Monday, April 30, 2007

I want that old thing back

Catching some of this year's NFL Draft this weekend made me realize just how much I miss having an NFL team in Los Angeles. Watching teams rebuild their rosters, fill gaps in their lineups, take educated guesses as to what their futures hold -- why can't I be involved in that? I mean, the local coverage of USC's dominance of the college game in recent years has been nice, but seeing as how line-ups change so drastically every year in NCAA football, it's tough for me to enjoy it with that inconsistency. [And on that note, congrats to USC's dynamic wide receiver duo of Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith, who were drafted respectively by the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants -- hopefully y'all can help put your teams over the top and get 'em more national TV time, so LA heads can see y'all play in the pros.]

After both the Raiders and Rams made their escapes from LA in '94, and a couple years of personal disinterest in pro football, I adopted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as "my" team before the '97 season, based off of the rantings of radio personality Steve Mason (whose "The Big Show" with John Ireland is still on the air, previously unbeknownst to me), who picked the Bucs as a sleeper pick to do well that season, and whose opinions I often found myself agreeing with. That, coupled with the dumping of Bucco Bruce and that always-intimidating orange-and-white color scheme, and their opening day 8-6 victory over the then-dominant 49ers (a game in which Jerry Rice was injured and forced to miss most of the season), made me take notice.

My years as a Bucs fan were rewarded most handsomely with their Super Bowl win in 2002, and the fact that they whooped the Raiders' asses in that game made it even more sweet. But, even though the Bucs will always hold a place in my heart, it's just not the same as having a local NFL team to cheer for. You know how an adopted kid's parents might think to themselves who the kid's real parents are whenever that kid screws up? Watching the disaster that was the '06 Bucs, I couldn't help but remind myself, "Y'know, self, you've never even been to fucking Tampa."

I wonder what it's like in Cleveland right now. Fans are probably searching through boxes in garages and closets for their Bernie Kosar jerseys. The Browns just lucked their way into 2 of 2007's top-5 prospects in O-Linesman Joe Thomas and QB Brady Quinn (and they'll save a pretty penny on Quinn, too). Quinn, coming off of a successful tenure at Notre Dame, will get the opportunity to lead the team that plays in the city that he was born and raised in, the team that he grew up cheering for. Maybe he'll be able to pull things off as well as this other guy from Ohio that you may have heard of.

I wonder what it's like in Boston right now. Dudes named "Sullie" and "Donnie", ordering pitchers of Sam Adams at their local watering holes, debating over whether Tom Brady, who led the Patriots to 3 Super Bowls with practically no big-name receivers, will be able to co-exist with not one but TWO star wide-outs in Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth next season. One of 'em screaming that the Pats have locked up this year's championship, the other questioning just when Randy's ego will get in the way, he'll quit on the team, run himself out of town, and inspire YouTube video mock-tributes at his expense.

I wonder what's like in Miami ri... actually, these are probably pretty accurate indications of what it's like in Miami right now.

I wonder only because I simply can't know myself... and I also wonder if I'll ever be able to know. The whole "we had 2 teams, now we have none"-thing might have been funny-in-a-sad-way back when it happened, seemingly overnight, but now, it's sad-in-a-sad-way. If anybody can hear my prayers, please bring the NFL back to Los Angeles.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Evolution of a Sneaker Fiend

Nike Dunks that look like Air Jordans...

... two birds, meet one stone.

Fuck around, y'all gon' be up on Anderson Cooper's show

During his classic segment on The O'Reilly Factor, Cameron "Cam'ron" Giles defended his music by comparing himself to a "reporter", reporting what goes on on the streets of Harlem. If this is the case, then the breaking news on CNN -- Cam'ron News Network -- is that Cam has a lot of money and fucks a lot women. But it appears that Cam might be trying to up his journalistic cred a bit, as he appeared on a segment of 60 Minutes last night.

Sunday night at 6:00
Told ya girl I'll be on 60 Minutes
She like, "What time is that on?"
I'm like, "sixty minutes"

Cam was interviewed by CNN's Anderson Cooper to defend, or at least explain, the recurring trend in hip hop that is the "Stop Snitching" movement. [As an aside, considering the rampant rumors regarding Cooper's sexuality, how many times did Cam have to tell himself "no homo" before agreeing to this interview?] Among other things, Cam says that the only time he'll talk to a police officer is to say, "Hello, how ya feel, everything alright?", and definitely not to get back at the people who put bullets in both of his arms in an attempt to carjack him for his Lamborghini.

My team is the goonies
Been seen with Andy Rooney
He thinks my tunes are looney
But Lesley Stahl had to do me

Now, as your typical white dude living in the suburbs who listens to hip hop music and thinks he knows something about that lifestyle, I always considered "Stop Snitching" to be somewhat of a sign of solidarity amongst the ghetto-residing youth. After all, when your neighborhood police officer appears to be less of a friend and more of a plunger-fucking, beat-'em-'til-they-collapse, shoot-first and ask-questions-last animal, why would you want to talk to 'em? Granted, there is unresolved criminal activity involved, but what's the chance that "justice" would truly be achieved, especially when Biggie and 2Pac were murdered amongst crowd of onlookers yet no arrests have ever been made? Furthermore, I always understood a "snitch" to be someone that would give up their friends to protect themselves from consequences, or, in the case of a drug dealer, someone who would give up info to cops to take down a rival (something Cam has accused 50 Cent of doing in his now-infamous "CURTIS!" video). And what kind of pride could one have in themselves after doing something shady like that? Like Jay-Z said on "A Week Ago": "The labelling of a snitch is a lifetime scar/ You'll always be in jail, n***a, just minus the bars".

However, to hear Cam say that he wouldn't say anything to police if he knew that a SERIAL KILLER were living next door to him? I think that's stretching the definition of a "snitch" a bit too wide. There's got to be some line between "protecting the lives of innocent people" and "avoiding communication with police". Cam defends this stance by saying that it would affect his business (a.k.a. his record sales) if he were to be known publicly as someone who talked to cops, and I have to question this stance on 2 grounds. For one thing, there is such a thing as an anonymous tip -- often times there are financial rewards for people who give their identity, but considering Cam being a millionaire and all, I don't think he'd have a hard time giving up that money. Secondly, Cam telling police about "the serial killer in 4E" may harm his status in the hip hop community somewhat, but how much more harmful would it be to him if it were discovered that he potentially could have saved a bunch of lives had he spoke up -- the kind of backlash that would result from that would likely extend far past record sales.

Where I'm at, dog
Ain't ever seen no serial killer
Fucked ya girl before breakfast
She said, "You want cereal, Killa?"

I am willing to give Cam some benefit of the doubt here, though. I mean, dude probably has never lived next door to someone who keeps chopped-up body parts in their freezer, and who's to say that if he ended up in such a situation that the conscience of Cameron Giles wouldn't outweigh the business-saavy of Killa Cam. But I am certain that the media and old white people alike aren't going to be as forgiving to Cam over this foot-in-his-mouth statement, especially considering the black eye that hip hop is currently receiving following the Don Imus situation. The only thing that is going to result out of this is more debate over the worth of hip hop to the greater good of society, more spotlights being shined in rappers' faces, and perhaps some serial killers looking for property nearby Cam's residence. But the real question that needs to be posed here is not to the artists, but to the record-buying public themselves, and that question is: Would you really stop supporting a rapper that would tell police that a FUCKING SERIAL KILLER is hacking up families next door?

[NOTE: The mock Cam'ron rhymes, interspersed for comedic value within this otherwise-serious attempt to spark up discussion, were inspired by this.]

Thursday, April 19, 2007

By now you find your ass up shitty creeky

Because it's never too late to reminisce (see previous post), it's never too early to look forward to Rock The Bells, and it's always a good time to pay homage to Ol' Dirty, here's an old interview from Swedish television with the late great Dirt Dog and Method Man, discussing the then-forthcoming Wu-Tang Forever, label politics, the government, and much more, mixed in with a bunch of old Wu music video clips.

To quote one Bigg Jus (formerly of Company Flow), if you don't understand, obviously this wasn't made for you. So fuck you.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I remember way back when

In my quest to entertain myself while my bosses are out of the office, I stumbled across a great site called Press Rewind, which presents a collection of old '90s-era interviews with rap artists. Here are a few highlights I came across, but I definitely recommend perusing the site from top to bottom on a rainy day.

-- "I ain't never seen no surgeon general on the side of my dime bag!" Redman circa '92, with an image of a young Tame One on the 2nd page.

-- "It's rap: young Africans and Latinos trapped in a cell of hell screaming, telling somebody we're still surviving out here. I'm doing my thing and nobody's stopping me, but I'm gonna tell you what's in my way." The Source's 5-mic review of Illmatic (authored by someone named "Shortie" who probably never realized what his/her relevance to rap music would become) and an early bio of Nas via Columbia Records.

-- "When we started playin' Hip Hop, there was basically no white kids that I knew about playin' Hip Hop at all. And like, people mostly thought we were probably Puerto Rican just by process of elimination. Just thought we were strange or odd Puerto Ricans." Beastie Boys interview just before Ill Communication. Gotta love the use of the word "phukk".

-- "Snoop and The D.O.C. record vocals as Dre's hands move across the large $750,000 mixing board -- twisting knobs and adjusting levels... [Dre] hits the STOP button. 'Damn, we gotta do that again.' His ears are focused -- a big part of his music is knowing what will sound right. The RECORD button is hit... STOP. 'One more time,' Dre says. Snoop, who has just borrowed $5 from me for a bag of weed, answers: 'Fuck, man!'" Big pre-Chronic feature on Dr. Dre from The Source, back when Snoop Doggy Dogg was simply known as "the vocalist on 'Deep Cover'". Dre talks about the NWA breakup, the Dee Barnes incident, and a bunch of other shit. Can't say I'm surprised to hear Daz open the door to Snoop's pad with a "thick butcher knife in hand".

Friday, April 13, 2007

Pro wrestlers drop like flies

... or like fake punches were being thrown at them. It's a sad truth.

I was a wrestling fan as a kid. I'll always be a wrestling fan at heart. I stopped really paying attention to it when Ted Turner's WCW folded in 2001, but after the World Wrestling Federation got sued by the World Wildlife Fund (fucking pandas!) and changed its name to the "WWE", it just wasn't the same. Sometimes, when I'm left with nothing to do on a Monday night but click through channels, I might stop at RAW for a quick few seconds to see if anyone I remember from back in the day is still working, but other than that, I just can't get into it anymore nowadays. Last I heard, Donald Trump shaved Vince McMahon's head, then got a Stone Cold Stunner from Steve Austin... yeah, sounds about right.

Though I had a lot of friends in school who shared this interest, there were just as many who scoffed at the idea of watching and (*gasp*) enjoying pro wrestling. "You know it's fake, right?" Yeah, and bears are Catholic, and the Pope shits in the woods. I might have mixed those up. Whatever. Anyways, people didn't watch wrestling because they thought those dudes were really hitting each other. It wasn't fake -- it was staged. Big difference. People didn't watch Scarface and run to the phone to call 9-1-1 when they see dude tied up in the shower getting a chainsaw put to him. Everyone knew that the match outcomes were pre-determined, except in the rare occasion of a "screwjob" (the infamous example being Bret Hart in Montreal) (no homo). Everyone knew that the the storylines were written, though sometimes they may imitate real life, or vice versa (for example, Triple H is actually married to Stephanie McMahon, who was his "wife" and "ex-wife" on TV for years).

Pro wrestling was like a weekly, poorly-acted movie with a bad script and cool fight scenes. It was like a comic book for kids who couldn't read (not that I was one or anything). It was like a live-action episode of the old Batman series with Adam West, except with better costumes and, unfortunately, no visual sound effects.

I was listening to Howard Stern on Monday and got wrapped up in a wrestling quiz between Wack-Packer and admittedly-obsessed wrestling fan "Eric the Midget" and a listener. I played along and got the opportunity to flex some of my wrestling knowledge, to myself at least. Who was Goldust's dad? Dusty "the American Dream" Rhodes. Got it. Who donated money to the campaigns of both Bush Sr. and George Dubya? Ric Flair. Got it. Who did Lawrence Taylor pin at Wrestlemania XI? The "recently deceased" Bam Bam Bigelow. Got... wait, did he just say "recently deceased"?

I checked Wikipedia, and sure enough, Bam Bam was found dead at his home back in January, and it was discovered in March that he had "toxic levels of cocaine" in his system. In this article on Bam Bam's death, famed wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer mentions some other recently-deceased wrestlers, and his short list doesn't even cover the half of it. For various reasons -- heart problems and drugs amongst them -- the lifestyle of a professional wrestler just doesn't lead to a long, healthy life. Looking back at my childhood and watching people I used to idolize now dying in their 30s and 40s, I wonder if I wouldn't have been better off choosing comic books over pro wrestling -- sure, Superman died, but at least he didn't die a drug-related death. Or maybe he did. Like I said, I wasn't much into comics.

As I cope with learning of yet another wrestler dying too young, I'll take this moment to remember some of pro wrestling's most notable losses...

Owen Hart (5/7/65 - 5/23/99; accident)

Perhaps the most tragic of all wrestling-related deaths, Owen died during a pay-per-view event during a botched stunt. At the time, Owen was making appearances in the WWF as the "Blue Blazer", a superhero-type character with a cape and mask that concealed his identity, because the "real" Owen had "quit" the WWF after accidentally "injuring" another wrestler. [It's almost as if quotation marks were created solely for the purpose of discussing pro wrestling.] Owen would vehemently deny that he was the Blue Blazer, despite the fact that his signature mannerisms (i.e. holding both fists in the air and screaming "WOO!") while wearing the Blazer costume were ever so obvious. In one of the funnier moments in pro wrestling, Owen attempted to prove that he wasn't the Blue Blazer by coming to the ring with the "real" Blue Blazer -- a black dude in the Blazer costume (Owen's white, that's why it's funny).

At the pay-per-view in question, in Kansas City, Owen, as the Blue Blazer, was to be lowered into the ring from the Kemper Arena ceiling in a harness, but something caused the harness to be released early, causing Owen to plummet 78 feet, chest-first into a turnbuckle. Owen's injuries and internal bleeding from the fall led to his death less than an hour later. Considering the safety precautions that were overlooked (WCW had pulled off a similar stunt with wrestler Sting numerous times with no problems), and the fact that the pay-per-view continued as planned despite the announcement of Owen's death to the home viewers (not to mention Owen's tragic fall being witnessed by the thousands in attendance), the WWF had lots of questions to answer, to the tune of $18 million awarded to Owen's family in an out-of-court settlement. Considering further the animosity held towards Vince McMahon by Owen's brother Bret "The Hitman" Hart over the "Montreal screwjob" incident, it appears like the differences held between Vince and the Harts will likely never be resolved.

Ever the "company man", Owen stuck with the WWF despite the Montreal incident involving Bret and the subsequent release of he and Bret's brothers-in-law the "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith (unfortunately also deceased) and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart. He likely gained this attitude from older brother Bret, who unselfishly helped propel his younger brother to stardom by taking a loss to Owen in their match at Wrestlemania X, in the midst of their famous "Brother vs. Brother" feud. Sadly, this attitude turned out costly for Owen, who went ahead with the Blue Blazer stunt despite being worried about performing it, as well as being afraid of heights.

Curt "Mr. Perfect" Hennig (3/28/58 - 2/10/03; drug overdose)

Along with Scott "Razor Ramon" Hall and Kevin "Diesel" Nash, Hennig was one of the many WWF stars who made an exodus to WCW but couldn't keep his WWF-owned wrestling name. It didn't matter much, though, as Hennig never lost the smugness that made his "Mr. Perfect" character so hated with fans (and thus, so popular in the wrestling business). One of my favorite things about Hennig was how, on his walk to the ring, he'd always spit his piece of chewing gum up in the air, and on its way down, he'd smack it into the crowd -- living up to his claims of perfection, he literally never missed. I've always wondered how many unsuspecting wrestling spectators have had to get haircuts as a result of Hennig's piece of Wrigley's landing in their hair.

I remember when the WCW writers decided to split the nWo into 2 enemy factions -- the "good guy" nWo Wolfpac, who wore black and red, and the "bad guy" nWo Hollywood, who wore black and white. Hennig started out as a member of the Wolfpac, but he just never looked comfortable trying to get cheers instead of boos, and eventually jumped ship to the other nWo. Hennig may have been a great guy in real life, but on TV, he came across as the type of guy who would shove an old lady if she were in his way... just so long as it was the most perfect shove that had ever been done.

Eddie Guerrero (10/9/67 - 11/13/05; heart failure)

Eddie Guerrero's American wrestling career began in Extreme Championship Wrestling, the most well-known of independent wrestling circuits, and, unlike majors WWF and WCW, a place where wrestlers could get over with fans based on talent rather than a gimmick. Eddie certainly didn't need the latter because he had plenty of the former. His classic matches in ECW with Dean Malenko showcased the more artistic, technical aspect of pro wrestling that often got overlooked by people in the media who talk shit about wrestling. [Eddie's final match with Dean before they both left for WCW -- hence the "please don't go" chants -- can be seen here in its entirety. And it's a long entirety.]

Eddie was never that big physically, and that served to hold him back in WCW, where, other than winning the United States Championship in '96, he mainly wrestled within the lower-echelon Cruiserweight Division. After joining the WWF, he was given the nickname "Latino Heat", groomed as some sleazy Don Juan DeMarco "ladies man" character, typically cheated to win matches, and at times drove to the ring in a lowrider -- not exactly the most racially sensitive of gimmicks, but it won him popularity, and many title reigns. It wasn't hard to tell that in his WWF days, Eddie looked much bigger than he ever had before, so to hear that his death was partially caused by "enlargement of the heart as a result of prior anabolic steroid abuse" was shocking, but not surprising. Eddie also had past troubles with alcohol and painkillers which attributed to his heart failure, although his death came just 2 days before what would have been four consecutive years of sobriety.

Following Guerrero's death, Vince McMahon implemented stricter drug testing rules, and earlier this year, Sports Illustrated took pro wrestling to task in its ongoing reports on steroid distribution and use in sports. Hopefully these are steps in the right direction, though it's a shame that Eddie's death had to set the precedent.

R.I.P., as well, to Chris Candido, Crash Holly, Mike Awesome, Brian Pillman, Hawk from Legion of Doom, Ravishing Rick Rude, Yokozuna, Big Boss Man, Louie Spicolli and Anthony "Pitbull #2" Durante.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Separated at birth?

Radio "personality", bitch boy of Howard Stern, racist, and former apologist Don Imus...

... and Bea Arthur from the Golden Girls.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Why Hip Hop Sucks in '07

... because there is none.

Actually, saying that hip hop "sucks" in 2007 may be a bit harsh. Truthfully, my intention with this post title was making a tongue-in-cheek reference to DJ Shadow, which I thought might make me appear hip, though by pointing out said reference, I likely accomplished the complete opposite. Nonetheless, the fact of the matter is hip hop releases so far this year, and probably for the first time in the past few years, are lowering more in quantity than in quality.

This is certainly due in large part to the mass rush to release albums in time for 2006's holiday season. Maybe it's because I'm Jewish and thus don't make as big of a deal out of the holidays as your typical Christmas tree-purchasing gentile, but I personally don't understand the justification behind stockpiling album releases in the later months of the year. I mean, are people really buying hip hop CDs as stocking stuffers? Are people really buying hip hop CDs period?

As far as notable hip hop releases thus far in 2007 go, here are a few, of which I have the following opinions...

Some unidentified, clever internet user recently mentioned that Rich Boy (whose album is self-titled, so I'm not going to type out his rap name any more than I have to) has a striking resemblance to Timmy from South Park, and since reading that, I haven't been able to look at his album cover without at least slightly giggling. Dude has a big head, and I don't mean that as in, his ego is big. I mean, his head is fucking HUGE. It can't even fit on the damn album cover!

Anyways, everyone has heard "Throw Some D's", and for good reason -- it's catchy, and the well-produced Polow Da Don beat sounds tailor-made for Rich Boy's flow. And if you haven't heard the overloaded remix, it's worth a listen solely for Andre 3000's opening verse, and/or to hear Jim Jones say that he's "got a chest cold" and "might sneeze on a bitch". This album is as much a showcase of Polow as a producer, of which his other biggest highlight is the thumping "Boy Looka Here", the album's 2nd single and almost a polar-opposite of "Throw Some D's" as far as its sound. By the end of the album, you'll likely come away more impressed with Polow's beats than Rich Boy's raps -- quite frankly, Rich Boy's Alabama drawl is very difficult to decipher, and makes T.I. sound like Winston Churchill in comparison. While there are some moments of clarity where Rich Boy is able to separate himself from the "stereotypical Southern rapper", like on "Role Models" f/ David Banner and the anti-establishment rantings of "Let's Get This Paper" (where he shines some much-needed light on the tragic Martin Lee Anderson controversy from a year ago), there are just as many moments where he fits that very mold perfectly, such as on "What It Do", "Hustla Balla Gangsta Mack" and "Touch That Ass" (all horrible song titles, if you didn't notice). All in all, Rich Boy has its moments, but then again, so does a lot of mediocre shit.

[As an aside, I find it somewhat humbling that Southern rappers' "message" songs tend to have such generic, uninspired titles, like the aforementioned "Let's Get This Paper", or Juvenile's "I lost it all in Katrina"-song and video "Get Ya Hustle On". Maybe I've got it all wrong in my semi-ignorance of Southern rap. Perhaps these dudes are deeper than they appear, but just don't care/aren't smart enough to come up with unique song titles and choruses?]

[As another aside, I'm not quite sure what to think about the fact that, since the last Outkast album, Andre 3000 has done as many songs (2, to be exact) with Jim Jones -- the "Throw Some D's" remix and Unk's "Walk It Out" remix -- as he has with partner-in-rhyme Big Boi -- who also appears on the "Walk It Out" remix, as well as on UGK's "International Players Anthem", which can be heard here. Should I be proud that Jim Jones has moved up so much in the world that he's making music with Andre? Should I be sad that 'Kast so rarely puts out music together anymore? Should I be sad that Jim Jones has moved up so much in the world that he's making music with Andre?]

I have a hard time deciding whether or not I want to root for Young Buck. 50 Cent and G-Unit haven't been all that likable since they were the underdogs going after Ja Rule, back when he was popular (heh, remember that?), and their recent slump has indicated a sizable loss to their fanbase, and has brought many, even 50 himself, to question the crew's long-term future. Despite all this, Buck has retained an enjoyable personality that extends beyond his loyalty to 50 and G-Unit. While Buck The World isn't on the same level of his debut, Straight Outta Cashville, it's not too far of a drop off. Part of the trouble with Buck The World is that there's nothing interesting going on until the Polow Da Don-produced (popular guy, ain't he) lead single, "Get Buck", at track #5. After the album's slow and rather-generic beginnings, Buck shows his personal side on "Slow Ya Roll" and the title track, on which Buck relives his child custody drama. Other highlights include the 50 Cent-guested "Hold On", a Dr. Dre-produced track which sounds like nothing he's done before (in a good way), "Haters" f/ Kokane, a West Coast-flavored track that shows Buck's song-making versatility, and "4 Kingz" f/ T.I., Young Jeezy and Pimp C, which is a quality posse cut despite lacking originality in both its concept and its hook.

Now on it's second go-round of album releases, 50 Cent's G-Unit kingdom seems to be facing the same sort of backlash that the Wu-Tang Clan did back around 1998-2000 -- the sophomore releases from the likes of Raekwon and GZA paled in comparison to their incredible debuts, while the debuts of Wu members like Inspectah Deck and U-God, who didn't put out solo albums in the mid-'90s, went largely unnoticed. In G-Unit's cases, 50's, Banks' and Buck's sophomore albums were definitely not as good as their firsts, and Mobb Deep's and Tony Yayo's first G-Unit releases were pretty much terrible. The main difference here, though, is that Wu-Tang had a strong-enough reputation and fanbase to maintain some sort of popularity, plus a richer history in and out of music to keep something like commercial failure from tearing them apart. As far 50 and G-Unit, well... let's just say that that's where the similarities end.

Much like his often-times-partner Method Man, Redman has put out his best work in years (though also, his only work in years) in Red Gone Wild, yet no one is noticing. Besides the obvious lack of promotion, another reason for this is Redman's lack of catchy choruses here -- case in point, Red's repeating of "Put It Down" as the hook for his Timbaland-produced lead single of the same name likely isn't causing much radio buzz (I wouldn't know, as I don't really listen to the radio anymore). But lyrically, Redman sounds refreshed, his verses as clever as they ever were, and his flows equally refined. Standout tracks on Red Gone Wild include the Def Squad reunion "Walk In Gutta", which unearths Biz Markie for a rare appearance, the Pete Rock-produced "Gimmie One", the previously-released-yet-still-dope "Gilla House Check", and both of Red's weed songs with a few of his smoking buddies, "Blow Treez" f/ Method Man and "Merry Jane" f/ Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg (even though the Rick James "Mary Jane" sample used in the latter song has been done to death, almost as badly as "I'm Rick James, bitch!" has). The only time the album falters is when Red tries to give some shine to his Gilla House crew members, not so much because the MCs themselves are lacking, but because the beats they're given to work with, on "Sumtn 4 Urrbody" and "Get 'Em", are straight godawful.

And here are a few more notable releases which I don't have the desire to talk about at length...

8Ball & MJG - Ridin' High
You'd be best to just stop listening after track #7. Or at least before Puffy's verse kicks in toward the end of track #7. It's all downhill after that.

Prodigy (of Mobb Deep) - Return Of The Mac
Prodigy will never return to being the elite MC he was in the '90s, but if Return Of The Mac is the best we can get out of P, then hope is not lost just yet. And producer Alchemist, who produces the whole thing, and most notably "Stuck On You", proves that the art of speeding up vocal samples (a.k.a. "chipmunk soul") is not dead yet either. Easily the best Mobb Deep release this century, which is actually a bit unremarkable considering that this is just a "mixtape". Could this be a sign of good things to come, or does the Mobb just not have their priorities straight? [I could take this opportunity to shit on Blood Money, but I think I've already done that in this post and I'm trying to cut down on that.]

El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead
I actually haven't heard this yet, as El-P is one of the few artists for whom I'll put up my hard-earned money, yet with Tower closing its doors and Borders' hip hop section being barren, I'm running low on places where I could make this purchase. And don't tell me about buying music from iTunes -- if I don't have neatly-folded liner notes in front of me and a plastic case that took me 10 minutes to get the shrinkwrap off of, then it just ain't right. I'm sure this album is quality, though, and hopefully one day I'll be able to verify that.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Rest of My Life

[... dating back just a little bit.]

December 2006: Apply to 4 Southern California-area law schools, 2 of which are nationally-recognized, and the other 2 of which are more along the lines of the locally-prominent-but-that's-cool-because-I-don't-plan-to-leave-
L.A.-anytime-soon variety.

January 2007: Wait.

February 2007: Get accepted to the 2 locally-prominent schools.

March 2007: Contact the 2 nationally-recognized schools to see what's taking them so long. Get the same response from both, which is that they're still in the decision-making process and I won't know until May.

April 2007: Commit to the better of the 2 locally-prominent schools. Pay $200 to that school to show said "commitment".

May 2007: Possibly get accepted to 1 of the nationally-recognized schools, in which case I ditch the locally-prominent school (so much for that "commitment"... and that $200, sadly). Or, don't get accepted to either of the nationally-recognized schools, and stick with the one which I gave $200 to.

August/September 2007: Begin law school.

The rest of 2007 - 201_: ?

After 201_: Profit

I learned from the underpants gnomes.

The Debate: Oden or Durant?

I love playoff basketball, and that's why for these next couple of weeks, I'll be in "basketball limbo", what with the culmination of the NCAA tourney 2 days ago, and the NBA playoffs a couple weeks away. Within these passing days, as the NBA's regular season winds down, it'll be impossible for me to avoid so-called experts providing "thought-provoking" speculation and prediction of what's going to happen. So, wait, you're telling me that the teams with the best win-loss records and home-court advantage are the teams that no one wants to play against? Stop lyin'! [Granted, I could just avoid reading sports websites altogether, but then what am I going to do at work? Zing!]

I personally don't get involved in all the hype and the guessing games. All that I look forward to is seeing exciting basketball, and hoping that the Lakers can at least put forth a performance worth watching -- "worth watching" because it's good, not in that "can't look away from a train wreck"-sort of way. I figure that if I'm going to waste time (bound to happen) trying to predict the future, I might as well try to predict something that'll have an impression that lasts longer than, at most, 7 games. So, I prefer to look forward to the upcoming NBA Draft, where shitty teams attempt to utilize the little bit of luck they have left.

This year's draft will most likely showcase as the top 2 picks a couple of players, Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, who would probably be in the NBA as we speak if it weren't for Commissioner David Stern's "no more LeBron's" age-limit rule. Fortunately for Oden and Durant, their mandatory one year of college ball did not lead to any serious injuries, which sadly cannot be said for Kansas State standout Bill Walker, who was forced to spend his "March Madness" not unlike the rest of us.

Oden, a center for Ohio State University, combines attributes of some of the game's greatest centers -- the intelligence of David Robinson, the size of Patrick Ewing, the strength of Ben Wallace, and the wrinkles of Bill Russell circa now.

Seriously, though, 19 year-olds aren't supposed to look that grizzled. Young Greg must have seen some shit in his life.

Durant, the star at the University of Texas, is so athletic that he almost looks awkward playing college ball. While his ability to beat defenders off the dribble is not that spectacular, he nails pull-up jumpers like Tracy McGrady, or just uses his long arms to hit stand-still jumpers over defenders like Dirk Nowitzki. Durant is a player who gets classified as a small forward, not so much because it's his natural position, but because he can just as easily play at shooting guard or power forward, so calling him a SF is the most convenient.

Both Oden and Durant have the capabilities to turn around a struggling NBA franchise, but in different ways. As proven in his team's long run through the NCAA tournament before losing in the championship to Florida, Oden is that difference-making big man who, with the help of strong guard play (like Ohio State's Ron Lewis and Mike Conley, Jr., neither of whom played particularly well in the championship game), can put an otherwise-mediocre team over the top. Meanwhile, Durant, as proven by his team's early-exit from the tourney, is that cornerstone all-around guy that you build around -- the type of player whose potential for success in the NBA is seen more in his statistics in college than in his team's tournament success.

The debate probably won't end anytime soon as to who, Oden or Durant, should go #1 overall. Sadly, most analysts fail to factor in that who goes #1 is as much dependent on a team's needs (usually more so) than on the talent of the player himself. Thus, I will take it upon myself [as my introduction to BallHype (no homo) -- Hello, new readers! Make yourself at... ay, get ya fuckin' feet off my mom's table! Shit's made of glass, man!] to play Mr. Fix-It, go through all lottery-bound NBA teams, and jam as many square pegs into round holes as possible.

Memphis Grizzlies (currently 19-57)
Chances of getting the #1 pick (at the moment): 25%
Oden or Durant: Oden

With Pa
u Gasol being the subject of trade rumors all season long, this year's draft may be the Grizzlies' last chance to prove to their star player that they're committed to success -- so long as Pau hasn't already sold his house. Gasol's rumored destination leading up to the trade deadline was Chicago, where he would've had the opportunity to team with Ben Wallace and form the NBA's premier offensive/defensive big-man combo. If the Grizzlies can land Oden, and Gasol can stay patient for a little while longer, then he might not have to leave Memphis to get such an opportunity. Add that to the continuing development of Rudy Gay (whose similarities to Durant make drafting him over Oden fairly redundant), and Memphis could be really dangerous in the near future. One more thing... Rudy Gay. Hehe. [Sorry, I'm a big child... a big, hate-spewing child.]

Boston Celtics (23-50)
Chances of getting the #1 pick: 19.9%
Oden or Durant: Durant

Danny Ainge is a lot of things. Celtics' GM. Brain Type enthusiast. Major League Baseball's tallest second-baseman ever.

But someone who would bend the rules to his benefit? It that were so, wouldn't the Celtics be, I don't know, better? Maybe Ainge tries to cheat and just isn't good at it, which would explain him getting caught with his hand in the "rookie jar" (clever, I know), sitting next to Durant's parents during a recent NCAA game. The league fined the Celtics $30,000 as a result, so, in a way, Boston has already "invested" in Durant. Both Oden and Durant are projects, but I believe that Durant playing next to Paul Pierce would be more beneficial than Oden playing next to current Celtic big man and promising youngster Al Jefferson. Jefferson, a straight-outta-high-school draftee who has used this season to move past "project" status, may have his growth hampered playing alongside Oden. Durant is just as much of a project, but could be groomed by Pierce, who has been justifiably whining about the Celtics' shittyness for some time now, to become the team's best second-option to Pierce since... Antoine Walker? Ricky Davis? Wally Szczerbiak? Shit, no wonder Pierce is so mad all the time.

Milwaukee Bucks (25-48)
Chances of getting #1 pick: 15.6%
Oden or Durant: Oden

If the Bucks luck their way into the #1 pick, they'll have a tough decision to make -- whether or not to give up on the #1 pick of 2005, Andrew Bogut, who recently let the home crowd know who he thought was "number one". The Bucks have struggled with injuries to starting forwards Bobby Simmons (who has missed the entire season) and Charlie Villanueva (who has played only 39 games, and never more than 10 consecutively), which at the moment makes selecting Durant very attractive. However, if Simmons and Villanueva can return to full strength -- and both are young, they should be also to do so -- the Bucks' frontcourt may become too crowded. With a player like Oden possibly waiting in the wings, and Bogut 2 years into his career with very little to show for it, it might be worth the risk to see what kind of market value Bogut has. Granted, it's difficult to give up on a former #1 overall pick so soon, but when they're not panning out, sometimes you've got to cease the moment and make a move. Let what the Clippers went through with a former #1 overall pick teach this lesson to all.

Atlanta Hawks (25-47)
Chances of getting #1 pick: 11.9%
Oden or Durant: Durant

2 years ago, the Hawks drafted forward Marvin Williams, a college freshman who didn't even start for NCAA champ North Carolina, instead of more NBA-ready point guards like Deron Williams and eventual-Rookie of the Year Chris Paul, either of whom would have immediately filled two voids on Atlanta's roster -- players who are NBA-ready, and players who are point guards. Last year, they drafted another forward, Shelden Williams, with the #5 pick, rather than potential point guards Brandon Roy (likely this year's Rookie of the Year) or Randy Foye. Since there are no really impressive point guard prospects in this year's draft for the Hawks to pass up, Oden would be their best fit at #1, as he'd help fill up the Hawks at center, one of their weaker positions. Therefore, they'll probably pick Durant because they can't help but screw up at every NBA Draft. Also, it'll give the Hawks the opportunity to put out a starting line-up of players -- Joe Johnson, Josh Childress, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Durant -- who are all as physically-similar to each other as possible, and thus mess with the opposing defenders' minds. Hey, I'll guard the guy who's about six-foot-nine, and you guard the guy who's about six-foot-ni... wait a second, they're ALL about six-foot-nine! DAMN IT!

Charlotte Bobcats (29-46)

Chances of getting #1 pick: 8.8%
Oden or Durant: Hell if I know! Let His Airness decide.

The Bobcats' plan, since their recent expansion beginnings, of saving up money and building their team around draft picks hasn't been a complete failure thus far, as they've improved bit by bit each season. However, they're still at the bottom of the standings, don't appear to be moving up much any time soon, and none of those draft picks have really established themselves as "the man". Getting the #1 pick this year may be the wake-up call that lets Charlotte know that the time is now to make something happen -- weed out some of those draft picks, establish a core group, and use your millions of spending money to build around that core. If the Bobcats pick Oden, then they might be forced to choose between Emeka Okafor and Sean May, both of whom have dealt with injuries in their young careers. If the Bobcats pick Durant, then likely one of Matt Carroll (an upcoming free agent who has been big for them this year), Adam Morrison (who has struggled in his rookie year, though shown flashes of greatness as well) and Gerald Wallace (perhaps the greatest Bobcat in franchise history) will have to go. Either way, Bobcats VP Michael Jordan might be forced to take a gamble... and not the kind of "gamble" MJ prefers.

Portland Trail Blazers (29-44)
Chances of getting #1 pick: 6.3%
Oden or Durant: Oden

If he winds up in Portland, Oden would have the advantage of playing with a bunch of young guards, any or all of whom cound potentially mesh very nicely with the young center -- the aforementioned Brandon Roy, impressive rookie Sergio Rodriguez, and the underrated Jarrett Jack. Oden would also have the advantage of playing with a bunch of useless centers, none of whom would threaten his playing time -- the injury-prone Joel Przybrittle, er Przybilla, soon-to-be free agent Jamaal Magloire (who likely isn't staying in Portland), and the human oversized-paycheck that is Raef LaFrentz. Zach Randolph, Portland's leading scorer, is doing his part to help, as he'll miss the rest of this season with a hand injury, which should lose Portland a few more games and thus improve their draft position. And if Portland can land Oden, then Randolph "doing his part to help" would basically consist of staying the FUCK away from the kid -- I mean, being questioned for sexual assault is one thing, but leaving a strip club without paying? For shame, Zach. For. Shame.

Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, Seattle Supersonics, Minnesota Timberwolves and whoever else misses the playoffs
Chances of getting #1 pick: Range from 4.3% to 0.5%
Oden or Durant: Doesn't matter. It ain't happening.

If any of these teams land the #1 pick, I'm calling "shenanigans" on David Stern. Everybody grab a broom.

Monday, April 02, 2007

5 Reasons To Attend This Year's Rock The Bells

Actually, it's more like four reasons why anybody should attend Rock The Bells this year, and then one specific reason why I'm attending.

1. Rage Against The Machine reuniting
Maybe it's because of Zack De La Rocha's failed rap career -- I still remember reading eons ago, on of all places, about Zack planning a rap album featuring production from DJ Shadow and El-P (who was "El-P of Company Flow" back then, to give you some degree of how long ago this was). Or maybe it's because of Chris Cornell's failed anything-after-Soundgarden career -- I would say "anything besides Soundgarden", but "Hunger Strike" is pure greatness. But for whatever reason, Rage is reuniting for the three RTB shows in San Francisco, New York, and San Bernardino-by-way-of-Los Angeles. [I say "by way of Los Angeles" because, well... San Francisco, New York, and... San Bernardino?!? Talk about "one of these things is not like the other". If it weren't for the size of the venue at the National Orange Show Events Center, the show would likely be held at a different Southern Cali locale, trust me.] And if you're an L.A.-area resident such as myself, and don't want spend a day traveling but do want to see Rage perform for possibly one of the last times ever, it's either RTB or Coachella, which is likely sold out anyways. And besides, while anticipating Rage's headlining night performance, would you rather spend the day listening to the likes of the Wu-Tang Clan, Nas and the Roots, or Lily Allen, Damien Rice and who or whatever a "Konono No. 1" is?

2. See Flava Flav act like a legitimate jackass
This is not to be confused with the phony, "Hey, white America, look at meeeee!"-jackass that whored himself out to VH1 for the entertaining-until-you-stop-to-think-about-it Flavor of Love, The Surreal Life, or that show where he was in love with that old white man. I'm talking about the jackass that never took off his hat and sunglasses, except to make a goofy face. The one who "crowned" 9-1-1, and said he can't do nuttin' for ya, man. The one who made songs like "Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos" and "Fight The Power" easier for the masses to swallow, without tarnishing the messages behind them. Considering that Public Enemy's RTB appearance will mark their 20th year together, I expect nothing less than the real Flava Flav to show up, and I'd be willing to bet that Chuck D definitely won't be allowing any Flavor of Love groupies on stage.

3. Cypress Hill = encouraged weed smoking
As if "Event Staff" is going to be patrolling the crowd for contraband -- they'll be too busy getting blazed themselves.

4. N.O.S. Events Center has hopefully learned from past mistakes
As a seasoned veteran of RTB festivals, I went to their summer 2004 event at this same venue in San Bernardino to see a line-up that featured a reunited Wu-Tang Clan (the last time they'd all perform together before Ol' Dirty's unfortunate passing), Redman and Dilated Peoples. There were other performers on the undercard, but I didn't get to see any of them because I literally spent about 4 hours waiting in line. Turns out the geniuses that run the venue chose to have only TWO people take tickets and do security gropings for the thousands upon thousands of concert goers hoping to get in before the morning after. As a result, some of the more riotous ticket-holders went to work on the metal bars in the gate that enclosed the festival grounds, and eventually pulled the bars far enough apart to allow people to squeeze through them. Once security noticed this, it was too late, and they had no choice back to sit back and watch as people bumrushed the venue, knocking over barriers, full tickets still in hand, and who knows what types of drugs and/or weapons they brought in with no hesitation. While certainly convenient, the only downside to this was that it made our homie Will's efforts to sneak in pre-rolled blunts -- by putting 'em into a plastic bag, and scotch-taping the bag to his boxers -- seemingly useless. I have a bit of a hunch that something like this won't be happening again.

5. It takes place the day before my 23rd birthday
Yeah, so, this was that one reason that I had warned you about before. And I did warn you.