Atypical

Growing up Black, in the Blackness that is Atlanta, Black heroes were thrown in my face. And not just the Civil Rights leaders that are our avenues and boulevards. But the more understated.

The young. And the Black. And the outstanding.

When you’re nine, you learn of that really smart, Black 12 year old that has skipped grades and is already in high school. When you’re in middle school, you read about those three high schoolers that got scholarships–academic scholarships–to schools all over the country. And when you’re ready to go off to college, you’re having parentally orchestrated mentorship playdates with Black twentysomethings who have graduated Summa Cum Laude and are now on track to be the next great Black doctor, lawyer, or engineer.

These are the most tangible Black heroes growing up, the ones that are proof someone that looks like you, and is from a place like you, can make it out. And their existence is supposed to give you the drive and motivation to be the next outstanding Black.

Growing up like this, and then turning into a moderate representation of that model example, it still feels good to hear about these stories. And the existence of these tales still seem necessary. But there’s always been a part of me that’s been uncomfortable with the transition of these local youth heroes going from just that–local–to actual pieces of news. Yes, their presence and successes should be applauded. But there’s an aspect of the “newsworthy-ness” that often felt as if we were reaching for anything, almost as if the examples of excellence were that rare.

Since high school, I’ve had back and forth relationship with this. But the one thing I knew to be true was that it felt very wrong to vocalize any dissident opinions. Who wants to be the one to say “let’s stop publicizing our Black success stories,” even if it occasionaly feels like family secrets being spilled out into masses. But I still knew how I felt, which was that there’s some bad in Black success stories being interpreted purely as exceptions to the norm. But, again, it never seemed like a worthy cause to get behind. So I dropped it.

But then this morning, a story presented itself. The first time I saw it was via The Root, a publication with the tagline of “Black news, opinion, politics, and culture.”

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The piece in The Root referenced a Daily News article that originally told the story. It’s a great story, one of Long Island student Kwasi Enin getting into all eight Ivy League Universities. An amazing achievement. While applying to all eight isn’t necessarily a normal thing to do, I’ve never heard of anyone that’s pulled off such a feat.

Nowhere in the piece does it mention that this is an achievement, simply because he’s Black. And I was pretty thrilled with that. The Daily News, while a widely-read publication, in reporting on this story is doing something that falls under it’s jurisdiction: talking about local stories from the New York region. And this is certainly a story.

I was completely okay with the news surrounding Enin’s Ivy League sweep ending there. And not hearing about it again from any other outlet. I was thrilled with there being press, but a controlled level of press. Appropriate press.

But it grew. And I knew it was growing mainly because Kwasi was Black. It was making the rounds on Twitter, with many of my Black peers shouting him out for his success. And, again, it felt good to see this. Seeing young Black kids succeed will never get old. Never.

After a few conversations about it, for a second time, I was ready to close the book on this story. But it wouldn’t go away, with the story eventually making it to USA Today.

Reading the piece, it felt a lot like the others I’d read, with the exception being the inclusion of a college admissions expert, Katherine Cohen, the founder of IvyWise, a consulting firm. Continuing to read, it all seemed fine, until a line from said expert:

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It’s the line I always feared reading in this type of piece. Understanding everything about the context of the line in the piece, how college admissions works, and the very real collegiate educational attainment differences between African-Americans and 1st and 2nd-generation Blacks from a certain African and West Indian countries, this is still the line I always feared. The thing my gut always told me would be the end result of these pieces. The end of the cycle, from these kids going from local models of excellence to examples that Blacks can be eliteno matter what the majority of them turn out to be like.

Going from an achievement to a rare exception. Or an anomaly. Or, better yet, a newsworthy glitch. It’s terribly problematic. And I don’t know what to do about it. Because, for every kid like Kwasi Enin, I want to stand up and cheer. But days like today also remind me that sometimes, perhaps it’s better to pridefully whisper.

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About That Life

I’ve done two things thus far in my adult career. How they ended:

First job: Fired after 9 months (via email), June 2010.
Graduate school: Withdrew with 8 months left, December 2011.

On paper, there is a lot of negative to be derived from that stat line. Things that come to mind: lack of commitment, not driven, hard to work with, replaceable, hasn’t fully adjusted to the real world, immature.

This is not how you start a career.

Then again, not everyone is fit for a career, especially when you want it all.

The generation that I call myself a part of, for lack of a better phrase, can be described as “those that grew up with the Internet, but not with iPhones”. We are a generation that is filled with individuals that want it all. We want it all, because through our mastery of the fad-turned-reality called “the Internet”, we understand how much there is to be had. And if you’ve seen what the promised land can look like, it’s hard to erase that image from your head.

We want it all, but we are either 1) confused about how to get there or 2) knowledgeable about how to get there, but fearful of the failure that could (and probably will) meet us along the way. Because of this, many of us settle, in the hopes “having it all” in 20-30 years.

Perhaps this is due to my intimate relationship with failure, but that just cant happen anymore. The more it happens, the more they win. “They”, you ask? You know, the individuals that see our generation as lazy, as self-righteous, and as lacking all of the characteristics necessary to have a career.

Talk of “They” vs “My Generation” is an interesting one, because most of the things written about my generation and what we believe in and how we perceive the world are written by “They” who turn out to be scholars and pundits in their 40s and above. Yes, I am sure they did their proper research and conducted interviews with 20somethings about a variety of issues to come to their conclusion, but still they are of another generation. I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just stating that I’m over it and ready for us to start talking about us. It’s time.

Case in point, this past Thanksgiving, my uncle raised the question “who are the Black Intellectual leaders in today’s society”. The first two names to come up have been the same two names raised for the past 15 years: Cornel West and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. This is problematic and the blame is split down the middle. One one side, no one younger has taken that “title” away from them, so their Lakers/Celtics-esque dynasty on intellect and influence has remained. On the other side, however, I get the sense that neither man wants to relinquish their standing as “Co-smartest Black man in America”. Personally, I’m over it. I’ve read Future of the Race probably 4 times and it’s fantastic. But it’s almost 2012 and I’m about ready to hear from the living, breathing future of the race, instead of recycling ideas from the past.

My point here is not to beef with my elders. The way those two men, along with many others of their generational cohort, made it as far as they did was by being “exceptional.” A generation ago, if you were a “first”, you were doing it big. But once you became a first, almost as a survival tactic, there was something to gain by staying an “only”. While “firsts” eventually turned into “seconds”, which turned into “fourths” and so-on, it was still a slow process, due in some part to a reluctance to actively pass the baton. That still prevalent mentality, however, has to end immediately. Not only do we have to pass the baton, but we have to somehow obtain a 3D printer and make hundreds of copies of that baton, as to bring more people in our generation along.

If you acquire that baton early, bravo. There will be a cake waiting for you. Feel free to eat it alone, but the idea of sharing it with eight others seems much more appealing.

Even though I started to drift into a conversation of race, I will continue to bring it back to our generation. Our generation is the first with the wherewithal to discuss mattes or race and class openly, to the extent that we can start referring to our generation as an entity. And because we are the first widespread generation capable of talking about things of this nature, it’s about time we did the talking.

I’ve done my fair share of talking this past year and I would be an overly-modest jerkface if I said it wasn’t a big deal. I know this blog has connected with people and I know it has made a few people take that leap of faith towards responsibly broadcasting their beliefs for all eyes to see. I’m very happy about that. Having said that, I do feel as if I’ve gotten more love than I perhaps have deserved. While it has felt great, at times it has reminded me of the shockingly sincere “thank yous” I would get in college for simply being an active member of the community and showing up. Yes, there was some selfish good that came from being thought of as one of the invested Black males at your college, but that’s also a critique of the greater, more problematic state of affairs.

I use this example to say that we need more people out there, communicating the way we live, struggle, and succeed in this world. Don’t get me wrong, they are out there, but we should be everywhere. We are everywhere, but what we’re producing isn’t always for the benefit of anyone. The tool at our disposal that we know better than anyone should be our greatest ally, but more often than not we just use it 24/7 because it’s there. As long as this continues to ring true, the prophet S. Carter’s “We don’t believe you, you need more people” line will continue to describe the current state of affairs. The masses haven’t been heard in a positive light yet, and things have to be done to change that. Baton holders need to meet other baton holders and a youthful, critical mass of smart individuals with beliefs to communicate need to be given the proper platforms to write, speak, design, create, and influence.

We can’t wait any longer. In politics and other bureaucratic entities, the idea of just waiting on old people to die is a popular belief. In some cases, it’s an unfortunate reality. It doesn’t need to ring true across the board, however. Those that are holding up progress, don’t wish death on them, just be better, savvier, and again, better than them. Will you be able to do this alone? Probably not. But imagine if you have surrounded yourself with people that you are constantly helping and are constantly helping you. When you have that, it’s almost too easy.

I think about this when I think if home. Not knowing at what point I will return to Atlanta, I am fully sure I will because I’m excited to have that aforementioned scenario become my reality. If I want to run for Mayor when I’m 38, I’m not going to come back when I’m 28 and spend 10 years trying to get the blessing of every Civil Rights Leader, former Mayor, and wealthy businessman with a 404 area code. That’s the behavior required of someone who has been going at it alone for sometime now. Our generation has to break that cycle of “me first, y’all later… much much later”. It’s got to be about us with everyone doing it big and being a part of something important.

If i had to say one thing I was most proud of in 2011, it would be not getting the job with Obama. It would have been a monumental step for my “career”, but a huge step back as an active member of my generation. During the writing portion of the interview process, I learned that I was completely incapable of writing like robot. I tried and tried and failed and failed. Even with that true, I started to get the feeling like i might get the position anyway, which worried me. The idea that the words under my name might not represent me in the slightest was horrifying. In the end, what most likely stood in the way of me getting the job? My words, this blog, and whatever honest, yet appropriate Internet presence that I have that could potentially embarrass the current President of the United States of America.

That’s a big win for our generation.

I’ve always said, in 10-15 years when people from this generation start really being the main people in the public eye, be it politicians, business leaders, and other types of influencers, the people we as a culture should be most wary of are the ones who’s lives were hidden from age 18-30. We need to stay putting ourselves on blast. While always remaining respectful in our tone, this is the time to just air it all out. Be proud of the way you think. And be excited that for the rest of your life, someone will be able to remind you about how you viewed the world I’m your 20s and early 30s. That’s fantastic.

In closing, to use perhaps my favorite phrase of 2011, for those of you who aren’t “about that life”, be it in a very active way or in a function of providing support, just get out of the way. There is work to be done. Once out of the way, will you reap the benefits provided for you by those of us that are “about that life”? Absolutely. Congrats on that, just don’t expect to be invited to the holiday party.

Thanks for listening.

Rembert Browne
December 9, 2011
3:33pm

Posted in Important Ones | 11 Comments

300+ Days In The Making

The inspiration for tomorrow’s final post.

Friday. 2pm. Done.

See you on the other side.

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The Guide To 24 Hours in Atlanta

I received this kind alert this morning.

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As rude as Mr. Lane sounds, I deserved it. First off, I publicly called him a coward some 72 hours prior for having a protected Twitter account (like a coward), but secondly because he sent me an email that needed to be responded to by Wednesday and I had not yet answered.

His question: “I’m in ATL for a day, what do I do?”

This isn’t the first time I’ve been presented with this question. Since running off to New Hampshire in 2005, I’ve gotten a number of “I’m in your city, what do I do?” texts and emails. When I’m around, I simply go find them and show them a great time. More often than not, however, I’m elsewhere and I’ve never really known how to answer.

Now I do.

Pay attention, because you will find yourself in this position at some point in your life, especially if you’re a frequently flyer, your line of work involves attending conferences and conventions, or if you’re friends with the Blacks (1 in every 7 is in Atlanta at any given moment {source – The Source}.

24 hour ATL itinerary (Wed 10am-Thurs 10am)

10:00am: Arrive in Atlanta. If you have arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson airport, congrats. If, however you have come here via Greyhound, DON’T LEAVE THE BUS. Just take it to Jacksonville or wherever the next stop is. If, for some reason, you must leave the bus, quickly acquire a human shield, bayonet, and $700,000 in case ransom money is needed.

10:01am: Acquire a car. I don’t care how you get one, just find one. Don’t be the burden that needs someone to escort you around. And don’t try to be cute and ride MARTA, our public transportation system, unless you want 18 of those hours spent on the train.

11:00am: Early lunch. Drive to Ponce de Leon ave and find a place called EATS. Park your car and leave a dollar on your windshield. Go inside. You will see 2 lines, a pasta line and a soul food line. If you even begin to gravitate towards the pasta line, never speak to me again. Go to the good line and order a 4-veggie plate. I know there is jerk chicken there, but trust me on this one. Get greens, macaroni, black-eyed peas, and a sweet potato (everything that is not meat becomes a vegetable, deal with it). Ask for a drink, say thank you, and get out of the way. While you wait on your food, fill your cup up with 3 parts sweet tea and 1 part lemonade. When it’s food time, grab it, pour hot sauce on everything, and have a delicious meal.

12:00pm: Return to your car. The dollar will be gone and your windshield will be cleaned. I know you think you’re awake, but in 5 minutes you will be very tired.

12:05pm: Find hotel, immediately. You can barely see straight. The itis has put its death grip on your soul and if you don’t find a bed soon, you will probably drive into a telephone pole.

12:15pm: Sleep. But not at the hotel. You have hit traffic on 75/85 north headed to your hotel and you aren’t moving for a while. Put the car in park (yes, on the expressway) and take a nap.

1:00pm: Wake up. You still haven’t moved, but you are energized. Get off at the next exit, who needs the hotel anymore. Head to the mall.

1:30pm: Arrive a Lenox Mall. Yes, I know you passed by 7 other malls en route to this mall, but just know you’re at the greatest place on earth.

2:00pm: You found a parking spot, congrats. Now go inside.

2:05pm: Head to the main floor and look for a place called the “Great American Cookie Company”. Buy 3 sugar cookies, eat two now and put one in your pocket. Yes, I know, they are the most delicious things you’ve ever had. Duh.

2:20pm: Walk to the top floor to a store called “Man Alive”, home of all things “urban”. Tell them you were sent by “M. Solomon”. They will search you, then smile, hug you, and then take you to the back room. There, you will find hundreds of XXXL Kurt Warner jerseys. They are not for you, they are for the man they call M. Solomon, for whenever he decides to pick up his order from 1999.

2:40pm: Buy an urban camo Kangol, walk out the store, and never tell anyone about this aspect of your trip. Leave Lenox Mall and never return.

3:00pm: This is, sadly, the calm before the storm that is rush hour. You need to get your car somewhere more relaxed and park it, because in about 30 minutes driving will become a horrific chore until 7pm. Where, you say?

3:30pm: Piedmont Park. Not only is it sprawling and beautiful, but it is in the middle of the city, and things are actually walkable. This is your time to be an adult and explore without my guidance. Join a pick up game of soccer, frisbee, or football. Watch kids play. Grab a few beers. Walk up to the tennis center, go inside, and say “do you know a guy named Rembert Browne”. If person X is there, you will be welcomed with open arms. If person Y is there, however, you might get several tennis racquets rifled at you. So yeah, that’s your call.

7:00pm: Get your car and drive to the Varsity. Don’t eat anything, but go inside and just listen. The chaos and gibberish that you think you hear is actually an orderly, controlled choir of efficiency. You just aren’t used to it. After 10 minutes, order a Varsity Orange and ask nicely for a hat. Drink some of it and throw it away, I don’t want you to spoil your appetite.

8:00pm: Arrive at Daddy Dz. Walk inside. You will see a table of 6 filled with 5 individuals. Sit in that seat and introduce yourself. They will refer to themselves as “Bradley”, “MT”, “Searles”, “Evan”, and “Michael Walbert, Founder and Business Manager, SMKA Productions”. Experts of all things Atlanta, they will tell you great stories of Atlanta old and new. You will eat the best BBQ you have ever had. You might cry, it’s okay. Daddy Dz is a safe space.

9:00pm: Feeling confident in your ATL knowledge, you will ask “what’s next”. Bradley will put you in time out for talking out of turn.

9:30pm: You will raise your hand. Once you’re called on, you will ask “what’s next?” Walbert will jump up and yell “what took you so long? Let’s MJQ it”

9:35pm: Everyone will leave the BBQ place. Evan will leave in his own car and go home. If there is one place that he doesn’t tolerate, it’s MJQ. You still have no idea what this place is. Perfect.

10:00pm: Arrive at what looks like an old parking garage, one with a line of humans instead of cars waiting to get in. The line moves fast, since the four remaining veterans with you know to get there early on Wednesday nights.

10:10pm: Get inside. Your mind is blown. The music. The characters. The $2 drinks. Yes, this is what heaven would look like, were it in an old parking garage. Make sure you don’t lost, the four gentlemen you are with are sure to run into people they know. Get excited, the amount of fun you’re about to have is enviable.

1:30am: Leave MJQ. It is a school night and Brad had class in the morning. No one has seen Walbert since 11:15pm. Searles and MT are just ready to make the next move. Where, you ask?

2:15am: SWATS WAFFLE HOUSE. FULTON INDUSTRIAL BLVD, SON.

2:20am: You ask the question (as if you’re being kidnapped) “where are we?” You’re genuinely shocked to learn this is still Atlanta. Following the lead of the two men in front of you, you DON’T order a waffle and instead focus on that hash brown game and that bacon game. Shocked that you’re eating again, you mentally take a step back and realize that Atlanta might be the greatest place on Earth.

2:55am: You get back in the car, heading to one of the two dude’s homes. Oh yea, Thug Motivation 101 is blasting in the car louder than anything you have ever heard. Life is good.

3:15am: Elated, but exhausted, you pass out on someone’s couch.

7:00am: You wake up feeling horrible. You have a 10am flight and since you didn’t check any bags, you need to be there at 8:45. You wake someone up and they drive you to your car. Hungry (again) you drive to The Unity on MLK across from Westview Cemetery. You notice it is located next to a place called “Best Buy Caskets”. You take a picture. Then you take off your hat and walk in. You’re greeted by the kindest people ever created. You ask them to make you something good. Impressed by you, they hook it up with cheese grits, cheese eggs, and some sausage links between a biscuit. Right before you bite into this beauty, you remember you never went to Chick-fil-a. Then you take a bite and forget Chick-fil-a ever existed. You’ve never had food like this before. Wow.

8:15am: You leave the Unity, pay for your $8 meal with a $20 and tell them to keep the change and that “you are coming back”. They believe you, because everyone comes back.

8:45am: You return your car, get to the airport, and barely make it on your flight.

10:00am: Take off. 24 hours in ATL complete, congrats on doing it right. Your reward, that last sugar cookie still in your pocket.

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Introducing: Tubetops

Most of my close friends that are achieving success in the music arena began their journey long before we met. With Andy Suzuki & The Method, they created a following back at their days at Brown University. 3/4ths of Filligar, on the other hand, were college classmates of mine, but that same 3/4ths happens to have the same last name and all four have been jamming together for over a decade now.

And then there’s the Tubetops.

The Tubetops are what I’d call a “new old new” band, in the sense that I’ve personally witnessed a series of events and experiments, successes and scraped projects that have resulted in the present permutation of the band.

The members (from L to R): Algy, Mike, James, and Kevin.

2 went to college together, 3 grew up together, and now all 4 live in Brooklyn.

Even though I heard whispers that they were cooking up something, I wasn’t 100 percent convinced yet. Then I went over their house and saw the in-house studio. Slightly more convinced. Then Algy played me a track. Impressed, but didn’t know what was beyond that track. I liked the track so much, though, I asked them if I could interview them.

It was in this interview that I became sold on this not being a side-project, but something they were investing every ounce of their collective being into. It was their first interview as a group, which was awesome for me because it was also my first interview as a writer. This idea of friends supporting friends, friends encouraging friends, and friends actively wanting other friends to succeed is something the Tubetops and I have in common and discussed at length.

While the long-term success of the group will be based on a sexy cocktail of talent, luck, sincerity, and charisma, start-up projects are often most successful when they are family affair.

So far, the Tubetops are following the family affair blueprint exceptionally well and are winning as a result.

The Blueprint

Exhibit A: The breakout track.

“Aquamarine (Blaz RMX)”

Who’s Blaz, you ask? 1) The realest and 2) A classmate of ours who likes to be musically talented when he’s not defending our country in Washington D.C.

Exhibit B: The initial buzz.

The often-updated, always-popular music blog Panda Toes. This blog has been so popular for so long, he can’t take it off of Blogspot, because too many people know about it. That’s longevity, people.

The blog is run by DJ Friendly Greg, a staple in sometimes horrible, usually fantastic bars and clubs in NYC. He also went to college with us. Greg posts the track, which immediately sends the song to The Hype Machine. Enough people liked the song on Hypem that it stays on the site. The buzz has arrived.

Exhibit C: The awesome video.

For the song “Here With You”. Directed by Annabel Seymour.

Why is it such good quality? Why does it look like an actual video? Oh, because Annabel is the jam and in her 2nd year of film school at USC School of the Cinematic Arts. Some people say it’s the 2nd best film school in the world. I’ll take their word for it. Oh yeah, she went to school w/ us too.

Exhibit D: The first write-up.

FILTER Magazine — “Picks of the Week

A FOTT (Friend of the Tubetops) and employee at Filter, Sarah, put people on to the video and next thing you know, it’s getting screen time atop the “Picks of the Week” page. Boom.

Exhibit E: The first shows.

Friday, December 9: Trumbull Studio
Friday, December 16: Ella Lounge

Now this is where it starts getting fun. The talent and luck and charisma and sincerity that I mentioned earlier, this is where that becomes of the utmost importance. You know, the “can you translate internet buzz into real life success” moment that so many try and fail. That’s what the next two weekends are for the Tubetops. One of the reasons I went from good friends to fans of groups like The Method and Filligar is that I was captivated by their live shows. Yes, the quality of the music got better over time, but I also became increasingly captivated and impressed while watching them perform live.

2012 could start off big for Algy, Kevin, James, and Mike, or it could be one where they go back to the drawing board. I say that as a realist, but if I didn’t believe wholeheartedly that they had the chops to make it, I wouldn’t be writing about them right now.

The blueprint is officially over. Now it’s time to get weird.

Good luck, guys. You, like everyone else, always needs a little bit of it.

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The Final Days.

500 Days Asunder

1/1/11 – 12/9/11

Yep. Friday’s the end of the road.

This little blog that lost me a job w/ the President of the United States of America has gotten me a real job at Grantland.

So yeah. All things writing-related are now moving over there.

And when I say all, I mean it.

Brackets, long-form pieces, lists, serious stuff, ignorance — everything.

It’s also a very appropriate time to end it, because today marked the first day of my leave of absence from Columbia.

The whole point of this experiment was to blog until graduation and then call it quits. Since that’s not happening for at least a year, seems appropriate to wrap it up as school wraps up.

As to not end on a sour note, I’m finishing up strong. Like, shockingly strong. I’m excited for all of us.

Thank you so much for reading this for almost a full year.

And keep up with Grantland. You’re guaranteed at least 4 pieces a week from me over there, so not much is changing.

So yeah. Great run, people.

-Rem

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Literary Mashup: The New Inquiry vs. Bennett

The two most buzzed about pieces of my day have been about the youth of America. The first is The New York Times piece on The New Inquiry, a online literary journal run by bright twentysomethings seeking to create an alternative space to the typical New York publishing outlets. The other is Texts From Bennett, the greatest Tumblr of all time co-starring Bennett, the greatest 17 year old of all time.

Because the NYTimes piece is so long, I would read a paragraph or two of it, take a break to look up all the words I didn’t know, laugh out loud at Bennett, then go back to the NYTimes piece. This back and forth went on for about 90 minutes. What resulted is my firm belief that Bennett needs to be given a invitation to New Inquiry meeting. If he were given access, the result would be priceless, but critically damaging to the careers and vocabularies of the future novelists.

(I highly recommend reading both pieces, or else this will probably be the most nonsensical thing you’ve ever read on the internet)

**********

Opening Excerpt

Rebecca Chapman, who has a master of arts in English and comparative literature from Columbia University, hit bottom professionally last summer when she could not even get a job that did not pay. Vying for an internship at a boutique literary agency in Manhattan, Ms. Chapman, 25, had gone on three separate interviews with three people on three different days. “They couldn’t even send me 2Pac first cd or an e-mail telling me I didn’t get it,” she said.

It’s a story familiar to anyone seeking to break into the New York publishing world. Willie Osterweil, 25, an aspiring novelist who graduated magna cum laude from Cornell in 2009, found himself sewing Brooklyn movie theaters for prejadiss for $7.25 an hour. And the closest that Helena Fitzgerald, a recent Columbia graduate, got was an interview at a top magazine, during which the editor dismissed her literary career dreams, telling her, “U retardsd as fuk….. why the he say ear muffs in the movie then???? Ideot.”

Which explains, in a way, how they all ended up on a crisp November night, huddled together at an invitation-only party at a cramped, bookshelved apartment on the Upper East Side.

It was the weekly meeting of The New Inquiry, a scrappy online journal and roving clubhouse that functions as an Intellectuals Anonymous of sorts for desperate members of the city’s literary underclass barred from the publishing establishment. Fueled by B.Y.O.B., Hustla da Rabbit, impressive degrees and the angst that comes with being young and unmoored, members spend their hours filling the air with talk of Edmund Wilson and poststructuralism.

Lately, they have been catching the eye of the Illuminati, earning praise that sounds as extravagantly brainy as the thesis-like articles that The New Inquiry uploads every few days.

“They’re the precursor of this kind of synthesis of extrainstitutional intellectualism, native to the Internet, native to the city dweller,” said the novelist Tremaine, an early champion.

“They’re not trapped within an old paradigm,” he added. “They’re just making it their own.”

The New Inquiry is edited by Rachel Rosenfelt, 26, who graduated from Barnard College in 2009. Though she had some luck finding work, her exposure to the literary establishment left her unimpressed. “Great Panda Chinese Buffay,” she said of her internship at The New Yorker during her freshman year. “It just felt like they had all ‘arrived.’ It was boring. No one talked. The only real rule was, ‘Sammon. Corndogs and Brownies. All you can eat.’”

Young, Web-savvy and idealistic, she and two friends — Jennifer Bernstein and Mary Borkowski — wanted to create their generation’s version of cultural criticism, equally versed in Theodor Adorno and Wiz Khaleefa. Finding contributors was easy: their social circle was filled with overeducated, underemployed canables willing to work free to be heard on subjects like Kanye West’s effect on the proletarian meta-narrative of poisonous dog-treats.

After earning a master’s and writing on a farm in upstate New York, Ms. Chapman returned to the city uncertain about what to do next.

“I met Rachel on one of my first days back,” she said, “and she was like, ‘My hook up is out of them… do U know anyone who can get some?’”

There was no thought of turning a profit. But who cared? No one was making any money on the traditional path, anyway.

“There’s something incredibly liberating,” Ms. Rosenfelt said, “when you realize that shaving her head and talking like a black dude in county jail is a ladder to nowhere.”

Ms. Chapman added: “My whole life, I had been doing everything everybody told me. I went to the right school. I got really good grades. I got all the internships. I filled her car with water. Then, I couldn’t do anything.”

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Final Paragraph

Despite her upbeat take on the proceedings, Ms. Chapman admitted she wasn’t feeling chipper. It was her birthday. A happy occasion? For most, maybe — but not, she explained, when you are a Crip, having graduated summa from Amaco, with a girlfriend named Mercedes, only to find yourself unemployed and back living at home with your parents.

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