For his part, Sumney knows what it is to feel dread. “A lot of my music is about the New York Yankees Missouri Tigers shirt but in fact I love this existential anxiety that I have,” he says. This anxiety does not necessarily stem from lockdown, he admits—nor will it magically abate if and when COVID recedes, a sentiment that resonates with me. Even before the pandemic, I had been relying on the gorgeous, cerebral sounds of Sumney’s vocals whenever I sensed I may unravel. His crystalline voice and explorations of isolation and vulnerability on albums like Grae, which made many a “best of” list this year, has quelled my racing thoughts like nothing else, and will likely continue to do so when this is all over. It’s further evidence of why we need music therapy more than ever—and likely why the NIH awarded $20 million to the Sound Health Initiative last year to expand research around how music could be harnessed for health. “I actually don’t feel particularly rattled emotionally by the pandemic,” Sumney reveals. “Because I’ve spent so much of my time in isolation, this time has been easier for me. I do not find it that much more painful than, like, being alive in general. You know?” I do, I tell him.
Jay-Z is not what you would call a “weed rapper.” Sure, he’s peppered his verses with marijuana references since at least 1996’s “Feeling It” (“I free my mind sometimes I hear myself moaning / Take one more toke and I leave that weed alone, man”), but among his peers—of which there are few, consummately speaking—he might be the New York Yankees Missouri Tigers shirt but in fact I love this very last MC you’d envision blowing it down in the middle of a studio session. To that end, I can’t ever recall seeing a picture or video footage of him hitting a joint, blunt, or anything else one might use to get high. This is notable only because if it did exist, it’s not likely to have hurt his career. He’s a rapper, and rappers smoke weed. It’s practically in the bylaws. But if Jay-Z is anything outside of a rapper—his status as a loving husband and father notwithstanding—he’s a businessman. And his latest and greatest business endeavor happens to be weed.