THE NBA IS BACK

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Basketball is back.

Tall, athletic, fast men are back to putting leather spheres in hoops on television on a regular basis and I could not be more thrilled.

Here are some of my predictions for the season.

Lebron will win his fourth MVP in five years and his third NBA Championship. He is simply the most dominant player on the planet. I love watching Lebron play basketball almost as much as I love hearing Kanye rapping. He is too good for me to pick any team other than the one he is playing on to win it all.

The Bulls and Heat will play in the Eastern Conference Finals and it will be one of the greatest, hardest fought, nastiest, most glorious, beautiful, and downright entertaining series we will see in years. Oh and by the way THOSE TWO TEAMS ARE PLAYING TONIGHT. D-Rose must be fiending to play basketball again so he’s going to be on an absolute tear the entire season and will want to make a statement that he is back on national television tonight. Lebron wants to let everyone know that this is still his league and defend his legacy as one of the greatest players ever. Also does everyone remember how crazy the Bulls-Heat games were last year without D-Rose!! I need to take some high blood pressure medication to calm down.

Demarcus Cousins will inherit the Rasheed Wallace Throne of the Boisterous Asshole with a Gigantic Personality that Everyone Loves.

Paul George will become the next superstar of the league and have some truly great duels with Lebron and Durant.

Durant will score 70 points in one game fueled by the rage of being second best to Lebron for so long, the fury of the stupidity of the Harden Trade, and the anguish of losing Russell Westbrook to injury and having to carry the likes of Derek Fisher for the beginning of the season.

J.R. Smith and Ron Artest will be the basketball equivalent of when T.O. and Chad Ochocinco were on the same team and will create a series of Youtube videos that will take the internet by storm.

Dwight Howard will have a great season and will get a comedy on ABC, which after a couple of seasons and pledging his allegiance to ABC, he will leave to FOX. BUT… FOX will try to change the structure of his show and Howard will grow disgruntled with the management and his cast members and join Better Call Saul on AMC as Huell’s replacement.

Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe will go on a double date with Miranda Cosgrove and Jennette McCurdy (The stars of iCarly!!! duh) and it will go great. They will then have a lengthly courtship, a double marriage, buy an island, and bring an end to racial intolerance around the world with their beautiful love.

Allen Iverson will decide against officially retiring from basketball. Then the Sixer’s GM realizing that the Sixers are doomed anyway, decides to bring Allen aboard under the justification of, “I mean, why not?”

Someone will foul Tim Duncan really hard during the season and his skull will pop open revealing a tiny alien controlling him and no one will be surprised.

Mikhail Prokhorov will bring over several Russian human experiments from Siberia to play for the Nets.

BASKETBALL IS BACK PEOPLE GET EXCITED!!!!!

The Kanyegasm

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Kanye West is my favorite person on the planet and I saw him perform live two days ago.

The opening act was Kendrick, who in his own right is amazing. He performed with a live band, brought out E-40 (who is a humongous human being), and did everything you expect from a big time rap act. He played his bangers with the energy of a hungry honey badger, but the highlight of his performance was the restrained, heartbreaking, and beautiful “Sing about Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.” He delievered a chilling performance that featured Kendrick taking the bullets that kill the first verse. To close, he rapped a cappella channelling Bob Dylan reciting a poem. It was beautiful, and the perfect appetizer for the feast to follow.

A Kanye West performance is nothing short of high art. The minimalist, yet captivating stage contained a 3 story tall mountain, a massive HD jumbotron, a jutting thrust stage in the shape of an arrowhead that raised, lowered, and bounced, and a walkway connecting everything that was lit from below by L.E.D. lights that gave Kanye a spectral aura every time he crossed it. His dancers wore nude leotards and flesh colored masks that obscured their appearances. However these dancers were not the standard fare for rap shows, they were all well trained modern dancers who were constantly creating intriguing imagery to compliment Kanye.

Kanye started off with “On Sight” his aggressive “I’m the fucking greatest” intro to his album. Kanye, who is actually sorta jacked in real life, stormed onto the stage and demanded the audience’s attention with his intensity. He wore an African-inspired mask giving him a tribal and divine presence. But just as on the song, Kanye cut everything a minute in and dropped his mantra sample for the album, which goes “Oh He gives us what we need, may not be what we want.” Only he repeated it several times, rotating each time it concluded saluting the audience like Maximus. From that point on, Kanye was in complete control and we became devoted followers worshiping at the grand altar of Yeezus.

Kanye walked us through his whole personal life. We followed the saga of the man who lost his mother and fiancee and spiraled into an abusive relationship with substances and groupies, only to emerge as the biggest rockstar on the planet with a damn fine fiancee.

It’s nearly impossible to choose highlights of the show because of it’s overall excellence, but I will try.

Right before Kanye was about to rap “I Am A God,” after getting everyone worked into a frenzy with “Black Skinhead,” he climbed to the top of the mountain. Then a spotlight hit him seconds before the verse. HUGE MISTAKE ‘YE WANTED NO PART OF THAT SPOT. He shouted, “NO SPOT,” then completely unflustered dropped the verse with a teeth gnashing energy. The best part is Kanye was right, the spot killed the entire mood he had created with the rest of set.  It stands out to me because Kanye is so involved with his brand, that even in the middle of a performance with thousands of people looking right at him, he had the presence of mind and coolness of demeanor to tell that light guy to turn off his damn spot. Legendary.

Next, I had no idea how sad that “I’m in It” is. I always thought it was just a song about his conquests, but in reality it is about the emptiness that he felt after he broke up with his ex-fiancee as he was caught in a cycle of being in meaningless sexual relationships and becoming lonely, then running right back to those relationships because of the loneliness they created. A cycle that he partially enjoyed, yet tormented him. ‘I’m in it and I can’t get out her” isn’t about how awesome he is at banging groupies, it’s a call for help to get him out of this vicious cycle. He ended the song with the faceless dancers encircling him in erotic poses with him writhing on the ground in the middle alone, a striking and tragic image.

He wore a variety of masks throughout the performance and during “Stronger,” he wore a disco ball mask that reflected FREAKING LAZERS INTO THE CROWD.

“Blood on the Leaves” was a thundering, angsty masterpiece that featured a massive explosion that engulfed the mountain.

“Hey, Mama” was preluded by a personal confession of how difficult of a time he was having after his mother died.

“Through the Wire” was unbelievably triumphant with more power added to the lyrics and beat than I’d ever felt from the iconic recorded version.

He played “Runaway” live on keyboard and used a drum pad to command when and how he played the “Look Atcha” sample of that song. It was mesmerizing.

He brought out Jesus, who he referred to as “White Jesus” and after Jesus gave Kanye a brief lesson and left ‘Ye alone onstage. Kanye took a brief pause and dropped “Jesus Walks”

He closed on “Bound 2” that featured live piano and changed the lyric “have you ever asked your bitch for other bitches” to “I love you baby, I don’t need no other bitches” which I mean let’s be real, is adorable, especially considering he just proposed to Kim the day before.

Kanye is the greatest and it’s not even close. The performance was a combination of Stadium Rock, Soul Rap, and Fine Art. Everyone was standing from the time he killed the lights to when he walked off stage on his knees looking up at Jesus at the summit of the Mountain.

To end, let us read from the book of Ye, and I quote from the BBC interview, “We culture. Rap the new rock ‘n roll. We the real rockstars, and I’m the biggest of all of them. I’m the number one rockstar on the planet.”

After seeing him perform, this is not false bravado or Kanye being Kanye, it’s gospel. What do you want him to say?

“Oh golly thanks for all the praise, but I’m just trying to do my best to put on a good show. I’m humbled by this whole experience, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without my fans”

It simply would not be true. Kanye is telling it the way it is. It’s hard to be humble when you stuntin’ on a Jumbotron, because if you make it on a Jumbotron, it means you’re doing pretty well.

Kanye is by far the biggest rockstar on the planet and I’d argue it’s greatest artist, so as far as I’m concerned seeing Kanye live is now mandatory for all citizens of the planet who claim to have good taste and have the opportunity.

You can either love Kanye or be wrong.

The 2 Chainz Theory

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2 Chainz exploded onto the Hip-Hop scene in 2012 and since then has released tracks like “No Lie,” “Birthday Song,” and  “I’m Different” which were gigantic hits and then he had the iconic featured verse on what I consider to be the biggest rap song of the current decade, “Mercy.”

In two years the man has been featured on enough songs for a career and seems to be literally everywhere. He even had a cameo on the terrible television show “Two Broke Girls,” which he singlehandedly makes watchable. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FX29QTwj7kU). In this episode, 2 Chainz gives us the greatest line in television history. Upon being awoken and confronted with the blonde one’s ass in his face, he doesn’t miss a beat and deadpans, “I never get tired of waking up like this.” Classic. I’m pretty sure they just wrote a script around him and just let him make up his own lines.

But why is he so popular?

I mean I really like 2 Chainz and occasionally love him, but does anyone really think he is a great rapper? In terms of being a lyricist, having flow, and wordplay, I’d probably place him in the above average range. He’s a solid rapper, but he sure gets a lot of airtime for the amount of skills that he has.

What 2 Chainz does better than maybe anyone else in the game right now, is go the fuck in on just about every verse he is on. He never dials it back. It’s pure energy. When you hear 2 Chainz on any song you are ready to wild out. His form of flow is like no one else in the game, like a stuttering machine gun that mows down anyone not ready to live it up. 

The best thing 2 Chainz did was become 2 Chainz. Before he was Tity Boi, who is most famous for being a part of the Playaz Circle that made “Little Duffle Bag Boy” featuring Lil’ Wayne. Tity Boi was like any other rapper, nothing special or ground breaking and ultimately forgettable.

2 Chainz, on the other hand, does not let you forget him. First, he bellows his name before each of his verses like the naked and blue-painted Mel Gibson in Braveheart before he takes on the English army. He has a myriad of catch phrases like “TRUUUU” that lodge in your brain the first time you hear them. He grew out his dreads, emphasized his already insane height (6’5″), and fully embraced the persona of the excessive rapper. Everything 2 Chainz does is big. His bitches got big asses, his clothes are from expensive stores, and he’s always wearing an absurd amount of jewelry.

So finally to my theory.

2 Chainz became a humongous star because bigger rappers than him can put him on their tracks and immediately get a gigantic shot of energy that turns the song into a banger. He brings a larger than life personality to the track, which people gravitate towards, but at the same time Drake or Kanye or whoever do not have to worry about getting outrapped by 2 Chainz. 2 Chainz is like a fantastic appetizer that gets you ready for the feast or a sublime dessert that compliments the main course. He is not the focus, but makes the entire experience better. 2 Chainz will always stand out, but won’t take any attention away from the marquee star, he’ll only magnify their talent.

From there 2 Chainz was able to make his own songs and with the support of G.O.O.D. music, his success was almost inevitable. 

I saw 2 Chainz live with T.I. and Lil’ Wayne and my theory held up. He got everyone going crazy during his set, even though I do not distinctly remember a moment when he really blew me away with what he was doing onstage. But what he did was work the crowd, be a gigantic human being, and put on a great show. Then when Lil Wayne brought him out for “Rich as Fuck” not only did Chainz look like Wayne’s older brother, but also got a great ovation and as a result Lil Wayne’s verse went over even better than it would have without him. 

2 Chainz is a hype man who can rap well enough to get on tracks, and this is a compliment. He takes hype songs to even hyper levels.

He did not get much better after becoming 2 Chainz, he got different and that’s why instead of searching for gigs and trying to get lucky with a hit single, he’s doing verses for 100k and touring the world.

TRU.

Are we done hating Drake?

Drake cemented himself in the rap game with his last album, Nothing Was the Same, and I think it’s about time to give him his just due. This is not to say I don’t want to keep making fun of him. I’m still down to keep making jokes about him for being soft and emotional and  mock him for his new album artwork, which is just so silly it’s incredible.

The album cover is young Drake looking up with hope at his future, but now that present Drake has achieved all he has even dreamed of, he can not look back at his younger self, now that he has acted in so many regrettable ways. It’s sort of an innocence lost thing and I get it, Drake, I really do.

But why are you naked except for a Chain? Where are you? Like actually where are you with that sky and no horizon? How is your beard so immaculately groomed? Why did you decide on that hairstyle in general? What album artwork did you actually turn down in favor of this one? A lot of unanswered questions.

Drake also willing posed for a picture that looked like this

Drake either understands  his perceived persona and plays to it for either his amusement or ours OR he has given up making everyone dig his style and is just living his life on his own terms. Both are admirable and I like Drake the person for not worrying about the scrutiny he finds himself under.

There is a difference between poking fun at someone for the way they act and not respecting that person. With his most recent album, Drake is due respect and should be recognized as one of Rap’s biggest artist. He is no longer a outlier who can be laughed off. The man can be laughed at, but his days of being laughed off are over, he’s here to stay.

From start to finish, Nothing Was the Same is phenomenal. The production is unbelievable and each beat is a combination of cutting edge electronic sounds and standards of hip hop. Drake brings his standard emotional longing to his work, but also has plenty of club bangers and clever lines like, “Degenerates, but even Ellen love our shit.” It’s an album that balances talking about partying and talking about things that are “real” effortlessly and has a genuine complete feeling.

So where does this leave us?

I think that Drake represents the change in Hip Hop that you no longer need to be “hard” in order to be successful. The era of Gangsta Rap is over and now the R&B cats, like Drake, who would never have been given the time of day ten or so years ago are at the forefront of rap. Kanye who’s the King, and who I will gush about whenever prompted, is nowhere near hard and made his name wearing pink polos. Kendrick Lamar, although he’s from Compton, is/was not a gangsta and does not wish to be associated with that persona. Jay-Z went from being the one of the hardest and the realest in the game to softer than the Pillsbury doughboy. All of the hardest rappers are either dead, not making relevant music, or not really that famous.

Hip Hop is no longer the music of the hood. It’s not an amusing side show at the musical circus that we can stop by and check out from time to time. We can’t laugh it off as only about cars, money, and hoes, because although those subjects are still in the hip hop vocabulary, the genre has grown immeasurably beyond that. Rap is the new mainstream and as a result the biggest artists are people who are relatable to the majority of America.

I love gangsta rappers and the music they have put out over the years is great, but their time is over. America wants someone who goes through the angsty relationship stuff that we go through, someone who parties like we want to party, and can put all of that emotion and experience into an album that is diverse, dope, and something familiar and at the same time brand new. So who then can the American Public go to for this kind of musical experience?

Look no further.

Kimye or Nay?

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Kim Kardashian posted this to her instagram today.

Now regardless how you feel about Kim, the woman is good at what she does, which is being better looking than the vast majority of women in history and marketing. @JCRUZ106 summed the photo up perfectly saying, “That picture Kim K posted on IG is her #Kendricksverse to all women.” Now Kendrick’s verse, for those who don’t know, refers to a verse Kendrick Lamar did on “Control” where he essentially put all of his competitors on blast and told them he was better than them. However, as pleasing as said picture is, Kanye’s response to the photo was perfect.

“HEADING HOME NOW”- Kanye West

Perfect. Kanye understands Kim’s sex symbol status, praises his lady with humor, and even gets in a bit of a humblebrag letting you know that he will be the one hitting that tonight.

Much has been made of the Kanye and Kim relationship. From its very inception it has been scrutinized, but not by me. These two people should stay together forever. Firstly, the entertainment value of their relationship is immense, extending far beyond delightful social media exchanges. Secondly, they’re both a bit narcissistic and used that inflated ego to propel themselves to celebrity and wealth. Thirdly, Kim loves being in the center of attention and attaching herself to powerful and relevant men. Kanye at the moment is about as famous and relevant as it comes after releasing an album that has cemented himself at the top of the rap game and will in all likelihood be as influential as 808s and Heartbreak. For Kanye, the physical attraction is obvious and if you need a reminder it’s at the top of the page, but in all honesty there are dozens of groupies who probably do an adequate Kim impression so it has to go deeper than that. It does, to paraphrase Kanye in his recent semi-controversial BBC interview; “she’s the first person I’ve dated that did not need to ask me for money.”

For someone as famous and wealthy as Kanye is to have a lady who loves him for non-material things, and instead what he has created is a truly beautiful thing. There have been plenty of celebrity couples, but I honestly feel as though none have been as compatible as these two. This relationship is the evolutionary Jay and Bey and it’s infinitely more interesting. I hope they never break up and before they die they build a pyramid that rivals the ones at Giza. Then they embalm themselves and arrange themselves holding hands in a glass case so tourists can come to view their infinite love.

Kimye Forever.

The Miley Movement

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What’s gotten into Miley Cyrus? She has gone from smiling, sweetheart Hannah Montanah to the snarling, tongue and skin bearing cautionary tale that has many an American parent quaking with fear that their children will become anything like Miley. She has forgone her Disney image to rubbing elbows with the rap elite. She has been referenced in a Jay-Z song, traded insults with Tyler the Creator over Twitter, and claimed that she was impregnated with the seed of twerk innovator Juicy J. Her performances, hairstyles, and public antics have prompted cries of filth and pornography from the conservative wings of the American populace. She is the lightning rod of ridicule for everything that is wrong with the youth of today. 

Many people have begged Miley to stop. They plead, “Miley please stop prostituting yourself! Miley wear more clothes! Miley focus on the music!”

Stop it.

Miley Cyrus is young.

Miley Cyrus is rich.

Miley Cyrus is talented.

Miley Cyrus has been exploited essentially since her birth for profit. 

Miley is creating something new that we have not seen before and understandably are confused by and afraid of. Never before has a mainstream pop female artist so emphatically embraced the Hip Hop community, taken what they are doing, and made it her own.

Miley’s new album “Bangerz”, is the number one album in the U.S. and the U.K. Some of the songs on the album are a bit clunky as Miley is testing out her new style, but there is no denying that We Can’t Stop is an anthem that encapsulates the wildness of youth and Wrecking Ball is a powerful love song where Miley displays her impressive belting ability.  

We’ve seen Miley do pop and we’ve seen Miley do soulful singer-songwriter type material as evidenced in her YouTube series “The Backyard Sessions.” Her covering of “Lilac Wine” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFZsunzjDXU) should be mandatory viewing for anyone who has called her talentless. Seriously, this is an unbelievable performance for any singer to have delivered and it was done more than a year before her current work. 

You may be wondering “Well if she can do that, then why is she embarrassing herself with this nonsense?”

First, Miley should not be doing that sort of music yet. It’s impressive to see her show that restraint and maturity, but that is the music of someone much older than a twenty-year-old. Secondly, the “Lilac Wine” has about 4 million views on YouTube, her two biggest singles on “Bangerz,” “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball” have more than TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY MILLION VIEWS EACH. Statistically it is at least 55 times more lucrative for Miley to make the songs she is making now. 

Miley’s job is not be a role model for teenage girls. Miley’s job is to express herself and through that expression make as much money as she can. She has been exploited by record companies since a very young age and they will drop her at any sign of her popularity or relevance waning. This move by Miley not only keeps her relevant, but perhaps makes her one of the most relevant artists working today. She’s hosted SNL, played at major award shows, and graced covers of fashion magazines. Every new wave of music and the accompanying culture, from Jazz, to Rock, to Hip Hop, has captured the essence of the generation creating it and repulsed the prior generation. I’m not saying that Miley is a musical genius on par with Louis Armstrong or Elvis, but she has generated as much distaste from the older generation as those two did. 

A stick that has been bent harshly in one direction cannot be corrected by returning it to the middle, as the stick will only be slightly less bent than before. Had Miley come out with a traditional and slightly more mature pop album, people would still be calling her Hannah Montanah and though the album may have sold well, her future prospects would have been relegated to the Disney crowd. To continue the metaphor, what Miley has done is bent the stick in the complete opposite direction with tremendous force. Has Miley gone too far? Or will this initial correction allow her to create a successful career with a self-determined image?

Miley is twenty years old, she should be making music about having hedonistic youthful fun. She has broken away from Disney, developed a connection with today’s youth, and positioned herself to have a great career. She took a tremendous risk as an artist by doing something completely different and the risk has clearly paid off with the wild success of her new album. Miley will eventually get the majority of the hard partying and ass-shaking out of her, settle down, and create something that will fully showcase her talent. For all we know, she may even redefine what it means to be an American female pop-star.

Hannah Montanah is Dead. Long Live Miley. 

The Allen Iverson Step Over Tyronn Lue

One of the most complete displays of dominance over another basketball player is Allen Iverson’s step back fade-away over Tyronn Lue. Iverson measuring up Lue is like an experienced cobra eyeing a young mongoose who is scampering to stay alive. Allen hits him with a series of ball fakes that nearly send Lue across the court. The other Lakers clearly sense a bad situation developing and start trying to get in to Allen’s head which I can only imagine sounded something like this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUPRDnYwp74)

Allen is unfazed as he is the most dominant guard at this point in his career within at least a few hundred lightyears. He feigns as though he is going baseline, which Tyronn has no choice but to overplay lest he get burned, and then Allen deploys a velvety smooth step-back crossover which in one fluid motion becomes a jump shot, that Tyronn can only stumble towards and flail his arms in an attempt not to defend but distract. Allen sinks the jumper bringing to fruition the inevitable.

Tyronn struck by the fear of God that Allen has just put into him, drops to the ground, fully realizing that Allen can do as he pleases. Allen immediately turns to Samaki Walker who had been hassling him from the bench and shoots him a murderous glare for his lack of respect. Then Allen not fully done dishing out lessons, does everything but put Tyronn in a gimp suit and lock him in his basement when he steps over him.

This display of utter nastiness and disdain for your competitor is the catalyst for some of the most brilliant moments in NBA history. The moment in the game where one player uses one move as his barbaric yawp and let everyone in the stadium know that, “I Am The Best Fucking Player On This Floor and There is Nothing That Anyone Can Fucking Do About It!” Allen does that here as this shot came during a comeback where he dragged the Sixers to victory during Game 1 of the 2001 Finals.

Sports represent the greatness that is coaxed out of human beings when they are pushed to their limits by competition. The creativity, strength, and coordination that Allen displays is nothing short of fine art. There have been a thousand Tyronn Lues but only one Allen Iverson, so yes what Allen did to him was downright disrespectful, but how else was he going to get everyone to pay attention. This move and everything that surrounds it is one of my first memories of watching basketball and it lingers because Allen did something so remarkable with his performance in Game 1 that he needed everyone to watch. With this move, Allen grabs you by the scruff of your collar and demands you to recognize his greatness. Who are we to deny him?