Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Electric Relaxation: Death Certificate = Greatest West Coast solo hip hop album

Along with Nas, Ice Cube is my favorite MC. I bought his first 3 albums the summer of 2005 and they were the soundtrack to understanding why Cube was hands down the hardest MC in his prime. You can only get so much from downloading individual songs like I did.

I've told folks that Cube from 1990-1993 can stand toe-to-toe with any MC (and for that matter, throw in his NWA years since he was the main songwriter along with MC Ren). He balanced realness with pop success. He sold well, had everyone listening to him and most of all, he scared folks with brutal honesty about growing up in 90's Los Angeles.

His 2nd album Death Certificate is one of my favorites in any genre. A brilliant concept album that has influenced more MC's than you think. I'm going on a limb and saying it's the greatest solo West Coast hip hop album. The only album worth competing is Tupac's Me Against the World or 7 Day Theory. Death Certificate combines of both of those albums - passion, anger, sobering realism and uplifting his audience.

Just from that picture, you knew it was serious. Cube with his hand over his heart over Uncle Sam's dead body. You knew this wasn't just any rap album. It was about to get raw and real, as soon as that preacher finished his monologue on the opener.

DC was a more independent, focused Cube. His first album was made with the help of the Bomb Squad but this was all him, Sir Jinx and the Lench Mob. NWA had already dropped their followup and went #1 - proving they could survive with Cube and take shots at him. If AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted was his warning shot, DC was his full-on assault that showed he was the wrong brotha to mess with.

DC is split into 2 sides. The Death Side - Cube running wild like a typical hood kid who doesn't know any better, being angry, reckless and ends up dead. The Life Side - A rebirth where Cube realizes the error of his ways and becomes an advocate for the community in the vein of Malcolm X, Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers.

I love the Life Side because it shows Cube at his most conscious, volatile and angry. You can tell he became a full on Muslim with how he goes off on folks. Hard to pick a favorite song so I'll highlight some of my favorite tracks that sum up why this album earned 5 mics in the Source

"My Summer Vacation" - Cube's brilliant storytelling shines here. A tale of drug dealers going to Minnesota/Seattle to find work. Think further proof of DJ Quik's "Just Lyke Compton"

"A Bird in the Hand" - A song you don't hear about today. Everyone wants to be drug kingpins and all that but Cube is the one to admit the reasons behind most folks doing it. A last resort after trying to find work with no diploma and being short on cash. The BB King sample makes it feel even more bleak.

"True to The Game" - an attack of Black folks who sell out their communities/culture. The video is incredibly provocative and I wish Spike Lee used this in "Bamboozled." Be true to who you are and not who you think you should be.

"Us" - Cube pointing the finger at Black folks for contributing to their problems. As angry as he is as America, white folks and Korean store owners, he's quick to show it here as well as call for doing more to help themselves. Again, something we don't hear often that we need, especially today.

"Alive on Arrival" - 3 years before Biggie kills himself on wax and at the same time Scarface did the same on his debut, Cube writes from the P.O.V. of a guy shot in the streets and slowly dying in the hospital. Also a  critique on bad health care in the Black communities. It's also the next to last song on the Death Side before Cube is reborn.

Oh yeah, the only guest appearances are on "Color Blind" with a pre-fame WC and Coolio among the verses. There's also skits from Khalid Muhammad closing the Death Side and beginning the Life Side. But this is all Cube holding his own and making footprints in hip-hop. It also has one of the greatest disses ever in "No Vaseline" where he destroys NWA and Jerry Heller.

It's better than Snoop Dogg's debut because while Doggystyle is sonically and lyrically tight, there's no social commentary on there. It's better than The Chronic although while it created a whole new sound that Cube later emulated, Snoop was arguably the star of that album just as much Dr. Dre. Tupac's best work rivals it because Ice Cube was Tupac before Tupac hit the mainstream.

And for all the controversy surrounding the racial content,  it still went No. 2 on the pop charts and platinum. Proved that Cube was arguably the biggest solo rapper in America and not only does controversy sell, so does artistic integrity. .

Why do I love it?  Because it's a coming of age album. It describes the life of most Black men in that era - from being like O-Dog and Doughboy to Furious Styles. It's a maturity in hip-hop that isn't heard enough today. It's cinematic in its approach as Cube is a street reporter who tells it like it is without sugarcoating or exaggeration. It's music made with a purpose.

Case in point, this album is West Coast hip-hop at its finest. Check that, it's hip-hop at its finest.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Football Wrap Week 12 - Boise State Blues, Cam's Revenge, TCU Love

Nothing like a lil shake up to see things more clearly. Except Kyle Brotzman might still be the loneliest man in America outside of Buffalo Bills WR Stevie Johnson and Boise State feels like the rebel who got dethroned.

Black Friday provided one of the best days in college football in recent memory. Probably the best since 1998 when UCLA and Kansas State lost in the final minute to shake up the first BCS poll and put Florida State in the title game with Tennessee.

Auburn was down 24-0. I left home thinking Auburn would wake up at some point. Came back to them 24-14. Then Cam Newton took over and showed that leadership that'll earn him that Heisman in a few weeks. Biggest comeback vs. Bama ever. 28-27 and Killa Cam all but sewed up that trophy.

(Sidenote: I'd love to be a NFL GM and have to decide between Andrew Luck or Cam Newton. Love both of their styles, their pocket presence and mobility. Luck will probably get more "Golden Boy" love but Cam got a combo of Vince Young's gifts with Donovan McNabb's head)

Oregon was down to Arizona late and then the Ducky Boys exploded as usual. Like I've said, both Auburn and Oregon have defenses that can flip on a switch better than anybody else and go into shutdown mode to give their offense a chance to move.

Then there's Boise State. Y'all remember that Fiesta Bowl where Boise won on miracle plays? Their game vs. Nevada was karma coming back. After one of the best passes of the season from Kellen Moore to Titus Young to set up a chip shot game winner, Kyle Brotzman shanked it. Brotzman proceeded to out-do himself by missing another gimmie a few minutes later in OT.

Nevada wins. Boise sees their BCS dream go bye bye. Somebody go comfort Kellen Moore and the Broncos.

Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State all won so the Badgers are headed to a BCS bowl. Throw in Stanford's and TCU's dual demolition and we got a clear-cut BCS ranking.

What does that mean for this weekend? TCU has to root for Oregon State and South Carolina to upset the Ducky Boys and Cam's Crew to have any chance of the national title. Stanford QB Andrew Luck needs to root for South Carolina to make Cam look average in defeat so he can earn some Heisman love.

Guess all the Boise St. haters got their wish as Ohio State president Gordon Gee looks vindicated for being an elitist. Good ole America squeezing out the little guy - capitalists everywhere rejoice while us workers continue to scream for a playoff.

It's unfair that Boise State loses to a Top 20 team on the road in OT and tumbles out of the BCS top 10. People couldn't wait to say Boise was finally overrated yet they won't penalize another team that harshly who does the same thing.

I hope TCU wins just to make them crash the party and play a worthy opponent. I'll be watching this weekend to see how this all shakes down. It always come out clear even if it's not perfect but I'll never use this as an excuse to justify a flawed system.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NWA and Guns N' Roses: Kindred Spirits

The first time you hear "Straight Outta Compton", it sounds like a sonic assault of rage and inner-city anger. It's powerful and then when you hear Ice Cube's booming voice on the intro, it's on like a runaway train.

The first time you hear "Welcome to the Jungle," you get the same feeling. It's raw, violent and dangerous. The soundtrack to the dark side of Hollywood and Axl Rose's wail sounds like a maniacal host.

NWA and Guns N' Roses. Two of my favorite artists linked by their meteoric rise, being in LA and sad fall. Both of them changed the game by bringing some edge into it. Both scared folks and made them step their game up. Five men in each group being among the best in their craft.

Axl Rose = Eazy-E: The leader and volatile personality who was the face of the group.
Slash = Ice Cube: The most talented member, regarded as one of the best to ever do it.
Duff = MC Ren: Underrated yet valuable and consistent
Izzy = Dr. Dre: The rhythm of the group, the engine that made it churn.
Steven Adler = DJ Yella: The 5th wheel who's important in their own way.

Appetite for Destruction and Straight Outta Compton were released 13 months apart yet both albums were incredibly similar. Los Angeles was defined by the hair metal scene and it was all about the party without the substance. Popular music needed a swift kick in the rear and along came these two albums that paved the way for Nirvana's nail in the coffin in 1991.

No Guns N' Roses song matches the social commentary and Black anger as "F The Police" or "Gangsta Gangsta" (Paradise City might capture that rage in its blistering 2nd half). No NWA song was anywhere near the beautiful ballad "Sweet Child O' Mine" (although Express Yourself might come close). Yet both albums were almost mirror images of angst, chemistry and purposed rage in that summer of 1988.

I'm pretty sure both of them knew how powerful they were. Axl started wearing an NWA hat on tour and NWA had a song called "Appetite for Destruction" on the Efil4zaggin album. I admire both of them because they represented the soul of a Los Angeles that's rarely seen. LA isn't all surf and sun (c) Ice Cube - it's got some grit mixed in there. And most of my favorite L.A. bands captured that.

The saddest thing was both were too good to last. Comets in the sky. Axl and Eazy-E played key roles in destroying what they built. By 1993, NWA was splintered and Guns N'Roses released their last album as we know it (Chinese Democracy doesn't/shouldn't count). Yet their legacies remain as two of the greatest artists of not just the past 25 years, but of all time.

Watching this NWA documentary on VH1 tonite, it made me miss the power of Dre's early beats, Ice Cube and MC Ren's booming voices and Eazy-E walking around like a boss. And it reminded me of Axl's powerful voice and the twin guitar assault of Slash and Duff.

Absolutely brilliant. Music doesn't scare or challenge people lyrically or sonically in the mainstream anymore and this is a reminder when music could be legitimately hard and still make a dent on the pop charts. Killer Mike and Rise Against are two of the few artists today that remind me of that raw, potent energy.

Here's hoping that we can get an NWA reunion on Dre's final album Detox (10 years since "Chin Check" and "Hello") and a true G'N'R reunion at the Rock'N'Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Football Wrap Week 11: Bengals' Blues, Josh Freeman and the Iron Bowl

No lead story this week. Just quick hits since I was distracted by my choir's concert on Sunday. Let's start with the NFL and the new laughingstock of the league

- You're up 35-14 at halftime. At home. You're supposed to win. Carson Palmer and the Cincinnati D are the GOAT's of the year for not only losing that lead but giving up 35 UNANSWERED POINTS to Buffalo. Oh yeah, Terrell Owens isn't to blame for that.

He's having a great season and he's been giving his all in every game. I blame Carson looking like an average QB and their defense being terrible before I blame TO or OchoCinco.

- Peyton Manning can only do so much with a patchwork group of RB's and WR's - nevertheless, Brady won that game. I almost feel bad for PM but I'm impressed with how he manages to stay close in every game. Do y'all realize how many careers he's helped? Reggie Wayne, Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison, Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Brandon Stokley...

- I haven't talked much about Josh Freeman or Tampa Bay's 7-3 record. If there's a Pro Bowl caliber more under the radar than him, I want their name pronto. I may be biased because he's starting above my fellow USD alum Josh Johnson but game recognizes game and Freeman's showing leadership/decision-making and a knack for winning.

- Vince Young needs counseling. He needs somebody who'll keep him in check. Physically he's a great QB but he's reminding me of where Michael Vick used to be. A great arm, great feet, but mentally he's soft. I root for him to get it together because he's still one of the best QB/athletes I've ever seen.

Long story short, Titans owner Bud Adams needs to release him and let him get a fresh start. It's not your fault, it's best for both of y'all in the long run.

- Dallas won two games in a row? STOP THE PRESSES. My 'Boys finally got some pride in them! And San Diego won too? Fire up some bottle rockets and let's celebrate this glorious moment of both my teams winning.

NCAA Preview

The Iron Bowl on Friday is the biggest college football game of the season. It's bigger than just Alabama-Auburn and their great rivalry because there's more at stake. If Alabama wins this, all heck will break loose in the BCS.

If Bama wins, TCU or Boise State would rejoice because they're going into the title game. Auburn still has to win this game and beat South Carolina again on a neutral site for the SEC title. Oregon's gotta be rooting for Auburn because they don't want to see Boise State again after last year.

Speaking of the Ducky Boys, they got Arizona Friday night. Oregon hasn't been slowed down and I don't think Arizona's got the horses to do it. But will it be a great game? You bet. The Ducky Boys have been tested by Cal and Arizona knows they have a better QB who can test that defense.

But this game is one more test before the ultimate test. The Civil War with Oregon State next week - that weekend deserves its own crazy blog but we can't go there yet til this one is done.

Saturday's crazy action keeps coming with Ohio State-Michigan. Michigan State needs to root for Michigan to win because should there be a 3-way tie for the Big 10, they'd be screwed because the tie is broken by BS (i mean BCS) standings.

The Spartans beat Wisconsin and by some bad scheduling, don't get to play Ohio State. They need to hope that Terrelle Pryor doesn't decide to end his rivalry with Michigan with a bang.

(Even madder than Sparty if Ohio State wins? Iowa, who not only beat Michigan State but lost to Ohio State and Wisconsin by only 4 points. These. Are. The Breaks.)

My predictions? Auburn wins the Iron Bowl by 9 or less. Ohio State wins by 14 and Shoelace Robinson has to miss part of the 2nd half again. Oregon beats Arizona by 15.

Oh yeah, went 3-1 in fantasy this week. Still alive in the playoffs for 3 of my teams with winning records. But it's time to wonder how I'm gonna survive without Hakeem Nicks for 3 weeks.

Monday, November 22, 2010

JFK, CS Lewis, Aldous Huxley - Death Anniversary

John F. Kennedy, CS Lewis, Aldous Huxley. All 3 men died on the same day in history - November 22, 1963. Weird coincidence considering all 3 remain heavily influential in their field and beyond.

I remember being fascinated as a kid when I read about CS Lewis in the encyclopedia and saw he died the same day as JFK. It was weird cause in America, November 22 remains one of the saddest days in history. The definitive where-were-you moment for folks 50 and older. 

But it got even stranger this year when I was looking up Aldous Huxley. The author of "Brave New World" and influence on The Doors also died on 11/22/63. Trippy? Even Alanis Morissette would call this a lil too ironic.

People still hail Brave New World as not just one of the greatest books of the century but relevant in today's era, probably why I want to read it after I found it around the house.. CS Lewis has a new audience thanks to the Chronicles of Narnia movies as well as his Christian literature/philosophy that's still being read today (been reading The Screwtape Letters this year). 

And one only has to look at Barack Obama to see a reminder of JFK's youthfulness, vision and desire for change.

The only death anniversary that had the same amount of irony was July 4, 1826. On that date, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within hours of each other, the 50th anniversary of them signing the Declaration of Independence. Adams gave the memorable last words "Thomas Jefferson still lives", not knowing that Jefferson preceded him in death.

Something to ponder...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

CSI - My How You've Grown

I was watching the CSI pilot episode on Thursday. It's one of my favorite shows and I started watching it around 2003-04. For my money, it's one of the most influential shows of the last decade as far as influencing the awareness of forensic evidence and being a successful show about Las Vegas.

So of course, I think why not see how it all started. Just if anything to laugh at how young the characters looked. Sure enough, Gil Grissom and Capt. Jim Brass set the whole episode off by investigating a homicide and Grissom's typical wit set off the intro.

First thing I noticed was old the graphics looked in 2000. It looked like a typical CBS drama with the block lettering and dusty camera work. If I saw that show at 15/16, I probably would've been curious but would've passed on it because it didn't look cutting edge or fresh like the "24" premiere did my senior year.

Second, I saw some good old stereotyping in how Warrick Brown was portrayed early on. As the leading Black character on the show, he was hot-headed, distrustful, spoke in slang, rebellious to authority and a bit prejudiced. Not to mention he was pulled over for DWB (Driving While Black). It was bad but not as bad as the side Black character in the lab who got something right for Grissom and was so happy, he started dancing.

It just showed that TV's come a long way from the Black character explicitly having to fit certain stereotypes. But it also shows how far the show has come. I know that Warrick had a gambling problem that he overcome so I wasn't surprised to see that. It was more interesting how it played out and how deep he was involved in it.

I loved how they showed Nick Stokes' empathy right away too. I've long believed that Nick's the glue of the show because he can be forceful when he has to be but always shows a genuine care for the victims and witnesses that sets him apart from the cold-hearted cops he works with. Along with Chloe from "24", he's one of the best side characters in recent TV history.

Gil Grissom had a great quote in the show that not only summarized the premise of CSI, but also a great way to view things in life. "Focus on what cannot lie, the evidence." Evidence can be manipulated to support any agenda but taken as it is, it'll usually lead to the truth.

It's always funny to see how a show matures over its run. 10 years and counting and I love watching to see how the series continues to evolve.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Electric Relaxation: Camp Lo "Luchini (This Is It)"

It's Friday so why not start the weekend with one of the most underrated hip hop songs of the 90's. Plus I haven't done an Electric Relaxation post in a while. Cue the horns!

The best horn intro this side of Pete Rock, the whole song just makes you happy from start to finish. The horns make it feel like some theme music, like when you walk into a room, this plays. That hypnotic chorus makes you want to celebrate the minute you hear it. "This is it what!, Luchini pouring from the sky, let's get rich what!" and then the first bar: "Introducing, phantom of the dark" - thats like perfect walk-in music!

I hadn't heard this song before until one night at the paper. It was one of those hip-hop head joints that everybody talked about as underrated but the average fan probably never heard. I decided to check via Youtube and was mesmerized. I ended up buying their classic debut Uptown Saturday Night soon after (a GREAT album I should add)

Even better is that this song/album was produced by Ski Beatz, the same guy behind the vibe on Jay-Z's soulful debut "Reasonable Doubt". As opposed to the soulful joints he created on that album, all the Camp Lo joints remind you of more uptempo 70's music to create a sonic layer that fit Geechi Suede and Sonny Cheeba's fascination with 70's references. A sampling.

"Bottoms Up, Sunshine. Love Potion No. 9"
"We magnets to moolah, livin with Charlie's Angels hornets"

Still have no idea what both of them are talking about in this song, but it's filled with great 70's references and laidback yet on-point flows. Raise ya glass and toast to the weekend. This song is a celebration and it always makes me smile.

By the way, those horns come from "Adventures in the Land of Music" by Dynasty. Check it out here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Predictable Outrage (Kobe's COD Commercial)

The minute I heard Kobe Bryant was doing a commercial for the new Call of Duty game, I had a feeling people would be upset. Kobe said a month ago that he only did it because it looked silly and he felt that it wouldn't offend his young fan base.

I still knew that no matter how the commercial looked, Kobe would somehow be blamed. The commercial's been out for 2 weeks and already I'm starting to see the predictable handwringing that's coming from the media.

First off, my thoughts of the commercial. It's creative in showing how popular 1st-person shoot-em-up's have become. We've come a long way from me growing up with Wolfenstein and later Goldeneye and Duke Nukem. Everyone loves COD and this game was just as anticipated as Madden, NBA 2K11 or anyone. The commercial shows that with a variety of folks in there - including Jimmy Kimmel.

It's not offensive to me at all. Yet like clockwork, here come the reactions to the commercial about it  being a letdown to fans. The LA Times' Lakers blog had a unique take saying that it appeared to trivialize war by making it too simplistic. This I can agree with as opposed to this article by ESPN's Tim Keown that used the sad death of a child by automatic weapons to scold Kobe for doing this while Black-on-Black crime continues to happen.

It's a sad story and I feel the folks involved. They have every reason to feel outraged as it hits close to home. But I feel they were used by the writer, who targets Kobe and the commercial instead addressing the real issues that plague our communities and lead to violence.

If anyone wants to blame somebody, blame Activision for promoting this game and having a commercial that made war/battle seem trivial. But blaming Kobe is too easy a cop-out. Not when this game is going to be marketed toward kids or the general public whether Kobe's in it or not. Nobody's mad that Jimmy Kimmel's in this commercial but because sportswriters want to act like the morality police in the wrong places, it's time to target the Mamba.

Granted, we're barely a year removed from Gilbert Arenas' not-so-funny incident where he brought guns into the Washington Wizards' locker room. What Agent Zero did was stupid and reprehensible but if the media wants to put this in the same context with a video game and a light-hearted commercial, then it thinks we're even stupider because we can't tell the difference.

Yes, Kobe's the face of the NBA and has to watch what he does. But this commercial was over-the-top and I didn't take it like he was endorsing real violence as much as any of the folks in there who were involved. The commercial did its job.

Gun violence is real in this country. Thank God it's not as bad as it was during the 80's when inner cities turned into the Wild Wild West. If you want to target the real enemy, go after the video game companies that make these games. Look at the American public and our fascination with guns, violence and shoot-em-up games.

Video games are only the tip of the iceberg. Save the outrage for the real culprits of violence but don't blame fantasy for real issues. I respect anyone's choice to buy or not buy this game but don't shoot the messenger.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Football Wrap Week 10: Mike Vick = The One

I'm gonna take y'all back to 1999 for this week's wrapup. Back when Virginia Tech and Frank Beamer were a program on the rise and yours truly was a sophomore in HS. Michael Vick had me captivated as a QB I had never seen before. Greatest freshman finish in the Heisman Trophy since Herschel Walker and was a quarter away from a national title against Peter Warrick and Florida State.

I still remember the SI cover previewing the 2000 season. Vick with a lightning bolt behind him leading a revolution of quarterbacks who could run and pass with fear. He was an unstoppable weapon who in another world should've been a San Diego Charger legend (of course, Chargers fans thank him for that trade b/c that trade made LaDainian Tomlinson a Charger legend).

We waited to see him evolve from a freaky athlete into a nightmare for NFL defenses. He had signature moments - beating Brett Favre in Lambeau en route to the NFC title game, that OT game-winning run against Minnesota - but he had yet found a Morpheus who would make him realize his potential. He was gifted but still raw.

At the same time, he was the People's champ. I had his jersey and everyone rooted for him. That's when I learned the NFL was slow to change - Vick didn't revolutionize the position. I realized why Steve Young and Randall Cunningham were rare in their mold as modern-day dual threats. The NFL, despite d-lineman and linebackers getting faster and stronger, was still a pass-1st league and unless Vick conformed, he'd be the People's Champ but never fully respected.

Enter Tony Dungy walking into his life as a mentor post-prison. Enter Donovan McNabb who remembered Vick from when he hosted him at Syracuse in the late 90's and asked the Eagles to sign him. Both men provided what so many young Black men need these days - guidance, leadership, someone to hold them accountable.

Vick listened. His gifts were still evident in his comeback season but we watched him develop more as a person than a quarterback. He had to believe and take advantage of his 2nd chance, not just be grateful to receive it. When his mentor went to Washington, it was time to take the lead like Neo in the lobby.

10 years later, he's become the One. He's tapped into the Matrix and learned to combine his gifts with the intelligence to be a quarterback. Monday night, we watched one of the greatest QB performances in NFL history.

#7 was accurate, going through his progressions, hitting wide receivers in near perfect stride and running as a weapon, not out of desperation. He's shown future dual-threat QBs in Pop Warner and high schools all over what the next level is. 400 total yards of offense and 6 total TD's as part of the greatest offensive explosion in Monday Night Football history.

All this season, we've marveled at his growth. 4-0 as a starter. No interceptions. Making Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jax and LeSean McCoy better players. An incredible passer rating. Leading the Eagles to the top of the NFC East. Monday night was that Matrix-level performance we've been waiting to see for a decade.

He deserves to be in the MVP conversation. Philip Rivers is the only player worthy of consideration since he's on track to pass for over 5,000 yards and he's about to heat up with his usual November/December brilliance. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are token picks but in my opinion, Vick is hands down the favorite.

Redemption is a great story. And there's no better story we're watching than seeing Michael Vick not just regain his place as a starting QB but playing at some of the best football of his career. He's become The One we all knew he could be and then some.

Monday, November 15, 2010

NBA Quick Hits - It's Only November

It's only November. 2 weeks into an NBA season and already I see folks making snap judgments. Might as well jump in with some real talk about what we actually know at this point of the season.

- We know that Rajon Rondo is no longer lucky to be on the Celtics but they're lucky to have him mature and develop on their watch. What more does he have to do for respect? Game 6 vs the Lakers in 08. Nearly a triple double in the 09 playoffs minus KG. All-Star/All-Defense last year. Most assists to start a season in 20 years. As a Lakers fan, respect game.

- We know that Chris "Jar-Jar" Bosh is wildly overrated and his numbers were inflated in Toronto. If LeBron is Darth, D-Wade is Flash, Udonis is Chewbacca, he must be Jar-Jar b/c he's been useless on the floor. I defer to my boy MojoHoops on that but props to my Canadian bro Tyler Conium for calling that during the summer. Danny Granger, take notes.

- We know the Miami Heat have two big problems. Defending great point guards and toughness. They haven't embraced being the Evil Empire and Darth James hasn't shown the mean streak yet. Everyone guns for them and they're still learning how to be the most hated. Chemistry takes time to develop and that's why they won't win this year.

- We know the Lakers will be fine after two close losses to Denver and Phoenix. Phoenix had to shoot the lights out at a team-record pace and still won by only 5. Denver showed our cohesive bench that they have to stay tight on D and Pau Gasol has to bring every night.

- That said, we know that Shannon Brown's got an improved jumper, Steve Blake's fitting in well. Killer B's off the bench!

- We know that Utah and New Orleans are the surprise of the season. Monty Wiliams is coaching an undefeated team?? Deron Williams is leading Paul Milsap and Al Jefferson to comeback wins like nothing? It's as if D-Will and CP3 are reminding folks they're still barely scratching their prime.

- We know Oklahoma City might be battling a lil fatigue with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook enjoying the world championships but they're starting to show a lil killer instinct.

- We know John Wall is the truth. Triple double in his 6th game with only ONE TO. He still has little confidence in his J but he's hungry enough to get better.

- We know Blake Griffin is back to normal and producing like a beast but we DIDN'T know Eric Bledsoe might be a sleeper for the All-Rookie Team and make Baron Davis expendable. Clippers are worth watching this year.

- We know Kevin Love is making Kurt Rambis look like a overcautious prison guard. 23/24 vs the Lakers. 31/31 and channeling Moses Malone vs. Amar'e and the Knicks. I don't care if he has trouble defending, he's the best young rebounder in basketball besides David Lee and Reggie Evans.

- We know that Paul Pierce's Twitter is the best ether for the Evil Empire.

I love this time of year. The 2nd half of the NFL, NBA's in full swing, HS Football playoffs here in Cali, college bball is starting up, College football is heating up. It's a sports fan's paradise.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pacman's Demolition - Now About that Fight We Really Want

Manny Pacquiao destroyed Antonio Margacheato worse than Shane Mosley did in his walk-off KO of Margacheato. I didn't watch this out of protest for the fight we should be seeing as well as Margacheato's license only being upheld for Texas after California revoked him for trying to cheat against Mosley with loaded gloves.

The price of the ticket at Cowboys Stadium? Pacquiao planted so many tomatoes on the Wild Man's face that dude had a full garden and room for more if Pac-Man didn't show mercy in the final 2 rounds.

Almost made you think Margarito shouldn't have made fun of Freddie Roach's Parkinson's disease. Now he'll have face surgery on Tuesday - karma's a witch. So is pride, which stopped the fight from ending in the 10th.

Now everyone's talking about Pac vs. Floyd Mayweather. Again. This fight should've happened this year. Floyd made the Pacman agree to Olympic style drug testing and after Pac refused for a while due to it upsetting training regimen, he finally agreed to it. For some reason, Floyd's camp backed out.

Memo to Mayweather - make this fight happen. You have a legacy as a great fighter being tarnished by running from competition. You may be the only man who can give Pacquiao a fair fight. You hold the cards.

I dont know much about boxing but what I know about both styles and watching both fighters, PacMan's a volume puncher who unloads on you quick, furiously and without mercy. Mayweather's a defensive master who bored me in the Mosley fight but can counterpunch you to death and make you overthink your attack.

I love watching both and we're watching two of the greatest fighters of the last 20 years. Anybody who thinks Pac will knock Floyd out easily is a fool running on bias. It'll be a war of attrition, slow victories to gain the upper hand and fight for momentum. It'll go the full 12 rounds and be the biggest fight since Tyson-Holyfield 2 (the ear bite).

Let's do it for boxing. Marvel at what Pacman has done and if you need a reminder - ask Margacheato's surgeon this week. And let's pray for Pac-Floyd in 2011

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In Defense of Cam Newton (Support Facts, Not Entertain Rumors)

They build you up then try to take you down. They create your suit of armor then look for chinks that may or may not be there. Case in point, Cam Newton fighting against rumors about what he may or may not have done.

Here are the facts. Cam Newton is the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. Cam Newton is leading Auburn to an undefeated record. Cam Newton was immature 2 years ago when he was involved with that laptop scandal. Auburn has thoroughly vetted him way before this story came out. 

This is all that matters. Whatever rumors of what he did two years ago have absolutely no relevance on this season. Facts 1st, Rumors Last. This is a classic case of take a good story and look to destroy it because we are natural skeptics. Reggie Bush was too good to be true? Turns out his family took benefits so it "was".

The media is naturally skeptic by design. We are supposed to listen to words and trust our reporting to decide whether it's true or not. In this post-Watergate era, we rely more on anonymous sources than ever because it can get us stories.Unfortunately, we forgot what Woodward and Bernstein told us - use anonymous sources but get some facts to back it up. Report facts, not rumors. 

TMZ deals with rumors. Gossip sites deal with rumors. Mature adults listen to rumors and then look for facts to prove it before running wild with it. Rumors are left for high schools and elementary schools who don't know any better.

This cheating rumor and allegations from a 3rd/4th hand source of him asking for money to send him to Mississippi State is nothing more than a smear job against Cam Newton. Why else would someone leak private information that's 2 years old? What purpose does it serve other to raise doubt about Newton's ethics? And again, does this take away from the fact he's the best player in America?

Cecil Newton, Cam's father: “This is a character assassination attempt,” he said on a talk radio show in Alabam this weekend. “Who is going to profit and why are they are going to profit? We sure don’t. “I think there’s a group of people who have a hidden agenda and don’t want to see him as a Heisman nominee, let alone winner.”
It's sad that while we're watching a redemption story in the NFL in Michael Vick, there are forces that won't let Cam Newton be a redemption story. ESPN is treating this story like it could've happened and giving it legs while analysts are hinting at Newton's character flaws and suggesting that the Heisman vote is about protecting integrity even though there is no proof. Call it the Reggie Bush effect.

And suppose Auburn loses to Georgia this week, everyone will sit back and say "well now all that talk was irrelevant and premature wasn't it?" Classic move of setting someone up to fail and then avoiding any blame if it happens.

I won't say there's a racial element to it but considering how two schools have come out with information against him, there's definitely a conspiracy that some are implicitly or explicitly supporting by giving it legs instead of sniffing it out.

Is it possible that Cam's matured greatly from going to junior college, as ESPN's Jesse Palmer (a UF alum) said today when he spoke with him in the spring. Is it possible that he made mistakes and grew up from them? But such is life, the media/general public too often wants to dictate how you're going to be seen with no room for growth or they select who they want to see mature (i.e. Big Ben's rehab so quick compared to Mike Vick).

We need more voices in the media defending Cam like Gregg Doyel, who destroyed this story so beautifully this morning. We need people to listen to the Auburn AD strongly support Cam's growth. It's not about taking side of fairness, it's supporting innocence until proven guilty, not assumed guilty. While the process does it's job, we focus on the facts in front of us.

E-TV's take. This is all smoke with no fire. Any Heisman voter that uses this to consider whether or not Cam wins the award should have their vote stripped. I support facts, not rumors. I dedicate this song to anybody who supports facts over rumors, knowledge over hearsay.

Football Wrap Week 9 (Adios Wade!)

No matter what anybody tells you, pro sports is a coach's league. Players dominate it and make things go but teams usually thrive based on how their coach runs the ship. Case in point - this is what I noticed this week.

My Dallas Cowboys are 1-7 and looked like dog crap since Tony Romo went down and I wrote my eulogy. That's Wade Phillips' fault as players have stopped playing for him and just quit. Finally Jerry Jones put this dog out of its misery and clipped him. Next up - Jason Garrett, the failed Boy Wonder to Wade's Batman. Super Bowl faves to disappointment.

Minnesota's the worst organization in the NFL and why? Brad Childress over-reacting to Randy Moss, jawing with Percy Harvin, coddling Brett Favre. Tell me why he deserves to keep his job? The owner wants to fire him and had they not won Sunday, he'd be gone like Wade.

Buffalo's still winless but playing hard. Give their coach some credit for inspiring the troops because they're still fighting hard despite their record.

Washington's troubles are coming from Mike Shanahan overmanaging that team. He and his son did everything but call Donovan McNabb a waste of talent - out of shape, lazy, can't run a 2-minute drill. Hmmmm where I have heard his before? How about every old stereotype of a Black QB not able to cut it.

I mean what's worse than subbing him for the luckiest QB to reach the Super Bowl since Trent Dilfer. Rex Grossman? It's disrespect of the highest for a team that's still a Top 15 squad and a QB who got you there.

Coaching kills. Coaching wins. The winning teams this year? Jets, Ravens, Giants, Steelers, Packers - all excellent coaches along with great players and playcalling. That's why they're winning and why my teams are struggling.

Speaking of which, the Chargers finally won on the road this year. Two game winning streak means one thing - Houston may finally make the playoffs but Virgo's Teams are 2-0 against the Texans. Go head and chew on that.

Quick football hits.

- I don't care what Cam Newton allegedly did. I care about what he has actually done, which is nothing that he's been accused of. Auburn's checked him out and that's good enough for me. Guilty until proven innocent huh? Not in my book

Cam hasn't done anything wrong at Auburn. This is just smoke with no fire. I'm glad he went out and played well last week. They can't take that Heisman/redemption story away from you. I hope that these stories of youthful discretion are just another reminder of how you've grown since then.

- Illinois coach Ron Zook had a 4th and 1 with 6 minutes left. Up 7 on the road, he elected to punt to Michigan despite picking apart that terrible defense. Tate Forcier led the game-tying drive and set up the stage for that triple OT thriller they won. But Ron Zook made it all happen. Man Up! You on the road, you go for the kill! Die trying not settling.

- UCLA beating Oregon State may have sucked for Boise State and TCU (more on them later), but it's a great win that we needed. This team has no quit in it and the young players are showing why the future's in good hands. Jordan Zumwalt's (above) showing why he was the steal of the HS recruiting season last year.

- When's the last time a blocked PAT was the play of the game? USC-ASU made it all happen. The Trojans snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

- Anybody catch the Lions' new placekicker? That Ndamukong Suh guy has plenty of potential. First time I saw a brotha kick something since the World Cup.

- Peyton Hillis???? Peyton Hillis???? I haven't seen a white tailback have a pro day like that. 184 yards and 2 TD's on the Patriots??? Rub my eyes and let that settle. For the Record, the best rushing days for a White RB: John David Crow (203 yards - 1960), Norm Bulaich (198 yards - 1961)

- Terrell Owens is quietly having a resurgent year with the Bengals. For all that ruckus about him doing damage to the team, his stats (55 catches, 770 yards, 7 TD's) say that he's making it work.

- If Boise State can't crash the BCS title game, here's hoping TCU does after they destroyed Utah. I don't see Oregon or Auburn losing (although I'd bet more on Auburn losing to Alabama) but I want to see the best teams play in the final, not just the best teams from a power conference. The game is better when mid-majors play the big boys.

Bad Fantasy Week for me going 1-3. And my only win was by a score of 50-41. Ah well, next week will be better.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Dangerous Road Before Barack Obama

I found a piece James Baldwin wrote called "The Dangerous Road Before Martin Luther King." He wrote it in 1961 when MLK was starting to gain national attention and it was a combination of a profile of seeing King in 1958 and 1961. He noted how he was then and now while assessing his role leading the ever-changing civil rights movement. In typical Baldwin fashion, he used MLK to repaint a history of Black leaders and point at the shift in the movement becoming more student-led which led to the dangerous road that he anticipated for the icon.

It immediately made me think of Barack Obama and how he's easily similar to King paralleling him from 2004/2008 to now. It's made me wonder how times have changed and how Obama is seen differently 2 years later. 

He came in with much fanfare but now comes on the heels of a harsh rejection of his policy with the GOP's dominant midterm victory. So "in the spirit of Jimmy" (c) Kidz in the Hall, I present to you: The Dangerous Road Before Barack Obama.

Two years removed from a historic election, Barack Obama isn’t the same man we elected in 2008. His face is grizzled. His eyes weary. Hair a bit white. His voice firm yet tired. The leader of an impatient public who sent him a message this week by electing 60 Republicans and giving them control of the House of Representatives. The Senate still has a Democrat majority but they lost some crucial seats as well.

It’s the natural progression of a President – hopeful optimist to stone cold realist trying to keep that passion. It’s even harder when you’re the first Black/bi-racial man to hold the job and you aren’t just running the country, but being a litmus test for future Black candidates/politicians.

Throw in that he’s seen as somewhat out of touch and facing constant criticism from the right AND left and he had every reason to look defeated on November 3 after the Democrats failed their midterm.

Is it fair? That’s not really the question because we know the answer. It’s not fair that people expect way more of him but blame the fervor two years ago. It’s not fair he faced the greatest challenge since FDR took office in 1932. People expected magic but didn’t know that politics is hard work where things are accomplished not only with a bully pulpit but making deals. 

Never mind that undoing 8 years of George W Bush would be a hard task for Abraham Lincoln and FDR put together. It’s insane to expect dramatic help in only a quarter of that time. But I digress, this isn’t about the public or the Tea Party’s ignorance or the factors behind him.

This isn’t even a normal critique of the man because I’m more interested in what he will do, not what he has or hasn’t done. If Obama thought the last two years were difficult, the next two will be worse.

He faces more competition in the House to get things done. He has senators and congressmen committed to make sure he loses the 2012 election. It makes me wonder if he’s saying to himself: “I tried with the bailout. I tried by getting us out of Iraq, focused on Afghanistan. I’m even going on ESPN, The Daily Show and The View to show that I’m just like these folks. What more can I do?”

Somehow, he lost that connection. Or at least the appearance of it. We know that the 1st rule of politics is how things LOOK, not what they are. FDR, JFK and Bill Clinton had it. George Bush never had it. He looks/talks like an everyday guy who loves sports and would be down for a drink or two but where is that leadership moment that says “I get you” or “Follow me, I got this.”

He still commands a presence when he’s in a room but that magnetism is either lost or has become so commonplace that folks want something different.

The main disappointment I have with him is that I think he’s being held back. Held back from doing more than tough talk or going after certain folks. I believe Obama’s a naturally calm person who measures his words carefully. But I also think he’s too measured as if he doesn’t want to offend folks. He calls out nonsense from time to time but it seems like he walks a thin line as if he’s afraid of how’s he perceived.

Such is life for the Black pioneer. Look at Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, Curt Flood, MLK – all of them crossed into uncharted waters and they all faced extraordinary pressure. Their shoulders were heavier than we possibly could imagine. Jackie and Curt died before turning 55. MLK was weary before 40. Most Black folks who were the 1st to cross had to be careful early on. They had to face the abuse knowing that it would be easier for those who came after. Obama is only the latest to carry that burden and even in the 21st century, the pressure of history repeats itself. 

The gift of Obama’s words was that he inspired people. He empowered them in a way they hadn’t felt. He used his voice to connect folks and comfort them in their ability to dream again. It was something new and exciting.  It started in 2004 at the DNC and then got even more incredible in 2007-08 hearing him campaign.

What made him so unique was that he spoke to people in a way they could relate. A man of a diverse background who represented the hope of America coming together despite our differences.  He was a liberal fantasy, conservative nightmare and a living "American Dream" of unity - black and white. Polished yet urban. Young and vibrant.

James Baldwin said of MLK’s speaking: “He does not offer any easy comfort and this keeps his hearers absolutely tense. He allows them their self-respect – indeed he insists on it.” This, he said, made MLK’s speaking so great and the same could be said for Obama in my opinion. He challenged people, didn’t just tell them what they wanted to hear but encouraged them to do something about it.

We saw this with the More Perfect Union Speech after the Rev. Jeremiah Wright flap. We saw this on Father's Day as he chastised the lack of Black fathers. It came from a place of understanding, firmness, passion and conviction. The More Perfect Union speech was one of the most powerful speeches I've ever heard and led me to believe this was a new Black leader who didn't sugarcoat yet still served something worth eating.

All of that is prologue. The real goal now is how he takes this cold reality slap, wakes up and rediscovers a new identity. Because he needs a new purpose and a rethinking his strategy.

I still believe he can be a great President. The effects of his policy will start to be felt next year. There is still plenty to look forward to. But all that matters is what he can do in the next two years. The goal now is 2012.

The mission of the GOP – as stated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – is to get him out of office.  His mission is to prove himself re-electable (as well as convince others to make the case for him). This won’t be easy and it’s going to be harder without full control of Congress but this is where Bill Clinton had to succeed 16 years ago.

The road is indeed dangerous, getting rougher by the day as the hard work of 2008-2010 threatens to be repealed right before it takes effect. But he can determine the course if he takes control once again. He can’t use only his words anymore; he must take the wheel and show it.

Baldwin said of MLK that he has “the grave responsibility of continuing to lead in the path he has encouraged so many people to follow.”  This is Obama’s task now after the midterm elections. He has to keep picking his battles but he has to show his fight/his team building/mettle.  It is up to us not just to watch, but remember that we must WORK to make our country.

We play a role in the how the road is affected as well and the less bystanders/more participants determines how the next two years shape up.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Club vs. The Bar

On Sunday, I went to a club in Hollywood for only the 2nd time. I oughta be talking about how happy I am that I've finally crossed something off my checklist this year (Go clubbing in H-Wood). Instead I'm wondering if the scene has passed me by.

It's been 5 years since I've been old enough for the club and times have changed. Just look at the music. In 2005-06, it was all crunk/reggaeton. You could go knowing you could still get songs with some bass to keep bodies moving. Now its 2010 and we got a bunch of techno rap or songs that make you want to pose and be hard, not grab a chick and start dancing.

Case in point. I'm on the dance floor Sunday. Rick Ross' "BMF" comes on - dudes start posing while chicks didn't know what to do except sing along. There were some other new joints that came on and I'm like, where's the rhythm? Now of course, some songs made girls lose their minds (i.e. Usher's "OMG") but most of it felt like music where a girl can freestyle, a dude watches or just poses but no partner dancing.

To make it worse, the DJ replayed BMF, Turn My Swag On and a few other wack songs I won't mention but they only played one crunk song (Ying Yang Twins "Salt Shaker"). When they played Tupac's "How Do U Want It", they mixed it into Biggie's "Juicy." Granted, I love both songs but at a club, they set different moods and it killed any buzz I had on the floor.

Why in the world do DJ's who come after each other not know what the other played? I never figured that out - of all the dope club songs you can name, there's no reason you should be repeating songs. You're responsible for setting the mood and you're reminding me how dope I used to be having a club playlist back in college.

I dont know, man. Clubs nowadays play songs that I just don't feel anymore. Any club that plays Souljah Boy should lose its license. I'll say that hearing Waka Flocka "No Hands" made chicks lose their minds but that song is so stupid that Wale is making me forget he released his More About Nothing mixtape. Throw in high covers and overpriced drinks, it's like I'm almost wondering why pay for something I might not fully enjoy.

A lot of songs now just aren't good dance music. It's mostly for posers or people who want to be seen. Granted, we all like songs that we can walk around feeling hyped over but when it gets down to business, I'm there to dance and earn my money.

And that's where the bars come in. I love the bar scene when it's the right mood and the right crowd around me. 1) It's Free. 2) More money for drinks and a laidback scene where i can rock a T-shirt or polo instead of   get too dressy (although I like that). 3) Fewer egos as far as talking to folks.

The catch is, you get everybody coming in there. And the music is probably going to be similar, if not worse because it will be catering to Top 40 even more. But the thing is, it's free and chances are, you'll probably be dancing anyway because if you're in a good mood, anything can happen.

The women still look nice in there but naturally you'll find better eye candy in a club. Hey, you pay more, you get your money's worth in ambience and eye candy appeal.

Honestly, I'd rather pay near nothing to hear decent music and have a good time than pay $20-30 for a club that doesn't step up their music like the crowd steps up for the environment. I mean I'm not expecting much but I'm expecting clubs to get good DJ's who can spin a good mix of songs to keep the dance floor full.

I'm not getting old and boring, I'm just deciding how to make better use of my time. Sunday night reminded me why I love the club every so often but the bar a little bit more.

(Sidenote - I still love the clubs in San Diego. Music's usually on point and I realized the standard I now have for DJ's after being lucky to see the Alchemist perform at Stingaree.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Football Wrap Week 8: Randy Moss's Spine.

Randy Moss is the NFL's Allen Iverson. A mercurial talent who's been misunderstood since high school and somehow creates drama with every team he's on. When all's said and done, Moss will probably be a Top-3 wide receiver to ever play the game - ask my beloved Cowboys how it burns every time he faces us.

He's a quarterback's best friend. The 1998 Vikings and 2007 Patriots are two of the highest scoring teams ever because of him. Daunte Culpepper nearly earned an MVP because of him. Brett Favre might still be in Green Bay if he could've gotten him 3 years ago.

He's a coach's worst nightmare because his mouth gets in the way of his talent. He's just like Terrell Owens except Owens is far from a #1 WR right now. But let's be real - his comments yesterday were strange, rambling yet honest. Did it deserve to be cut? No. How many guys have done that and merely been fined. There's something deeper we don't know about.

Apparently there was some incident at a postgame meal too. Again, who cares? Like I said, what's worse - disrespecting authority or taking advantage of it like Favre does every week/summer.

It's funny, an organization that has showed no spine with allowing Brett Favre to hold them hostage gets rid of somebody who has backbone. Why wouldn't you listen to Moss who knows the Patriots scheme up and down?

As bad as my Cowboys are, the Vikings are a worse organization from top to bottom. Leadership from the top down is non-existent and I have no idea who runs that team. Randy Moss is gonna end up with a contender because unlike Iverson, Moss is still an elite player who can make a difference.

Save all the "NFL in Turkey" references - Moss will be in the postseason while the Vikings enjoy a Top-10 pick in the NFL draft and waste another year of Adrian Peterson's career. I don't always agree with Randy speaking his mind but would I take a chance on him? Absolutely IF we need him, which my Cowboys don't.

Sweet karma c/o of my boy Mojo Hoops - Brett Favre going rockabye baby after playing a game he shouldn't have and getting knocked unconscious. *plays Lupe Fiasco "Go To Sleep"* He'll think he's dreaming that Randy Moss is gone, Percy Harvin's hurt and Sidney Rice is still hobbled on the sidelines.

More quick college/pro hits.

- Did we really have a Troy Smith sighting in London? I haven't heard from that dude since the Ravens drafted him. And he got the win? I'm happy for him - San Francisco, turn the keys to the former Heisman winner and just see what happens.

- San Diego finally won again. Norv Turner finally got angry. And our special teams didn't have any boneheaded plays. We live to fight another day. At least one of my teams can beat Tennessee.

- Something told me this year the Raiders would be a sleeper. At 4-4, they're showing me why. Bad enough I had to watch them beat my Chargers but they're showing something I haven't seen since Jerry Rice was in silver and black.

- Roy Helu Jr.? Who? An unknown senior who had the greatest rushing performance at one of the greatest tailback U's in college history. 307 yards, 3 TD's of over 50 yards. That was a day to remember even if nobody knew his name before Saturday and he was lucky Taylor Martinez was out. A great night for a senior.

- USC is just another college football program now. Every dynasty has it's rebuild mode. Miami had it in the mid-90's despite churning out Warren Sapp and Ray Lewis. USC will still pull great talent but until that talent starts producing across the board and developing (esp. on defense), they're just another good program.

- Jake Locker is proving the old adage true. Leave for the pros early because waiting a year usually doesn't go as well. He's battled injuries and inconsistent play and now he'll be a mid-first round pick.

Fantasy Report: ALL I DO IS WIN!!!

U Mad League: 5-3 (Tied for 1st with the Tiebreaker edge). YES!
Sports Gurus League: 6-2 (5 game winning streak zooms me up to 1st place) *flexes*
South Beach NWO: 4-4 (3rd in league and possibly in good shape without MJDrew)
Fantaball: 3-5 *blank stare* - 7th??? For real??