Capital Steez is one of the toughest rappers of the last decade, if not any decade, to assess.

How do you analyze and contextualize the career of a man who never released a full-length album, barely had the chance to rap over original production or record in a studio, and passed away before he had even turned 20 years old?

In most cases, an artist like that wouldn’t even have enough relevance for these questions to be asked or debated. But Steez is a unique case.

Visual Essay version.

On December 24th, 2012, Steez tragically took his own life at…


One of the things that makes hip-hop unique and powerful is that when you turn it on, you can‘t run from it. It’s a genre of in-your-face self-expression.

A man or woman with a microphone speaks directly into your ear. Sometimes it’s watered down or made for radio. But in any format, no emcee can hide from the fact that line after line, verse after verse, they must constantly find words to express themselves.

In that sense, J. Dilla’s Donuts is a clear outlier: An undeniable, universally beloved hip-hop classic that doesn’t feature a single verse.

It’s a near-impossible achievement…


Never has it been more apparent that suffering is a communal human experience. As the last few months have reminded us, no one is without their own personal struggles.

2020 may go down as the first year in most of our lives that we all suffered together. The truth is, suffering is often emotionally engrossing and captivating. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be so universal. And because of that, there’s no shortage of art (of all forms and disciplines) that attempts to capture and express this feeling.

There’s so much art about heartbreak, mental illness, grief, and sadness that it…


Revisiting Joey’s classic debut on its eighth anniversary.

The image is unforgettable: Two teenagers, wearing goofy looking ski masks, are standing in an empty New York City subway station. As a chaotic, old school sounding beat builds behind them, featuring sirens and bomb explosion sounds and anything else that might inspire feelings of anarchy, the words “Survival Tactics” appear between them in big yellow letters.

Suddenly, we’re thrust into a uniquely new version of something we’ve seen a million times before: an aggressive, angry, lyrically dense, undeniably ‘90s-sounding rap song.

As he drops non-stop quotables and double-entendres with easy confidence…


When I heard Mac Miller had passed away, the first thing I did was go to his artist page on my phone and hit shuffle. As I emotionally cycled through his entire catalog in random order, I was reminded of the dramatic artistic reinvention he underwent from project to project.

Mac was a rare artist: there seemingly wasn’t a single insincere moment in his entire discography.

Any artist who manages to carve out a career as long as Mac’s in hip hop is going to need to evolve to some degree to stay relevant. …

Michael Akelson

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store