Slate's Culture Blog

Sept. 22 2014 7:46 PM

Azealia Banks’ New Single Is Her Best in Years

It’s strange to think three years have passed since Ann Powers dubbed Azealia Banks a fresh voice with the potential to change hip-hop in Slate’s 2011 Music Club. Back then, it didn’t feel like such a bold prediction: Banks was one of the industry’s most talked about young rappers thanks to breakout hit “212.” Even a year later, Jason King was still praising her as the “most provocative artist” of the year in the 2012 Music Club. But in the two years since then, Banks’ career hasn’t lived up to the hype: Multiple feuds on social media with other artists and even her own label have surrounded her in perpetual controversy as her debut album has been delayed again and again and, in July, she was finally released from Universal. This split may have been for the best. Now, Banks is starting to share music on her own terms, and the latest song to emerge suggests that she could be making a comeback.

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Sept. 22 2014 5:45 PM

The University of California Corrects “Injustice” by Making Its Rich Chancellors Even Richer

When you think of the funding shortfalls in the once-majestic University of California system, you might think of “gigantic” tuition increases or the system’s only observatory being defunded. But what you probably didn’t know is that, according to the regents, one of the “injustices” in the 10-campus system is the embarrassingly low pay of its three “worst”-paid chancellors, all of whom take in more than $300,000 per year. This comes on the heels of a report by the system’s finance executives that, according to theSan Francisco Chronicle, years of budget crises have meant that “UC lacks the funds to keep the student-faculty ratio from rising, replace aging technology,” and “close salary gaps for faculty and staff.” But comfort yourselves in the knowledge that every chancellor in California has been raised from the depths of pretty rich to really quite rich.

Sept. 22 2014 3:16 PM

Watch the Best Part of Beyoncé and Jay Z’s On the Run Tour

On Saturday night, HBO aired a concert film presenting the complete experience of Beyoncé and Jay Z’s gargantuan On the Run tour, as filmed at the tour’s closing dates in Paris on Sept. 12 and 13. As promised, the special featured a number of show-stopping hits from both artists’ catalogs, risqué film noir-style interludes, and lots of slow-mo. But, as anyone who experienced the tour live will tell you, they save arguably the show’s best moment for its finale: As Beyoncé and Jay Z perform a nice mash-up of “Young Forever” and “Halo,” never-before-seen footage from their engagement, their wedding, and the birth of their daughter plays in the background.

Sept. 22 2014 2:07 PM

Kern Your Enthusiasm: In Defense of Comic Sans

I understand the problem. For a while, Comic Sans was everywhere. Things get overused and then they’re played out. People get excited about a thing and it’s briefly cool and then it’s tired, forever. Design matters and this isn’t great design. Having preferences, aligning with other people who share those preferences and spurning people who don’t align with those preferences is a big part of how we create our social identity. The font could be more elegant. It could, objectively, be better at being a font.

Sept. 22 2014 12:22 PM

The Age of the Streaming TV Auteur

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

There’s a memorable story in Peter Biskind’s Down and Dirty Pictures, a great history of the 1990s indie-film boom, in which an upstart production company, eager to establish its bona fides, promises an absurd amount of money and unheard-of creative control to an in-demand filmmaker with a suddenly hot property to sell. The year is 1989, the company is Miramax, the filmmaker is a then-26-year-old Steven Soderbergh, the property is sex, lies & videotape, and the result was a renaissance. In the ’90s, startling, innovative, and personal films—by directors like Quentin Tarantino, Hal Hartley, Allison Anders, and Whit Stillman—flourished, buoyed by a new marketplace, and a hungry audience, that happily rewarded daring and creativity.

Twenty-five years after sex, lies & videotape, it’s hard not to think of a similar scenario that played out much more recently but on a very different screen: Netflix buying the rights to the show House of Cards. Netflix won that series essentially by offering two seasons, up front, guaranteed—a bid that was both fundamentally insane yet absolutely necessary for the company to establish itself as a legitimate competitor to HBO, Showtime, AMC, and so on. Four Emmy wins and one Golden Globe later, Netflix is no longer looking like the late entrant to the cable-drama sweepstakes but the early adopter among Internet content companies, many of which are now angling to become producers of original programming. Earlier this year, Yahoo commissioned two TV-style original comedies; Vimeo has acquired the critically acclaimed web series High Maintenance; and Amazon, having already unleashed the exceptional comedy Transparent, launched an additional five new pilots—including, tellingly, The Cosmopolitans, from ’90s indie auteur Whit Stillman.

Sept. 22 2014 11:32 AM

South Park Takes on Washington’s NFL Team and Its Terrible Name

It was only a matter of time before the satirists of South Park devoted an episode to the name-change controversy surrounding Washington’s NFL team. (Slate stopped using the team’s official name last year.) Season 18 premieres this week, and as this new promo reveals, no punches will be pulled on the matter.

Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM

Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season

Looks like some truth finally popped out of the ever-churning True Detective rumor mill: Colin Farrell has confirmed that he will star in the show’s second season.

Sept. 21 2014 12:43 PM

Watch Rachel Dratch and Tina Fey Do a Second City Sketch in 1997

One of my favorite online projects is Splitsider’s Second City Archives, which unearths clips of today’s comedy stars when they were young, brimming with potential, and still honing their skills at Chicago’s iconic comedy club.  The series’ latest find is a charming skit from 1997, “Grandma’s Records,” which stars Rachel Dratch as a manic nun and Tina Fey as some musical accompaniment.

Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM

“The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes

Dear White People, Justin Simien’s forthcoming satire on black student experiences in a predominantly white college, is expected to be a sharp and stimulating exploration of racial dynamics. Now the team behind the movie has released a series of comedic PSAs called “The More You Know (About Black People)” that fulfills a similar purpose: the series is comprised of a handful of clips—ten in all—that hilariously tackle some common stereotypes about black people. 

Sept. 20 2014 1:52 PM

Julian Casablancas’ New Album Sounds Like the Furthest Thing From the Strokes

Julian Casablancas has kept busy since his underrated solo debut, Phrazes for the Young—he’s reunited with the Strokes, teamed up with Daft Punk, and founded his own record label. Now his new band, the Voidz, has released their wildly ambitious debut album, Tyranny, which is available for streaming.