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Dear GQ, Stop Youth-Baiting With Weed & Rap

By 07.09.13

It’s become a monthly ritual that when I receive a new issue of GQ on my (now increasingly obsolete) Nook that I read it cover to cover in one sitting.

The image of me splayed across my couch is super f*cking cliche: there’s coffee within an arm’s reach and my Nook balances across my abdomen while some light craps its way through my Brooklyn apartment’s window. And I’m reading GQ, so I am that guy who’s causing your rent to spike. But the magazine is usually superlative and that vegging out allows me to take it all in.

With that being said, it’s also damn near insufferable on a few fronts, namely when it comes to anything dealing with Hip-Hop or marijuana.

But first, I need to lay out a couple of things:

1. Full transparency: I worked in a variety of freelance roles for Esquire off and on for eight months after graduating college. Esquire is, what many consider, GQ‘s rival publication. Although, if you want to split hairs, Esquire is a men’s general interest magazine; GQ‘s first and foremost a fashion publication with some general interest stuff thrown in. They really aren’t quote-on-quote rivals, but to the layman they are.

2. The following only represents my qualms with GQ. It is not endorsed by my former employer, Hearst Magazines, God or your dog. A retweet is simply a fucking retweet.

So about that insufferability.

GQ recently enlisted Rob Tanenbaum–who writes for Rolling Stone and penned a book on MTV in 2011–to list the 25 worst rappers of all time. Predictably, it sucked. David Drake at Complex laid into why it sucked, so check out his post if you can’t already tell why.

The thing that’s troubled me more with GQ recently hasn’t necessarily been its Hip-Hop stories (Amy Wallace’s 2012 D’Angelo profile was amazing) but how it parades around youthful shit. For one reason or another, the magazine’s become obsessed with touting that it’s sprightly and totally not what your dad’s into because your dad probably reads Esquire (which mine does). Hip-Hop obviously fits into this ethos.

gq guide to weed

Photo from GQ’s guide to marijuana buying

But that youth-baiting has found a bigger hold in the magazine’s marijuana coverage, which has ranged from a pretty good Joshuah Bearman profile on the Coronado Company smuggling ring to insipid marijuana cocktail recipes and having editor Devin Friedman write about California medical marijuana dispensaries. Oh man, originality!

It’d be one thing if they ran Bearman’s profile or Gordon’s first-person story or even that f*cking cocktail recipe as an isolated piece of content. I could deal with one marijuana story–maybe two if the writing was strong and their appearances were spaced out by several months.

But it’s become obvious that GQ revels in any chance that it gets to mention pot. And look, I’m not a prude: I smoke sporadically and agree that society’s beginning to accept marijuana much like cigarettes and alcohol. I’m also not naive: I’ve worked in the magazine industry and know that these overlying motifs–whether cross-branded or not–exist and that to stay afloat you have to write in a particular voice to a particular set of people. It is what it is.

Yet, does GQ have to act like they’re onto something new when they do stories on pot? Does editorial assistant Mark Anthony Green suggest to EIC Jim Nelson in a staff meeting, “Hey, let’s see if we can add, like, a marijuana cocktail recipe into our summer cooking feature spread! Those marijuana cocktails are as trendy now as these Mark McNairy tassel loafers that we’re going to feature on Jack Huston in that fashion feature!”?

He (or some editor) has to, because I see no other reason for why you’d make Drew Magary smoke pot with Snoop Dogg other than to look badass and chic. Really, it makes the magazine and its staff as loathsome as the gawking attendees who pack venues at New York Fashion Week. I expect those people to take up space by doing nothing; I don’t expect GQ to waste space with something that’s better covered by High Times (and, in the case of Hip-Hop, us).

So, GQ, stick to your strong suits: fashion, John Jeremiah Sullivan essays, Pulitzer Prize winners’ writing profile pieces and allowing Drew Magary to punch Justin Bieber in the face. Best believe I’m chucking my Nook out that living room window the next time I see a poorly executed Hip-Hop story or anything to do with marijuana.

Correction: “This Bud’s for You!” was written by Devin Friedman, not Devin Gordon.

Images: GQ


TAGSGQ MagazineSMOKE BREAK

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