Wanna See Kanye West Singing a Hook and Backup Dancing?

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Fonsworth Bentley, former assistant to P. Diddy and professional pretty boy, had one shining moment in the music industry. He was the star of a music video that featured Andre 3000 and Kanye West.

“Everybody,” his solitary single, starts out backstage with Andre 3000 delivering a “this is our moment” pep talk. Kanye offers a stuttering complaint in an untraceable accent about leaving his old lady, which prompts a snappy retort by Andre 3000, in only the first of many moments in this video that these two geniuses must wish were never recorded on camera.

A white woman enters, and says “We’re ready for Colors?” which seems to be the name of the band, but the band is baffled! Why they’ve never heard something so outrageous in their entire life!

The white woman tries to clarify, by reading what she sees on the clipboard “C-O-L-O-U-R-S,” prompting the band to blurt in unison, “Cool Outrageous Lovers of Uniquely Raw Style!” in a tone that says, “Duh?! How could you be so square?! We are only the coolest up-and-coming group on the planet with a name that totally does not sound like something a group of forth graders huddled over a porno mag in a treehouse would call themselves!”

Confusion in this video begins with the song title and never ends. The word “everybody” only appears in harmonized form and is barely distinguishable, and furthermore has nothing to do with the song’s content. A more apt title would have been “Don’t Stop” which is basically the thesis of this song and clearly repeated several times. It’s just like, why?

The next bit of confusion comes from Andre 3000 who is inexplicably rocking an eyepatch that does not cover his eye. You know an accessory is a problem when 3 stacks, one of the top ten coolest dudes in human history,  just barely pulls the look off.

Additionally their band looks like this and has two keyboards.

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Moving on, Kanye actually does a decent job on the hook, it’s catchy, soulful, and within his vocal range, if a bit shallow and simple. In fact, Kanye shines on the track, but his role in this song is comparable to Kevin Durant being used as a corner three shooting role player on a perpetual cellar dweller.

Fonsworth kicks off the rapping and his verse features one of the grossest lines in rap history. And I quote, “I hope you ain’t hungry got mash but no gravy//But we can make some, the best of both juices,” which I take to mean that they are going have sex (mash) and make a gravy with their sexual fluids, which is now burned deep into my brain and has put me on a temporary gravy consumption hiatus. To his credit, Fonzo has some pretty dope moves, intercut with ridiculous close-ups of Andre 3000 who looks like Bill Clinton whilst he was receiving the BJ that nearly got him impeached.  Two sexually vile mental images in a row, you are welcome.

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Fonzy finishes his verse and the rest of C.O.L.O.U.R.S. joins him in a barbershop quintet formation. Andre 3000 drops a verse that is pretty good for most other rappers, but ranks fairly low in his history of work. For a man who got cold feet as a member of perhaps the greatest rap group of all time, he is startlingly committed to his role in this video. Seriously, how can Andre lay it all out for The Fonz in this heaping pile of garbage, and then sing “Hey Ya” with his back to the crowd at an event whose only parallel in hype would be the second coming of Christ? The man is an unravelable mystery.

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However, you can barely hear 3000’s verse over the deafening noise of how terrible Kanye is at dancing. It’s tragic. Whereas ‘Ye was able to hide his stiff and disjointed moves while in the background, the transition has placed him front and center, and the results are gruesome.

‘Ye looks like the Kid in High School who tries out for the musical every year, despite his shocking lack of coordination, and is turned down time after time. Then in the final quarter of his senior year, the drama teacher takes pity on him  and casts him in a backup part, knowing full well that she will regret the decision. Then during the performances, despite months of practice, the Kid is still one step behind and moves like he just discovered he had agency over his limbs. That is Kanye in this video. Not the musical God that I would sacrifice an infant lamb for, but a dweeb who gets pushed into lockers.

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Furthering the madness, Kanye has a dance solo which starts with a shimmy and culminates with a leaping 360. I would love to see what the rejected versions of Kanye’s solo were. How many takes did they do? Did Kanye practice? Were these moves choreographed or improvised? Did they consider using a dancing stunt double? Does Kanye know dancing is not his strong suit? Does he care? Was this solo a part of his contract to do the video?  What were the expressions on the crew members faces during this solo? Did the director just throw up his hands and say “Fuck It! Moving on!” after the thirteenth take? I predict I will spend many a sleepless night pondering these mysteries.

For the outro, the  group launches into a choreographed routine featuring a move that looks like they are spinning in a circle as they are pumping up a bike tire. They exit the stage, after blowing a couple of kisses, leaving us with far more questions than answers, not the least of which is “Why does this exist?”

It is a question I am unequipped to answer, but I’m delighted that enough people signed off on this terrible idea to show us that even the greats blow it sometimes.

Thoughts on Outkast’s Coachella Performance

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I propose a new metric for determining if a group is mainstream, called the White Woman Test. I’m not talking about any White Woman. I’m talking about the type of White Woman who, as Patrice O’Neal said, would make national news if she went missing. She wears pastel blouses and white capris. She has over ten syllables in her order at Starbucks and her heart beats to the rhythm of Taylor Swift’s latest record. If this breed of White Woman can sing along to at least two of a group’s songs, then said group passes the White Woman test.

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Outkast may be the first rap act to pass the test because of radio hits like “Mrs. Jackson,” “B.O.B.,” “I Like the Way You Move,” “Hey Ya,” “Roses,” and “Rosa Parks.”   As a result of the supreme quality of their hits, many of their fans know little of their discography beyond what they have heard on the radio. They are a rare breed of Hip-Hop artists who can rock the house parties of the suburbs while still maintaining an undeniable authenticity.

The other side of Outkast’s fans are the diehards. They tend to be older than the first group. They remember when Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik changed the face of Southern Rap. They remember Outkast journeying from obscure to legendary through the releases of ATLiens, Aquemini, and Stankonia. They shared in the triumph when Speakerboxx/The Love Below became the first Hip-Hop album to win Album of the YearTheir go-to song for setting the mood is “SpottieOttieDopalicious.” When they get dressed up for a night on the town, “So Fresh, So Clean” plays in their head. To them, Andre’s second verse on “Aquemini” rivals anything by Whitman and Frost. They were inspired by the group’s head-on confrontation of black stereotypes. Outkast provided the soundtrack to their adolescence and shaped them into the adults that they are today. 

These two factions of Outkast’s fandom clashed at Coachella last week and nobody left happy. The casual fans, tired and dusty from a long day of “festival activities,” were impatiently waiting for hits that came late in the setlist. These casuals distracted the old guard who were displeased with their improper reverence. Andre was uncomfortable and sang most of “Hey Ya” with his back to the audience. Big Boi, a consummate professional, did his best to keep the crowd’s spirits buoyed, but in the end, their performance was drowned by the lofty and conflicting expectations for the show.

Perhaps Outkast did not recognize that festivals come with an inherently diverse crowd. There were audience members who only knew their biggest hits, and Daddy Fat Sax and 3k should have started their show off with these hits in order to placate the casuals and get the energy up. Then, after the casual fans have either been won over or departed in search of other acts, they can plunge into the deeper cuts that the true fans are dying to see.

In this way, there are no casual fans grumbling that “they don’t know this song,” and no diehards grumbling about the grumbling. This style of arranging a setlist does not compromise artistic integrity, it allows for everyone to unite over the love of their music, instead of pitting fans against one another.

The world is a better place when Outkast is together and performing live. Their contributions to music are incalculable, but their prime has passed. In the ten years since their break-up, music has progressed without them. Their albums are no longer ingrained into the subconscious of the youth.

Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, and the Rolling Stones once defined their generations. Then, they aged and the direction of music went away from them. However, they still tour successfully because they altered their live sets to accommodate audiences that did not live through their primes, but experienced their music second-hand.

Andre 3000 and Big Boi must follow in the footsteps of these legends and come to grips with their new place in the music environment, as they near their fortieth birthdays.

In the immortal words of Andre 3000, The South got something to say.

And everyone needs to hear, even the White Women.

 

 

 

The Case for the Spurs

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If the NBA title is the cheerleader named Amber with double Ds, flowing blonde hair, and a megawatt smile that everyone wanted to bang in high school, then the Spurs are the captain of the football team who gets straight A’s and the lead role in the school play. Sure, Amber flirts with other guys during their fleeting moments of popularity and occasionally one of them will be lucky enough to take her home. But even when she was with Swag King, (the Heat) the Hollywood Douche, (the Lakers) or even the Foreigner (the Mavericks), something was off. As much as they tried to tempt her, her heart still belonged to the complete package. The man who knew exactly what it took to win her over again and again. Sure, he has made mistakes and squandered opportunities with her, but when they were together, as much as the other guys hated to admit it, it just felt right. 

There’s a reason that every troublesome role player finds his home, every high potential rookie works out, and every broken down vet has a career renaissance when they come to San Antonio. The Spurs understand that basketball demands more than shoving talented players out onto the floor and hoping for the best. The Spurs, like every great team, understand that playing championship basketball requires each player to sacrifice their personal desires for the good of the team. 

Although the Spurs have been blessed with the transcendent talents of Robinson, Duncan, Manu, and Tony, it’s what they have done with their role players that sets them apart. They take special care in assembling their teams to ensure that their players play to their strengths and nothing more. This can be seen with Stephen Jackson, Gary Neal, George Hill and countless others who have been abandoned by other franchises only to thrive in the black and silver.

The Spurs are less of a collection of individual talent and more of a single evolving organism that can adapt to whatever the basketball climate may be. They started out relying on the Twin Towers of David Robinson and Tim Duncan and won a title by overwhelming other teams with their superior size and strength. Then as Robinson faded, Duncan became the focal point of the team, anchoring the defense and centering the offense. The Spurs developed a whirring attack using the wily styles of Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker to compliment the post dominance of Duncan. Duncan’s consistency allowed Manu and Tony to experiment and develop into the once-in-a-generation players that they are today. Finally as Duncan has aged, the Spurs offense now relies heavily on Tony’s ability to break down defenses. When Parker blasts by his man, the opposing defense is forced to react, opening up a passing lane, which in turn opens up another, and another, and when the defense is in shambles, the Spurs score the inevitable basket, completing the performance art that is their offense. 

This season, after a heart wrenching defeat to the Heat in the Finals, which would have lead a lesser team into dysfunction, the tenured professors of the NBA have been holding office hours all season.

Tim Duncan, as per usual, is playing as though he bathes in the fountain of youth while attached to the Na’vi’s Tree of Souls. Tony Parker is slicing up defenses we mortals consider to be formidable. Manu is still making plays that only he is insane enough to try and talented enough to complete. Kawhi Leonard has been superb in his swiss-army knife role and Boris Diaw plays exceptional basketball for a man with the body of a retired police chief. Matt Bonner is still knocking down threes and Patty Mills is only the latest journeyman to become relevant after entering the Spurs’ career rehab program. Tiago Splitter has added a few offensive wrinkles to his game, Marco Bellinelli is having a career year, and Danny Green remains deadly from three. Coach Popovich has conducted this orchestra to the tune of a 60 plus win team, even though everyone called them “too old” about three years ago.

Meanwhile, Miami has been shaky. Indiana’s chemistry is off. Oklahoma City is shallow. The relevant Los Angeles team is unproven in the playoffs. Houston has alpha dog issues. Chicago does not have Rose. Brooklyn is old. Toronto lacks star power. Portland and Golden State are inconsistent. Phoenix and Dallas had fun seasons, but will need several miracles to get past the first round and Charlotte, Washington, and Atlanta should not be in the playoffs in the first place.

The Spurs are the most consistent team we have ever seen in any sport, posting an above 70% winning percentage for a decade and a half. They have been great so long, we have taken them for granted. This year, with the desire to cap Duncan’s legendary career with a title, and the taste of last year’s defeat fresh in their mouths, the Spurs will be adding a healthy dose of contempt to their customary ruthlessness.

They got the talent. They got the chemistry. They got the fire.

And I got them winning the title. 

Prom is just around the corner, and we all know who Amber wants to take.

An Open Love Letter to Pau Gasol

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Dearest Pau,

I love you, but I admit it wasn’t immediate. Why with your mass of unkempt hair saturated in sweat and face contortions, you’re not the most obvious player to admire on the court. But, I gave you time. I looked past your aggressively messy exterior and delved deeper into Pau, the man, and from there it was not hard to fall in love.

I love the way you play. Back in 2012, you damn near gave me a heart attack with your performance against the U.S. in the Olympic Gold Medal Game. But even though we prevailed, there was a secret part of me that wanted you to win. How could I not? With your magnificent passing, smorgasbord of post moves, and delicate touch from the midrange, my basketball heart was all a flutter. But 2012 was merely when I was sure I loved you Pau, I’ve admired you for years.

During your years languishing on the Grizzlies, I prayed you would find your way onto a contender. And when the Lakers traded for you, I was jealous, I’ll admit, I wanted you for my own, but once I saw you thriving with Kobe and company, how could I be mad? You were so happy. You won titles that my pitiful Sacramento could have never given you. You made All-Star teams. You seized the opportunity to prove yourself to the world. But then the Lakers became a disaster, and you could have whined. You could have attacked the work ethic of the younger Lakers. You could have demanded a trade. But you didn’t. You accepted the cards you were dealt and made the best of a bad situation, supporting your teammates and clowning around like only you could.

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Then there are your tweets. So positive and bilingual, constantly sending love wherever it is most needed, whether it’s to an athlete friend before a big match or in the aftermath a natural disaster, I know you will be there to send your benevolent vibes.

And I love your pearls of wisdom, like this one after your recent injury:

 

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Beautiful, not just in sentiment, but also your delightful, English-as-a-second language phrasing.

I hope you recover soon too Pau, because no one deserves a nice twilight to their career like you.

The story of you wanting to become a doctor to find a cure for AIDS after hearing about Magic Johnson’s announcement at the age of eleven, is a revelation. Your thirst for knowledge and culture, an inspiration. Your humanitarian work with Unicef, St. Jude’s, the Gasol foundation, and beyond lets me know that even when things seem bleak, you keep the fire of human goodness burning.

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I know your contract is expiring at the end of the season, and I’d just like you to know there is an opening in Sacramento for a veteran power forward with a heart of gold. You could be the steady hand that rights the ship after our near decade of dysfunction. You could combine your loves of charity and basketball and save us from ourselves.

But no matter what you do my feelings will never change.

How could they?

Love,

Me