A Modern Rapper’s Hidden Genius

What both fans and critics miss about rap’s most misunderstood man

The reasons for Lil Wayne’s genius are many. His delivery is powerful; his verses seem to come down with the weight of a hammer. His grasp of rhythm is impeccable. He’s versatile; his tone ranges from hyped to stone cold.

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Some of Lil Wayne’s greatest traits, though, are intangible. It’s hard to describe exactly how he does it, but Wayne has an air of not taking himself too seriously. This renders his music not just exhilarating, but also, oddly hilarious. Continue reading

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The Tea Room

This article is part of a series on Uncommon Connoisseurships. See also:

  1. Honey: The Honey Diaries
  2. Ramen: Package Deal
  3. Herbal Tea: The Tea Room
A few of Steven Smith Teamaker's herbal teas.

A few of the herbal teas at Steven Smith Teamaker.

It was twilight in Mostar, Bosnia. The sky slowly darkened, and the townspeople, who had assembled atop the hill overlooking the city to break their fast for Ramadan, had already dispersed. Fruit vendors lingered in the dark streets.

Josh, John and I entered the small tea house. The unassuming storefront hid on one side of a sloping, curving cobble-stoned street; inside, the room was small and conversation was lively. On the walls, jars ascended to the ceiling: some smelled fragrantly of vanilla, strawberry, and ginger; others contained arcane herbs. The proprietor, a tall, holy-looking man, with white hair, a white beard, and traditional Muslim white robes, recognized us and greeted us happily. Soon, tea accessories crowded our low table, music played around us, and our small chess board came out between glasses and jars.

I ordered herbal tea, of course.

I first took to herbal teas because they lack caffeine, which can disrupt sleep, study, and sanity. My interest has progressively grown. Unlike other teas – for which the plants used are chosen surely at least partly for their caffeine content – herbal teas are made solely for taste. These tastes are varied and delicate.

I set out to chart the complex world of herbal teas, and also to find the perfect tea experience. I eventually found myself at Steven Smith Teamaker, in Portland, Oregon. Continue reading

Package Deal

This article is part of a series on Uncommon Connoisseurships. See also:

  1. Honey: The Honey Diaries
  2. Ramen: Package Deal
  3. Herbal Tea: The Tea Room
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Nancy enjoys some (packaged) ramen.

“Ramen is a traditional Japanese noodle dish,” explains Adam Richman, host of the Travel Channel’s Man vs Food, as he enters Los Angeles’ most legendary ramen house. “But here at Orochon Ramen, they serve an extremely uncommon, and extremely spicy, interpretation.” Richman goes on to conquer, in less than thirty minutes, the massive, fiery bowl known only as the Special Number 2, winning the restaurant’s challenge and landing his name on its so-called Wall of Bravery. “If you think ramen is just a 99-cent cup of dehydrated noodles, then you’ve obviously never been to Orochon Ramen,” Richman proclaims.

And though I have been to Orochon — I’ve tried the real thing — I’ll nonetheless here explore ramen’s distant, dehydrated cousins. I too, like Richman, consign Top Ramen — the infamous high-school snack of chicken, beef, and ignominy — to the distant past. Venturing further, though, I’ve discovered the world of genuine imported packaged ramen — a world startlingly diverse in flavor and style. Packaged ramen too deserves a reappraisal. Continue reading