voicing” or lyrics added to that Diwali instrumental backing track to make his hit single “Get Busy”.

Don’t get fooled by the introduction. Producers will sometimes alter the introduction or certain other elements of the riddim for a particular artist. We don’t have time to get into the whole issue in this blog post but a number or riddims are “refixes” or reinterpretations of previous riddims. Some are inspired by older riddims or songs and some actually sample elements, melodies etc. from previous ones. Here is Wayne Wonder’s song, “No Letting Go” that has a different intro from the Sean Paul voicing, but then goes right into the Diwali instrumental at (0:38).

And here is Lumidee’s voicing called “Uh Oh” with the basic riddim stripped down and slightly altered:

And here is the artist Bounty Killer’s voicing on the Diwali riddim called “Sufferer”

So as you can hopefully see, the original instrumental riddim is “voiced” over by a number of artists. There are a number of other artists who voiced on this riddim as well, as you can see by the “cover” of the riddim including Tanya Stephens, Beenie Man and T.O.K. All of these artists wrote their own lyrics to the same riddim and recorded them as separate songs with the same instrumental backing track.

Understanding what a riddim is and how they work is key to understanding “Where Do I Get That?” Riddims are usually released with all the voicings a producer has recorded together under the name of the riddim. And riddims are named after pretty near anything you could think of. Most of the time the “album” title of a riddim recording album is just the name of the riddim. So for example the album name of the riddim we just heard is the “Diwali Riddim”. If you type “Diwali Riddim” into the search field on Apple Music the album, released by Greensleeves, will come up. (Interestingly if you do the same thing in Spotify you will get a bunch of playlists that feature songs from the Diwali Riddim but the actual Greensleeves release isn’t on there.)

This is one reason why a song can be hard to find. Also a DJ or selecta may juggle (mix together) several voicings on the same riddim and it may sound like one big song. If they are doing a good job mixing, it may sound seamless. Here’s an example of a produced mix of the Diwali voicings by DJ Easy Mixmaster.

It’s important to note that not all songs are released in dancehall on riddims. Singles with their own unique backing tracks are also very popular, and a number of artists also release regular albums. A song could be a song on an artist’s album or be a unique stand-alone single or a release from a riddim album. If you are at a dance or hear on the radio different voicings on the same backing track, odds are good that it is a song from a riddim album. To locate it you’re going to need the name of the riddim so you can look it up on Apple Music or Spotify if Shazam doesn’t work. A real selecta (DJ who selects the songs to play) will chat constantly throughout the music and at times give out names of riddims, but if they don’t you can always ask. Just please wait til your DJ finishes a mix so you don’t interrupt them!

We’ll talk more about riddims in future entries.

Wicked (Good) Vibes Blog

First Post: Empathy and Vibes

I am writing this as an introductory post to the Wicked (Good) Vibes Blog and I am writing from the North Shore of Boston.  If you don’t already know, in Massachusetts we say “wicked” way too much.  One of the most stereotypical phrases we use is “wicked pissah” which means something is great.  I wanted to echo the Jamaican use of “wicked” as a frequent adjective for something good with our use of “wicked” as an intensifier meaning very.   A Jamaican might say “wicked vibes” and us “Massholes” would say “wicked good vibes”.  So in naming the blog “wicked (good) vibes”, I’m trying to invoke not only the country where Dancehall Reggae was born and developed, but indicate where I’m coming from geographically and musically as well.  This blog is an extension of that title.

Let me state right off the bat, I am not Jamaican—though I was married to one.  I fell in love with dancehall and hiphop very early in my DJ career.  I originally came to DJing by way of battling and scratching, but I was also addicted to beats and rhymes.  Hiphop was my first love, when I was exposed to dancehall with all its intensity, drama, and rhythm, I was hooked.  I am a sucker for rhythm but I am also a language nerd.  Expression in hiphop and dancehall exists at the highest (and lowest) levels of language that can rival any type of academic poetry.  The metaphors, humor and inventiveness of some artists can make your head spin and make you say, “Damn”!

Dancehall and hiphop have always had a complex and influential relationship: sometimes linking up and running paralell, sometimes diverging.  It should be stated that for all practical purposes Hiphop was created by a Jamaican, Kool Herc, who got idea to play the hypest instrumental sections (or breaks) of a record back to back.  It should also be stated that Jamaicans were “toasting” or speaking over records in the 1960s, long before the birth of rap.  It speaks to this special kind of relationship that a number of the songs played in Beenie Man’s and Bounty Killer’s recent VERZUZ battle were collabs with rappers.  Of course some of that was intelligently playing to their US Hiphop centric audience.

As an educator and founder of a locally focused internet radio station, I wish to state emphatically that I am not trying to take food out of the mouths of Jamaicans, or others.  I am a DJ playing music I love for people I love and writing about some of my observations about the music.  I am not a selecta in the original Jamaican sense of that word as someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of Jamaican music and I don’t chat over the music.  I try to learn more about music everyday and apply that to what I do.  I realize that might bring me open to criticism from those who are masters of this craft and feel there is only one way to properly present Jamaican or other music.  The main audience I play and write for is casual listeners of urban music. So if anything, I would hope to be a gateway drug for those who want to know more about dancehall and hiphop,  perhaps even motivating them enough to attend a real dancehall “session” in Boston or New York with an authentic selecta, or even a sound clash.  The vibes from a great sound such as Stone Love or Boston selecta Junior Rodigan can give you the real dancehall experience.  I highly recommend that if we ever get to have real gatherings again that you make the trek to check out the vibes. 

   I am just a DJ trying to live my truth which for better or worse includes a mad love for hiphop and dancehall.  I do this to promote the culture to my little corner of the world.   In other words, I know my position, which is a supporting one.  Hiphop of course was born in the Bronx, but it has been exported all over the world and adopted by every country imaginable.  Dancehall is inseparable from Jamaica, though it has grown a following across the world, and strains of it have developed and morphed into new musical forms.  The question of what actually makes something dancehall music remain controversial, even in the country itself.  But what is inescapable is that on one level, promoting dancehall is promoting Jamaican culture.  For, even though producers and artists from other countries have risen to prominence, dancehall remains intrinsically Jamaican music at its core, and represents one of the most significant contributions ever to world music.

As I also am an American white male, I would be remiss not to say anything regarding the events of recent times, which are only the latest events in a long litany of this country’s inattention to pressing problems of race.  I was personally lucky to grow up and go to school in a privileged environment, and I was also lucky enough to see all the limitations of that elitism and racism that it embodied.  I left my home right after high school for NYC to see what the “reality” of America really was.  This began an odyssey of spending my time and learning from people who were different than me and my circumstances.  The inequities of race and class were front and center, whether I was living on an Indian reservation in New Mexico or in inner-city New York and Denver. 

I have done my own work over the years, and I have strived to educate myself and be aware of my privilege and racist policy since the days of Bensonhurst and Tawana Brawley.  I took awkward first steps to reach out to people across class and race and that has made all the difference.  For me, music has been a bridge that has connected me with many people I might never have met otherwise.  People looked beyond my race to see my earnest desire to learn and represent, and they helped me gain knowledge of self.  They gave of themselves, their time and experience to teach someone they had no obligation to care about, but still empathized with.

I believe empathy is something that is in such short supply in our racial politics.  I mean real empathy.  Not sympathy.  Sympathy is a surface phenomenon when we are emotionally affected by another’s suffering.  However it is still kept at a distance.  Empathy is the ability to try and understand another person’s feelings and experience. Empathy only comes through hard work and gaining knowledge of reality.   Empathy is no substitute for actual actions to change racist policies, but it is a step that can lead to action.  I will never fully know what it is like to be a black person in American society but empathy allowed me to truly connect with people who were.  It is every white person’s obligation to educate themselves and learn empathy, which if it is genuine, should lead to some form of action.

 I stand as an ally with all those who have helped me and those I have never met, not because they helped me, but because it is the only sane and right thing to do.  The racist policies of this society have persisted for an unconscionably long time and must be changed at all costs.  I would like to think this time what things are different and real significant change is upon us.  Things look hopeful, but then again they have seemed to have reached a breaking point so many times before.  Black lives and black bodies continue to suffer relentlessly.

So this, my first blog entry, is something of an apology.  Don’t read this blog or listen because you think I’m an authority on dancehall or hiphop; read it to learn about or consider something new about a culture and a music that has had such a huge impact on the world and on me.  Read it because it is another unique perspective.  Perhaps read it to empathize with me, and with those who have created this music.

My opinions are my own and are colored by my experiences as a DJ, and a teacher of the youth.  Whether it be in Jamaica, or the Bronx, inner city youth have defined popular culture for a long time.  That’s where a big part of the creativity and artistry of our consumer society really emanates from.  I should know, I’m privileged enough to spend 6 hours with those inner-city youth every day.  I’ve also been a teacher long enough to know that there is a lot that tests don’t measure, and that some of the things people shrink from in this music, are some of the things society needs to hear the most.

If you can see dancehall and hiphop through my eyes, you will see something beautiful, full of emotion and truth.  And isn’t that the real definition of art?  Undeniably, dancehall and hiphop are art, and this blog is here to help prove that to a culture and society that is still mostly deaf to what Chuck D called “Black CNN”.  Dancehall and Hiphop can be sophisticated, intelligent, and vital expressions of life in the inner city and beyond.  As Prince Hal reminds us in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, “Thou didst well, for wisdom cries out in the street, and no man regards it”.  It’s still crying out today.  I invite you to listen, and perhaps to listen with empathy.

TruSound Blog

J Cole’s Noname Diss

J. Cole logged on to Twitter bright and early this morning to double down on his alleged Noname diss, but also to say that he honors and appreciates her.Make it make sense! Thirty-five-year-old Jermaine Cole’s new song “Snow on Tha Bluff” addresses the current protests against racism and police brutality across the world and alludes to J. Cole’s own feelings of inadequacy surrounding activism. But instead of just being up front about those insecurities, he spends over half of the song dragging an unnamed woman many assumed to be Noname, based on the tracks’s description of the woman’s tweets.On Twitter Wednesday morning, J. Cole said he stands behind “every word of the song that dropped last night.” “Some assume to know who the song is about,” he said in a thread. “That’s fine with me, it’s not my job to tell anybody what to think or feel about the work. I accept all conversation and criticisms. But let me use this moment to say this. Follow @noname. I love and honor her as a leader in these times. She has done and is doing the reading and the listening and the learning on the path that she truly believes is the correct one for our people. Meanwhile a nigga like me just be rapping.” He finishes by saying he’s not a leader, but appreciates Noname for “challenging” his beliefs. “We may not agree with each other but we gotta be gentle with each other,” he left with a peace sign, no petitions linked, no GoFundMes, no bail funds.

J. Cole’s idea of being “gentle” with Noname is spending the majority of “Snow on Tha Bluff” making assumptions about her and excuses for himself. “She mad at the celebrities, low-key I be thinkin’ she talkin’ ‘bout me / Now I ain’t no dummy to think I’m above criticism / So when I see something that’s valid, I listen / But shit, it’s something about the queen tone that’s botherin’ me,” he raps in the beginning. Cole is presumably talking about Noname’s recent tweet, where she called out “top selling rappers” in general who haven’t used their platform to show support for Black Lives Matter. He continues by assuming that Noname had “parents that know ‘bout the struggle for liberation,” but Noname herself had to read more about activism and capitalism after being dragged by Twitter last year. He suggests that she “treat people like children,” instead of calling them out, then, finally, turns to look inward. “But damn, why I feel faker than Snow on Tha Bluff?” he finishes. “Well, maybe ‘cause deep down I know I ain’t doing enough.”

Update, 2:30 p.m.: Chance the Rapper has caught up on the discourse. Chance, who helped boost Noname’s career with a feature on his mixtape Acid Rap, came in with his camp-counselor demeanor to try to create peace on Twitter, but J. Cole fans are not happy with the stance he took. “Yet another L for men masking patriarchy and gaslighting as contructive [sic] criticism,” he tweeted. When a fan tried to argue, he followed up with this: “They both my peoples but only one of them put out a whole song talking about how the other needs to reconsider their tone and attitude in order to save the world. It’s not constructive and undermines all the work Noname has done,” he continued. “It’s not BWs job to spoon feed us. We grown.” Finally, he tried to reach across the Twitter divide. “Everybody’s argument on either side is, we can’t personally attack each other if we really want to see a revolution,” he tweeted. “I can agree with that and can apply it in my own life. I wish we could learn that w/o two artists I admire having a public dispute.” Is this a dispute? Considering Noname hasn’t responded yet, it looks more like just another day as a woman in a male-dominated industry.

By Zoe Haylock

Wicked Vibes

Bounty Killer’s Birthday Video

Only an artist like Bounty Killer could bring such a turn out of the dancehall world. Look out for Beenie Man and a great moment with Kofffee.

TruSound Blog

The Millenial Mental Health Crisis

If you are having thoughts of suicide, please know that you are not alone. If you are in danger of acting on suicidal thoughts, call 911. For support and resources, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line.

Throughout the summer of 2012, Tylor Morgan would call his sister Lacey at night and beg her to come over and sit with him.

It wasn’t obvious why Tylor felt so depressed. Growing up in Pocatello, Idaho, Lacey and Tylor had a fairly happy childhood. Tylor was shy, with lily-white hair and blue eyes. He retreated to the background while their charismatic older brother, Mark, drew the limelight. Their parents had divorced and remarried, but the siblings stayed close. Recitals were attended and mountains explored. Tylor was “pretty much a normal kid,” Lacey, who is now 26, told me.

Tylor graduated high school in 2007, right before the Great Recession. But even that initially seemed okay; he liked to work. As a young man, he managed stores and fast-food restaurants around Pocatello. In his free time, he would tinker with his pickup truck or ride motorcycles.

The only troubling thing Lacey noticed was that Tylor had been drinking a lot. Occasionally, he would get drunk and tell Lacey that he was in pain, and he wanted it to stop. The air felt heavier around him. He would get upset about girls, or not having a good enough job, or not making enough money. The exact problem wasn’t always clear. A few times, Lacey sat with him in the hospital, where he was staying the night because his blood-alcohol level was teetering on deadly.

Then, that May, Mark died at 25 in what was ruled a suicide. His brother’s death left Tylor awash in guilt and horror. The brothers had argued the night of Mark’s death, and Tylor blamed himself.

One night three months later, Tylor called Lacey again and asked her to come over. Lacey couldn’t go that night—she can’t remember precisely why—but she promised to see him in the morning. “I need you to just wait until tomorrow,” she told him.

Minutes after they hung up, Tylor called the police and reported a suicide at his house. Then he picked up his gun and pulled the trigger. He was 23.

Tylor’s and Mark’s deaths became two of a growing number of suicides among Millennials. Though they might seem in the prime of their life, recent research shows that Millennials—people born from roughly 1981 to 1996—are more likely to die prematurely from suicide and drug overdoses than previous generations were.

Perhaps that’s to be expected, given the turmoil Millennials have faced in recent years. After scrambling up a slippery career ladder during the Great Recession, Millennials were slammed with the opioid epidemicBillions of narcotic pills were shipped to parts of the U.S. where people had few opportunities, but plenty of pain.

Read: America’s other epidemic

Now even more challenges loom over young people. Many Millennials who had their careers crippled by the 2008 recession are being flung into yet another economic downturn, just as they’re supposed to be hitting their career peak. Because of social-distancing restrictions meant to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, young people who hoped to find a partner haven’t been able to date in person for months. And still more outbreaks of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, might occur this year. As David Grusky, the director of the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, put it to me, Millennials are “the bad-luck cohort.”

Interviews with more than a dozen experts on suicide and mental health reveal that Millennials are financially and generally stressed, and it’s driving some of them to extremes. Older Millennials snapped into adulthood after 9/11, fought in two wars, entered the job market during a recession, and are now weathering a global pandemic in overpriced one-bedroom apartments. They’ve experienced slower economic growth than any other generation in U.S. history, according to a Washington Post analysis. And having been clobbered by the last recession, they’re about to get clobbered again.

In a report published last year by the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, the economists Mark Duggan and Jackie Li found that mortality rates for people from ages 25 to 34 had risen by more than 20 percent since 2008. “That is, mortality rates among millennials ages 20 to 34 were substantially higher in 2016 than among their counterparts from Generation X when they were [their age] exactly 16 years earlier,” they write. The main contributors to the increase have been suicides and drug overdoses, and the increase was highest among white people.

Another report from the Trust for America’s Health last year found that drug-related deaths among people ages 18 to 34 more than doubled from 2007 to 2017, while alcohol-related deaths rose by 69 percent and suicides by 35 percent.

This tendency toward premature death has been especially pronounced among Millennials who, like Tylor, never earned a college degree. In 2017, white people without a bachelor’s degree born in 1980 were four times more likely to die by suicide than those with a college degree, as the Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton write in their new bookDeaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism. Among those without college degrees, the later you were born, the more likely you are at any given age to live in pain, binge-drink, have poor health, and die from suicide or a drug overdose. White people in their 20s and 30s are dying from alcoholic liver disease, a condition that normally takes decades of hard drinking to develop.

Read: Poor Americans really are in despair

To be sure, the rise in Millennial suicides is set against a broader backdrop of despair: Rates of suicide are going up for all Americans, including Gen Z, the generation after Millennials. People ages 45 to 64 still have the highest overall risk of suicide.

For Millennials, the reason behind this uptick appears to be that young people with less education face more financial strain than previous generations did. The good jobs that used to be available to people without college degrees have slowly evaporated. “Jobs are a source of meaning in our lives,” says Cheryl Fulton, a professor in the counseling program at Texas State University. “So if you don’t have a job or are underemployed, you’re not deriving that satisfaction that comes from the meaning and purpose a job provides.”

Rising health-care costs have encouraged employers to reduce head counts and have eaten into employees’ salaries, Case and Deaton write. In addition, the decline in manufacturing jobs and the rise of the gig economy have driven non-college-educated young people’s wages into the ground. Millennials without a college degree are earning far less in early adulthood than previous generations did, according to another report in the Stanford series. The median salary for a 25-year-old man with a high-school degree or less is $29,000 a year, which is about $2,600 less than what Gen Xers earned at that age and nearly $10,000 less than Baby Boomers. In 1970, more than 90 percent of 30-year-olds were earning more than their parents were at the same age; in 2010, only half of 30-year-olds were. Millennials have, on average, no housing wealth.

Therapists who treat Millennials told me that many of their clients feel frustrated and embarrassed that they aren’t able to afford “adult things” such as houses and vacations, either because they don’t earn enough or because they are handcuffed to enormous student loans. Marriage can alleviate loneliness and ease financial strain, but Millennials are getting married later than previous generations. “They feel that they shouldn’t be in this situation,” says Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist who works at Weill-Cornell Medical College. That can cause shame, and shame is “one of the bigger drivers of suicide.”

The difference between what we have and what others have can prompt the bone-deep shame that leads to suicidal ideation, says Jonathan Singer, an associate professor of social work at Loyola University Chicago and the president of the American Association of Suicidology. People might start to feel like a burden or, if they’re unable to land a job, like they have no way of building a social network. More so than in other cultures, Americans tend to intertwine their jobs with their identity. “In the United States, if somebody is unemployed, we see that as an indication of bad character,” Singer told me.

Yet Millennials are the first generation to have come of age with Facebook and Twitter—compelled to compare themselves with others but not jaded enough to know how empty these comparisons can be. Gen Z actually has a more healthily skeptical view toward social media, says Kate Comtois, a professor who focuses on suicide prevention at the University of Washington. These platforms had already ripened by the time Gen Z became teens, and perhaps as a result, they see social media’s downsides more clearly. Millennials, by contrast, were the first to reveal their life to an online audience, and some felt stung by the reception. As Lacey, Tylor’s sister, put it to me, “We have our blooper reel in our head, and everyone else’s highlight reel in the palm of our hands.”

Lacking the money they need and the idyllic life they crave, Millennials experience extremely high levels of anxiety and perfectionism, several therapists told me. “They have almost double the rate of anxiety disorders compared to Baby Boomers,” says Nadine Kaslow, a psychiatrist and suicide-prevention expert at Emory University School of Medicine, who estimates that at least a third of her clients are Millennials. “The anxiety, depression, perfectionism, and substance use all increase their risk for suicidal thoughts.”

Derek Thompson: Millennials didn’t kill the economy. The economy killed Millennials.

The nature of these substances, for that matter, blurs the line between overdoses and suicides. Some people use depressants such as alcohol to take the edge off their anxiety, then wind up depressed. And some suicides are simply drug overdoses in disguise—someone who doesn’t care much about living might get less and less careful about not overdosing.

The competing crises of 2020 are likely to make all of this worse. One study found that graduating into a recession has long-term negative effects on life expectancy into middle age. People who entered the labor market in the recession of the early ’80s suffered higher rates of lung cancer, liver disease, and drug overdoses later in life. For Millennials who entered the labor market from 2008 to 2010, “all kinds of expectations they had about how they’re going to move right into the next job blew up,” Comtois told me.

As the economy folds in on itself, the gains that older Millennials have made in the past 10 years may be erased entirely. A recent survey found that 31 percent of people ages 18 to 34 lost their jobs or were put on a temporary leave because of the pandemic, compared with 22 percent of those ages 35 to 49 and 15 percent of those ages 50 to 64.

The recent protests against systemic racism and police abuses are yet another example of the frustrations faced by young people, especially black Millennials. In recent weeks, there’s been an outpouring of examples of unequal treatment of people of color in prestige industries such as journalism and publishing. Though racism itself can harm public health and life expectancy, the protests and police tactics used during them are also likely to spread the coronavirus. That could mean more deaths from COVID-19 in coming months, or another economy-crushing shutdown.

Every person I spoke with was concerned that suicides among Millennials and other groups might rise further in the coming years. Diana Anzaldua, a therapist in Austin, Texas, says she’s heard more of her Millennial clients talking about suicidal ideation recently. The social connections that buoyed us have been stripped away because of pandemic-related social-distancing measures. One study projected that the pandemic could lead to 75,000 additional deaths from drugs, alcohol, and suicide. Most gun deaths are suicides, and there’s been an uptick in gun purchases during the pandemic.

What does suicidal ideation look like? Some researchers theorize that it’s a feeling of defeat and humiliation followed by a sense of entrapment—of no exit. Some people say they’re thinking about hurting themselves, or that they feel utterly alone. Others are more explicit: “I just want this to be over.” When someone says, “I’m thinking this is how I would do it,” the alarms clang in therapists’ heads.

These alarming trends don’t mean we should give up on Millennials—or on anyone else who is contemplating hurting themselves. Suicide prevention can be, in fact, extremely effective. Admitting that you struggle with depression can still summon more stigma than help, but Millennials, at least, are more open to talking about mental health than previous generations were.

In fact, in part because the quarantine struggle has been a shared experience, some early reports have suggested that suicides have not increased so far during the pandemic. People see that others are depressed and lonely, making defeat feel more like a temporary problem than a permanent condition. The pandemic is a shared burden, not an individual one.

One of the best ways to prevent suicide is to make people feel less alone by assuring them that someone cares about them. It doesn’t even have to be a special someone. Some studies found that suicidal people were less likely to act on their thoughts if the hospital where they had sought treatment mailed them a simple form letter, as Jason Cherkis reported for HuffPost. Just because someone is suicidal doesn’t mean they’re hopeless.

Lacey felt guilty for a long time after Tylor’s death, but was also unsure exactly how much guilt she should feel. If Tylor had said, “Hey, if you don’t come over, I’m going to kill myself,” she would have rushed to his side. Ultimately, she has come to the conclusion that, given how many times he had alluded to suicide, he would have likely harmed himself at another time.

Lacey credits Tylor’s death with changing her perspective on life. She no longer goes weeks without speaking to her family members after an argument, “because we know what it’s like to one second have them, and one second not,” she says. Even though she’s only in her mid-20s, she’s been a foster mom to 10 kids and adopted a baby girl. When I asked how to describe her in this article, Lacey said, “A mom, foster mom, and adoptive mom.”

She knows the quote about making lemonade out of lemons is a stretch. But, she said, even after the worst tragedies, you can make something resembling lemonade, approaching lemonade. Even if you don’t have lemonade, you’ll have something.

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OLGA KHAZAN is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World.ConnectFacebookTwitter

Wicked Vibes

Who’s Going to Sell More Albums? Buju or Kartel?

This is one of the few podcasts that I actually enjoy listening to. Like the title says, “Let’s Be Honest” and its honestly a lot of fun. If you’re a Buju or Kartel fan you definitely want to give it a listen. Highly recommended.

TruSound Blog

Advice for Teenagers Looking for Summer Jobs

When Kyra Kelly, a 15-year-old who lives in the Bay Area, decided she wanted to find a summer job to save up for a car, she checked the websites of the local businesses she and her friends visited regularly.

“I found that an ice cream place was hiring, and I went to their website and signed up,” said Kyra, who then received an email from the store manager and went in for an interview.

Her experience applying both online and in person is typical, but may be unfamiliar to parents who are not sure how to help their teenagers navigate today’s job market.

In addition to the benefits of making money, having a summer job can help develop organization, time management, communication and conflict management skills. And at a time when helicopter parenting often extends into young adulthood, getting a job on one’s own can be a step toward independence.

But fewer teenagers are working traditional summer jobs. According to a 2018 Pew Research Report, only 35 percent of teenagers ages 16 to 19 held a paid position over the previous summer, compared with 51 percent in 2000. Research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that more teenagers attend school during the summer months than those in previous generations. In July 2016, 42 percent of teenagers were enrolled in school, compared with just 10 percent in July 1985.

Despite historically low unemployment levels, “teens just work less now,” said David Neumark, a professor of economics at the University of California, Irvine.

Personally, I liked most of my summer jobs, which included working at a candy store, making sandwiches at a local lunch spot, selling furniture and fine linens and tutoring students. Looking back, I now realize the problem-solving and negotiation skills I used to avert a customer’s impending meltdown about her wedding registry can have lifelong applications.

Now, in my work as an educational consultant, I’ve seen many students use the summer months to take classes, fulfill community service requirements or work in unpaid internships, perhaps seeking to bolster their college transcripts. Student-athletes on competitive travel teams often find intense practice and tournament schedules don’t match up with employer needs. So a summer job may not work for everyone.

But Adam Peck, interim vice president for university affairs at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Tex., believes students should look at summer jobs as an opportunity to develop skills they’ll need in their careers and seek out jobs that provide a chance to refine those skills. “That doesn’t always mean working in the exact industry that you hope to go into,” he explained.

Given how much of the application process happens online these days, navigating a summer job search may be confusing. Here are some strategies for teenagers and college students to land a summer job.

Thinking about the kind of job you hope to do and asking friends and family about potential openings is an important first step.

Monica Thomas, student services manager for Year Up, a national nonprofit focused on young adult work force development, believes much of the challenge is not knowing what is available. Parents, mentors, educators and community members can help identify opportunities that might not be widely advertised.

Jobs may vary based on location and transportation options. In Charlotte, N.C., the Mayor’s Youth Employment Program builds partnerships with private, public and nonprofit employers to create paid work experiences for students over age 16. The program’s mission is “to provide all Charlotte youth with equitable career development opportunities to explore the world of work, build social capital, and enhance economic mobility.” Similar programs exist throughout the country, though program requirements and opportunities vary by city.

Many students make the mistake of focusing on why they want a certain job — ideal hours, a convenient work location, a fun work environment — but “an employer needs to derive return on investment when they pay somebody,” Dr. Peck said. Crafting a successful pitch is all about helping an employer see what you bring to the potential role.

Before applying for a job, take stock of your skills, abilities and previous experiences. It can be helpful to use online resources to mock up a résumé, as well as to draft an introductory email or cover letter that can be customized for each position.

Even if you don’t have formal work experience, you can list leadership skills and responsibilities you’ve gained from clubs, volunteer work and specific academic experiences, said Fahnie Stewart Shaw, community relations and engagement program manager at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County School District. According to Dr. Shaw, an often-overlooked part of a successful job application is having strong references who “will answer phone calls, and emails, and get back with people for you, on your behalf.” If you’ve helped neighbors with babysitting, dog-walking or yard work, they could serve as potential references.

Being both flexible and specific can be crucial to receiving a job offer. Talking to potential co-workers and getting a sense of different work cultures can also be a helpful part of the application process. Online job sites like Handshake, focused specifically on college students and recent graduates, and, allow users to filter results based on certain preferences.

“I knew I wanted to work in the food service industry, but I didn’t really want to work in a sit-down restaurant,” said Ben Hosansky, 17, who got a job at Chipotle Mexican Grill in Louisville, Colo., last summer. “I applied to a number of fast casual places, including Chipotle, and they were the first to set up an interview.”

There may be more opportunities for students in food service, or entertainment and sports venues, than in retail. Students who like working with children might contact their local recreation center or nearby day camps. Nonprofits like the Children’s Defense Fund’s Freedom Schools Program, a six-week summer literacy program with 183 program sites across 28 states, can also provide summer employment opportunities.

Even employers interested in hiring students might get distracted by day-to-day operations, and a gentle reminder could be welcome. Ben initially applied to Chipotle online and then visited the store in person when he didn’t hear back. “I asked if they still had jobs available,” he said. “They actually told me to sit down at a table and interviewed me about 15 minutes after that and then hired me that day.”

Many states require work permits for minors; check your state Department of Labor’s website. Some information about child labor laws is available through the federal government, too.

Kyra, who lives in California, received her work permit through her high school. Many states also require those handling food to get an additional card or certification.

It’s also a good idea to find out if a job requires you to purchase a uniform or follow a dress code. If it’s a food service position, you deserve to know how and when tips are distributed.

If you’re saving toward a goal and trying to calculate what you will be earning each week, remember that taxes will be taken out of your paycheck.

[Read more about the benefits of summer jobs. | Read a financial checklist for young people.]

And if the job you land isn’t exactly what you had in mind, give it a chance. Before Ben started at Chipotle, he had his sights set on a noodle shop closer to his school. He said he likes his job now, in part because “I really know everybody, and we kind of have a nice little community.”

Ana Homayoun is the author, most recently, of “Social Media Wellness: Helping Teens and Tweens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World.”

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What’s it Like to Be Out in Dancehall?

As part of its 2020 Pride Issue, Billboard is spotlighting the experiences of artists and executives working in genres that are not always included in conversations about Pride in the music industry. Here, Shuzzr, a publicist and founder of Shuzzr PR, recalls getting death threats and rethinking his business after coming out.

Dancehall is from a country where the culture of homophobia is praised and embedded in its fabric. It has evolved in the past few years, but there is still violence against us. I didn’t publicly come out as bisexual until 2014, and several friends told me, “Don’t do it. You’re in a good space.” But I was like, “No, I have to find comfort within myself to move forward.”

I made the decision to write an article on my website, and it made the front page of Jamaica’s No. 1 tabloid, The Jamaica Star. I got a lot of support, but for two years after that, I had no clients. Nobody wanted to work with me, nobody wanted to touch me. There were death threats, online harassment, bullying — you name it, I got it. People still refer back to that article and say, “I’d love to work with you, but the fans I have won’t tolerate me bringing you onto the team.”

Still, being out has allowed me to find more creative ways to survive in this industry. I’ve paired myself with clients who were probably not the kind of artist I would typically work with but are more tolerant. It’s easier for us to relate to each other. And whether people in Jamaica want to accept it, there is a community of LGBTQ professionals in dancehall that support each other.

You also have people who aren’t even in the community who are allies. There are people who have shown me nothing but love. I think it’s time for them to bring out even more support — I don’t want you to just be allies for me right now; I want you to be allies for all of us, all year-round. Let’s speak on the issues. Let’s call this stuff out.

by Stephen Daw