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Nicholas Vila Byers

Freelance Writer & Scholar

Location icon United States

Nicholas Vila Byers is a writer and scholar who interrogates the premises of cultural resistance. Nick is currently interning for literary magazine n+1, and has written for southern magazine Scalawag, french music journal Audimat, and LA Review of Books channel soap ear.

Nick’s writing puts t(rap) music, in conversation with systems of antiblackness and incarceration, exploring the attributes and boundaries of ‘political’ art. When not writing, Nick volunteers with a needle exchange program, brews natural coffees, and reads autofiction.

For any inquiries, contact Nick at [email protected]

Portfolio
Soap Ear
12/11/2020
"From a spark to where you are": Black Monument Ensemble's Fusion of Time

A live recording can thrust its listener into a moment in time. The raucous shouts of an interned crowd conjure up the night Johnny Cash spent at Folsom State Prison. The white noise in the mix of Donny Hathaway's draws the ear to the texture of his voice, causing it to meditate on every word and breath.

Scalawag
11/13/2020
'Protest music' won't cure anti-Blackness

Three days after the murder of George Floyd, hundreds of Atlantans pulled up to Lenox Mall, the site of past protests, blasting music. They weren't listening to the protest songs you hear in Hollywood films or find on year-end lists.

Scalawag
08/10/2020
'I hate that thug music.' How 'progressive' music outlets fuel false arrests in the trap scene

She'yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph moved to the United States with his mother when he was only 7 years old. Bidding farewell to his sisters, father, and grandmother, Sheyaa arrived in the U.S. under a temporary work visa. Exiting the door of the Hartsfield-Jackson airport that day he could have felt despondent or tearful thinking of the family and friends he had suddenly left behind.

The Contemporary
01/29/2019
A Fragmented 49 Miles: Reevaluating San Francisco's Residential Space

by Nick Byers SAN FRANCISO, CA-I walk through the Tenderloin, San Francisco's tiny skid-row, every couple of months when I volunteer at Glide Memorial Church's soup kitchen on Ellis Street. In the Tenderloin, homeless men sleep under faded awnings, trans women strut the sidewalks, and one man shouts out "Warriors!"

Wesleyan University
04/16/2019
All My Friends Are Dead: Listening To Trap

Trap music, despite prevailing as the most influential genre of rap music in the last decade and portraying the excessive violence experienced by Black youth, has not been given a full account in hip-hop scholarship or critical Black study.

The Wesleyan Argus
09/20/2018
Noname, No Fame, Just Fatimah

When she first stepped onto the scene in 2016, Chicago rapper Noname (born Fatimah Warner) made her outlook on fame clear in her very first lyric: "And I know, the money don't really make me whole."

Medium
10/03/2018
"I'll Fly Away": The Overlooked Fallout of San Francisco's Tech Boom

She is clearing her throat between her screams. Raving about her sex life, or someone's lies, or the insincere apology of a fellow passenger. I look at her for a fraction of a second, averting my eyes with the rest of the bus when I notice that she's out of it.

The Wesleyan Argus
09/13/2018
The Deaths and Resurrections of Mac Miller: A Flawed MC Who Was Reinventing Himself Until the...

When Mac Miller came up via frat-rap anthem "Donald Trump," the story was familiar. Following the model of Vanilla Ice, Marky Mark, Eminem, and countless other white men in the rap industry, Mac seemed destined for huge commercial success via cultural appropriation. When he released his first commercial album, just like his predecessors, Mac did well.

The Wesleyan Argus
04/13/2018
CARE FOR ME Turns Mourning into Masterwork

On "LIFE," the second single from his new album CARE FOR ME, Saba offers a devastating portrait of his current existence, rapping, "That's life-Momma mixed the vodka with the Sprite / They killed my cousin with a pocket knife." A bar later he mentions his formerly-incarcerated uncle: "He got out a year and then he died."

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