A pilot’s hand tugs an overhead lever and the puddle-jumper noses down sharply, the crest of a hillside suddenly visible through the open cockpit door. Designer bags are clutched. Bejeweled fingers squeeze seatbacks. And, moments after the plane sails perhaps a dozen feet over the tourists perched on the ridge below, you land with a thud in paradise.
Visitors to St. Barts appear grateful to be there—perhaps because the majority arrive by this seemingly near-death experience. The island recently survived a near-death experience of its own: In 2017, Hurricane Irma roared in with sustained winds just shy of 200 miles per hour, racking up €800 million in insured damage. But with help from famous interlopers like Jimmy Buffett and St. Barts’ own surplus, the crown jewel of the French West Indies is sparkling again. I covered all of this in my first-ever freelance piece for the New York Times.
It's been a little longer than usual between Zoglet newsletters, so we've got a lot to cover, and the aforementioned story is just the beginning. Let's start last fall with the Forbes 30 Under 30, our biggest conference of the year--and also fertile ground for interviews. Over a few days in Boston, I profiled hip-hop sensation Russ on the business of independence, interviewed rising star Billie Eilish about her creative process and spoke to Hozier about protest music. The big finale: a cover story on Marshmello, in which I had a rare sit-down with the masked DJ, hearing about everything from his branding strategy to the first time he put his dessert-shaped helmet through an airport X-ray machine: "It was cracked," he explained sadly.
My musical odyssey continued with a trip to the Grammys, which were...underwhelming. Though I got a chance to peek inside the world of Weird Al, the ceremony managed to cut off all of music's most interesting names before they could finish their speeches while failing to champion the cause of then-detained rapper 21 Savage (more on that in the next Zoglet). The following month brought more troubling news as I dove into the recent Michael Jackson controversy, finding--to the surprise of many--that his business remains strong even as some challenge his cultural legacy.
A bit more enjoyable: writing about how Third Eye Blind's former bassist and his brother founded one of my favorite taco spots in New York and writing a Forbes feature on Cash Money Records, the first of what we're calling immersive daily digital covers. The idea was to bring together all of our best storytelling tools, from words to stills to video, coupling them with cutting-edge graphic design while exploring a worthy topic: in this case, the label that launched Lil Wayne, Drake and Nicki Minaj and must now find a path for continued success even as its biggest artists depart.
"A lot of people see the finished product, they don't see the work that goes into it," Cash Money chief Ronald "Slim" Williams told me. Added his brother and cofounder, Brian "Birdman" Williams: "We make this shit look easy, but it's really not."
In the last Zoglet, I reminisced on Mac Miller, a hip-hop star gone too soon--and, unfortunately, this edition brings another batch of bad news. Nipsey Hussle was gunned down a week ago in Los Angeles, killed in the very neighborhood he was working tirelessly to uplift. This one hit me hard, as I had just profiled Nipsey and his plans for his hometown in February; we had been texting back and forth about future projects when he died. I've been in a funk all week, so I can only imagine how tough this is for his loved ones, and my heart goes out to them.
To end this letter on a bright note, I do have some good news: I've finished the first draft of my fourth book. It's going to be called The Fame Squad: How A Band Of Artists, Actors And Athletes Hacked Silicon Valley, and will be published in a year or so by Little, Brown. More updates to come...
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