Since 2010, when she began as an intern, Naomi Zeichner has been an influential and unmistakable presence at The FADER. On today, her last day, we honor her legacy with nine songs from her beloved fellow Georgia native, Future, which we’ll probably never hear without being reminded of her.
MATTHEW SCHNIPPER: I hired Naomi as an intern in the fall of 2010. She was super smart, knew a ton about music, loved FADER and was really into using strange language. As an editor, it’s easy to tell someone who has an original voice, and it was clear she was going to say something new and say it in a new way. She was hired shortly after and we got to work on sentence structure. I used to edit all the posts she wrote and we’d argue about clarity and the need for 18 peculiar words in a 75 word piece. Naomi is fiery and often pushed back at my edits. We’d usually reach a common understanding of what she wanted to communicate and her words would be some blend of avant-garde, freestyle poetry and fact-based reporting. That wild instinct has chilled out a bit these days, just through growth and practice, but Naomi’s use of language is still incredibly unique. She is funny, surprising and quick. She is always informative, but has developed a way to do so with a passion for her subject. It’s not as though she is a news reporter who must stay unbiased, but I do believe she is seeking the truth at the heart of whatever she is covering. I feel similarly about Future, and I think that’s why she loves him so much. “Shit,” a song that is basically a brag, sounds completely mumbled but is still so powerful. That’s Naomi, or at least it was. My favorite Naomi phrase is one we printed on the spine of the magazine: “sloth creamy.” She used that to describe a J. Cole song. That shit doesn’t make any sense at all! But it feels like it does. I know Naomi no longer writes that kinda thing every day, and that’s probably for the best. Future yells “You a goon!” over and over on this song. It sounds ridiculous, slurred into nothingness. It’s not what he does every song, but it’s good for him to remind you that he has the ability to bonk you on the head with some stellar mumbo-jumbo. Same thing for Naomi, and that’s what makes her so good at what she does. At base level she is always on top every day internet firestorm of breaking news and new music. But when necessary, she turns up her sloth creaminess.
Ciara, “Body Party”
ALEX FRANK: When she’s excited about something on the internet, Naomi emits a sound that’s halfway between a laugh and squeal. It’s 100 percent endearing, but it’s also really representative of what makes her so special: she’s great at the web, an unbelievably talented online maven and perfect nerd, but more importantly, she’s in the game for all the right reasons. Her love for Future is real—it connects in a way that music first connects with people when they’re oh-so-young but, for most, dissipates with the cynicism of old age. Not Naomi. When the video for Ciara’s “Body Party” first came out, Naomi almost couldn’t contain herself seeing Future be all grown and sexy and dramatic in a music video—her chair leaned back, her hand banged the table and she laugh-squealed harder than maybe I’d ever seen her do. Her excitement made me realize that an important cultural moment was unfolding—she was right, Cici and Nayvadius’ relationship was one of the internet stories of the summer—but I also knew that Naomi was someone I’d always be lucky to call a friend: anyone that cares that much is worth caring about themselves.
Future, “Running Through a Check”
DUNCAN COOPER: Naomi and I were born 12 hours apart; we started as interns at FADER at the same time too. Almost immediately, wisely, she was hired as an editor. I remember when she told me—it was at Coco 66, during CMJ, really purple inside—and it was also then that she told me one of her first acts would be to hire me too, to blog for the site. I’ve seen her more than just about any human since, and worked with her on what seems like everything. She is smart and ambitious, and has gotten smarter and more ambitious over time. I’ll always remember one night not long after we’d first met, when the two of us went to a Lil B concert with then editor-in-chief Pete Macia, a daunting 10 years our senior. We drank pickle-backs beforehand at a mostly empty bar, and he talked about landscaping and gossiped about past FADER editors. She and I were rapt. We wanted to learn how everything worked, and we were going to take what we learned and make something even better. I think we did that here, and she’ll keep doing it wherever she goes, including years from now, when she finally opens her destined-to-succeed practice as a therapist to wayward rappers.
EMILIE FRIEDLANDER: At The FADER, when it’s someone’s birthday, we’ll usually have a little impromptu party with sweets and drinks in the Fishbowl (the room where most people on staff here work) about half an hour before the end of the day. For as long as I’ve worked here, Naomi has always been the one who goes downstairs to Duane Reed or Trader Joe’s and buys the snacks for the occasion—not because anybody tells her to do it, but because she’s the kind of person who remembers things like birthdays and who doesn’t wait around for other people to do what needs to be done. Weirdly, Naomi’s own birthday falls within the same 24-hour period as our other coworker Duncan’s, and when it came time to celebrate it last year, I realized that somebody who was not Naomi had to make that trip to the store.
I bought a couple of boxes of cookies and pastries during my lunch break, and hid them in my bag until it was time to unveil the “surprise.” As it turned out, Naomi had already gone ahead and dragged Duncan to the store so they could buy everything that was needed themselves; she didn’t want to bank on the fact that someone would remember, and that’s pretty much what it’s like to blog and make magazines alongside her. I am fairly certain that nothing escapes Naomi’s notice; she’s the kind of editor who will tap you on the shoulder to inform you that you didn’t properly hyperlink the SoundCloud page for a song you posted two days ago, but she’s also the kind of editor who will take an hour out of her day to personally hand-code a print article that needs to go up on the site, just because there’s no one else who’s around to do it, and she wants to make sure it’s been done correctly. If I’m being #honest, she can come off as a bit fierce at times, but that’s just because she’s been fiercely guarding the quality of this magazine from day one.
Future, “Made Myself a Boss”
GEORDIE WOOD: For me, Future never got better then his Streetz Calling mixtape. I once shared this sentiment with Naomi, and though I’m not sure she completely agreed, she did give me an approving nod and swung her chair around to discuss. The lead track, “Made Myself a Boss,” is an obvious soliloquy to her. Noms, the impassioned, opinionated, tenacious editor and fun-loving personality. She is the embodiment of what we’re all trying to do here at FADER. We worked together first in 2007 when I was only a freelance photographer for the magazine. We were shooting a GEN F of an upcoming rapper who has now become a household name. She was patient as I shot for way too long. When it was her time to interview, I remember being impressed with her perfect balance of chill-vibed, low-key conversation and pointed and informed questions. What sticks with me about Naomi is her unabashed and solid presence and sense of self. I will miss her dearly as we all will on staff. #freebandz
Future, “Drunk in Love (Remix)”
DEIDRE DYER: Naomi and I sit on opposite sides of the same corner in our very intimate office. We’ve shared many a girly moment together—shopping for dry shampoo, treating ourselves to fancy hot cocoa at Eataly, coordinating lunchtime Opening Ceremony sample sale excursions. We’ve spent endless hours discussing Beyoncé, Rihanna, Miley, strippers, feminism, how all of these things spill over into each other and how we sort them out as modern women. We’ve also pondered at length Future’s coos and Auto-Tuned yelps. Like, what species of bird is he imitating? When Beyoncé broke the internet with her surprise self-titled album, Nomz and I texted one another from California and NYC, respectively, and full-on gagged at 2AM. Future’s cover of Bey’s “Drunk In Love” sums up so many of the things that we have shared and bonded over in the last three years. While I’m super excited for the next phase of her career, I’m also super sad to see my homegirl leave. I’ll definitely pour out some WATERMELON in her honor.
Future, “Good Kush and Alcohol (Remix)”
HARRY GASSEL: My professional relationship with Naomi is probably best represented by our mutual obsession with DONDA, Kanye West and Virgil Abloh’s mysterious, all-purpose design agency. We would share findings like the Instagram account of a maybe-related art director or rumors of secret projects. We got close a few times, once with a story we worked on together about the avant-garde of creative agencies—inspired in a huge way by our obsession. It was rumored that one of the groups, OKFocus, had been secretly working directly with Kanye’s camp, but the most we managed to get on record was a few projects for BEEN TRILL, Virgil Abloh’s lifestyle brand. We tried poking the beast again with a round-up of visual influences for the DONDA credited Pusha T album cover. That time Naomi actually got on the phone with the project’s designer and managed to publish a followup with their original mood boards. Without Naomi, aka Rap Game Lois Lane, I’m not sure I will get much further in this hunt—I’m a designer not really a journalist—but I’ve been thinking about why this DONDA thing feels like such a fitting mark of our relationship. It’s where her specialty, music journalism, and mine meet, and it’s always fun to work together there. Over the past year, we’ve spent a lot of time analyzing the visual subtleties of a Miley Cyrus costume change or the camera work on Beyonce’s visual album. I’ve worked closely with Naomi on graphics and the look of almost everything that went up on the site, and it has been a pleasure to collaborate with someone who agrees with me (and most chefs) that the first bite is taken with the eyes. When we spent three full days talking about the very real relationship between Drake, Cory Archangel and Magritte I knew I’d met a deep homie. I hope to work with her again, preferably on an art/copy team in DONDA HQ.
Future f. Miley Cyrus and Mr. Hudson, “Real and True”
JESSICA ROBERTSON: When I started at The FADER just seven months ago, I met Naomi, a fellow southerner who had about as much chutzpah as Drake has feels. She was what I considered to be a better version of me at that age, a whip-smart, fiercely driven, fucking talented tour de force who owned a room in a way few else could. Naomi and I attended the 2013 MTV VMAs together, just weeks into my new gig, where I nursed whiskey and she bounced through the performances like a boss. And then Miley happened. It was a tornado of a performance of all things bad… and bears. There are many moments that will long tie Naomi and I, of which I’m proud and probably pretty lucky. But that one, one of the most bizarrely impactful of the year? That one I’m happy to keep. Here’s to her future, and her Future.
Future, “Honest (Ryan Hemsworth Post-rock Tears Bootleg)”
STEVEN AGUIAR: When I first started working at FADER in August of last year, Naomi was the editor who most helped me get settled, and I’ll be forever grateful for her patience and guidance those first few weeks. Now that she’s leaving, I’m starting to realize how much she’s changed the way I think about social media, publishing, hip-hop and especially The FADER itself. I’ll say it like this: Naomi knows her shit and doesn’t fuck around. She always made sure we put 100 percent into everything. From copy, to art, to how something was posted on social, she is thorough in every way. Even though she won’t be here anymore, we’ll all still feel motivated by her to do things the right way, and The FADER will be better for it moving forward. If you see K Camp singles or Ryan Hemsworth bootlegs on Buzzfeed, it’s definitely because of her.