#375: Jayson Buford
Fake Reading, Late 90’s Jay-Z, Truth Social, and more.
Perfectly Imperfect is a newsletter offering “A Taste of Someone’s Taste” from guests like Charli XCX, John Cale, Julian Casablancas, Lena Dunham, Mac Demarco, Dasha Nekrasova, Weyes Blood, Tim Heidecker, Ayo Edebiri, Michael Imperioli, Rayne Fisher-Quann, Mel Ottenberg, Chloe Cherry, Matty Matheson, Anna Delvey, The Dare, Caroline Calloway, Snail Mail, and more.
Cool people like cool things, which is why we asked Jayson Buford to share a taste of his taste on Perfectly Imperfect.
Jayson Buford is a writer and lifelong New Yorker with contributions in publications such as Vanity Fair, GQ, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and The Washington Post. He’s interviewed up-and-coming artists like RXK Nephew (PI #296) for Stereogum, wrote about the music of Blaketheman1000 (PI #171) for Rolling Stone, reviewed one of his favorite Tex Mex spots in the city for Byline, did a deep dive into Sidetalk’s memeification of New York City for Vanity Fair, and so much more. His insights into culture and music make him one of my favorite writers to follow, and I think you’ll see why after reading his thorough recs below. Lucky for us, Jayson is here to tell us what he's been into.
Without further ado
Jayson Buford (instagram)
🎤 Late 90’s Jay-Z
The Jay-Z that we now know — the one who makes shady and feeble NFL deals, the one who is essentially a house husband to Beyonce’s breadwinner, the one who looks like Basquiat if he had a 401K — pales in comparison to the Jay-Z that my older brother, older cousin, and I were obsessed with growing up. Shawn Carter was once a force of nature on the mic, and transformative as a rap star. No one knew much about his personal life that wasn’t in the music, but they knew he came out with a crew of dogs ready to unleash at a moment’s notice. (This Diary of Jay-Z from MTV is a good example). He was adept at making you feel the snark and the bite in his music, lifestyle, and persona, but also being in control of his behavior and narrative. There’s never a time, except when he struggled with a Mannie Fresh beat, where Jay-Z isn’t in control while he is rapping; it’s arresting to listen to him jab and swing with his flow and words without ever losing the rap pocket. For example, a song like “Streets Is Watching”, when he says “it’s like a full time job not to kill niggas”, is so raw to me. He truly means that. He wishes he could smoke everyone. It is hard for him to keep control of himself when he wants to lash out. But he has to do it anyway because violence costs too much. For any Black kids in NYC, and especially ones who are outgoing and enjoy the limelight like me, who are trying to make it happen, listen to late 90’s Jay-Z. It’ll make you more focused, stronger (notice how Jay-Z is never focused on women, in fact he rejects them if they annoy him) — and more aware of the possible snakes around you.
🔮 Showing More Mystery
This is hard to do, as a New York native, and someone who has been pretty much on the streets living life since he was a teenager — but recently, I have been trying to go out less. To go out less and stay home more is to show more mystery. It’s to talk less, and it is to make people miss you, and wonder about what you are up to. As someone who is pretty comfortable in any room, I tend to go out quite a bit. But I am beginning to retreat from public life as much as I can. This is not because I am tired of it, or because something nefarious happened, but because I think as a media figure, people start to get nervous when they see you too much. They start to wonder “what’s this guy’s deal?”
New York is a city of dreams and relationships, but it is also a city of mystery. It can be big and small at the same time. So, you might want to chill out for a few months. I haven’t had a night out in the Greater Dimes Square Area in a while and I plan to keep it that way — at least until next spring. I’ve been going out in Harlem again — the neighborhood that raised me, and it has been just fine. Post less on social media, be quieter about your personal life, go out a tad bit less, and you’ll find that when you do jump back out, people will be excited to see you.
🗒️ Old Roger Angell profiles and pieces from his time at The New Yorker
There are a lot of writers that I worship — some of whom I consider good friends — but Roger Angell, the New Yorker’s old baseball writer and theater critic, was one of the greatest to ever do it. His death at the whooping age of 101 leaves a hole in baseball writing. (You should read my baseball writing).
This Angell profile of Steve Blass, the Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher who suddenly retired after developing the “yips” after several excellent statistical seasons, is a classic. Baseball is a romantic sport and Angell wrote about it like he was in-love with it. The details have such spark; the history that he knew had such a passion behind it. Baseball is a great game — it is my favorite sport alongside basketball — and Angell truly knew how to write about it. It’s never flowery. He is direct, austere, he cares about the subject, and he covers it from all angles. Genius writing deserves to be celebrated; Mr. Angell was that and more.
🍴 Fanelli Cafe
One thing about me is that I love going out to eat, and I love taking people out to eat. Whether that is with a lady friend, my best friend Phil, or my media homies — I take people out. For me, Uncle Lou’s in Chinatown is great, Deluxe Green Bo is a nice hole in the wall if you want to go out with someone but don’t want to be seen, Odeon is luxurious (although, the food isn’t really good), Cervo’s is nice, Frenchette is great, and Le Rock is a present if you have a great month of freelancing. But, when I am trying to do a bit of fun and some business, or a personal meeting with someone I like and admire, or a fun time with a friend — I go with Fanelli’s. The classic New York spot is a perfect restaurant for a fun and back and forth conversation about whatever you desire. Recently, a good friend of mine in the media got me lunch and we talked about Scorsese movies, fashion, and trying to keep the living wage flowing in a capitalist world.
The menu isn’t intimidating. You can get a tuna melt, some potato skins, a burger and fries, and a few beers (I go with the Amstel Light), and you can just talk. There’s more time to converse when the menu isn’t what you are focused on. Fanelli’s is a great spot for drinking with the boys, or having a friendly chat with a good friend.
🕵️ Fake Reading
I want to be able to read books. Trust me, I do. It will help me get even better as a writer — to cultivate my already strong ability. But it is increasingly hard for me to finish them. I am halfway through Moby Dick, and like fifty pages through Emma Cline’s The Guest. Somehow, I can only finish The Jordan Rules, a spectacular book about Michael Jordan being a maniac and the quest for a championship by the 1990-1991 Bulls. (I highly recommend it. Sam Smith is a great sportswriter). For some reason, my brain doesn’t have enough discipline. My friend Naomi thinks “I’m just a young man figuring out art and life”, but I want to be able to read. The infamous How Long Gone podcast believes that it is thirsty to read, and I honestly don’t disagree with Mr. Black and Mr. Stewart, but it is objectively a good thing to be able to read. Kanye didn’t read, and look what happened to him. He literally got dumber and more mentally ill as the years went on. So, I recommend fake reading. At least, the ten pages a day you read will allow you to feel like you read something. Articles aren’t enough: fake read a book, and you’ll do your community service for a day.
👴 Being friends with Older People
Obviously binaries aren’t perfect; they are cool people who are old, and cool people who are younger. They are older cornballs and younger cornballs. But, in my experience, the majority of people in my life who are the coolest are older people. Everyone in this generation is so lame, and always focused on the dumbest things: like who did what to whom, who we can’t like anymore because they did something they deemed as bad, Twitter, and fake community.
Shed that. Always have big steppers around you: men who take care of themselves, men who have been through battles in life, men who understand sacrifice but also understand individualism. (Women too, obviously). Learn from those people. Cultivate those relationships. I feel richer whenever I hang out with a cool ass older person who knows what the fuck they are talking about. And they recognize that I am a cool young person trying to do his thing. They will take care of you. As someone who likes people, I can lose sight of who is actually cool and wants you to succeed, and who wants you to be low like them. But, when you hang with cool older people, that is never a factor. Cool people are trying to make a way for themselves without wishing and hoping. They’re just getting after it and taking advantage of the opportunities they have.
I am in several group chats, but there is one that has my full heart right now. It is the “Writer Posse” group chat — it consists of NYT’s Joe Coscarelli, VF’s Nate Freeman, VF’s Dan Adler, Writer/Editor of Sex Mag and more Zack Sokol, NY/DC legend Jay Bugler, Reporter Extrordinaire Ezra Marcus, and yours truly. We’re all unfairly talented — deadass though, name another crew of men as sharp as us in the mediasphere — and we enjoy what we do. We support each other, we ride for each other, we hold each other accountable. Coscarelli and Bulger took me aside a few months ago just to keep me, definitely the wildest one in the group (if you can believe it or not), more focused and it was much appreciated. We’re men. We’re fucking men. Group chats are great. Never post anything; you post in the group chat, and the boys tell you if your head is in the right direction or if this hot take needs some work.
📖 Greg Tate’s Flyboy in the Buttermilk
I wouldn’t be who I am if not for black writers, and Greg Tate, was the best black cultural critic of them all. I never want to be without his book, Flyboy in the Buttermilk. In the book are essays about Eddie Murphy, Public Enemy, Michael Jackson, and much more. Tate writes about blackness and Black people with such strength, joy, and bugged out passion. Never will you read an essay that wasn’t intense, and a marvel to read. Sometimes it is like you are watching his brain unfold in front of you. He’s sharp, and not afraid to love an artist while criticizing said artist, which is some of the hardest things to do while being a critic. For anyone, and especially black writers, read this as much as you can. Tate thought being a Black writer meant he had a duty to be as raw as possible. Read it twice. You’ll be inspired to be the best, and you’ll feel the book’s cultural significance reverberate through you.
😆 Truth Social
If you miss Trump on Twitter, I suggest you make a Truth Social account for an unfiltered version of America’s greatest comedian. (Florida rapper Kodak Black is a close second). Look, Trump is obviously horrible, more specifically a white supremacist, and he was one long before he was in office, but he is also non-stop entertainment. If you can handle it, and you are funny and cool, then watch that man cook on Truth Social. He isn’t quite as funny as he once was — he is like Seinfeld after Larry David left — but Truth Social's expanded character count is good for him. You get these long ass rambles that rarely make sense, but definitely make sense if you are Trump. The other day, he “truthed” about firing someone from the military “like a dog.” Just the funniest thing ever. I might start talking like that. “I wrote a bad review of him, like a dog!”
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