Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Blackface and Kanye: Too Comfortable with Hate

Transcending race. Being colorblind. These are all terms that I seem to hear often and after reading David Sirota's "Back to Our Future", I understand these are fairly new concepts introduced in the 1980's. That's why last month was so interesting to me.

Two things happened that showed the problem with this idea. The annual issue with folks dressing up in blackface and Kanye West adding the Confederate flag to his fashion at his shows. First the blackface.

The problem with blackface is that we have a couple of generations removed from the "racist past" who think it's cool to do it without realizing the consequences. They actually bristle at you when you dare tell them it's wrong and offensive instead of apologize and realize the error of their ways.

But today's youth has a unique situation. White kids grow up with a Black president, Black rappers being the biggest pop stars on the planet and White pop stars using Black influences (which isn't new). They're in a society where pop culture is more diverse than ever yet their understanding of individual cultures is limited.

Friday, September 27, 2013

9/29/98: 15 Years Later (The Love Movement)

A Tribe Called Quest is my favorite group of all time. Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders affected me deeply in college and Midnight Marauders is in my personal top 10 – not just hip-hop, but all time.When I saw their documentary last year, I was both happy and sad. Happy to relive my favorite things but sad to see how things fall apart after Midnight Marauders.

That's why it's hard for me to write about The Love Movement because it represents the end*. The end of Tribe. The end of an era. One of the saddest farewells in hip-hop and 15 years later, it still is sad thinking about it being the last album we have with Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

Love Movement isn’t a bad record. It’s not on par with their first three but it’s better than Beats, Rhymes and Life. It’s a farewell where all the old friends gather to pay respects but it’s not a celebration.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

9/29/98: 15 Years Later (Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star)

This is the second in a series looking back at September 29, 1998. A classic release day in hip-hop where several gamechangers came out. This is Part 2 looking at Black Star’s classic debut “Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star.”

It was fitting that A Tribe Called Quest released their last album on 9/29/98 because their torch was passed in two ways. It was passed to OutKast on Aquemini (which I’ll discuss later) but also Black Star, who took a similar road that Tribe carved out.

I first heard Black Star’s album in fall 2004. One of my advisors in our multicultural center passed me a copy that I burned along with The Roots “Things Fall Apart”. Soon as I listened to it, I was hooked by the beats, rhymes and life of hearing two of my favorites start their careers.*

The album felt like a throwback while looking ahead. The “B-Boys will be B-Boys” skit reminded you of when hip-hop was a park jam and dancing was just as important as MCing.

Maybe that’s why Black Star is significant 15 years later. While Jay-Z revived Biggie’s formula and DMX brought the street element, that album was one of the first to try and recreate that early 90’s feel of alternative rap groups like Tribe, De La Soul and others.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

9/29/98: 15 Years Later (Vol. 2 Hard Knock Life)

15 years ago this Sunday, several albums were released that became gamechangers or showed pivotal moments in the artist’s career. September 29, 1998 would forever be known as a great day for hip-hop and I wanted to reflect on four of those albums that dropped. First up, Jay-Z’s “Vol 2...Hard Knock Life.”

Jay-Z’s growth to the most popular rapper in America is amazing to me because I remember that moment when it first happened 15 years ago when I was starting high school.

It’s when I heard the twin combo of “Hard Knock Life” and “Can I Get A…” dominate the radio that fall of 1998.  Throw in “Money Ain’t a Thang” and all a sudden, Shawn Carter is no longer just another New York rapper but a multi-platinum artist thanks to his third album.

With hip-hop still in a weird place post Biggie/Tupac, enter Jay. His first two albums were great and he had radio singles that were dope (Reasonable Doubt’s “Ain’t No…” and “Can’t Knock the Hustle”) and obvious panders (Vol. 1’s “City Is Mine and “Sunshine”*). He had yet to cross over and this is where his hustler mentality took over combined with his great skill.

In 1998-99, Jay’s success benefited from several things. 1) Linking up with DMX and Ruff Ryders**, 2) The Hard Knock Life Tour which was huge for restoring rap in the public eye, 3) His ability to take what Biggie/Puff did – use obvious samples with gritty rhymes - and go to a higher level, 4) Rap was on the verge of becoming more popular than ever.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

NABJ 13: Lessons Learned, Skills Acquired, Confidence Raised

So how do put NABJ 13 into words? The annual convention for the National Association of Black Journalists was incredible, inspiring and worth every dime spent. Last year's experience was eye-opening and felt like a goldfish swimming in a bigger tank. This year, I knew what to expect and my plan was stronger.

I asked more questions at panels and took chances to put myself out there. First panel was understanding the business of yourself and how to promote who you are. I signed up to give a 60-second pitch and even though I was nervous, I stood up, handled my business and got some great feedback.

As a bonus? I met a few folks from Los Angeles in the panel, including moderator Mark Luckie from Twitter. I also ran into a friend from last year who ended up becoming one of my closest partners in crime this year (what up Jasmine!). But that symbolized my convention - taking chances and seeing what you can learn from it.

Some more tidbits.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Real Problem with Don Lemon's Words

Don Lemon has risen as the most high profile CNN anchor of color over the past few years. At times, he has shined in his role but recently, he's been the go-to-anchor when it comes to matter of race. I've personally looked up to him as a journalist for a while and I respect his calm and steady presence behind the anchor desk.

That's why when he said that Bill O'Reilly's criticisms of Black people didn't go far enough, it troubled me. He couched his remarks by describing what he witnessed in his Harlem neighborhood.  I've heard this from folks like Larry Elder, Bill Cosby and others. Black people need to do X-Y-and-Z and if you say this out loud, you get celebrated like a bold witness.

Unfortunately, he missed the mark focusing too hard on the wrong things. And the fact that he's being celebrated highlights a bigger issue when it comes to problem solving.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Uncomfortably Numb (Trayvon Martin and America's Sickness)

James Baldwin once said “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in rage all the time.” For me, my anger is slowly hardening and replaced with numbness as injustice continues in various forms.

Being Black in America means at some point, you’ll go from shock to anger to numbness at how often things happen to people who look like you. No matter how optimistic you want to be, you start losing hope that things will ever change.

What happened Saturday was the justice system reminding us that it’s not fair. George Zimmerman, due to his legal team doing a great job, wasn’t found guilty of killing Trayvon Martin despite initiating the confrontation. A kid is dead because of racial profiling and perhaps winning a fight he didn’t expect to be in and yet his killer walked.

Martin’s reputation became fair game during a trial instead of Zimmerman’s tendencies for violence and other behaviors. Despite a fair trial, all Zimmerman is guilty of being a vigilante who disobeyed orders and started a fight. Manslaughter was an option and yet the jury could not to find him even guilty of that. More or less, Martin is somehow responsible for his own death.

Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant. Two victims of the same killer - American prejudice.
But real question. How is this any different than how I felt about Oscar Grant exactly three years ago? Or Sean Bell? Or little Aiyana Jones? Or Chavis Carter? Or Amadou Diallo? How can I be shocked when this happens like clockwork?  

I’m tired of seeing innocent people killed and nobody answering for it. The fact that Grant’s death saw a police officer get only seven months in jail is mind-blowing. Yet when you consider the killers of Bell, Jones, Diallo and more were exonerated, that’s actually a rare victory.

All I am right now is numb. And frankly, I’m tired of feeling that but it’s reality sinking in about this sick world.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Don't Let the Distractions Fool You (Paula Deen, Rachel Jeantel and the Voting Rights Act)

If there's anything I gained from seeing all the news this week, it's a reminder that we're surrounded by a lot of distractions and not enough direction to focus on what matters.

Case in point, Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court Tuesday. Section 4 says that certain jurisdictions in nine states have to get federal approval on changing voting conditions suggested in Section 5.

So in other words, the Court decided 5-4 that now all states have the right to change up their voting practices without asking for federal approval because we've made so much progress since 1965 and those provisions are irrelevant, according to Chief Justice John Roberts.

That was the words of Chief Justice John Roberts. As shortsighted as that was, it was nice compared to Justice Clarence Thomas saying he would've eliminated Section 5 as well.

But the dominant conversation isn't about the impact of this or how states are already trying to take advantage. No, we're talking about Paula Deen's racist words and Rachel Jeantel's appearance on the witness stand in the Trayvon Martin case.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Goodbye, World on Wheels: An L.A. Treasure

If you grew up in Los Angeles during the 80's and 90's, World on Wheels was a place to be. Growing up in Mid-City, I attended birthdays there as well as several church outings. Even though there was a worry about a gang presence in the area, somehow the place felt cool where you could just enjoy yourself.

After this weekend, World on Wheels will be no more. Another Los Angeles memory of my childhood gone as time has passed it by and revenue was harder to come by.

I've realized that growing up means saying goodbye to things and people. Skating is a lost art these days and yes, World on Wheels' days were numbered but it's still sad to see something you grew up with become a memory. It's one of the last remaining indoor skating rinks in the city and for 32 years, it made its mark here.

W.O.W. became famous in the 80's because KDAY would host hip-hop concerts there, including NWA and LL Cool J. For me, it was just a great place to go skating. It was where I learned to get comfortable with it like my peers would with roller blades and for a brief part of my life, it was a great place to be.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Out and About: Mission Viejo Arts Alive Festival

Last month, I attended the Mission Viejo Arts Alive Festival since my girlfriend was assisting there for a class project. Besides seeing great chalk work and hearing some dope music from the 1960's, I also got interviewed by Mission Viejo TV for their trivia game. It's a small appearance but trust that I represented my knowledge well.

Also here's some of the artwork that was on display.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Podcast: Ice Cube's Death Certificate

Forgot to share this last week but I finally had the chance to join Single Simulcast's podcast to discuss one of our favorite albums. Ice Cube's classic 2nd album, Death Certificate.

Back in 2010, I made an argument why Death Certificate is the greatest solo album to come out of the West Coast. Three years later, I had more ammo on my side as I realized the musical and political impact that album had. It created a sound the West Coast hadn't really dug deep into before by sampling funk records and having more bass than most artists had before. Dr. Dre turned it up another notch with G-Funk.

So enjoy a listen with me, Larry Lank Lank and Single Simulcast's host Rashanii. It's over 2 hours long but it's one of the best things I've done. It's also a tribute to an incredible album that probably can't be made on a record label today but has influenced MC's over the years such as Nas, Killer Mike and Kendrick Lamar.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

My Review of "The Great Gatsby"

Friday, I saw "The Great Gatsby" with a mix of emotions. Yes, it's one of my favorite novels of all time but I was scared that director Baz Luhrmann would bloat it with too much pizazz and not enough soul. I was also nervous that hearing modern music would distract me from being in the 1920's.

Can you blame me though? I've dissected this book twice - in high school and more thoroughly in college. It holds a high place for me because of F. Scott Fitzgerald's writing, the themes I can relate to and the idea that it's made for film. I've seen the 1970's version with Robert Redford/Mia Farrow and I loved how Redford played Gatsby with restraint and charm.

So I had a lot riding on this movie and tried to keep low expectations. I quickly reread the book two weeks ago to refresh my mind. My verdict: I was surprised.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Best of Biggie: My favorites from Chris Wallace

Three years ago, I honored the Notorious B.I.G. in this space and I said that I couldn't do a Top 10 list of my favorite songs. I'm going to try to do it now and while it should be easy because Biggie only has a small catalog of music, it's hard because I enjoy most of his music and as a writer, I love his wordplay and rhyme schemes.

Without further adieu, here goes my list.

Unbelievable - My favorite Biggie record is perfect in every sense. Juicy is perfect too but this one is a great marriage of Biggie's easy flow and DJ Premier simple yet creative and funky beat. The R. Kelly sample in the middle is a great touch. I just love the feeling I get when I hear it.

The What - I love how Biggie and Method Man trade verses. Love how Biggie mimics a hiccup in the middle of his 2nd verse. Love Easy Mo Bee's beat coming smoother than a river.

Review: Big Boi & Killer Mike at the House of Blues

The last 2 weeks have been a blur for me. Got to witness my sister receive her law degree in Atlanta and my mother get her doctorate in Educational Leadership in the same week. To end it all, I returned to Atlanta somewhat when I went to go see Killer Mike and Big Boi at the House of Blues.
I hadn't been to the HOB on Sunset since 2007 when I interviewed Chuck D and sadly had to leave before Public Enemy took the stage. Yes, I chose a date over seeing PE up close and personal but if it makes you feel better, I had seen them a week prior at Rock the Bells.

Anyways, I got there right before an opening act started. Fishhawk was a pretty cool band but the sound made it hard to appreciate them until their last two songs. Their lead singer definitely was a character on stage with his curly hair and stage antics but I dug their sound. I may give them a listen on Spotify to see more.

Then it was time for Killer Mike. Soon as I heard the opening seconds of "God is In the Building" Mike came out spitting his opening verse from "Big Beast", the lead single from last year's "R.A.P. Music."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Memo to the Tea Party: Welcome to the Club

I've been rolling my eyes at this news that the IRS secretly targeted Tea Party organizations in 2010 and 2012 and even more so at the overwhelming reaction from people to it. The uproar has some people treating this like Watergate II and all I can do is sit back with a smirk.

Memo to the Tea Party, their supporters and others who are outraged by this. Have you ever studied American history? Better yet, American domestic policy?

Let me educate real quick. The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover created a little something called COINTELPRO. During 1956-1971, they investigated and infiltrated political groups they deemed subversive such as the NAACP, SCLC, CORE, Students for a Democratic Society and other civil rights organizations. Their tactics included surveillance, spies, spreading false information, working with police officers for illegal raids, and in some cases, murder with aid from various police departments.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Barnes @ Work (May Update - 31 LBS and counting)

I started this journey on January 3. Here I am on May 9. Four months into this transformation and this is where I stand. A weight I haven't purposely seen in over a decade.

I'm currently 180 lbs. I started at 211 lbs. 31 lbs shed in four months. A state of mind renewed. Looking slimmer in pictures than I think I have since high school. I can't believe it!

Let me say that again. THIRTY-ONE POUNDS LOST. I went from averaging 14-17 mins a mile in January to 13-14 mins/per mile when I started running at the beach in February to now averaging 11-12 mins.

I got to reconnect with Cleveland Cavaliers coach (and fellow USD alum) Mike Brown last month, who I first met in 2010. But I'm just amazed how slim I look in this photo.
April was such a good month for me. I forced myself to run further and push harder than I thought I could do. I went from running 5 miles one week to chasing six the next. Last week, I ended April and started May running 6 miles, 3 days a week.

I'm now running from the beginning of Redondo Beach to the beginning of Hermosa Beach. It blew my mind that it's a 3-mile run and when I hit the Hermosa border, I almost get giddy and want to keep going even further because I can't believe I've run into another city.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Whirlwind Pyramid (On Jason Collins, Chris Broussard, Faith, Evolution of Opinion and Me)

I gave my sports take on Jason Collins' announcement at the EB Sports Report. But what I'm about to say here is better suited for this format. Especially since it involves the great battle between faith and homosexuality thanks to what ESPN's Chris Broussard had to say on the matter

As I said on the EBSR, Collins and Britney Griner's announcements this month on coming out signify that in 2013, the climate is better suited for athletes to show support for gay rights. It's better suited for gay athletes if it isn't already for lesbian athletes. And it's also a time where many have to evaluate what they believe.

Jason Collins deserves all the credit today and while it may not make as much impact as if he was younger, it's still a great moment because he's the first openly gay athlete in a Big 4 sport. It's not a Jackie Robinson moment because his career is winding down but it's still worth noting for the simple fact of what he did

Chris Broussard started off today talking about how the NBA would react to Collins and most of it was overwhelming positive. Then this happened - Broussard was asked about it as a Christian and he said what was in that link.

"Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly, like premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian." 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Where the Media Failed (And Succeeded) in the Boston Marathon Tragedy

Amidst the tragedy in Boston, the media became part of the story as we saw the best of reporting from local outlets, especially the Boston Globe, and the worst of 24/7 media coverage, most famously CNN. What happened last week should be and will be studied for years on what to do, not to do and ultimately how money, guests and ratings have trumped.  
Cable news failed because of their failure to handle this information culture we are in. There’s too much information floating around and in an attempt to be relevant, they want to include everything or touch on every angle without considering if it matters or is confirmed.

CNN showed this when they along with others reported that a suspect was on his way to the courthouse. The normally reliable John King said it was a dark-skinned male, an announcement that drew the ire of the National Association of Black Journalists and others.

They also had Jake Tapper far away from the action, which made his reporting/analysis seem distant compared to MSNBC. Bad enough the media got it wrong on identifying the suspects by name and face and probably won’t go out of their way to apologize and work to repair their mistake. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Public Enemy "It Takes A Nation of Millions" - 25 Years as the Greatest Rap Album

25 years ago Sunday, the greatest rap album of all time was released. Public Enemy's sophomore album changed hip hop forever and it's still a remarkable album every time I hear it.

The first time I heard it was in college. I had bought a PE greatest hits CD in high school so the next step was to hear this album. I downloaded "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos", "Rebel Without a Pause" and "Party For Your Right to Fight", the last one simply because it flipped the Beastie Boys' biggest hits.

I ended up DLing the whole album and to say that it was powerful is an understatement. It's music for a revolution but it didn't lose its cool or fun in the process. It was hip hop growing up to be a force of change on the heels of Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys making hip-hop popular.

Here's my case why it's the greatest album in rap history (and one of the best albums period of the last 30 years).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

RIP KDAY: The Last of a Dying Breed

By now, most of you have heard that my city's last great hip hop radio station is possibly going to be sold this year and flip to a Mandarin-language format. KDAY, which came back in 2004, might be officially on life support and I couldn't be sadder.

As a native Angeleno, I grew up in the shadow of hearing KDAY as I got older. I listened to 92.3 The Beat and Power 106 but I knew neither of those stations would be possible without KDAY in the 1980's giving Los Angeles great hip hop and exposing folks to NWA, Ice-T, DJ Quik, Rodney O & Joe Cooley and so many other local legends.

I used to drive down Crenshaw Boulevard going to school and I passed by the old 1580 KDAY offices every time. KDAY was the first station in the country to play all hip-hop and even when it went off the air in 1991, its legacy loomed large when I talked to older friends and family members.

That's why in 2004-05, I was so happy when I heard KDAY was coming back. It gave me a chance to appreciate a radio station that showed love to L.A. as well as old school hip hop. I came home from college and during the winters and summers, I'd listen to Julio G showing love to national acts as well as local.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Barnes @ Work! (April Update)

On my fourth month of working out and here's the progress for you.

Current Weight: 187-188 lbs.
Weight Lost Since Jan 3: 23-24 lbs.

What I learned in March is that as much as I'm working out, I had to change up my diet a bit. I had been going cold turkey on sweets, carbs and anything that was going to add to be unhealthy. But since I've been working out more and running more, I realized that I had to eat more so while my diet is still pretty consistent - no eating past 8-9 p.m. if possible, save sweets for the weekend and salads/water with most meals - I've had to eat more since I'm burning more.

March saw me cross the 4-mile barrier and now I'm consistently running 4 miles two to three times a week. The next goal was 5 miles. Monday, I ran 4.96 miles nonstop. Today, I ran 5.05 miles. Cross another one off!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Rest in Peace, Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert wasn't just a film critic. He was an institution. He was a teacher. He was open-minded when he viewed movies but he let you know what he thought honestly.

When I took a college course in studying television/film criticism, Ebert's name came up as the most prominent critic in the country. I learned terms like "auteur" and "mise-en-scene" and directors like Francois Truffaut - all things that I'd later see in Ebert's great reviews of film.

He passed away Thursday at 70, a day after announcing he'd take a leave of presence. To me, he defined what being a critic should be. Fair, open-minded, intelligent and able to appeal to a wide audience with clear thoughts. More than anything, he helped teach us how to watch movies and learn from the greats, as well as appreciate certain aspects we may not see.

As a kid, I knew who he was because he and Gene Siskel were always around. I remember the joke as a kid wasn't knowing which was which. Who was the skinny one again? I also remembered this great parody of them on Animaniacs that was still funny when I re-watched it today.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Pursuit of Arete

When I was in 8th or 9th grade, I remember studying the ancient Greeks in World History and my teacher taught us about the idea of Arete (pronounced AR-e-TAY). It was a Greek term for all-around excellence - whether it be intellect, athletics or physical - and it was the central idea of their culture. They believed in making the most of all they had to offer society and not wasting their gifts.

15 years later, that term still fascinates me. My teacher said it was a precursor to another term we all know - Renaissance Man, someone we consider to be well-rounded. It makes sense since the Italians looked back to the Greeks for inspiration during that time period.

This year has been a great journey for me as I've started a new blog and stepped up my fitness to lose some weight. I've been challenged spiritually as well and I feel like that as I approach my 30's, it's time to become even more comfortable pursuing the best that I can be. That's where Arete comes in and I figured out a three-pronged approach to help me reach that.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Gasoline Dreams: 10 Years since the Iraq Invasion

10 years ago last week, I was sitting in my dorm room wondering what Washington was going to do with Baghdad. I sat there worrying that we'd be going to war and if Saddam Hussein really did have these things called weapons of mass destruction. Then my roommate turned to CNN and we saw an OutKast song come to life.

I wanted to immediately post an away message on AIM saying Bombs over Baghdad. But instead, I was scared. So was my roommate. I saw somebody post a message saying "Let us pray" so I went ahead and posted something more thoughtful like that. Because I knew that we were in for something and had no idea how it'd end.

At the time, I was thinking "Okay go ahead and get them before they get us". I didn't realize that there was already shaky logic leading us to Iraq and I remember Saddam expressing sorrow and condolences after 9/11. But fear is a powerful force and like Hermann Goering said at the Nuremburg trials, it can move people to do anything in the name of safety.

It's a sad anniversary that many have already spoken on but for me, I like to think about how in less than 18 months, that was a loud chorus of opposition that I had never seen before. Between March 2003 and the summer of 2004, we saw a lot more information that unraveled the story that Washington sold us.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Change Is Coming to the Gumbo

Since 2009, I've been committed to sharing my thoughts on this space and whatever comes to mind, I write it down. After 4 years and 637 posts (counting this one), I'm very proud of the small success I've had from it as well as watching my thought process evolve.

Yet after attending the NABJ Convention last year, I was encouraged to take this site and my skills to another level. ESPN's Michael Smith encouraged me to get more comfortable doing videos so I forced myself to do more. Bomani Jones talked about branding at a panel and it made me start evaluating what I'm good at more than just what I can do.

This is something I've thought about for a while but I haven't started putting it into motion until last week. I've decided be creating a sports-only blog and it's called The EB Sports Report. It will be unveiled after I finish typing this.

Before you get worried, I'm not abandoning Virgo Gumbo. This has been my baby and the Gumbo will continue to be my outlet for non-sports matters. It's just time to ignore some fears and try this out for the benefit of my future.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dr. Madness, Ph.D. Speaks (March Madness 2013 Predictions)

In keeping with tradition, I sit from my chair as an associate professor of Bracketology 101 and make my predictions on this shaky NCAA Tournament.

Final 4 picks - Louisville, Miami, Michigan and the hated Gonzaga Bulldogs. It betrays my allegiance to my proud alma mater, the University of San Diego, but one of my rules of Bracketology is sometimes, biases and allegiances go out the door because winning your pool means more than showing love.

I'm going with Louisville to win it over Miami. Other notes. UCLA will advance to the 2nd round, as will Arizona and Cal. Bucknell and a way-too-low Oregon will reach the Sweet 16. Duke will lose to Michigan State in the Sweet 16. Kansas will be the 1st No. 1 seed to go down.

Speaking of which, it's been 5 years since the alma mater had our shining moment. Defeating UConn on a go-ahead shot and sending me into a frenzy in my house. Let's enjoy this one time.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lessons from Steubenville

The two defendants in the Steubenville rape case, both found guilty and sentenced to one year in juvenile detention along with registering as sex offenders for life.

When I saw the verdict for the Steubenville rape case Sunday before church, my heart was relieved. This case was one of the saddest, most maddening things I've heard in a while and it showed the power of social media.

Social media and texting made this case have overwhelming evidence that led to the guilty conviction of the two young men. Social media attracted enormous attention to this case as websites brought this story to a national audience to make sure the town didn't cover it up.

The two men who raped this young girl will do their time but I hope that even more prosecutions come up for folks who either lied to investigators, took videos, passed around pictures or those like these two girls who were arrested for threatening the victim (again - an easy arrest since they did it on social media).

Here's what I think we can learn from this case, which I don't think is unique to this Ohio town at all.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Few Thoughts on the Heat's Winning Streak

For those living under a rock, the Miami Heat have rolled off 23 straight wins as they beat Boston inside TD Waterhouse.  They're in sole possession of the 2nd-longest streak in NBA history and how they've played during it is one more sign of how remarkable they've been this years.

Permit me to drop a few points I've observed.

As I've said before, the one thing that marvels me about the Heat is how locked in they are. They may be trailing in their games but they find a way to dig in, man up and overpower teams. They've gotten a few breaks - i.e. LeBron James' game winning shot to beat Orlando in a game they almost lost - but it's been a streak of dominance, not flukes.

That said, it reminds me to say that the 2007-08 Rockets that won 22 games remain one of the flukiest, strangest streaks in sports history. Even without Yao Ming for half of that streak, it's a reminder that being the hottest team doesn't mean you're one of the best teams. That streak helped them earn the No. 5 seed and saw them get bounced in the 1st round.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Appreciating Kobe Bryant's Late Career Surge

In his 17th season, Kobe Bryant is still one of the 10 best players in the league. That says a lot.
I hinted at this a while ago in my recent Lakers video but I think we need to stop and remind ourselves what we are seeing with Kobe Bean Bryant in his 17th season.

We've seen Kobe do things that make us think Father Time hasn't grabbed him yet. Back to back 40+ point and 10+ assist games, something no Laker had done once in the last 40 years. His clutch 3-pointers against Toronto to send that game to OT and game-winning dunk had me thinking he was wearing No. 8 again.

He won NBA Player of the Month for February and NBA Player of the Week this past week. Not much to gloss over except Kobe is doing this in YEAR 17. 17-year veterans shouldn't be Top 5 in scoring. 17-year veterans change up their game to stay alive but rarely does it them and their team even deadlier.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tiger Woods is Back (Towards Chasing History)

I was talking to my cousin after church on Sunday and among other things, we talked about Tiger Woods' dominating win at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Since he's a golf fan, I asked his thoughts on Tiger since we both aren't prey to the whole "Is Tiger Back?" talk.

Here's what he reminded me. Since the start of 2012 (19 events), Tiger has won 5 tournaments, the most of anyone over that time period. He's also finished 3rd twice. The last time Tiger won 2 events leading up to the Masters, he won the Masters.

This weekend, all I heard was how much Tiger was crushing the competition. The win at Doral might be his best performance since his world changed in 2009 and there's finally reason to believe that he'll finally win another major. 

The problem with us asking is Tiger back is that we judge it solely on the 4 major championships. That's been Tiger's goal since Day One - passing Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors. Quiet as kept, he's inched closer to another record that I think is just as valuable.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Electric Relaxation: Celebrating 10 Years of "The Listening"

I wanted to write a tribute to the 10th anniversary of Little Brother's classic debut "The Listening" but instead, I felt it was an excuse to make a video so I did. Besides, I wrote a lil something about them over here at my man XLUSIVE's website.

It's one of my favorite albums and it takes me on a soulful high with 9th Wonder's beats while still earthbound thanks to Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh spitting raps that anyone could relate to. Especially a 21-year old kid in 2006 who was getting ready to transition from college to the real world. This and The Minstrel Show helped me big time in that period.

I forgot to add how hilarious "Make Me Hot" (the true debut of Percy Miracles) and Roy Lee's skit are. What I also forgot  is that I'm proud of that memory when I bought it. It was a cool moment with my uncle, who is no longer with us, and it was my first ever trip to a spa since I was having some lower back pain. 

Also, when I saw Little Brother in San Diego in 06, I told Phonte that I found that album and he was admittedly surprised since it's hard to find. Still one of my highlights is that I took pictures with him and Big Pooh.

Enjoy and if you can find this album, go buy it or listen to YouTube. The instrumentals alone are a thing of beauty and I downloaded them a year or two after getting this album. Even though the trio is no longer together, I thank Phonte, Pooh and 9th for creating a masterpiece (2 if you count Minstrel Show) and continuing to make great music away from LB. Not to mention being hilarious and great follows on Twitter.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Barnes @ Work! (193 Lbs. and Counting)

February 28th's work (Photo by Evan Barnes)
Sunday was my 2-month anniversary of starting my working out. I gave folks an introduction at the end of January and it's time to give y'all an update.

February brought a lot more changes and challenges. None was bigger than leaving my neighborhood course and taking it to the beach. I had been wondering if it was time because I knew that running uphill and on those curves would mean that running on the beach boardwalk would be a breeze.

First time I did it was on Feb. 11 and I ran 2.89 miles. For you mathematically challenged folks, that's just over 1.44 miles straight down and back. The last run I did in my neighborhood was 2.17. Right then, I knew I was going to have some more fun.

February 15, I passed the 3-mile barrier. The boardwalk is so peaceful and beautiful that all I need is my music and it's just following my motto. Eyes down, feet forward, clear mind and push myself to match or beat what I did the day before.

Friday, March 1, 2013

No Need to Debate, Hand LeBron the MVP

After LeBron James' recent Neo-esque performance against Sacramento (40 points - 11 in the second overtime - and 16 assists - 3 in the 2nd OT), I only have one thing to say that's been building up over the past 2 months.

Give him the MVP award. Right now. Unless he suffers a season-ending injury, there's no reason why he shouldn't win his fourth MVP award. Not writer burnout, not because there's a better candidate. None.

All respect to Kevin Durant, who's on pace to join the 50-40-90 club with the highest scoring average since Larry Bird in 1988. All respect to point guard extraordinaires Chris Paul and Tony Parker (who's having a career year driving the Spurs to the best record and just lit CP3 up with no mercy). But if you don't vote for James, you're either stupid or haven't been watching basketball this year.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Extra Tidbits: Lakers Talk and Hip Hop Thoughts.

The Lakers are 11-5 since I made my last recap video and there's reason for me to chop it up on Kobe becoming a facilitator. As great as he's played, I'm happy that Mike Antoni remembered that he's a coach and has to use his players better.

I also chip in with some words on my fellow Lakers fans regarding. Dwight Howard's free agency. Stop caring and stay focusing on this season. It's beneath us to beg for someone to make a decision and I darn sure don't want to guilt anybody to committing here. They gotta want it. But til then, I'm only worried on hoping Dwight can be effective while still not at 100%.

Also, here's a bonus for you. Starting this week, I'm going to a weekly blog post over at my man XLUSIVE's website. We've collaborated before and I wrote a review on his debut album back in 2011. I'll be talking music over there so it'll be a nice change of pace from here.

Here's the first post - Reliving 1993, the year the West Coast took over hip hop led by Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. It set the stage for The Game and now Kendrick Lamar and the Black Hippy Crew breathing life into hip-hop.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Quvenzhane Wallis and The Onion: When Satire Goes Horribly Wrong

I came home Sunday night from a nice dinner with my girlfriend and her family celebrating her brother's birthday. I briefly got to catch glimpses of the Oscars* at the restaurant and I was ready to sit back and enjoy the post-awards coverage.

Then lo and behold, I catch wind of what The Onion posted on Twitter of the 9-year-old star of Beasts of the Southern Wild, Quvenzhane Wallis. The fiery Best Actress nominee made me smile when I saw her pose cheerfully as they announced her during the ceremony. In case you missed it, my apologies for reposting this horrible word but it must be shown

Click on the picture to blow it up and then look to your right.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Information Overload = Less Knowledge, Good Analysis?

"Information has become more important than the source of information.” I read this quote while reading an San Francisco Weekly article discussing Bleacher Report’s rise and it made me think. If anything, this sums up the era we now live in.

Information is more easily available now than ever before. There are more voices telling us what to know and Bleacher Report is one of many sites taking advantage of this. I was attracted to write for them because even though there’s a wealth of voices, it gives you a chance to stand out with your style and insight when done right.

But it makes me wonder about a few things long term. I explored some of these ideas last year and now it makes me think even more about the future. My future as a writer/sportswriter/thinker and our future in society's ability to be critical thinking consumers. This isn't a criticism but a critique of we're getting so much but losing things just as valuable as information.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Thank you Dr. Jerry Buss: Forever a Los Angeles Treasure

Dr. Jerry Buss was not just the owner of the Lakers for 33 years. He was the man who marketed Showtime to the world. He bought the Lakers, Kings and the Forum with the vision to make them even bigger just like he had made himself from a poor Wyoming boy to a billionaire businessman respected by NBA peers, fans and players alike.

10 championships and winning 66% of their games since 1979 doesn't tell the full story. When you talk about Los Angeles' biggest sports icons, Dr. Buss should be up there with Vin Scully, Chick Hearn, John Wooden and Magic Johnson. This is my way of thanking him for what he did to my city and making the Lakers an international brand and part of this city's identity.

It's probably the saddest day as a Lakers fan since Chick Hearn died. These are just a few words from me on his memory and impact as somebody who grew up just five minutes from the Forum.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Enough of the Lazy Michael Jordan Comparisons

In honor of Michael Jordan's 50th birthday on All-Star Sunday, I have one simple request: Can we stop lazy comparisons to him. I know it's tempting but we as fans need to stop this madness.

It's even more maddening to me because ever since I became an NBA fan at 10 years old (1994), I've listened to guys be awarded the "Next MJ" tag. Harold Miner, Penny Hardaway, Jerry Stackhouse, Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady, and of course Kobe Bryant. It's a game that's become predictable and sad when that doesn't come true.***

You know when I got tired of it for good? 2007. The day that ESPN's Jemele Hill made a convincing argument for Kobe being better than Jordan. I saw a debate on it on the AllHipHop.com message boards and it got pretty nasty as usual. A Kobe-MJ comparison made no sense because as I was getting a deeper sense of NBA history and analyzing game something hit me.

Me in 2007: "A Kobe-MJ debate tends to overrate Kobe and criminally underrate MJ." Basically saying that folks tended to elevate Kobe while forgetting the complete package that Jordan had.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Sherman Maxwell: The First Black Sportscaster

Before we all loved "Boo-yah!" by Stuart Scott. Before Greg Gumbel and Fred Hickman became pioneers at ESPN and CNN, respectively. Before OJ Simpson was on Monday Night Football. There was Sherman "Jocko" Maxwell, the first recorded Black sportscaster in history.

Maxwell got his start in 1929 doing a 5-minute weekly radio sports report on WNJR in Newark, New Jersey. Despite being turned down 25 times, his persistence was rewarded and soon he became all around the state. He expanded to do radio on WHOM and WRNY in the 30's and 40's and he devoted his energy to his love of baseball.

With the Negro Leagues in full swing at that time, he would call games on the radio and even served as the PA announcer for the Newark Eagles. He'd also submit game stories since the Newark Star-Ledger didn't send anyone to cover Negro League games and eventually wrote a column in Baseball Digest

Maxwell stayed in radio until 1967. He was inducted into the Newark Athletic Hall of Fame and died in 2008 at the age of 100. As the great Sam Lacy was a pioneer for me and so many others in print, Maxwell made waves for future Black sportscasters in radio and television. His stories and recordkeeping would prove crucial to preserving the history of the Negro Leagues as time passed.

To Mr. Maxwell, I say thank you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Black History Month: William H. Lewis

Here's someone I stumbled on late last night looking up some stuff on Jackie Robinson. I knew that Robinson was an All-American football standout and I wondered if he was indeed the first. Turns out, he wasn't (just like he wasn't the first professional Black baseball player) and the guy who was had quite a legacy.

William H. Lewis had a life worth celebrating and it's no surprise that he made history in a region that has been friendly to racial progress in this country: New England. Check the resume of Mr. Lewis in sports and law.

- The first African-American college football player when he suited up at Amherst in 1888. He was noted for his great skill on the field and off the field as an orator and the great W.E.B. DuBois attended his graduation ceremony.

- While attending Harvard Law School, he continued his career and was the first Black All-American college football player in 1892 and 1893 (he was also named Captain of the All-America team in 1893). As a center, he was praised for his quickness, maturity and intelligence and was named Harvard's first Black team captain in his final game. The legendary Walter Camp named him to his All-Time All-American Team in 1900 and hailed him for revolutionizing the position for mobility.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Max Robinson: A Media Pioneer

For Black History Month, I’ve always had a tradition of telling unfamiliar stories. Maybe it’s because I’m tired of seeing the same legends recycled in schools and among news programs. But ever since I was at my newspaper, I wanted to celebrate more than just the normal.

Today, I celebrate a media pioneer who has been forgotten by some in the 25 years since his death. Max Robinson may not be a name most people under 30 know but as a journalist, he was one of many who made it possible for me to have a career.

He spent 26 years in the business but it was a five-year stretch where he became a national name and blazed a wider trail. In 1978, he became part of ABC World News Tonight as he co-anchored the news Frank Reynolds and Peter Jennings and on July 10, he made history being the first Black person to anchor a network news broadcast.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My Love/Hate Vibe with National Signing Day

Tomorrow is National Signing Day and I'm not completely giddy about it. It's been a conflicted issue for me since I stopped writing full time as a reporter in 2010 and as I've seen NSD become an all-day spectacle, I start wondering why. I wrote this back in 2011 expressing why I think NSD can be misleading and two years later, I feel even more jaded about it.

I love NSD because it's a kid, his family and friends celebrating him going to college. I've always celebrated when an athlete or student makes that decision because it's a big moment for them to determine the next few years of their life. When you get that acceptance letter in the mail, you feel like you've made it. When an athlete picks a school, they've made it.

I don't even mind how huge the celebrations are. We should celebrate college decisions as much as we celebrate prom or any big moment in a kid's life. Schools should celebrate it whether it's academic or athletic. 

I respect how the kids and families make their decisions. How they have to wade through the process. How kids earn their scholarships through their hard work/discipline and I especially love those seniors who had to work hard for that scholarship that final year.

What I don't like is the meat market that NSD has become. It's grown into a monster that has exposed fans are selfish jerks, the problem with the letter of intent and colleges treating it more like a business.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Quoth the Raven: "WE ARE THE CHAMPS"

Who would've thought that turning off the lights and part of the power would've flipped a switch and turned this Super Bowl from a rout into a thrilling showdown? The city that never lacks excitement had one more great sports moment to add to its history and what a win for the Baltimore Ravens! 

Joe Flacco made himself a very rich man in victory. 11 touchdowns, 0 INT's this postseason means he's validated himself as a franchise quarterback. As a free agent Super Bowl MVP, he just earned his huge paycheck and showed why I call him Pretty Flacco or now Trinidad Flacco. "Don't Believe Me, Just Watch"

Jim Caldwell deserves a ton of credit as well. He turned Flacco loose calling the plays and as offensive coordinator, he was the driving force of this turnaround. The coach who lost Super Bowl XLIV, was fired from the Colts last year and didn't get offered a head coaching gig last month found redemption in New Orleans. I'm happy for him because he got back to the mountaintop and now has another ring on his resume. Memo to the NFL, he's living proof the Rooney Rule must be expanded to coordinators.