Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Love 'em or leave 'em alone

This picture of Cleveland Cavaliers guard Larry Hughes, taken at a recent party thrown by Nelly, has been making the rounds all over the Internet today, and it's quite troubling for me. Some may question Hughes' ethics, considering that he missed Games 3 through 6 of his team's playoff series with the Pistons to mourn the death of his younger brother Justin, who was born with a heart defect and had been sick for some time -- and a little over a week after his team's elimination, his "grieving" process appears to have changed considerably. But I won't hold that against Larry, as this situation is nothing like Vince Carter in his Toronto Raptor days being seen C-walking on stage at a Nelly concert while rehabbing a leg injury. True story.

What I'm disturbed by is the "I Heart Strippers" tee that Hughes is sporting, which I'm fearing is going to catch on with the public. It was bad enough when "rappa turnt sanga" T-Pain put out that awful "I'm In Luv Wit A Stripper" song, forever altering many a car stereo and cell phone ringer nationwide, and it got worse when he put out the remix with some of the biggest self-proclaimed pimps and macks in urban music -- Too Short, Pimp C, MJG, Twista, R. Kelly -- professing their equally undying love to the women who take their clothes off for money. Oh yea, and this clown was on the remix, too.

No, you dont.

All of this is adding up to what has become an awful trend -- men proclaiming that they love and/or are in love with a stripper and/or multiple strippers. Not only that, but it's being stated as if it's a good thing. As if it's something positive. Something to brag about. It's not. Being in love with a stripper is a terrible feeling that will lead to a lot of emotional self-reflection in the future. Take my experience, for example, which I posted in September of last year -- here's the abridged version of "Summer Recap, Pt. 2" a.k.a. "I Fell In Love With A Stripper Named Genesis". The setting is the Sapphire in Las Vegas, which has gotten some mention here before:

"Having cold lamped for a little while, I decided to take up a lapdance offer soon, and that's when she arrived. Now, I'm not too sure how to define 'too pretty to be a stripper', and I try not to use terms that I don't know the definition of, but this girl was just that. She says her (stripper) name is Genesis, like that one red-haired chick from a many-years-ago season of 'The Real World', or the video game system that was to my elementary school years what the PS2 is to my college years. She asks what brought me to Vegas, I tell her I turned 21 this month ('this month' being August), and she says she did too, no less than 5 days prior to my birthday. Then she starts her lapdance, and, well, it wasn't very good. She wasn't really 'on' my lap most of the time, often just kind of flirting from a distance, showing me stuff; as far as past lapdances go, this one was nowhere near the 'City of Industry Rubdown', nor as good as the 'Bel Air Surprise'. But the badness of it in lapdance standards was what made it good; this pretty-ass girl was just flirting with me, and after blocking out the fact that I now have $20 less than I had 5 minutes ago (a feeling you quickly get used to in Vegas), I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. Young, pretty, flirtatious, a Leo, and her name reminded me of 'Altered Beast' -- what more could I ask for in a woman?"

Maybe one who'll put out and not use you for money, perhaps. Now, don't get me wrong, I still appreciate strip clubs and what strippers do, but getting "love" caught up with it is taking it a bit too far. I've learned from the past that once you tell a woman you love her, she's likely to do less for you than before you uttered those words. So what's it's worth to tell a stripper you love her? A less-inspired lap dance? Is that what you want, Larry? And how are you going to feel when this latest "love of your life" hops off your lap to get $20 from some other dude, T-Pain, IF THAT'S EVEN YOUR REAL NAME??

To conclude, I'll quote myself once more -- "Conversations with strippers shouldn't go any farther than 'What's your name?' and 'How much?'". And if I hear anything more about people who have probably forgotten about more girls than I've ever even been with talking about how they're falling in love with some chick based on what they'll do for a few bills, I'm going to be sick.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Best Kanye West Beats

It's difficult to appreciate one's God-given abilities when they voluntarily combine it with equal parts arrogance. Sort of like how the Phoenix Suns' Tim Thomas does the Tony Yayo "you can't see me" dance every time he makes a big shot.

G-G-G-G Gee, you suck!

When it comes to Kanye West, no matter how much he tries to sell off his self-importance, no matter how many awards he feels he's a shoe-in to win, no matter how many tantrums he throws when he doesn't win, and no matter how many Hollywood stars he's become buddy-buddy with, there's no denying that he makes damn good music. I could go on for hours... well, a few good minutes at least, telling you why Late Registration wasn't as good as Kanye hyped it up to be, but I couldn't do that without 1st admitting that it was one the best albums of last year. Do I feel bad praising a man who has already praised himself about 100 times over? Not really, considering that no one of value knows who I am. [Sorry, people reading this!]

But regardless of all that, what follows is my top 15 Kanye West productions. Now, Kanye has said in the past that he saves his best beats for himself -- I personally disagree with that, as I've only included 3 songs off of Kanye's 2 albums on my list. And even if it were true, I'm also aiming with this list to highlight Kanye's work with other MCs, considering most of us should know that Kanye produced his 2 major-label albums all by himself (with the exception of "Touch The Sky", which was produced by equally-talented-but-nowhere-near-as-attention-seeking Just Blaze).

15. Beanie Sigel - "Gangsta Gangsta" f/ Kurupt -- One of Kanye's early productions, off of Sigel's '01 release The Reason. Perhaps Kanye was still trying to find his niche here, because this is much grimier than most of what he's offered since.

14. Scarface - "In Cold Blood" -- This is one of 3 beats Kanye did for Scarface's '02 5-mic recipient The Fix, an album which I'd say Kanye has had his 3rd biggest impact on (after The Blueprint and Be). There are so many elements to this beat that you might find yourself not even paying attention to 'Face's lyrics.

13. Common - "Testify" -- Outside of how the looped vocal sample fits so well with Common's courtroom story about a double-crossing woman framing her husband, Kanye's creativity is shown most with the 2 big drum claps that begin each verse, as if to symbolize a judge's gavel. Well done.

12. Kanye West - "Late" -- Ah, the magic of taking a vocal sample and making it say whatever you want it to say. With the singing in the chorus, you might believe that the song Kanye samples is saying "I'll be late for that", when in fact it's saying "I'll erase away" (as in "I'll Erase Away Your Pain", by '70s soul group The Whatnauts). The harmonious production stands out even more considering that Kanye's occasional lyrical ineptness is in full swing here -- he actually uses the line "I ain't thought of no line that could rhyme with that". You know what you do in that situation, Kanye? Scrap the whole rhyme and come up with something else! Sheesh!

11. Kanye West - "Get 'Em High" f/ Talib Kweli & Common -- Simple but effective. It grabs you when it first kicks in at the beginning; clearly, Kanye caught on to this, as he repeats this effect throughout the song by frequently dropping the beat out and bringing it right back.

10. Jay-Z - "Heart Of The City (Ain't No Love)" -- Greatness, even if only for the "take 'em to church"-type breakdown in the middle of the song, with the finger-snapping and hand claps.

9. Scarface - "Guess Who's Back" f/ Jay-Z & Beanie Sigel -- Another great production from The Fix. Real smooth melody, especially with the high-pitched notes echoing.

8. T.I. - "Let Me Tell You Something" -- Sleeper pick, from 2 of rap's biggest names back when they were just getting their feet wet. Off of '03's Trap Muzik (which also features "Doin' My Job", another excellent Kanye production), Kanye crafts a perfectly laid-back beat for T.I. to sweet talk the ladies to, complete with a vocoder'd "do-do-do" which is a nice addition, especially considering that the vocoder doesn't get much use outside of the (Kanye?) West coast.

7. Jay-Z - "Poppin' Tags" f/ Twista, Killer Mike & Big Boi -- On a song with talented MCs rapping in double-time, it's rare that the production could steal the show... such is Kanye.

6. Cam'ron - "Dipset Forever" -- As far as closing out an album, I can't think of a song in recent years that pulled off the task as well as this track did for '04's Purple Haze. Especially nice is the way the beat builds up tension leading into the hook.

5. Kanye West - "We Major" f/ Nas -- A lot of press was made about film composer Jon Brion co-producing Late Registration, but this track was really the only one in which he made a noticeable impact. Jay-Z said that this was his favorite track off of that album -- dude has good taste, outside of Amil.

4. Twista - "Slow Jamz" f/ Kanye West & Jamie Foxx -- Why Twista didn't employ Kanye to produce a single track on his last album is beyond me... kind of like how good record sales are beyond Twista. Zing!

3. Common - "Faithful" f/ John Legend & Bilal -- From my Best of 2005 list: "...next time you drink too much, end up throwing up, and have trouble passing out, listen to 'Faithful'. It's like medicine."

2. Jay-Z - "Takeover" -- Jay needed something fresh as his backdrop to deliver the opening blow to Nas in their war of words that followed. Kanye's sampling of The Doors' "Five To One" was just that, but what made the beat that much better was how he looped a snippet of Jim Morrison's vocals ONLY under Jay's lyrics -- usually looping a sample of someone's vocals is made the main part of a hip hop producer's beat, but Kanye uses it in the background, making the vocals practically impossible to decipher and thus adding another element to the beat. If it has been universally accepted that Nas' "Ether" was the superior diss record but "Takeover" is in fact the superior overall song, then it is in large part due to Kanye's contributions.

1. Twista - "Overnight Celebrity" -- Besides speeding up the violin introduction from Lenny Williams' "Cause I Love You", Kanye totally takes apart and re-pieces together this original song to create the beat for Twista's biggest hit to date. The structure of this beat -- starting with the violins, building up into the main melody, with the "I-I-I-I" coming in for the chorus, then the bridge after the 2nd verse, and bringing back the violins at the end -- actually resembles that of Classical concertos. [I'm taking Music 15 this quarter; otherwise, I'd have no idea what I just said.] For those that criticize producers like Kanye for using so many samples to make beats, this song is a prime example of how it's not just as simple as speeding up an old soul record and being able to rhyme over it.

Honorable Mentions -- Royce The 5'9" - "Heartbeat", Common - "Be", and Jay-Z - "Encore"

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Request hour

kingfan4444: u gots to update ur blog biznatch
ariSTAcRat: bout what?
kingfan4444: try the 5 bux u lost
kingfan4444: for starters
ariSTAcRat: fuck you

I was SO certain that the Clippers/Suns game was on Sunday night that I was willing to put a faintly-bearded President Lincoln on it. Turns out it's on Monday night. Oh well, that 5-spot probably would've gone towards weed.

So, that means that the Cavaliers/Pistons series got 1 night of rest between their Game 6 (Friday) and their Game 7 (today), which should be the norm in the playoffs. The Mavericks/Spurs series gets 2 nights of rest between their Game 6 (Friday) and their Game 7 (Monday), which is forgivable. The Clippers/Suns series will now get 3 night of rest between their Game 6 (Thursday) and their Game 7 (Monday), which is completely uncalled for.

David Stern, get on your job... and hit me that 5 bucks you cost me. I need to smoke.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I have no interest in this post

The DaVinci Code -- a movie everybody except me wants to see, based on a book everybody except me has read. I feel so left out; it's like high school all over again.

But honestly, that description would fit just as well for any of the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter movies, except that the media isn't warming up to "Tomas" Hanks and his new hairdo like they did Elijah Wood or that goofy British kid with the glasses. The 1st review even says that the audience "burst out laughing" at the film's most climactic scene -- though I have no knowledge of/interest in the book/movie, I'm fairly certain it's not intended to be a comedy. My take on this whole thing -- if you must spend X-amount of dollars on a movie (they vary by region, but whatever it is for you, it's probably overpriced), go check to see if your local megacinemaplexthing is still playing Thank You For Smoking and see that instead. Or just wait for Snakes On A Plane starring the one-and-only Samuel L. Jackson.

"I've had it with these snakes."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cam'ron - Killa Season

If ignorance is bliss, then there probably aren't many people in the world happier than Cameron Giles. Out of all of the rappers who don't give a fuck, Cam'ron might give so little of a fuck that calling it "not giving a fuck" would be an overstatement. There's not really a more fitting explanation than that as to why Cam would nickname his Diplomat crew the "Taliban" less than a year after the planes hit the World Trade Center. Or why, on a diss track to Nas, he'd threaten to do an "R. Kelly" to his daughter (which may not seem all that serious, until you consider that New York morning radio host Star made a similar comment about a rival DJ on the air... and got arrested). Or why he'd make a diss track to the most powerful man in rap music right now and focus almost solely on his physical appearance and fashion sense. Cam wears his smugness and cockiness like his platinum chains, and unless you really want to hate it, then just like the title to his Jay-Z diss record... "You Gotta Love It".

Killa Season is Cam's follow-up to '04's oft-delayed Purple Haze, his final album on Roc-A-Fella Records. One of the main reasons for that album's delays was the inability to find a marketable 1st single, leading to the atrocious and I-can-only-hope-it-was-forced remake of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". With his new deal at Asylum Records, it's clear that Cam has more say and less restrictions as to what he can put out, hence Killa Season's 1st single -- "Suck It Or Not" f/ Lil' Wayne (aptly renamed "Touch It Or Not" for TV and radio). If the track's title didn't give it away, here's what Cam's getting at...

"My dick hard as a motherfucker/
You don't what? Tell that shit to another sucker/
I ain't no sucker, mama/
Come on, fuck the drama/
And kiss it down, lil' pucker-rama/
I'm so active, you being so drastic/
Got something for ya face, fuck Pro-Activ...

Lookin' light skinned, mami was tight slim/
Fat ass, big tits, I noticed her nice chin/
I approached her, slight grin, white Timbs/
Number you can type in, said she don't like men/
I just laughed, 'Ma, if we link, we link/
You don't like men? Me neither, what a coin-ci-dink'"

These bars give a good example of the yin and yang of Killa Cam. The lyrical skill is present, and I'd go as far as to say that Cam's persistence in trying to rhyme every bar with multiple syllables is comparable to Kool G Rap, one of the best that ever did it. But content-wise, there's nothing really redeeming about Cam trying to get some head, and possibly a menage-a-trois. [Granted, I've never been able to hook up the latter, so I guess I can't be positive.] The same can be said about "Get Ya Gun", which starts off with a female-narrated public service announcement about the dangers of guns, before Cam gets on the mic and challenges haters to, well, get their guns. On "Get 'Em Daddy (Remix)" f/ DipSet members Hell Rell, JR Writer & Jim Jones, Cam's closing verse is dedicated to the failed robbers who shot him up after failing to get him to hand over his blue Lambo ("I ain't see stars/ I'm a 'G', pa/ Threw the Lamb' in 6, drove to the ER" -- attempted murder for some, just another verse for Killa), and on his 2nd verse of "Girls, Cash, Cars", he delivers an important message about feminine hygiene. Tracks like these fall in line with Cam's obnoxious arrogance that "you gotta love".

However, it gets to the point where you might feel like you've heard all this before from Cam -- literally. Not counting the 2 singles "Suck It Or Not" and "Wet Wipes", there are 7 tracks on this album that have been previously released in some way, shape, or form. "War" f/ Hell Rell and "White Girls" were both on the commercially-released DipSet mixtape The Movement Moves On, which came out just last month. "Get 'Em Daddy (Remix)" and "Girls, Cash, Cars", both in the same vein of his classic "Get 'Em Girls", are also both mixtape fodder that are at least 6 months old. Since these are quality songs, it doesn't affect the album all that much, but the other previously-released tracks are switched up in ways that make them pale in comparison to their original versions. The aforementioned Jay-Z diss record "You Gotta Love It" f/ Max B is here in its 6-minute entirety, but there's some added high-pitched sound in the beat that makes it tough to listen to. "Do Your Thing (Remix)" changes the original's beat entirely, taking what could've been a nice track for the summertime and turning it into skippable material. Lastly, the original version of "Something New" had Cam and R&B crooner Jaheim trading verses over a beat sampling Bobby and James Purify's "I'm Your Puppet", making something old truly sound like "something new" -- but with the album's version replacing Jaheim's parts with rhymes from Hell Rell, it comes off more like a mixtape freestyle. Cam is certainly aware of the cult-like following that his Diplomat crew has garnered, and judging from how much skrill he pulls in off of mixtape sales alone, he must also know that his fans are likely to hear most everything he releases in between albums. Furthermore, if he's so willing to include old songs on a new album, he definitely messed up by not including "It's Nothin'" f/ Juelz Santana, which could've been the best song on this album.

The newer material on Killa Season is pretty much what you'd expect from a Cam'ron album. Songs like "Leave You Alone" and "Triple Up" f/ 40 Cal feature dramatic production and witty lyrics ("For 45 hundred I will John Doe you/ Ya moms won't know you") that are more about blowing out brains than blowing minds. Cam has carved out a niche for making such tracks, so much so that the tracks that stray away from this formula are the ones that bring down the album. "I.B.S." is about Cam's ordeals as a youth with irritable bowel syndrome, and while Cam deserves applause for putting such a personal subject out in the open, the song itself loses interest quickly. The album's closer "Love My Life" sees Cam reminiscing over the dead, but the singing in the chorus is not easy on the ears; and on the topic of bad singing, "He Tried To Play Me" features a pretty good verse from Cam, if you can get through the 1st minute-and-a-half.

Considering the high expectations put on this album, be it the months of promotion or the straight-to-DVD movie of the same title, it's debateable whether or not Killa Season meets them. Datedness and bad singing plague a handful of tracks, making it difficult to classify the overall quality of the album as anything greater than "decent" -- it's nowhere near Purple Haze, and not quite as good as '02's Come Home With Me, which introduced the world to Cam's Diplomat movement that is still going strong. In the end, it's not going to win Cam any new fans, but it will satisfy those familiar with the Dips until the next time Cam and his crew flood the market with new music.

Friday, May 12, 2006


[Back when I used to blah blah blah, things were simpler; I limited most topics to 1 paragraph and then talked about something completely different right after, most of the time with no transition whatsoever. For the sake of sweet, sweet simplicity, I'm about to try that again right now.]

This Sunday is Mother's Day, so don't forget to tell your mom you love her. And if you don't want to say it for the sake of the holiday, at least say it for that one time, back in sophomore year of high school, when she helped you bury that body in the backyard. Remember how supportive she was of you that day? You felt like you were the only person in the world to have ever gotten the brake pedal confused with the gas pedal on your 1st day learning to drive, but she was right there to tell you that everything was all right, and how many people she ran over back when she was your age. So, remember, Sunday is her day -- tell her how much she means to you. Murderer.

Think that was low? It wasn't -- this is. And if the tidbit in there about "the nation's largest strip club" is in fact referring to the Sapphire in Las Vegas, then that means that I've gotten lap dances at the same place as... well, just click that 1st link.

Now that I've have some time to think, next season's Lakers won't actually be this season's Knicks. I had a lot of emotions running through at the time I made that post -- anger, concern, disappointment, just-lost-thirty-dollars-ness -- but reading through Lamar Odom's season-ending press conference, as well as some words from ex-Laker Mark Madsen, has given me some encouragement. I'm happy to see that they haven't gotten over the Game 7 travesty just yet, but I'm confident that they can put it behind them soon enough. In retrospect, they did make the playoffs with a rather-questionable roster, and they pushed the 2nd best team in the Western Conference to a 7-game series (and kudos to the Suns for showing that they too can get thrashed in an important playoff game). For this progress to continue, a few things basically need to happen:
  • Kobe has shown that he can take over games single-handedly as well as successfully play team basketball, now it just comes down to learning the game situations where each style is most appropriate.
  • Odom needs to develop a most consistent jump shot, which he sounds very positive about doing.
  • Kwame needs to start off next season like how he finished this season, being more assertive offensively and more comfortable with the ball. Also, he has to realize that everybody has a poor game every now and then (probably more often for Kwame) -- the way he was pounding his fist in anger after every missed baby hook shot in Game 7 showed that he was letting it get to him, so it was no surprise that he'd always miss the next one and the Suns would take advantage.
  • Luke has to establish some sort of offensive weapon, be it a mid-range jumper or a drive to the basket -- he's shown signs of both, but never consistently.
  • Rony Turiaf needs to lose a few pounds -- he's shown potential to become a high energy big man off the bench, but considering his heart problems in the offseason, he was clearly out of shape.
  • Andrew Bynum needs more playing time, assuming he can do more stuff like this. On his now-defunct MySpace page from back in his high school days, he said he doesn't drink or smoke (though he also said he'd like to become an "ontrapanure", or some other crude misspelling of the word), so he must be focused; that coupled with learning from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar must mean good things.
  • A point guard is acquired who can play at least moderate defense, hit open jumpers and occasionally create his own shot. The Lakers could trade Chris Mihm or any combination of current Lakers not previously mentioned for one (Mike James, Chris Duhon), and/or test the free agent market (Speedy Claxton, Bobby Jackson, Marcus Banks, Sam Cassell as a long shot), and/or land one in the draft (with the team's #26 pick, UCLA's Jordan Farmar, Illinois' Dee Brown, and Florida's Guillermo Diaz could be available... no, not that Guillermo Diaz).
  • Oh, and throw a nice farewell party for free agent Devean George. Of all the Dynasty-era Lakers that have since departed, he'll be one of the most missed. Might I suggest a marble cake?
On the topic of farewells, today was my last day of work at the Alternative Copy Shop in Isla Vista. With the coming month presenting my college graudation, my current lease ending, my last quarter of finals, and Extravaganza next Sunday (E-40! Pharcyde! For FREE!), I figured it'd be best to take my leave now. I'm pleased to say that I resigned on a high note, though I'm hopeful I could convince them to say they laid me off so I could collect unemployment for the next few weeks. I'll miss a lot about this job that I've held for close to 2 and a half years (damn!) -- the friendly staff, close to home, the "people watching" element, hooking up friends with free copies/readers, steady hours, paychecks, and so on. But the one thing I'll probably miss the most, which I won't miss any immediate time soon, is dealing with customers. Sometimes there would be instances that were funny, sometimes they'd be aggravating (those tended to be the funniest), but plenty were memorable. I could go on for hours reminiscing about the local dirty crazy bearded vegetarian who made massive amounts of copies of his hand-written non-sensical theories of why carnivores are the devil and handed them out to people outside (did you know he really likes ketchup... straight from the bottle?), the number of students who became irate when we didn't have their readers ready and proceeded to verbally tear us new assholes despite providing us with their name, phone number, and a class that they're enrolled in (not that I did anything with that info), or the number of people who complained about our insane overcharging, such as 7-cent copies or the additional 50 cents for using a credit card when their total is under $5. And sure enough, my last day was not without an instant classic: this cute brunette comes in, white, petite, soft-spoken, needing to send a fax, when she gets a phone call
and her ring tone goes off -- Everyday I'm hustl-in', ev-everyday I'm hustl-in'...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Tricks are for kids

Silly rabbit.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

I hate to admit this, but...

Next year's Lakers could very well be this year's Knicks. Allow me to introduce them...

At 6'6", from Lower Merion High School, #8 -- Kobe Bryant

a.k.a. Stephon Marbury -- The scoring guard who fluctuates between involving his teammates and jacking up shots like night and day (or like regular season and playoffs). They're worth a lot of money and make a lot of nice quotes for the local newspapers, might give themselves a catchy nickname (like "Starbury" or "Black Mamba"), but the fact that they can never fully trust their teammates clearly affects their ability to win.

... at 6'10", from Rhode Island, #7 -- Lamar Odom

a.k.a. Channing Frye -- The big man who is prone to play really well, either driving to the basket for tough lay-ups (more so Odom) or hitting jumpers (more so Frye). Both are blessed with a great combination of size, speed and power, being able to dominate games at times. When one considers that a trade or 2 is necessary for the team to improve, and also that in order to acquire a good player you need to give up a good player as well, it leads to the touchy subject of whether or not they are in fact tradeable (though their days are easily numbered if Kevin Garnett is in the equation).

... at 6'4", from Fordham, #1 -- Smush Parker

a.k.a. Steve Francis -- Can dunk the FUCK out of the ball when they get the opportunity, but the only thing they do consistently is be inconsistent. Both streaky shooters, likely to average 15 points per game by getting 3 and 18 points a game each consecutively. [Now, clearly not all of these comparisons are accurate in regards to talent, as Kobe is much better than Marbury, maybe to the level that Francis is better than Smush. But I'm merely making comparable observations between each, and I think that the discrepancies in talent pretty much cancel each other out in the end.]

... at 6'10", from Glynn Academy High School, #54 -- Kwame Brown

a.k.a. Eddy Curry -- The big man with a "Butterfinger's" problem, except while Eddy eats them, Kwame has them. They can make free throws and score in the post, but never simultaneously. Both skipped college and likely regret everything about that decision except that they're rich (how nice it must be to stand at nearly 7 feet tall). To be fair, Eddy's passing game makes Kwame look like John Stockton.

... at 6'8", from Augsburg
[WHERE?], #3 -- Devean George

a.k.a. Quentin Richardson -- The stocky swingman who'll pull off a 1-handed rebound or a highlight dunk (see above) every now and then to make it look like they're worth more than they really are. They'll make a lot of jumpers, when they're not missing a lot of jumpers. Both also have impressive ties to the world of urban music -- Richardson used to date Brandy, and George looks like Ice Cube.

... at 6'8", from Arizona, #4 -- Luke Walton

a.k.a. Jalen Rose -- Like Kwame and Eddy, can have a good inside game or a good outside game but never on the same night. Both deceivingly good ball-handlers and passers, but the speed at which they move on the court makes it look like they blaze fat in between quarters. [Not too many pics of Jalen in his Knicks uni, considering he's only spent about half a season there. But honestly, I stopped looking once I found a pic of him when he was drafted. Killer suit.]

... at 6'10", from Gonzaga, #21 -- Ronny Turiaf

a.k.a. David Lee -- The energetic rookie forward who rarely plays, but when they do, you appreciate their effort. They seem very excited when they're on the bench. Both have also had to overcome difficult obstacles to make their team's roster -- Turiaf had open heart surgery right before the season started, and David Lee is white.

... at 7'0", from St. Joseph High School, #17 -- Andrew Bynum

a.k.a. Jackie Butler -- The young center that the team hopes can be a future star, but are too scared to actually put on the court.

... at 6'7", from Slovenia, #18 -- Sasha Vujacic

a.k.a. Jamal Crawford -- Being youthful and quick on their feet is the only thing that keeps them mediocre at defense. Both like to shoot a lot, only Jamal shoots a lot a lot more (in part because he's more dependable than Sasha, but also because he's like to shoot a lot... a lot). Both approximately 6'6" and 120 pounds.

... at 6'9", from Illinois, #43 -- Brian Cook

a.k.a. Maurice Taylor -- The big man who can shoot. Cook has the advantage of being able to hit from beyond 3-point range, and Taylor has the advantage of being able to at least make it look like he tries on defense.

... at 6'6", from Ohio State, #24 -- Jim Jackson
... and at 6'5", from Temple, #2 -- Aaron McKie

a.k.a. Qyntel Woods and Jerome James -- All four are basically interchangeable with regards to value. Except for James, all are recently out-of-work NBA players who are happy to be getting paid to mostly watch live games courtside, and dress just like the other players as well. Meanwhile, James has the uncanny ability to con teams into giving him a lot of money, as well as to show up to practice hungover on New Year's Day.

[I'm admittedly reaching on these next 2, but it's solely for the sake of completing the analogy. I'm not about to mail in my effort just because I'm almost done... ahem**Game 7**ahem.]

... at 7'0", from Texas, #31 -- Chris Mihm

a.k.a. Malik Rose -- Tall players (though Mihm is much taller) with a good all-around offensive game, hustle on the court but are foul-prone. Both also prone to injury, though Rose gets the ones where he'll have to miss a couple games at a time, and Mihm gets the ones where he has to miss a couple weeks at a time.

... at 6'5", from Florida State, #23 -- Von Wafer
... and at 6'7", from Hampton, #11 -- Devin Green

a.k.a. Nate Robinson -- All three are guards with their size not to their advantage -- Nate is too short and De-Von are/is not tall enough to guard the 2 and too slow to guard the 1. Main differences are that Nate got playing time, is probably much better than the 2 Lakers at hand, and won a dunk contest he didn't deserve.

... and the team's head coach -- Phil Jackson

a.k.a. Larry Brown -- The big-name coach who in not in good health, and is surely stressed out from watching his team play inconsistently all season. They've both been demoted to "crazy old man" status, based on Jackson's inability to call time-outs when he sees his team painfully struggling, and Brown's insane line-up changes, to the tune of at least 60 different starting line-ups this season alone. Both have championship rings which enable them to demand, and earn, a lot of money, but are so used to having good players that they get confused when they see bad players on their team and refuse to take any of the blame for the team's shortcomings. The "I'm too embarrassed to get out of my chair" look is a future trademark.

... and finally, [hey, why not?] the team's General Manager -- Mitch Kupchak

a.k.a. Isiah Thomas -- Both have made regrettable trades in their years -- Kupchak traded away Shaq, Thomas traded for Francis. This isn't exactly similar, but while Kupchak is a bad GM following a great GM (Jerry West), Thomas is a bad GM following another bad GM (Scott Layden). Kupchak's situation is worse because he is making a recently-great franchise look bad, but to make up for it, Thomas has this Knicks' fiasco to add to his resume, right next to "destroying the CBA".

Now, there are a couple of notable differences between the 2 teams. 1st, the Lakers are nowhere near being the financial minefield that the Knicks have become, but they will be over the cap for 2 more seasons nonetheless, meaning that the Lakers won't be able to sign a high-quality free agent until Phil's last year under contract as their coach -- that's why I'm assuming that next season's roster will mostly be the same (the only current Lakers not under contract for next season are George, Green and Jackson), unless Kupchak does a massive overhaul, in which case it'll be completely different. 2nd, the mere presence of Kobe Bryant makes the Lakers a playoff possibility every season, but just as the Knicks' past few seasons have ended embarrassingly, the Lakers' seasons tend to as well, as the games that have eliminated the Lakers from their past 3 playoff appearances have been lost by an average of 24 points(!).

Why work so hard throughout an entire season if you plan to put forth your worst effort when it counts the most? Why doesn't Kobe Bryant understand that being his team's leader doesn't mean taking every shot, but involving his teammates doesn't mean shooting only THREE times in an entire half? Why doesn't Phil Jackson show a little emotion while watching his team get dismantled? To answer all 3 questions -- I don't know, I don't know, and I don't know. And it hurts to try to think about the answers. All I know is that singling out the faults of every player, the coach, and the GM of my favorite team has helped me through the grieving... and so has being able to make fun of the Knicks at the same time. That's always fun.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mobb Deep - Blood Money

If Jay-Z has anyone in particular to thank for his meteoric rise to the top of rap music, other than all of the people he's bit lyrics from (JUST KIDDING!), it'd have to be Prodigy from Mobb Deep. Ever since the infamous "Summer Jam Screen" incident in '01, the two rappers' careers have taken turns in completely opposite directions, with Jay earning a reputation as a career-ender, and P being his most impressive victory.

Looking back, it's difficult to believe such a drastic turn could take place for Prodigy and his partner-in-rhyme, Havoc. The Queens-bred duo are responsible for two of the best rap albums to come out of New York in the '90s, with '95's classic The Infamous and '96's underrated Hell On Earth. Prodigy's performance on "Quiet Storm" from '99's Murda Muzik earned the group numerous nominations at the following year's Source Awards and tons of radio and TV airplay, despite the song's dark mood and lyrics. At this time, one could make the argument that P was on pace to leave a greater legacy in hip hop than Jay. Then, in an interview in '00, prior to the release of his solo debut H.N.I.C., Prodigy didn't necessarily "call out" Jay, but said that he had been "quiet like a bitch" during the mid-'90's East coast/West coast rap feud, which is fairly true. [Mobb Deep, on the other hand, released "L.A., L.A." with Capone-N-Noreaga in response to the Dogg Pound's "New York, New York", and took shots at 2Pac on "Drop A Gem On 'Em" off of Hell On Earth.] Jay shot back at Summer Jam '01 by debuting "Takeover", his diss record to Prodigy as well as Nas, and that coupled with the images of a 6 year-old Prodigy posing for the camera in tassles were a major blow to P's credibility.

But worst of all, Prodigy let his insecurities following the Summer Jam incident show in his music, and as a result, the quality of Mobb Deep's future releases was nowhere near that of their prior work. On '01's Infamy, P sounded like a beaten man, his voice a few octaves lower and his lyrics lackluster, with far too many obvious subliminals thrown at Jay, each one more uninspired than the last. It appeared as if either Jay wasn't lying in calling out Prodigy's "realness", or P wasted all of his good rhymes on his solo album. While he seemed to have regained some energy on '04's Amerikaz Nightmare, the album failed to generate many sales. So, as Jay becomes President of Def Jam and goes on vacations with Beyonce, Mobb Deep bounces from one record label to the next trying to get their careers back in order. It got to the point that 50 Cent, on his attempt-to-generate-controversy "Piggy Bank", told rival Jadakiss that he'd do him in "like Jay did Mobb Deep".

So, is it any surprise that Mobb Deep's latest effort is coming out on 50's G-Unit Records? Not really, considering that the aforementioned "Piggy Bank" lyric was the only thing they could hold against 50, who stood out as the only reputable artist willing to bring them in to his camp. Furthermore, with a feature film to his name and millions upon millions of records sold, an invitation into 50's G-Unit clique would be hard for a struggling hip hop outfit to turn down. Shit, I wouldn't mind being publicly called out by my future boss if a Ferrari came with it. Mobb Deep took the path of least resistance, and this month, their G-Unit debut, Blood Money, was released. With the most marketable face in hip hop behind them, it seemed to be an easy win for Havoc and Prodigy, but judging by the efforts they put forth on this album, they might have thought it to be a little too easy.

The album opens strongly with "Smoke It" and the lead single "Put 'Em In Their Place", two tracks with pounding production and strong choruses that find Hav and P on top of their game. But it's in the closing ad-libs of the latter track that the listener hears what's to follow -- Prodigy refers to his partner as "Hollywood Hav", himself as "V.I.P." and 50 Cent as "Curtis 'million-dollar budget' Jackson... the one that made us rich... filthy-rotten rich". Well, there goes the hope of money not changing an artist. It's clearly changed Prodigy... again. After having sounded more like his old self on their last album, he's back to his mush-mouthed lesser-talented alter ego on Blood Money, sounding lazy and hardly rhyming his verses. As Phonte of North Carolina-based hip hop group Little Brother points out here in his critique of the album, one of P's strengths back in his heyday was his ability to start his verses so powerfully. On "Creep" f/ 50 Cent, if you can get past the horrible beat, here are the opening lines you'll hear from "V.I.P.":

"You ask me, all these rappers is bums/
Hav showed me the flow and I ran with it, dun/
I mean really, y'all gotta be the most worst/
Rap shit I ever heard compared to P's verse/
We emerge on the scene, everything seen/
Stop... watch, it's very bling bling/
N---a wanna swing swing, very much so/
But once we get in the air? That's a rap, bro"

"Most worst"? "Very bling bling"? "Bro"? P's outdated slang and nonsensical babble put a lot of pressure on Havoc's shoulders to carry this album, and while he has the ability to come off strong at times, it proves to be too big of a task. And there's nothing that either of them can do to save "Backstage Pass", the typical groupie song, and tracks plagued with boring production like "Stole Something" f/ Lloyd Banks, "Daydreamin'", and "The Infamous" f/ 50 Cent (on which P claims that he "ran trains on the girls at his family's dance school" -- damn, still not over the Summer Jam pictures, I guess).

One of the album's better songs is "Pearly Gates" f/ 50 Cent, a creative track on which the 3 discuss how they'd have to talk their way into heaven -- 50 steals the show, but P's verse is bound to get attention for his comments about having beef with God and wanting to beat Jesus, which are edited out of the album's retail version (I guess the phrase "religious bullshit" would offend some people). Also worth noting is "Give It To Me" f/ Young Buck, a nice party track, "Click Click", which features a surprisingly impressive guest verse from Tony Yayo, and "In Love With The Moula", which is as poignant as a song about money can get.

The inclusion of 50's "Outta Control (Remix)", the Mobb's 1st official G-Unit song, and "Have A Party" f/ 50 & Nate Dogg as bonus tracks should spell out their quest for record sales, as both were previously included on platinum-selling albums. It's also quite deceiving, considering that the album boasts production from Dr. Dre, and the only Dre-produced track is the aforementioned "Outta Control (Remix)". I'll admit that I'm being a bit hard on this album, as it'd be considered a good album for an unknown, up-and-coming hip hop group. But considering the trials and tribulations that Mobb Deep have encountered in their 10+ years in the industry, one would hope that being handed an opportunity to work with 50 Cent and re-establish themselves as the powerhouse they once were would motivate them to really focus on making the best album they could; but, if Blood Money is truly the best that Mobb Deep can do, then 50 might want to investigate what that million-dollar budget is being used for.

Friday, May 05, 2006

White people can't dance

Especially in front of black people.

I've been too focused on midterms and the Lakers series this week to say much, but I'm sure I'll have plenty to say after Saturday, for better (please) or worse (NO!).