Unabridged: One for the Books with Sam Sanders and Danyel Smith – Transcript

This is a portion of the live recording of Traci’s new live show in LA “One for the Books” with KPCC and LAist. It’s a conversation with journalists Sam Sanders and Danyel Smith about how we talk about books and pop culture, why there’s a difference between the two worlds and how we should and could create change. Danyel also talks about her book Shine Bright and Black women in pop music.

*This episode is exclusive to members of The Stacks Pack on patreon. To join this community, get inside access to the show, and listen now, click the link below.


*Due to the nature of podcast advertising, these timestamps are not 100% accurate and will vary.

Traci Thomas 0:00
Hey everybody. So today’s episode of The Stacks Unabridged is a little bit different than you’re used to. It’s not an interview, but it is a recording of my live show one for the books that I do with KPCC and LAist here in Los Angeles. Today’s show features a conversation with myself, Danyel Smith and Sam Sanders. This is not an entire recording of the event, we had a live trivia section, but that’s just for people who showed up in person. So this is a preview of the show and please do not blame Christian if the audio quality is not perfect because we all know recorded tapings of live shows are simply not as good as a straight up podcast. I hope you all will enjoy this so much. And for those of you who are curious, the next live show is January 18. In Los Angeles, if you’re in town if you live here, come join us at the Crawford Family Forum. It’s gonna be myself Michael Arceneaux and Kashana Cauley. It’s gonna be awesome. Okay, that’s it from me for now. I hope you all enjoy this edition of one for the books abridged on The Stacks, Unabridged.

Moderator 1:08
It is my honor. My thrill to introduce you to your host for the evening. Traci Thomas.

Traci Thomas 1:21
Okay, so I’m going to start here. I cried this weekend cuz I thought no one was coming. So first of all, thank you guys so much for being here. I am just thrilled tonight is called one for the books. It’s a six part series. This is part one. So you’re a part of history. Congratulations. My name is Traci Thomas. I’m the creator and the host of a podcast calledThe Stacks which is all about books, a theme, a theme, a book theme. So here’s what tonight’s gonna be. I love books, I talk about books for work. And every time I tell people that I talk about books, they look at me a little embarrassed. And then they told me Oh, I’m not a reader, which I’m like, okay, it’s fine. My only goal in life now because of this information is to make books less scary, less annoying, less shameful, more fun, more engaging, more able to engage with So tonight, and this whole series is all about making it. So we can talk about books without shame. without embarrassment. We can have a cocktail if we want, we can swear maybe I think they told me not to but on my podcasts they do so I’m sorry in advance to kick it off. Because I too am a proud reader. I’m going to share some of the books that I’m most proud to have read if you’ve read any of this books just by a show of hands. Just raise your hand. Okay, so my first book that I’m proud to have read is Infinite Jest.

If anybody read, okay, Melissa, shout out. Okay. Okay, next up is Moby Dick. Yeah. Oh, okay. Okay, a classic. Okay, next up War and Peace. Some Russian lovers. Okay, I respect it, Ulysses. Yeah, that’s my father in law’s favorite book. Okay, spoiler alert. I actually haven’t read any of those books. So you’re all at least as smart as me. Some of you are much smarter. The ones of you who’ve read that, but that’s the whole point of tonight. We’re gonna have a good time. We’re going to talk a little mess. We’re gonna have fun. No shame. If you haven’t read it. Neither have I. We’re all on the same page. So without further ado, I’m gonna bring out my first guest. Danyel Smith. I gotta read off the note card because look at this bio. She is a boss just throwing that out there. Danyel Smith is an award winning journalist and is the author of Shine Bright, a very personal history of black women and pop. You can get the book outside of the reparations club cart if you don’t have it yet. She’s also the creator and host of the black girl song book podcast, which is a music talk show that centers the sounds and stories of black women. She was the editor at billboard and the first woman and first black person to serve as editor in chief of vibe. Danyel was a senior editor and producer at ESPN and has written for just about every publication you’ve ever heard of from NPR, to the New Yorker to New York Times Magazine. And like if I kept going seven cards. She’s also written two novels. She is an incredibly talented, interesting and brilliant human being she is also a Oakland native like myself, so extra love for Danyel. Danyel, come on out.

Okay, wait, I didn’t I didn’t have the note card. So I couldn’t do this. But come on. Like, it’s got to be one of the most gorgeous books of the year on the outside and it’s even more beautiful inside. So Danyel, I want to start here. you’ve dedicated your entire life to telling the stories of black women. Why was it important to you to actually put your work into a book as opposed to all the writing that you’ve done for different magazines in different outlets?

Danyel Smith 4:54
Okay, first of all, that’s like a really good question. Hi, everyone, how are you? It’s nice to be in Pasadena. Um, you know, because once I got into the thing, because my book is really a merge of memoir and biography. And once I got right with the fact that that’s what I was going to do. And I once I felt very supported in that from my family, and from my editor, I kind of wanted just like the book thing to happen. I wanted to commit to a big project. And also like you said, I’ve written two novels, I’m Little Miss magazine writer, I’m all those things. But this is my longest nonfiction project. And I’m honestly just so proud. It took me four and a half, five years, my husband’s here saying seven, eight. But it’s like to get it done is such a feeling of accomplishment, and joy on a lot of days. So I’m just, there’s something to just like the fact that it’s a thing. You know, it’s a thing in your hands. And I just, I wanted that.

Traci Thomas 6:15
I love this answer. Very good answer for very good question. Um, you mentioned that it’s a memoir and biography and you cover so many different women from Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, you go back in time you take us to the beginning, you take us through now, or close to now, why did you want to put yourself in connection with these stories?

Danyel Smith 6:38
It was the only way that I could narrow it down. If you start talking about black women and pop music, I mean, that’s an encyclopedia. That’s

Traci Thomas 6:48
a we’re gonna get. Yeah, don’t worry.

Danyel Smith 6:52
It’s too much like it’s just too much. And I was really feeling overwhelmed by the idea of including everybody. Oh, my God, what if I leave this person out? What if I leave Mary J. Blige out? What if I believe Nancy Wilson out? How can I write a book about the history of black woman and pop of shut? He doesn’t have a chapter. And I was honestly just not finishing for that reason. And then I just started thinking to myself, What if I chose the women based on how important they’ve been to me, personally and professionally? What if I chose the woman based on how important they were to my mother and her sister and their friends? What if I base my choices on who my grandmother loved? And my great aunts and their friends? And then all of a sudden, I had a book.

Traci Thomas 7:54
Yeah, your grandmother is has one of my favorite parts of the book, which I won’t tell people about. We talked about on the podcast. Daniel was a Stax book club pick this year, as well as a guest on the show. So if you need more of Danielle and I talking about this book, there’s like ours. We talk a lot we went on we went on one of the things that you say in the book and that I asked you about but I kind of got reprimanded was don’t ask Danielle about what’s not in the book, because she could go on and on. She has stories about being on yachts with Mariah Carey that aren’t in the book. Yeah, I do. Like Commagene agreeing on a yacht with Mariah Carey and being like, not important enough in my life to put it in a book. We live very different lifetimes, though.

Danyel Smith 8:35
But sequel sequel sequel, right?

Traci Thomas 8:39
yeah. I mean, speaking of Mariah Carey’s yacht, and all they mean Simone Biles, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Beyonce. Do you get nervous?

Danyel Smith 8:47
It sounds crazy when you say it like these crazy. Um, do I get nervous? I mean, absolutely.

Traci Thomas 8:54
How do you deal with the nerves coming from a nervy person?

Danyel Smith 8:58
I tried to prepare, which doesn’t help. I tried to talk myself through it. This is fine. You’re gonna do great. You’re gonna go to Qatar, you’re going to interview Simone Biles at the gymnastics worlds. You know, absolutely nothing about gymnastics. But ESPN wants a fans point of view. So let’s go. And I just that literally was one of the scariest interviews that I’ve ever done. And Simone Biles is literally like four foot 10 And she had no patience for my ignorance. So I finally just had to say the truth. I think that’s the only thing you can do and I’ve done it any number of times in my career. I just have to say like Ms. Biles, listen, I don’t know that much about gymnastics. But what I do know is about women who get things done. You know, I know about black women who have struggled and struggled and struggled and finally have come to a place where they are just excelling at the highest levels and how hard that is, and how beautiful it is at the same time. And I feel like if I just say it, whether it’s more eyecare words, whether it’s Beyonce, I can think of just saying, to be honest, say, there is nothing that I can ask you, that has not been asked. And she was like, actually, there’s plenty of things. And I kind of have faith in you that you’re the person that’s going to ask them. So it’s like, I feel like at the end of the day, like don’t be so people just go in, if you’re a fan, if I’m a fan, I walk in and I say, girl, let me tell you about that song seven days, Mary J. Blige. I know that that’s I’m the only person that loves seven days, as much as I do. I’m sorry, I need to talk about that first and foremost. And she’s like, Girl, well, let’s get it. Let’s discuss. I feel like just be forthright. Yeah.

Traci Thomas 11:00
I love that. I love that Beyonce has faith in you. How did that feel? Because I would pay money to have Beyonce Have faith in me, clean, shaven me. Beyonce

Danyel Smith 11:08
is so funny. Like when you say her name. It’s like, Oh, my God, Beyonce. But the thing is, it’s like when you’re of a certain age, when you’re of a certain age, which I am. I have the benefit of having met Beyonce when she was 16 years old. So it’s like, she’s been seeing me around. And she’s been reading my work for a long time. And I don’t think that everything that I’ve ever written about her pleases her necessarily. But I think she knows that I’m always fair. And I always come with passion. And then I’m always thorough. And I always try to put her work in a larger context, which I know for a fact she thinks doesn’t happen often enough.

Traci Thomas 11:51
Yeah, I mean, that’s one of the things that’s so special about this book. And I think because you’re a character in it, you put a lot of these stories into context. And, and a thing that comes up throughout the book, which was a lot of it was news to me. So get the book and read it, because I don’t want to spoil anything. But there’s a lot of I mean, a lot of it was news. And then a lot of it was like, of course, if you’ve been paying attention to America, but there’s a lot of a ratio of black women in pop, their names are taken off the writing credits, they are in abusive relationships, they are manipulated, they are B little you know, all the things that you can think of about women and specifically black women in any industry is true and pop and you give so much context to how that happened and why that happened. I think specifically of the Aretha Franklin chapter, which is some of the best writing of the year, if I may say so. That section, it’s I’m telling you, you think you know about pop music, and then you read this book, and you’re like, wow, I didn’t realize pop could be this this much. But my question is, how do you feel like we’re doing with black women and pop now? You wrote so much about the history? And I’m curious, like, what do you see now?

Danyel Smith 13:02
Honestly, I’m living. Like, I’m literally can’t believe I’m at a place in my career. Where I can look at the landscape, and say that Cardi B is literally the king of rap. I can see Lizzo getting nominated for six Grammys. I’ve been going to Grammys long enough to have seen all types of women who’ve done amazing projects who don’t get nominated at all. Or get nominated for one Grammy that they don’t win when really they should have won five to see people like lotto to see people like Janae Aiko to see people. There’s just so many black girls right now that I feel like they were put down for so long my god, especially in hip hop, the boys have been to the front. And I really am probably as guilty as anyone else is cheerleading that and putting those guys on the covers of magazines when maybe it was the easier choice. But now, listen, the girls have claimed their space. And I think it’s only going to get better for black woman but also women in general. When I see what the Swifties are out here doing just breaking Ticketmaster, like and Ticketmaster should be broke. Um, it’s, it’s lovely to see one of the main reasons I got into reading about music when I was in high school was honestly I was a Beatles fan. As a teenager, and I saw all the girls I still love the girls that were screaming after the Beatles and chasing the limousines down. And then I would read the articles where the writers were talking about how silly Those girls were. And how those fans didn’t matter, really as much as the male fans, and how in some ways some of the other rock groups thought that the Beatles were less than because their fans were mostly women and young girls. And I remember searching for a woman’s byline. On any of these stories, this is me in high school, the Beatles are done. Like, that’s my mom’s music, but I just loved their energy. And that really moreso the energy of their fans. And so that’s what I think is even so great now is that there’s all these bands, whether they’re Swifties, or barbs, or lambs, or whatever, and there’s some problematic spaces with all of them without question, but the energy of those girls just been like, I love music, and my voice is going to be heard. It’s just, I love it.

Traci Thomas 16:07
Okay, I could do this for another five hours by some of you know, I have another guest. I know. He’s just got Danielle. You also got the incredible Sam Sanders again, another bio that I got to read. Sam Sanders is the host of Intuit, which is a pop culture podcast from Vulture and one of the CO hosts of vibe check, which is a podcast that’s like basically being inside a group chat. It is the most fun. Sam was also an I mean, this quite literally named podcast host of the year. Like, I don’t know how many podcasts are there. He’s the number one. He’s also he has a bunch of other hosting accolades, which I’m not going to list but before his current show, Sam was the host of it. It’s been a minute with Sam Sanders, which was on NPR, he also covered politics, pop culture, everything under the sun. Sam, come on.

That was an Oprah moment, hugging your guests as they walk out. Okay, Sam is here, Sam, how are you?

Sam Sanders 17:11
It’s so good to be here. You know, I love KPCC boys, oh my god,

Traci Thomas 17:17
most of the year.

Sam Sanders 17:19
And some folks here might remember early on in the first days of it’s been a minute, we had our first live show for that show. Here at the Crawford Family Forum. KPCC was one of the first stations to pick up that show. And they’ve just always been family. So to be here is beautiful. So thank you all for having me back, first of all. And secondly, it’s so great to be on the other end of a conversation with two women who I’ve interviewed for my shows before and loved so much. It’s funny, like, you interview a lot of people in this business. And there’s a handful of folks where it’s just like, whenever there’s a hole to failure, like they can do it. And without fail once a month, I’ll be like, Tracy, Danielle could do it. And they’re like, Well, you can’t have them on all the time. I’m like, Yes, I could. So it’s just a joy to be in this space with y’all. And with the two of you. So I’m happy. I’m overjoyed.

Traci Thomas 18:15
I love it. What I want to talk about with two people who talk about write about think about live pop culture, sports, music, television, movies. I mean, you guys talk about it all publicly, I want to talk about how we talk about books, and how it’s different, or maybe the same from how we talked about and think about the other big categories of pop culture. Right? So let me start here. Do you all feel like you talk about or think about books differently than the other mediums that you cover?

Sam Sanders 18:44
I definitely do. When we do interviews with creatives. On the show last show a lot of shows, you have like a minute or two of intro does that have the conversation? And in the intro for a TV show, I’m always like, are usually like, I bet you’re watching the show. You’re watching the show. Let’s talk to the lead actor, the writer, the director, with the book interview, I always am writing, you should read this book, you need to read this book. There is this gravitational pull in the conversation about books to assume that no one’s reading them. And I don’t know where it came from. But it’s been there as long as I’ve been talking to people about books. And I actually have no explanation for it. But I think that in general, people who talk about culture for a living, underestimate how much people actually read. We read books, perhaps or read books less than we did 40 years ago, but you actually read all day because you’re on your phone all day. And reading tweets, his reading, reading Facebook is reading. That’s reading. And I think that like the industry, the book industry hasn’t figured out how to convince People that they’re actually readers,

Traci Thomas 20:03
right? I mean, I think what’s so interesting, I said this before, when I moved to LA, everyone told me nobody reads in LA, which, which is crazy for two reasons. One is like, look at all of you people who showed up on a school night to talk about books with me. Thank you, thank you. But also, I know so many people who are in the film and TV industry, and they read constantly, they’re looking for the next thing. They’re reading the script, they’re, you know, actors besides everything. And there’s this disconnect between what is reading and then what is a book, right like that reading a book. Because like I said, at the beginning, I read books for work, and people always get weird. Also,

Sam Sanders 20:38
when I watch TV, I’m reading, I have the subtitles on. We’re always reading, you know, and yet,

Danyel Smith 20:45
I just feel like it’s so there’s this pressure, I think that you’re supposed to sound quite intellectual, when you talk about how you feel about a certain book that you should, you know, have the right spin or say the right thing. That’s why I kind of love you know, books on tick tock, because they’re, it’s a space where you can be wildly passionate, like, you’re about a pop song, on tick tock with books. They’re doing that. And I love that energy of just like Passion, Passion, passion, rather than it being like a thing of like, well, if you look at the overall arc of the narrative, this is like yawn cinch. Oh,

Sam Sanders 21:27
no, it’s allowed. You’re allowed to be a giddy fan, about a lot of bits of pop culture. And there’s an expectation of a certain level of seriousness with books. Yes. What’s that about?

Traci Thomas 21:40
I would love to know, I have. So my first theory, which some of you may know, is that we’re never or we’re not encouraged or allowed to talk bad about books. There’s so much of like, we have to be kind and gentle to the author. There’s so much work went into this thing. And that in a way that people don’t feel that about a song or an album and a lot of work goes into an album. A lot of work goes into a movie, a lot of work goes into being a professional athlete, but nobody has a problem having a hot take on LeBron James, myself included, not a fan. And like it’s okay, and we laugh, right. But if I said that about a book, if I was like, not a fan of Daniel Smith’s book, he would be like, Why is she being rude?

Sam Sanders 22:18
It’s true. You know, my favorite sport right now? is fighting with my friends about the White Lotus fight about that show? Is it good? Is it bad? Does it make sense, does it not? Let’s talk about it for longer than an episode length. And we love it.

Traci Thomas 22:33
I mean, I spent all week on social media talking about love is blind.

But we don’t but we don’t do it with books, right like that. There’s this expectation that we can’t or that we shouldn’t. And I feel like that feeds into what you’re talking about is like the flip side of being super excited about a Janet Jackson song is being able to be like, This is my least favorite Janet Jackson song. Is that being okay to exactly. Yeah, do we get to talk about

Danyel Smith 23:00
like, as Okay, so do you feel like as authors, maybe we’re a bit too precious.

Traci Thomas 23:08
I do.

Not you? Not you.

Danyel Smith 23:12
I might be though. Because when she even just said, you know, I just you know, I don’t really love Daniel Smith books. I’m like, wait a minute.

Traci Thomas 23:21
I was acting. I was a theater major, you didn’t

Danyel Smith 23:25
know. But it’s true. I think I think there is a little bit pression preciousness about it. Because I can also think about in the golden era of magazines when I was really writing all the time. And we would get letters to the editor. And those letters to the editor were crispy. Like they were like, as a matter of fact, I read that piece from Daniel Smith. And it was terrible. And I just feel like this that in a third. And she’s awful. And she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. And I would read it and I would go okay with that person. I know my article is good. I don’t care. But I feel like for some reason, I don’t know if it’s the length. I don’t know if it’s the amount of time that I don’t know what it is, but I feel a little bit more precious. About shine bright. And my other two books then I do about magazine articles that I write which honestly, some of them take me now, what two months, all types of reporting and writing back and forth with an editor. Any story that I write pretty much now is as much as a given chapter probably in shine bright. Yeah, but it’s up. Should I just let stuff roll off my back.

Sam Sanders 24:32
I also think it’s like, who gets to be the focus, when you have a conversation about a book, and who gets to be the focus when you have a conversation about a TV show, or a movie or something else? I’ve been talking about the new Black Panther all week. It’s gonna be in both my shows I was doing some other chats about it. And I was able to have a conversation where I said, I don’t actually love this movie, but I love Angela Bassett. And I love that funeral scene. And I think Ryan Coogler is really good on these things. There are more moves Been parts, I think in other mediums where you can love one and not like the other and not feel like you’re being nasty. Whereas with a book and a singular author, it’s a singular author, or at least it feels that way. We don’t know who the editor is. So this

Traci Thomas 25:14
is what I was gonna say. Yeah, I think this is a failing of the book industry is that Danielle is on the cover, and it’s Danielle’s book. But there are so many people who go, who designed the cover, you have to flip to the back and see that was the is the editor.

Danyel Smith 25:29
Jackson is my editor. And he’s now

Traci Thomas 25:33
and Chris Johnson is one of the few editors that I know by name. He’s an editor celebrity. If you Trevor Noah, he’s Trevor Noah’s editor, he’s Ebron. Candis editor,

Sam Sanders 25:42
whereas every show I watch now, I know the showrunner. Yeah, you have,

Traci Thomas 25:45
like, you might know the costume design exec, and you might know, right, so the question we know the right, because then it feels like this is just Danielle.

Danyel Smith 25:53
I think it’s marketing PR. I think it’s a marketing PR issue. Right? Because there’s

Traci Thomas 25:57
also people like me who obsess over books, right? And like, wouldn’t I love more people to blame for a book I hate or more people?

Danyel Smith 26:03
I love I get pitches for all kinds of interviews all the time for a bunch of books. Why aren’t publishing houses pitching me editors?

Traci Thomas 26:11
Editors won’t do it. Do you realize I’ve been doing my podcast for five years, I had my first editor on the show ever.

Sam Sanders 26:18
How was it?

Traci Thomas 26:19
It was weird. I loved it. I mean, I mean, she’s an editor publisher was Lisa Lucas, who is the new. She she’s a public facing person. But I asked an editor who edits some of my favorite authors. And she thought about it for three months, and then said, I can’t do it. I’m too scared. So I don’t know if it’s a personality thing. But But I think the publisher should be pushing them. I think they should be like, You know what, Chris Jackson, I don’t care if you’re scared that we need some more celebrities in the book world. But besides authors, I

Danyel Smith 26:48
think there should be more. And editors actually used to be celebrities, they were magazine editors, book editors, they actually were in the 50s 60s and 70s. They definitely were but I think there’s this thing now where they’re just kind of in the cut like they want to this author, author, author, they don’t want the credit. They don’t want to speak badly of one writer or another. It’s just I think, also, there’s this thing of maybe now on books where there’s just not the abundance that there used to be that books are not front and center in the culture as they used to be. So maybe people feel like, well, I don’t want to say anything. Because, yeah, the internet killed books, or you know what I mean, the podcasts are killed the author and the these kinds of things. And so it’s like, you want to say well, they are still doing it. We should support Yeah.

Traci Thomas 27:43
But what I think is interesting, is books are the center of the culture still from scratch. Anybody that was a book, Reese Witherspoon just made almost a billion dollars on her Hello, sunshine. If books weren’t the center of the universe in some way. You’re not spending a billion dollars on an online book club, right?

Danyel Smith 28:01
Yeah, I think of so we had a conversation that’s going to air on Intuit Thanksgiving week. But we talked to a podcaster, who has a podcast all about celebrity memoirs, in a fun way. But it was a good idea. Right? And because I’m like the stage lights, I’m forgetting the name of the show. But I’m gonna tell you before celebrity book club. That’s it. Yeah, that’s it. We’ll check it out. She’s on the show next week. But we were talking about Matthew Perry’s recent memoir, some of you might have seen, he talks about his issues with addiction over the course of his career. And at one point in the book, he says, It’s so sad and tragic that like these addicts, who were bright lights, you know, died. And like Keanu Reeves is still alive. And that was a trending story for like a week. It came from a book. But no one knows that when they see that tweet, right. It’s it’s like there is a I think there’s like a PR and marketing issue. Where like,

Sam Sanders 28:59
oh, here it is. Yes.

Danyel Smith 29:01
The book industry has a messaging problem. There we go. And I want you to talk about that because like, you know, more than I know, I’m

just I’m I was just trying to think of a way to say what you were saying, but I think that’s exactly what it is. There’s not a proper message. They’re not united. There’s not like, I don’t know if we need a T shirts. I don’t know if we need more tote bags. I don’t know you need t shirts.

Sam Sanders 29:20
Like why is it Why didn’t you seen that story and be like, Oh, damn, get more folks to buy that book.

Traci Thomas 29:26
It didn’t really sell know that bags?

Sam Sanders 29:30
I don’t know for sure. And maybe hopefully it’s selling because I want to read that. I don’t like that guy. But that sounds like an excellent

Danyel Smith 29:37
memoir. This also so much was that one that was like I’m glad my mom and

Traci Thomas 29:41
it’s pretty good. Yeah. And Viola Davis sold well. Yeah, but okay, let me ask you this kind of more niche question about being black people talking about pop culture and specifically books but also everything. And Daniel, you alluded to this earlier, you’re a fan you said you lead with that? How do you take artists identity into account When you’re talking about the art, do you? Do you leave it alone? Do you think because I know in publishing, it’s like, there’s this conversation around. There’s only so many black authors who are getting a chance. There’s only so many Colombian authors who are getting a chance. So can I talk about this thing in an industry that is overwhelmingly white and is overwhelmingly exclusionary? Or is that bad for those people? Or is it good for those people to talk? And say honest critique about those books? Like does it help the art?

Sam Sanders 30:32
If the question is, how do I think about talking about identity when I talk about a great his work, I kind of start there, who you think you are, and what you think made you has a direct impact on what you’re making?

Traci Thomas 30:45
But do you feel an obligation to be gentler on work by people who are from marginalized?

Sam Sanders 30:53
No, because white people also have identity? Yeah, like we all have it. And we’ve been taught by the culture, that the only people who have identity are people who are not white, y’all got it, too, might not want to talk about it, but you have it. And so like, how do you open that up, but everybody is informed by where they came from and what they were doing for them at their thing? And that’s interesting.

Danyel Smith 31:16
Yeah, I don’t I don’t feel the the urge to be quote unquote, gentler. And this is something that, you know, I’ve given so much thought to over the course of my career, what I pay attention to is, as Sam is alluding to, is just properly telling the story. I think so many artists of color, so many women, that I talked about this a lot with shine bright, the details of the stories are never told, people are put, you know, on lists, they’re talking about only as first, when the person has an album come out, you know, it’s like, Oh, great album, but you know, if it was a man’s album, we’re gonna go through that thing, thing, song by song line by line bar by bar, and we’re just gonna have a whole documentary and then we’re gonna have oral history. We’re gonna have a little documentary, but we had another one. And then another one, and I like the Beatles, so do I, but not that much. But I’m saying it’s just like, tell the, like, tell the actual stories of the people. This is what I feel, if I feel compelled to are urged to do is to really sit there and say, What is the story of your middle name? Yeah, like, what is it? How does that, you know, Janet Jackson’s album was Demeter. Joe. It’s her middle name. And it’s also someone I believe that her father was having an affair with on her mother. Right around the time that Jana was born. Absolutely, Demeter. Joe was an r&b singer in the 1960s. not successful, but she was so my thing is, I want to know those things. I wanted to lift people up as geniuses where they haven’t been or if they need to be interrogated. I want to interrogate like, I don’t even like to mention old boy’s name but it’s Robert Kelly. And when it was time to I was such a fan. Jesus we our oh my god,

Sam Sanders 33:18
I remember signing years ago a change that org petition to make the remix to Ignition the national anthem. Do you remember? Do you remember that? What were we doing? What were we doing?

Danyel Smith 33:30
It was too much whatever we

Traci Thomas 33:34
ignition, but I did not assign the petition.

Danyel Smith 33:37
I was very much like keys the Stevie Wonder of our generation. Yeah. Oh, I was going all the way there. And then you know, it starts happening. And I can remember long story short, I chased him down to Philadelphia. The staff had vibe, found the marriage certificate to Alia and all these crazy things. And I remember taking the call from the president of his label. And the BI Tch, yes, is that I was called. And it’s just like, as much as we celebrate, sir. We go interrogate?

Sam Sanders 34:14
Yeah, yeah, I’m thinking about this question again. And I think part of it is like, has this imperative to think about identity, especially when it comes people of color? In all creative work right now? Does that keep us from being critics of the work? I think it’s not an identity problem or a conversation problem about that. I think it’s a critic problem. I think that a lot of critics don’t have the range. And if they aren’t able to talk about identity, all they can do is say I loved it or hate it. And so you’re going to be scared and say I love that. Right. A critic who is conversant in identity and multiple identities can say whatever color they are. I can talk about all these pieces holistically and still say I didn’t like the album, but at Think because a lot of critics have never had to actually engage with work that was not in this small lane. Their fear of not knowing these worlds and not knowing identity makes their critique smaller.

Danyel Smith 35:15
I think that you’re absolutely right. And if I can say this, I also think that there’s a whole generation and maybe now, even to because of the situation that journalism finds itself in because it waited too late to respond to the internet, that there are people who actually just are not trained. As critics, they are not trained as reviewers, they are not trained as reporters, investigative or otherwise, I am blessed with people, I can think, when I did not know how to write a record review, somebody actually taught me how to do that. I can remember Anthony de Curtis from Rolling Stone saying you have to answer does the song have merit? Or does it not? You’re going to have to say that. And then you’re going to have to back that up. And you’re going to have to be fearless, because everybody else is going to love this album. It’s Dr. Dre is the chronic and I didn’t like it did not did not mix it up. That was fairly weekly. But I’m just saying this like this is training. Like when I think of the people that I trained at vibe or was a part of training them. They’re in this industry now doing big things, because they had training at a real magazine, with real critics and real editors. This does not exist right now. Almost any place.

Sam Sanders 36:28
Yeah, well, and when I think of the cultural competence, the cultural competencies required to be a cultural critic, you have to be conversant in several cultures that aren’t your own. And you have that pressure from the day you’re born if you’re a person of color, because to make it, I can’t just to make it in media. I can’t just know about black America, I have to know about white America. I worked at NPR for 13 years, I had to know about white America. And I listen, I love Joe, but I had to know, right. And I worked with white colleagues, who never had to be conversant in black culture, who never had to be conversant in brown culture, who never had to be inverted. Who would ever even had to think about learning Spanish. Why would they? And they got to be critics. They weren’t just allowed to be called critics for the white stuff. They were the critics at large right here it I would never be allowed to be a critic at large. If I weren’t conversant in at least one culture, or two or three besides my own.

Danyel Smith 37:28
This is the thing. I was editor of Billboard. And the reason why it was such a big deal is because it was like Danielle can say things about country music. Dale can say things about rock. And it was such a big deal. And I was like, literally, are you all serious? I’ve been listening to rock and roll radio since I was able to know anything like country is everywhere. Like talking about that far. Yeah, but I just mean like, and I used my husband I talked about all the time he comes to music journalism, too. And there’s this whole power as a critic of color to have what we call all genres, where it’s just a given if you’re white critic that you can cover or assign all genres.

Sam Sanders 38:18
And this is a thing that I think the publishing industry is like grappling with as well. It’s not just the media, critique, criticism conversation. Part of what we’re talking about right now, is the institutional DNA of these estates. When journalism in the Western American sense was created, who was it made for? When criticism as an idea was created? Who was it made for? It wasn’t made for us? And even if it’s now trying to be for us, the bones are steeped and soaked in stewed in that.

Traci Thomas 38:56
Yeah. And so then when it comes to these conversations about who gets to talk about what art who’s talking, whose voice? are we hearing whatever. It means that people like us have to answer extra questions for our validity.

Sam Sanders 39:08
And never be wrong. You can’t like, like, it’s like, yeah, so like, you have to have more cultural competencies and you better not mess up. And I

Danyel Smith 39:19
that kind of over achievers.

Traci Thomas 39:22
It’s embarrassing that listen,

Danyel Smith 39:25
let me just speak for both of us are all three of us, that you have to be to take up space as a black person or brown person in the broader culture, the amount of excessive over achieving that you just get absolutely used to doing. It just feels so normal. And then you see other people aren’t doing and you’re just like, what so Oh, my God. So you’re really not reading the whole book?

Traci Thomas 39:55
Yeah, they’re not reading the whole book people. Spoiler alert. I found this out. I am reading the whole book.

Danyel Smith 40:02
Because I am so terrified that you’re not listening to

Sam Sanders 40:06
the whole album. You’re not writing your own interview questions.

Danyel Smith 40:09
You’re not writing your own. Like I literally, it’s, and I, you know, I want to think it’s my own personal anxiety, but I have enough friends in this business and enough colleagues to know that I’m far from alone.

Traci Thomas 40:21
Yeah, yeah. Okay. I hate to do this. But we have to transition out of this. I know, I know. We have one more little bit. But first, I want to just so I read this book once or twice that I love. It’s called The Art of gathering by Priya Parker. It’s a great book. You should

Sam Sanders 40:37
go with Priya. Did you regret what I was? I think I was an orientation leader.

Traci Thomas 40:41
She’s a dream. I love her. But one of the things she says is that you should do the thank yous before the last things everybody listens. Okay, so I’m gonna do the thank yous now. I’m going to start with las and KPCC. They let me come do this. What the hell, it’s incredible. Talk about just like so great. So thank you for letting me be here and create a thing and do a thing. I want to think specifically Becca, who’s my producer, who gets emails for me all the time being like, Can I do this? And then just says yes. Like, I’m like, do you have to ask anybody? She’s like, No, it’s fine. Tony, who’s doing the sound, AV everything he’s like, been in charge of the whole thing. I want to thank, of course, Erica and Chris, for participating. Because the rest of you didn’t have the, you know, wants to do it, Claire for being a scorekeeper, my best friend. And I also want to thank my dear friend, Billy, who’s here who built this entire slideshow for me. Yeah, it’s incredible. The music, everything I know, I’ll send you the slides. And then lastly, and this is I won’t do this every time. But I want to thank my mom. She’s here and it’s her 70th birthday tomorrow. Happy birthday. I know, it’s a big one, right? You’re not supposed to tell people’s age. And I’ll deal with that later. But like, it’s her 70th birthday. So those are my thank yous. And I’ll get to you guys later. They and of course, thank you guys. We’ll do this again at the end. But now we’re going to turn this into the last little thing. And I’m gonna do this with every single person who comes to be part of this. We’re calling it five for the books, five questions, the exact same question. You guys get to answer five last questions. They’re quick, the rapid fire no X note, not too much exposition. I’m doing I love. This is my last. So

Sam Sanders 42:25
do have like one thought I wanted to say, before we leave this public conversation, when I was thinking about like, what’s going to make publishing more accessible? It’s going to be accessibility. I was thinking backstage, I was like, why can’t I go from Kindle? To the audiobook version of the thing? And it knows, and why can I also get that to go on my TV screen as well? Like there’s there’s a technology issue with publishing. Yeah. And I just wonder briefly like, is it is the tech accessibility of books getting better? Most? I don’t know. I want books to be as accessible to me on any screen or device as a TV show. So if

Traci Thomas 43:07
you’re reading a book on a screen, like you

Danyel Smith 43:10
can tweet out, what if you can just tweet out lines from a book the way you can tweet outlines from a magazine piece? Or a website piece? Why not? Yeah, honestly, the honey. The authors are doing the work, man, I really wish like, you could just be reading along in your Kindle. And then you could just be like spooked Daniel Smith really brought the hell out of that line, though. didn’t shave.

Traci Thomas 43:37
Right? So you can link your Kindle to your phone, to your iPad to whatever I’m going to collect those it take. So my so the Kindle app does link everything. I don’t use it a ton because I’m more of a hard book or an audiobook person. But I don’t know if you can link your audio book to your Kindle. I know you can. We’re gonna do a tutorial on my Instagram story. It’s follow me.

Sam Sanders 44:01
We’re gonna do you’re gonna fix my life. Yes.

Traci Thomas 44:06
Do alive. Yes. Yes. We’re gonna do a lot. Instagram Live. You and I you’re gonna walk me through it actually. On Instagram. They’re posted. This we’re gonna do it. We’re gonna do it. I love that. Okay, okay. Oh, five for the books. Here we go. You each answer. What was the first book you remember? Loving?

Danyel Smith 44:28
Honestly, it was from the mixed up files of Ms. Bazeley Frankweiler.

Traci Thomas 44:33
Great, Sam.

Sam Sanders 44:35
I was just a, I was a music nerd. And I remember, I latched on to Shel Silverstein. And my favorite thing to do would be to sing the poems to my parents as songs. What a sweet kid. No, they were horrible socks.

Traci Thomas 44:50
What’s the perfect snack and beverage for reading time?

Sam Sanders 44:55
Kettle cooked plain potato chips, salt. Very soft. To sorry, very topical but no other fibers.

Danyel Smith 45:02
I’m here with you on the savory. Yeah, but I need a little spice. Okay, so I need those spicy Cheetos. I can’t do it and some iced green tea. It evens out though. It evens it out.

Traci Thomas 45:15
I screen tea famously Obama told me that is his drink for writing

Sam Sanders 45:22
well I mean like seven almonds right seven

Traci Thomas 45:25
he didn’t talk about I asked snacks and beverages he came back with a steam love you Brock if you’re listening please come on the sacks or come to one for the books they’ll everyone will be okay, what’s the one book you hope to read before you die?

Sam Sanders 45:40
Infinite Jest No. Just to say I did it. Good luck with

Danyel Smith 45:47
everything Toni Morrison all of it.

Traci Thomas 45:49
Okay. What’s the one book you have exactly zero interest in ever reading that’s my answer. Infinite Jest.

Sam Sanders 45:58
I don’t need any more books about Donald Trump. Bingo. I get it

Traci Thomas 46:02
Yeah. Been there was a live for it lived it.

Danyel Smith 46:06
Yeah. Yeah. You know, the the answer is truly it’s just like I just like to read.

Traci Thomas 46:12
Okay, that’s sweet. Not my speed. All right, last one. America has started a National Book Club. You get to pick next month’s selection. What book are we all reading?

Danyel Smith 46:28
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Sam Sanders 46:33
the collected works of Shel Silverstein,

Traci Thomas 46:35
okay. Okay. All right, everybody. Let me get up for this last little bit. Okay. Thank you to our incredible guests. Daniel Smith, you can get our book at the book cart. It’s gonna be outside. It’s gonna be outside. Oh, you know WHY DIDN’T THINK reparations club. They’re my favorite bookstore in LA. Black woman owned. They have an incredible book cart out there. Go shop the cart. If you don’t have Daniels book. She’s gonna stick around and sign copies for those of you who have it, who bought it or who buy it tonight. You can find me on social media everywhere. Danna Mo.

Danyel Smith 47:15
It’s Dan Danilo da na mo at Instagram and the other place that’s struggling. Yes.

Traci Thomas 47:22
And then you can find Sam Sanders on his podcast into it and his podcast vibe check. Sam is also on the internet everywhere

Sam Sanders 47:30
at Sam Sanders everywhere. Twitter while you can.

Traci Thomas 47:36
So going out of business sale and I’m Traci Thomas. I’m the creator and the host of The Stacks. I’m also the creator and host of one for the books. We will be back in January with different guests a different night a different theme. I do not have the exact date, which you know, my perfectionist heart is freaking out about it. But follow me on social media at thestackspod at thestackspod underscore on Twitter. I’ll be there until it burns down. And I’ll let you know. Thank you all so much. Wait, we have to do the selfie. Sam made me bring my phone on stage to do a selfie. He said it’s a thing you have to do. Okay, here we go. There’s still drinks while you can get him. We’re gonna be hanging out a little bit. Everybody outside get your books. Thank you so much for coming. Thank you!

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