Sunday, January 29, 2006

Birdman, keep them drugs in the bushes

Chris Andersen, like current Buck Bobby Simmons, was a poster child for the NBDL's beginnings. Since the beginning of this season, NBA teams are allowed to send their youngest, most inexperienced players to the Development League so that they can work on their skills, as opposed to having them sit on the bench for long stretches of NBA games because they're not good enough to contribute yet (think Darko Milicic). The pro team retains their players' rights the whole time, and like baseball's minor leagues, they can call them back into the NBA when they feel they've been polished enough in the NBDL. But in previous years, the D-League had no major affliations to the pros, rather it was just a collective of unimportant cities with teams of dudes hoping they could get a break and get noticed. Andersen was the 1st to ever accomplish that feat, emerging out of Fayetteville, North Carolina to find a home with the Denver Nuggets in 2001, where he would spend 3 seasons. Though playing in limited minutes, he often wowed fans with his high-energy blocks and dunks, the true trademarks of a tall guy with no real skill set. Dubbed the "Birdman" for his leaping ability (and not for his ability to slang kilos of cocaine, at least not originally), he played in 71 games in '03, when rookie Carmelo Anthony led the Nuggets to the playoffs for the 1st time since the Mutumbo-era.

Unfortunately, the Nuggets wanted to continue being a playoff contender, so Andersen was not in their future plans. He would soon find a home with the New Orleans Hornets, where he took the "Birdman" name to new heights by participating in the '05 Dunk Contest, and embarrassing himself by attempting to throw an alley-oop to himself from half-court, continuously missing horribly to the point that the crowd came to genuinely hate his guts. After taking 8 attempts to successfully pull off the dunk, its a marvel that the league didn't test him for substance abuse that night. He would move past that fork in the road and go on to add a new facet to his "Birdman" persona, growing his hair out into what would resemble that of a lion's mane, barely subdued by his headband. Andersen looked like a rock star, and apparently, partied like one too.

The NBA's drug policy enforces an immediate 2-year suspension for a player after one positive test for a "drug of abuse", which includes amphetamines, cocaine, LSD, opiates (heroin, codeine, morphine) and PCP. Andersen's 2-year suspension this past week will leave a gaping hole in the Hornets' front line, but more so, a gaping hole in our hearts. The NBA's confidentiality agreement prevents them from commenting on the specifics of Andersen's test; however, this Media Day photo of Andersen seems to spell it all out quite clearly.

Stay up, Birdman. In the words of Mr. Mister:

Take these broken wings...
You've got to learn to fly...
Learn to live so free...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

An open letter to the Sacramento Kings

Do y'all realize what just happened?

First off, you were able to revive what had the prospects of becoming a huge mess, with that whole "trade-on-hold" phase. There's nothing more impossible than trying to convince an important piece to your team, "Well, we really wanted to trade you, but, we don't mind keeping you if you don't mind staying. Come on, Predrag, we're still buds, right? Seriously, when's the last time I called you 'Predrag'? That should tell you how serious I really am." Being a long-time Laker fan, I have experience in most uncomfortable NBA team situations (i.e. superstars wanting to be traded, rape trials), and the trade-that-almost-didn't-happen is no different. The Lakers originally wanted to trade Finals-airball-specialist Gary Payton to Boston for center Chris Mihm and point guards Chucky Atkins and Marcus Banks, which would've given 'em a much-needed point guard rotation considering Derek Fisher had just bounced to Golden State. But Boston decided they didn't want to part with Banks at the last minute, and Laker GM Mitch "Does L.A. like me yet?" Kupchak stumbled all over himself and accepted swingman Jumaine Jones instead. Not that having Banks would've saved the Lakers from the disaster that was last season, but he could've helped a little. Now, Payton is (coattail-)ridin' high in Miami, Atkins is a free agent after complaining about playing time in Washington and subsequently getting released, Banks is stuck on the Celtics' bench, and Mihm is the only NBA player endorsed by Pony. So I think it kind of worked out maybe? I don't know. But anyways, by the end of Tuesday, it looked like the Kings not only lost their chance to pick up Ron Artest, but also pissed off Peja Stojakovic in the process.

But now, all is well, but not as well as it could be. While an obvious upgrade from the struggling Stojakovic, Ron-Ron is still on the record as saying that he'd prefer to play for an east coast team, and the whole trade delay should only further reinforce that fact. Artest, Bibby, Miller, and a healthy Shareef and Bonzi Wells should be enough to propel the Kings into the playoff hunt, and possibly make them a contender for the 2nd round, but if Artest ain't around for the long-haul, what's it really worth? So here's your task, Kings fans -- love Artest unconditionally. Buy his jerseys, bring signs, cheer for him even when he fucks up just so that he doesn't feel bad. Dude's a certified nutcase, he wanted out of Indiana because he thought all the fans were blaming him for last season and were holding him accountable for everything that would happen this year, and he didn't want to put up with that sort of pressure. He might be a little rusty when he first steps on the court in Kings jersey (hopefully not those nasty purple-and-gold WNBA joints), but he won't need 17,317 fans reminding him of that. Being nice now is the first step towards an extra-nice future.

However, fan support isn't all it takes. Take Shaq for example (once again, Laker fan over here). L.A. embraced him as soon as he signed on the dotted line in '96 -- jerseys, car flags, celebrities at courtside, ANOTHER movie. L.A. radio stations bumped his music, regardless of his lyrical inabilities (ask Kwaz about that if you're interested), and how no one outside of L.A. was interested in his albums -- case in point, "Connected" f/ W.C. & Nate Dogg was a regular on top 5 shows in the summer of '01, even though his album never got commercially-released. We sat patiently through every horribly-missed free throw, waited through every exaggerated injury, yet when management wouldn't pay him what he wanted, the fans didn't mean a thing.

That's where the Kings organization comes into play -- granted, Artest is no Shaq, but for the way this season has been going, he might as well be. Give him whatever he wants and then some. He's gone with 3 different jersey numbers in his career -- #15, #23, #91 -- and if he wants all 3 in Sacramento, give 'em to him. Let him wear a different one every quarter if he wants. And if Kevin Martin (the Kings' current #23) throws a fit about that, tell him there's a spot in line for him at the unemployment office if he really wants to push his luck. That killer $50,000-a-night suite at the Palms? Let Artest's family and friends stay there. His budding rap career? Throw E-40 and Too $hort on his album and have every Bay Area DJ put his shit in their rotation. How's this for a promotion? First 50 adult females in attendance get to give Ron Artest head in the locker room. Or maybe the last 50 in attendance, maybe age 18 and over, I'll let y'all work with the specifics. Basically, you do whatever it takes to not only make Ron Artest feel happy and at home, but make him feel like he's in paradise. And while I'm no betting man, I'm fairly confident that 50 blow-jobs should accomplish just that.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Because quitting on your team is so much better


"The only bad thing about it is that younger kids, whose minds are easily warped, are going to think, 'Ohhh! I am going to go out there and do it instead of (honoring) the team concept first,'" the Nets' star told the newspaper. "That is what is missing in the game, guys understanding how to play as a team."

Carter went on to say, "I think it is great for (the NBA): They want scoring, they want ratings, and you are going to get that. You are definitely going to get them now with the amount of 50-point games, 60-plus games. I just hope that kids and young guys understand that (only) special guys can do that. Yeah, the (other Lakers) were trying to get Kobe the ball, they wanted to see a special night. But they all know their roles."

Sorry, Vince, but I think you're reaching just a bit.

Monday, January 23, 2006

What's his name, Wilt?

Yeah, that's the dude. 81 points later, this season's Toronto Raptors squad has something to be remembered for, besides employing the only NBA player without eyebrows. Can't wait to hear the haters call Kobe out for ball-hogging and selfishly taking every shot in the last 5-6 minutes as a means of padding his stats for his memorable night; they were likely the same ones who thought he was a prima donna for taking himself out of the game against Dallas, where he dropped 62 (his previous career high) in 3 quarters of play. If the Lakers make the playoffs, at least as a 6th seed, then Kobe's the MVP -- hands down. Now if only there were some way to keep him from taking such awkward game photos...

Damn, Sasha, what'd you slip in Kobe's Gatorade? Jannero's not going to be happy.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Passion Of The Unit

Bare witness to the evolution of one Mason Betha: he's gone from Murda Mase, a Harlem-bred street MC largely unknown to the public eye (except on DMX's 1st album), to a Bad Boy shiny-suit-sporting human smiley-face alongside Puffy, to a rapper-turned-minister, to a minister-turned-rapper (remember "Welcome Back" with the singing kids and hop-scotch and rainbows -- who would've guessed that'd fail?), and now apparently he's gone back to his "hard" roots as a member of G-Unit. I still doubt he'll successfully pull it off without some criticism/skepticism from the general public, considering that this the same dude who preached from his Atlanta-based church that rap music was "the devil", now back on some "shoot 'em up" shit. But if he really plans on making this transition, he should ditch the whole religion angle, pretend it never existed, and maybe off of pure skill and songwriting he could reinvent himself yet again.

Hmmm... well, so much for that then. I'm not even religious, let alone Christian, and I'm offended. Good luck, Murda, and try to keep that chain clean, what with all the lashings you're receiving.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

You tell the angels in heaven... never seen evil so singularly personified as you did in the face of the man you pay rent to.

That was from True Romance (a classic, by the way), in the scene where Christopher Walken shoots Dennis Hopper in the head, except that he actually says "...of the man who killed you". A small, almost unnoticeable difference, considering that handing over $542.50 of hard-earned money every month to someone for a small piece of living space is practically equivalent to taking one to the brain -- figuratively speaking, of course.

In the 2-going-on-3 years I've spent living in Isla Vista, I've lived on the properties of two landlords, both polar opposites of each other, but both terrible in their own right. I can classify them, and quite possibly all other landlords in the world, into 2 categories: those who don't give a fuck, and those that do give a fuck. For simplicity, we'll call 'em the "don't-fucks" and the "do-fucks". Provoked by an encounter with my current landlord this past weekend, I have decided to break down the differences between the two. This is not a competition, mainly because landlords always win, and tenants always lose. Draw your own conclusions from this, but let one of those conclusions be the following: to be a landlord, you don't necessarily have to have no soul, but it helps.

Your typical "don't-fuck" is likely to own many pieces of property, such as community-reknowned don't-fuck Wolfe & Associates, which owned the places I stayed at for sophomore and junior year. Owning a lot of property works perfectly for the psyche of the don't-fuck, as they've got plenty of other people to not give a fuck about, so why would they bother giving a fuck about you? They're too busy trying to figure out how to fit in time to NOT give a fuck about you. Don't-fucks are notoriously mysterious and rarely seen, such as Wolfe & Ass. figurehead/namesake Ronald L. Wolfe, who has yet to actually be seen by any of his tenants that I've ever known. For all we know, he doesn't actually exist -- a Google search of his name presented the following possibilities, none of which appear to be the supposed IV slumlord (though I'm thoroughly frightened by homeboy in the last picture). Placing calls for repairs and other home issues will result in encounters with various repairmen, none of whom you'll likely see more than once in your life; it's almost as if don't-fucks own machines which birth out-of-shape, middle-aged white dudes whose tasks are to arrive to residence late, perform a single repair, and then be destroyed. The only thing that don't-fucks DO give a fuck about is their money -- late rent checks, as well as rent checks delivered on the last due date, are rewarded with eviction notices taped to front doors. House work that is not even asked to be done will be done just so that it can be charged for. One specific lesson I can take from living under a don't-fuck for so long is that it costs $90 to replace fire extinguisher glass (which no one in house was responsible for breaking, either), so the next time you smell smoke, remember to weigh the costs first.

Your typical "do-fuck" is likely to own very little property, such as my current landlord, who only owns the 2 units of my building. Often retired guys, they've secured themselves a nice little nest egg from whatever career they previously held, and have used their night-class real-estate education to gain a little extra income. Considering the free time on their hands, they'll stop by on occasion to mow the lawn and check on the house, then remind you in person to keep the house in order, then send you e-mails reminding you to keep the house in good shape, and so on and so forth. They'll feel compelled to request that you do things that either they themselves should be doing (Buy kitty litter to pour over the leaked oil in the garage? Come again?), or request that you reorganize your living arrangements to their liking, because, you know, they facetiously live there too. The extra attention is appreciated, even welcomed, at first, but after a while, the reaction to that 1960-something bright-orange pick-up blasting talk radio as it pulls into the drive-way becomes, "Ahh fuck, Wendel's here, hide the [insert paraphrenalia you wouldn't want your landlord to see]!" After the umpteenth visit, you start to notice shit about them -- the number of gray hairs in their beard, the awkward tilt to the left when they walk -- that makes you miss how rarely the don't-fucks ever stopped by. Dropping off the rent check to their spacious two-story house once a month becomes a Mission Impossible-type quest, trying to approach quietly, leave it on the porch, and zoom the fuck back to your car without being seen so you don't have to stop and chat with 'em about how clean you're keeping their property.

In conclusion, there's nothing good about living on someone else's property. Let that be inspiration to all my fellow college students to strive for the best, get that high-paying job and buy your own humble abode. Or live with your mom all your life. But let me know in advance if you go for option A... then, I'll go live with your mom.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Terrence Howard: the NEW Samuel L. Jackson

Here's the trailer for the upcoming HBO film Idlewild starring Antwan A. Patton and Andre Benjamin, better known individually as Big Boi and Andre 3000, better known collectively as Outkast. It looks promising, although in this trailer, giving plot details apparently came second to showing a lot of dancing and gunfire. Plus, if the movie features new music from Outkast, why not put more of it in the trailer -- we've all heard "The Way You Move", a bit too much in fact. The movie also stars Ving Rhames, Ben Vereen, Faizon "Y'all ain't got no fuckin' snifters!" Love, and Terrence Howard, who apparently is out to be in every movie ever made from this point on. [Except this one. This one is all Sam's.] Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

2005: Year In Downloading

Ask, Matt, and ye' shall receive. I've actually had this list close to finished for like the last few days now, but for one reason or another (class, work, girlfriend... OK, so like three reasons), I hadn't posted it. Until now. My 15 favorite albums of last year are as follows:

15. Living Legends "Classic" - Being 8 members deep plagues most group albums not released by the Wu-Tang Clan, but the Legends pulled it off well on "Classic" with great chemistry. Each crew member brings their A-game and they all vibe off of each other well, especially Sunspot Jonz, who is otherwise the most difficult of the group to stomach (check his updating of "I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight" for proof). "Blast Your Radio" and "Down For Nothin'" are the two brightest examples of why the Legends' reputation has been so strong for so long. The only downside to this album is the synth-heavy production, which is a far cry from the more instrumental sound of their earlier work.

14. Bun B "Trill" - Bun is best known as one-half of UGK, who are best known for their verses on "Big Pimpin'". With partner Pimp C awaiting parole, both dropped solo albums this year. Pimp's was pretty good, but Bun had the advantage of being blessed with bigger-name producers and a huge guest list, considering the number of guest spots Bun himself has made lately. Most of the collabos work well, such as "Get Throwed" f/ Pimp C, Young Jeezy & Jay-Z, "Trill Recognize Trill" f/ Ludacris, and "Pushin'" f/ Scarface & Young Jeezy (dude's popular). And the few that don't work (Jazze Pha, kill yourself) aren't because of Bun, who proves himself as one of the best lyricists out of the ever-growing Southern rap scene; if anything, this album's major weakness is too little Bun. The album's highlight is the 6-minute "The Story", where Bun breaks down the label politics that have plagued UGK's commercial career, hopefully no longer.

13. Zion I "True & Livin'" - Though not as good as 2003's "Deep Water Slang", another strong release from the group, further establishing what is becoming their trademark sound. Tracks like "So Tall" and "The Bay" bring back memories of Arrested Development, the now-defunct hip-hop group, not to be confused with the now-defunct FOX comedy (wow, I guess naming something "Arrested Development" automatically guarantees that it won't last long). Who remembers "Tennessee"? Trick question -- EVERYONE remembers "Tennessee", it was one of the best songs of the '90s. I really didn't say much about Zion I right now, but hey, those that know... know.

12. Little Brother "The Minstrel Show" - Hard to believe that Little Brother is on a major label (Atlantic) considering how little promotion this album got. I'd guess it's due to the title -- I wouldn't expect much of the American public to warm up to an album with a blackface-inspired cover. It's too bad because the title is fairly misleading -- rappers Phonte and Big Pooh don't spend much time criticizing the current state of hip-hop, rather they spend more time presenting themselves as average dudes with above-average MC skills over 9th Wonder's soulful and drum-heavy production. Most of 9th's beats, like "Hiding Place" f/ Elzhi of Slum Village and "Say It Again", work around old vocal loops in the same vein as Pete Rock or Kanye West, and sound just as polished. Plus, he supposedly makes 'em all on Frooty Loops -- let that be an inspiration.

11. Three 6 Mafia "Most Known Unknown" - I could deal Mike Jones the first 20,000 times he shouted his name, but every time since then is killing me. Paul Wall might be the only white MC who doesn't make his race an issue in his music, but he still isn't doing anything original. I don't like either of those guys, but if their sudden popularities help Three 6 Mafia get some recognition, I guess I'll just have to tolerate 'em. Both make guest spots on "Most Known Unknown", as well as Young Buck, 8Ball & MJG, Slim Thug & Project Pat. But the true stars are the unknowns themselves, as DJ Paul & Juicy J's production is solid throughout -- everyone knows about "Stay Fly", and "Poppin' My Collar" and "Don't Violate" bump just as well, and "Half On A Sack" may have the best chorus of the year. Everything lyrically inadequate about this album is made up for with Juicy J's verse on "Roll With It":
"A playa drinkin' 'makers, Maca, cranberry vodka/
Wearin' a mink coat that's furry as Chewbacca/
I seen your main girl and a playa had to stop her/
Her name wasn't Silkk but her face was The Shocker"

10. Lil' Wayne "Tha Carter II" - I didn't really check for the 1st "Carter" last year, but if Lil' Wayne was willing to make a sequel, it must've been something significant. Wayne's style nowadays is much different from the 15-year old who ripped "The Block Is Hot" (classic, by the way) back in '99. The Jay-Z influence is evident in his flow, and the fact that he calls himself "Weezy F. Baby" (Jay went by "William H. Holla" back a few years ago) and has put out 2 "Carter" albums (hmmm, whose last name is that?) should further solidify that. But to Wayne's credit, his lyrics and cleverness ("I see she wearin' them jeans that show her butt crack/My girls can't wear that/Why? That's where mt stash at") keep him from appearing as just another clone. The opener "Tha Mobb" is 5 minutes of non-stop, no-chorus rhyming. Wayne also strays away from the prototypical Southern sound at times, such as on the way-nice, reggae-tinged "Mo Fire".

9. Cage "Hell's Winter" - I was in Downtown last month and heard this album blasting out of the Urban Outfitters on State Street. Not until I heard that would I have ever believed that a Cage album would become the soundtrack to shopping for fake-retro T-shirts and Napolean Dynomite merchandise. Cage's discography includes a song about killing his stepfather, a song about killing himself over an ex, and work on multiple side-project theme albums concerning topics such as porn, crooked cops and PCP, respectively. "Hell's Winter" could be viewed as toned-down compared to Cage's earlier work, but could also be seen as more mature, dark and vivid without being over-the-top. The DJ Shadow-produced "Grand Ol' Party Crash" is for the President Bush-despiser in all of us.

8. Think Differently Music Presents: Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture - The idea for this album, to put a bunch of independent MCs from all areas together over Wu-Tang beats (most provided by Wu-Tang affliate Bronze Nazareth), couldn't have been carried out much better. The album's supporting cast is a who's who of the underground scene: Sean Price, Cannibal Ox, Planet Asia, Del, Aesop Rock, J-Live, and Scaramanga just to name a few. The only questionable aspect of this album is the fairly-random combinations of 3 or 4 MCs on some tracks, making for nothing more than just verses over dope beats (which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but could be better). When the combinations are more focused, the results have better direction, like "Lyrical Swords" f/ GZA & Ras Kass, and the RZA-produced "Biochemical Equation" f/ RZA & MF Doom.

7. Danger Doom (MF Doom + DJ Danger Mouse) "The Mouse & The Mask" - This was one of the few albums I've bought in a while, and when grabbing it off the shelf and taking it to the register, I couldn't help but feel everyone looking at me, wanting to pull me aside, grab me by the collar and say, "Jesus, man, you still watch cartoons?" That feeling was reaffirmed after my 94-year-old great uncle, God bless him, chastised my older brother on Thanksgiving for staying on an episode of "Family Guy" a little too long while clicking through channels. Well, not only do I watch cartoons, but I sometimes smoke weed while watching 'em, and I buy albums about 'em too. MF Doom continues his string of making good music with anyone nearby, this time with Danger Mouse, who I've grown to like after not really feeling his infamously-illegal "Grey Album". Master Shake's phone calls trying to get on the album are the icing on the cake. If "The Mask" f/ Ghostface is any indication of what Ghost and Doom's collaboration album due out next year will sound like, than I'm extremely happy.

6. Kanye West "Late Registration" - Confidence is a good thing. Whether you're an NBA player, a musician, or a supervisor at a copy shop (these are hypothetical examples, of course), you want to put forth your best effort, strive to be the best, and, to some extent, believe that you are. But there's a fine line between being confident and being gassed, and that line IS Kanye West. Regardless of what he might proclaim in front of a microphone and camera, "Late Registration" is not the best album of the year, mainly because it's not even the best hip-hop album of the year. It's not even the best album of his career. I can appreciate the greatness and award-worthiness of songs like "Roses", "Heard 'Em Say", "We Major" f/ Nas and a few other tracks which would certainly help contribute to album being considered "classic". But if Kanye wants to further back up his claims of being the greatest ever, he needs to be able to have more of his albums to himself (13 credited guest spots over 16 songs, not counting skits or the European-release-only bonus track "We Can Make It Better" f/ Talib Kweli, Q-Tip, Common & Rhymefest, which was better than most of the album), as well as realize that he's not immune to making bad songs. If only there was some way he could lose his voice but not have it prevent him from rapping.

5. DJ Muggs vs. GZA "Grandmasters" - This is the best album released by a Wu-Tang member that doesn't have "Killa(h)" as the second word in his stage name since 1999. The reason is its combining of one producer and one MC. Other recent Wu-Tang albums weren't necessarily lacking because RZA wasn't producing every track, but more so because a bunch of different dudes with different sounds (sometimes very shitty sounds) were producing each track and the album isn't cohesive. Muggs' production is his own twist on the Wu-Tang sound -- little more dramatic, more rock-influenced, but still dark and gritty. GZA, meanwhile, puts forth some of his best shit since "Liquid Swords". Though "Destruction Of A Guard" and "Exploitation Of Mistakes" are throwbacks to the mid-'90s, the best track is "Queen's Gambit", where GZA tells a story by name-dropping every NFL team (I counted 30) over an ill piano loop.

4. Sean Price "Monkey Barz" - One-half of underrated (and probably forgotten about by now) hip-hop duo Heltah Skeltah, Sean Price's solo debut is rugged, raw, dirty, grimey, whatever you want to call it. No glitz and glamour, nothing close to a club hit, not groundbreaking, just tight beats and dope lyrics from start to finish (the only skippable track is the bonus track, which if you skip over, will only end the album earlier). I could talk more about Sean Price, but I don't think I could say anything that this picture doesn't already say times 10.

3. Beanie Sigel "The B. Coming" - Much like Bun B's album, there are a few more guest spots than necessary on here, possibly to attract more sales, or perhaps to fill the gaps on what would be his pre-prison bid album. But Beanie makes the most of the time he allotted, putting forth some of his most personal music to date, letting loose his anxiety and emotions on tracks like "Feel It In The Air" and "Change Gonna Come". And while the guest list is a bit overwhelming, it's well constructed with respectable artists like Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Bun B (dude's also popular), Redman, Twista, and, most surprisingly, Brand Nubian, all of whom Beanie shows great chemistry with. "The B. Coming" is an eclectic mix of songs that makes the questionable move of attempting to appeal to many different tastes, but in the end, it actually succeeds.

2. The Game "The Documentary" - Apparently, there's one thing 50 Cent puts ahead of his money, and that's his pride (which is probably worth a few million, anyways). So, when West Coast upstart The Game chose not to become another "G-Unit Toy Soldier" and diss people just because 50 said so, he was tossed from the crew -- DESPITE the fact that Game's album was their best release since "Get Rich Or Die Tryin'", musically and sales-wise. 50's claims of co-writing all of Game's hits and giving up beats for Game to use on "The Documentary" came off as cries for help to compensate the fact that "The Massacre" just wasn't that good; whether or not all that talk is truthful, someone needs credit for this album because it was solid from beginning to end. If Game is able to put together a gold mine of production equal to that of "The Documentary" (Kanye, Dre, Timbaland, Just Blaze, etc.) for follow-up, 50's assistance will prove to be not that important. All of Game's name-dropping was a bit excessive, but his presence as a talented MC was definitely there (i.e. last verse on "No More Fun & Games"). And by the way, now that Tony Yayo's flopped, can someone start printing shirts saying "Imprison Yayo Again"?

1. Common "BE" - The biggest affect the internet has had on music isn't the rampant downloading (rather, that's the biggest advantage), but more so the additional hype an album will get when it has leaked weeks, sometimes months, before its official release. Such was the case w/ Common's album, which I actually waited to hear in the midst of everyone calling it a classic. As a result, I listened through every second waiting for something, ANYTHING, that I could be overly critical about and use to tear the pre-release hype to shreds. That moment never came. For everything that Kanye West has made himself out to be publicly -- pompous, groundbreaking, the greatest, extremely jittery before criticizing our President -- he made a wise choice by keeping his production simple, yet still dope, and not overshadowing Common's lyricism, which had been one of hip-hop's best kept secrets for far too long. So why won't Kanye get off his high horse and campaign for THIS to be "Album Of The Year" -- it's not like he didn't contribute to it, and it's definitely more deserving. Oh, and a tip from past experience: next time you drink too much, end up throwing up, and have trouble passing out, listen to "Faithful". It's like medicine.

Honorable mentions (and a few dishonorable):
-- Edan "Beauty And The Beat" - Very good album -- "nerd-rap" with an old school appreciation. Probably Top 15-worthy, but I was convinced that it came out in 2004 until I finished this list. Basically, I wasn't lazy enough to write up all this shit, but I was lazy enough to change it.
-- The Perceptionists "Black Dialogue" - Solid album, and they rocked it at Coachella. "Memorial Day" is more anti-Bush fun.
-- Pimp C "The Sweet James Jones Stories" - This album has an ill '70-blaxploitation vibe, on some Curtis Mayfield/Marvin Gaye type-shit (check "Young Prostitute", the song or the real thing). Half-way through, it starts to drag and get repetitive. On the bright side, Pimp C's parole was granted last month.
-- Juelz Santana "What The Game's Been Missing" - His improvement shows, but if this really is what the game's been missing, then all the game's been missing is more of what it already has.
-- AZ "A.W.O.L." - The DJ Premier-produced "The Come Up" and "New York" f/ Raekwon & Ghostface stand out, maybe a bit too much.
-- Cormega "The Testament" - This was 'Mega's circa-1995 Def Jam debut that never got released 'til now. The datedness of this album works at times to its advantage at times, but Cormega is such a better MC now than he was back then.
-- Young Jeezy "Thug Motivation 101: Let's Get It" - A few of my favorite songs from this year featured Jeezy on 'em, and while he wasn't the reason why I liked those songs, he didn't keep me from liking 'em either. He raps a bit too slow for someone who's not lyrical at all, but he's tolerable in small doses.
-- Damian Marley "Welcome To Jamrock" - The last name may have a little to do with his popularity, but it's nice for a reggae artist to have made it big in the wake of the reggaeton revolution that just won't go away.
-- 50 Cent "The Massacre" - On his debut, he killed Ja Rule's career, and on his second album, he dropped at least 3 songs which sounded like they were ripped straight from Ja's terrible catalog. No wonder he's taking shots at Nas and Jadakiss on this go-round -- he probably wants to bite off of respectable rappers for his next album. "The Massacre" had some joints, but at 21 songs, it was about 7 too long.
-- Memphis Bleek "534" - So it's pretty much accepted that Bleek is only good for a half-album's worth of good songs, and a half-album's worth of dookie. If only he could put all the good songs at the beginning, so I could find the perfect spot to fall asleep while listening.
-- Young Gunz "Brothers From Another" - Definitely the worst album I actually wanted to hear this year. I didn't really have much expectation for their 2004 debut "Tough Luv", but it was surprisingly nice. That in turn gave me high expectations for "Brothers From Another", which was hot garbage.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Edell Shepherd, this is your life...

It's CRAP!!!

Oh well, a good season ends early. Congrats to my adopted favorite team (still waiting for that L.A. expansion franchise... and waiting...), the Tampa Bay Bucs, for making the postseason for the first time since their incredible Super Bowl run of 3 seasons ago. And by the way, we've been an item since 1997, so don't dare call me a bandwagon jumper -- I STILL have an old Keyshawn Johnson jersey (which I refuse to wear now, but haven't brought myself to burn yet). At least we'll have a Clinton Portis Thursday press conference to look forward to (all of which can be viewed in their entireties here; go to "View Channels", then "Press Conferences").

Friday, January 06, 2006

So, a Russian and an African walk onto a basketball court...

The Clippers' meteoric rise to possible playoff contention and at the least guaranteed mediocrity for this season has caught most everyone by surprise. For a few reasons, I've been unable to fully appreciate how exactly the Clips have FINALLY gotten their shit together. For one thing, the Lakers' turbulent season has been quite the deterrent -- it's something about watching your favorite team consistently playing games that are determined in the final minute that makes you want to stop watching basketball for at least a day. For another thing, KTLA-5, the local L.A. station that often broadcasts Clipper games, isn't picked up here in Santa Barbara, yet it's seems to be recognized as a local Santa Barbara station by NBA League Pass, which always blacks out Clipper telecasts. So, when presented with the opportunity to check 'em out against the hapless (or so I thought) Sacramento Kings on December 27th at Staples Center, at $25 for a seat in the first row of upper deck (a.k.a. the best worst seats in the building), I couldn't pass it up. Live NBA action, and really, how often do you get the chance to pay $8.50 for a Samuel Adams?

Coming in to this game, the Clippers were 16-10, despite being without Corey Maggette, who's still injured, for half of the season. The Kings, sporting their ridiculous purple-and-gold (hmmm) WNBA silk pajama jerseys, were 10-17, and would be without 3/5ths of their starting lineup, the perfect compliment to their depleted bench. Surely, this would be the perfect exhibition for the Clippers to show off what they've been up to while I've been away. And well, I should've stayed away. Far away.

At the end of the long night, the Clippers were defeated 110-93 in a game so lopsided that the 17-point defecit doesn't do justice to what actually went on. The Kings were running all over the Clippers, beating 'em down the court for fast breaks and far too many and-1's. Mike Bibby had 36 points and 10 assists, most of those assists in the 1st half as no one felt the need to put a hand in Brad Miller's face, let alone maybe point a foot in his direction, but instead watch him swish wide-open jumpers all night, finishing with 23. Down by 15 at halftime, the Clippers continued to force bad shots, fall asleep on defense, and avoid the one reliable offensive weapon they have in Elton Brand. Cuttino Mobley's 19 points were a well-placed facade for the all the bad shots he missed. Sam Cassell shot 1-12 from the field en route to 3 points, and despite somehow sneaking in 9 assists, his shot selection ruined every opportunity the Clippers had. It got to the point where you hear a collective cringe throughout the building everytime Cassell prepped a shot; I think Sam was the last one to realize he was having an off-night. Now, I agree that it's not fair to judge someone based on their physical appearance, but it got to the point where very little was stopping me from yelling out at the top of lungs, "DAMMIT, GOLLUM!"

The enjoyment of the game was somewhat saved when it turned into the inaugural "International Clipper Coming-Out Party", as rarely-used foreign-born players Yaroslav Korolev and Boniface Ndong (pronounced "Bonnie-Face-Dong") were awarded with career highs in minutes (Korolev 22, Ndong 11), career numbers for Ndong in points (6) and rebounds (6), and Korolev finishing one short of tying his career-high in points (6, as opposed to 7). Korolev, the 18-yr. old Russian selected by the Clippers in the 1st round of the 2005 Draft, showed calmness under pressure, as all 3 of his made shots were contested, including a nice finish after getting fouled. His calmness under pressure turned to a disadvantage though, as he'd miss a free throw and a wide-open 3 before calling it a night. Ndong, a horribly-stiff 7-footer from a country where "Boniface" is a common name [Upon further research, Senegal is that country. Senegal.], nailed a mid-range shot to show off his touch, then badly missed his next 3 mid-range shots to reveal that said touch was a fluke. He made up for it, though, on an ensuing play, where he took it strong to the hoop and threw one down on a King defender -- a "Bonifacial", if you will. A blowout loss at home and this brief glimpse into the Clippers' crystal ball would serve to prove one thing: the Clippers' future will be... multi-cultural, to say the least.

Regardless of how uneventful the live game may turn out to be, the atmosphere at Staples Center alone is worth (free) admission. Here are some things you didn't see on TV, and not only because you most likely didn't watch this game at all:

-- Every Clipper basket was followed by a quick 3-second snippet of a popular song, each player with their own specific song. Elton Brand's was Nas' "Made You Look", Cuttino Mobley's was Lil' Kim's "The Jump Off", Shaun Livingston's was Puff Daddy & Nelly's "Shake Ya Tailfeather", and most notably, the song for rugged outdoors-type Chris Kaman (who, in a recent L.A. Times article, mentioned that he hates rap) was Jagged Edge's "Where The Party At". So I guess he has a soft spot for R&B. I don't remember Sam Cassell's song, because he decided to only make one shot.

-- In-between quarter entertainment came in the form of a contest sponsored by JetBlue, where round spots were placed around the court and a person from the crowd would have 30 seconds to shoot from any spot he desired, and with each made basket win a round-trip flight to the corresponding city. For example, the Las Vegas circle was at the free throw line, the New York and Fort Lauderdale circles were 3-pointers, and the circles for Salt Lake City and Washington D.C. were about 18 feet out. Obviously, depending on how well of a shooter you are, you want to use your 30 seconds wisely. The dude picked out of the crowd had no shot whatsoever, so he played it safe and made a lay-up from the circle right underneath the basket -- and won a free trip to Oakland. Great.

-- The "Clipper Spirit" dance team might have the worst song selection of what to dance to, and might also have the only other known person named Yoko.

-- The homeless people that parade around outside of Staples Center are the best this side of San Francisco. The first we encountered was in the parking lot, asking people if they had 35 cents to spare -- since when do the homeless get to call out amounts? Aren't they supposed to be happy with what we give 'em? On the way out the arena, we encountered one humbling both aloud AND to himself, who rudely proclaimed "I DON'T WANT THAT SHIT!" when my older brother offered him his leftover caramel corn. The next dude kind of killed the fun, as he graciously accepted the popcorn and gave a kind "Thank you, God bless". Fortunately, the strong stench of fecal matter that trailed the next homeless dude that we passed brought us right back to where we wanted to be -- hell.

[Update: The Clippers' following game, another blowout loss at home against a mediocre team, 111-92 to Boston, has helped ease the pain of me feeling responsible for wrecking Clipper games simply by attending. Now, if a losing streak follows...]

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Back up in this bitch again

College is a span of time for learning, be it of the academic variety, one's alcohol limits, or other things important to one's view of life and plans for the future. Breaks from college provide learning of much less significance, but still worth noting. Here's what I got:

-- Dane Cook is a funny, funny, funny motherfucker. I knew about the first two "funny"'s before, but that last one just hit me recently. Adam Carolla (who just replaced Howard Stern on "free FM"), on the other hand, is the polar opposite -- having opinions about various topics is necessary to be a radio talk show host, but making those opinions interesting to listen to is necessary to be a good one.

-- Out of the whole Dungy family, someone took the ending to the Indianapolis Colts' perfect season just a bit harder than Tony. [Think that was harsh? The VERY NEXT DAY after the suicide, in a freestyle battle on Power 106, some dude delivered the line "you should quit and kill yourself like Tony Dungy's son". See, I'm not so bad.]

-- Munich was the best movie to come out this year. Batman Begins was 2nd, The 40-Year Old Virgin 3rd. Honorable mention to Cinderella Man and The Constant Gardener. War Of The Worlds was by far the weakest movie I had the displeasure of seeing, and the biggest waste of money since (... I could name any of many over-paid NBA players right now, and I will go with...) Brian Grant.

-- The good luck charm I've been for L.A. Kings home games (4-0 at Staples Center games I've attended) didn't exactly carry over for the Clippers. [More on that later.]

-- People who work at drive-thru's on New Year's Eve are generally unhappy.

And by the way, am I the only one who finds this (warning: long read) hauntingly believeable?