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It’s Lit: What 12 Authors Listen To When They Write

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The soundtracks behind their masterpieces

Writing is hard. Words might appear to flow seamlessly when you’re reading them, but getting those words from thought to paper is an arduous task. Some days are easier than others, and some authors are better at it than others. But everyone has a process to help keep them going, to keep concentrating. A part of that process, for many, is music.

Personally, anything with lyrics throws me off. So, instrumental it is. My colleague once told me that hardcore dubstep and hip-hop soundtracks her writing. Curious as to what songs some of our favorite authors rely on to get in the zone, we decided to ask them. Their playlists are unsurprisingly varied and some change depending on the book at hand. For most, music serves as an important step in the multi-layered act of creating.

To go with words from authors like Britt Bennett, Chloe Caldwell, and Colson Whitehead, we compiled some of their recommended songs in a playlist below for your listening pleasure. Who knows, you might find some gems to add to your very own soundtrack—one that could help land you on the bestsellers list one day.  

Photo via Emma Trim

Brit Bennett

“I don't like to write in complete silence because I get too self-conscious. Writing to music pulls me out of myself a bit. I mostly listen to mellow music while I write because if the music is too lit, it gets distracting. Some go-tos over the past year were Adele's 25, Frank Ocean's Blonde, James Blake's The Colour in Anything, and The Alabama Shakes' Sound and Color.”

Photo by Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images.

It marks her third duet with Nas

Here are some words that I never expected to read or hear again: There is a new song with Amy Winehouse. But here we are in 2019, and Salaam Remi has granted me a wish. On Valentine's Day, the Grammy-nominated producer and frequent Winehouse collaborator (also responsible for hits like Miguel's "Come Through & Chill") released "Find My Love" which features rapper Nas and that powerful and haunting voice that I have come to love and cherish so dearly.

Representatives for Remi said that the Winehouse vocals were from an old jam session the two had. Remi was a producer on both of Winehouse's albums, Frank and Back to Black. "Find My Love" marks the third time Winehouse and Nas have done duets under the direction of Remi. They were previously heard together on "Like Smoke," a single from her 2011 posthumous album Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures, and "Cherry Wine" from Nas' 2012 album Life Is Good. Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011, before they could complete production on her third album. My heart is still broken about it as she is by far my favorite artist.

"Find My Love" is set to appear on Remi's Do It for the Culture 2, a collection of songs curated by him. Check it out, below.

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Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

"In the midst of chaos there's opportunity"

Following the travesty that was Fyre Festival, Ja Rule wants to take another stab at creating a music festival. Good luck getting that off the ground.

On Thursday, the rapper spoke to TMZ, where he revealed that he was planning to relaunch Icon, an app used to book entertainers, which is similar to Billy McFarland's Fyre app. He told the outlet that he wanted to create a festival similar to Fyre to support it.

"[Fyre Festival] is heartbreaking to me. It was something that I really, really wanted to be special and amazing, and it just didn't turn out that way, but in the midst of chaos there's opportunity, so I'm working on a lot of new things," he says. He then gets into the fact that he wants to form a music festival. "[Fyre] is the most iconic festival that never was... I have plans to create the iconic music festival, but you didn't hear it from me."

Ja Rule actually doesn't seem to think he is at all responsible for what came from Fyre Fest, claiming in a Twitter post that he was "hustled, scammed, bamboozled, hood winked, led astray." Even if that's his feeling, he should realize that anyone involved with Fyre shouldn't ever try their hand at music festivals again.

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