Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why I Don't Listen to the Radio

I cannot stand listening to the radio. It's not because of those dumb-azz Kathy Hughes public service announcements you hear on Radio One stations. But speaking of those "commercials", am I the only person that feels like I should vote against what she's speaking out for just because those commercials are that friggin' annoying? Maybe it's just her voice, I don't know.

Back to my point though. I have only listened to the radio for a grand total of about 3 hours over the last 4 years or so. I stopped listening to the radio when I realized there was more access to music on the InterWeb and I didn't have to change the channel, I could just go find what I wanted rather than have my music pushed to me or forced on me. I mean, if I had a dollar for every time I was listening to WPGC 95.5 in DC, heard a song I didn't want to hear and turned to 93.9 to hear the EXACT same song, I'd be at least a thousand-aire. Not to mention where I live I get 92.3 (Baltimore's urban station) too and it's pretty much the same effect. Flip from 95.5 -> 93.9 -> 92.3 and you'll hear the same song or set of songs on each channel within a 15-minute window. I remember once hearing Wale call the radio stations in the DMV "Young Money" radio. It probably sounded like hate to a lot of people but the homie Wale had a hell of a point.

I don't claim to understand how radio programming works and I don't care all that much but it's obvious to me that only certain music backed by certain companies even has a remote chance of getting regular airplay. Drake has been a recent exception but even he has some sort of deal with the big time players in the music industry so I'd say he started as an exception but blew up so much that he had to sign-on with or attach himself to one of the big industry players because there was too much money to be made off of him. If Drake planned on being an musical artist rather than an actor he'd be stupid not to sign-on with a major. Unless he just wanted to get what he had to say out there without necessarily being famous in the process (shot out to Scarface by the way).

One very positive thing that I have gained by not listening to the radio is a little creativity. Rather than turning to the radio to hear what they're playing, I'll create my own playlists (half of the niggorant mess I listen to will never make radio anyway) composed of music from artists I enjoy. Sure, I can listen to the mid-day mix on one station or the "wrong songs" on another and they will crank like hell. But it's nothing (to me) like being able to put together some of your own favorites and listen to it, add to it as time moves forward, and share it with friends or people with similar musical tastes.

I post music on this blog a lot and radio is part of the reason for it. Well, the fact that I think the radio sucks anyway. Not to mention the radio has a tendency to subconsciously force you to like/tolerate songs you otherwise wouldn't give two shyts about. How many times can they shove a shiddy azz verse/song from artist X into your ears before you start saying "I don't like the song but the beat is catchy." Or, before someone you know loves the song (or the accompanying minstrel show dance) so much that you trip out laughing at their rendition and end up liking the song just a little, even though it's because the memory/moment that your friend gave you, not the actual song itself? One thing about music is that it IS the soundtrack to our lives. So a song you may hate the first time you hear it could be playing while something fantastic in your life happens and you'll forever have an emotional wire attached to it. But do you really want to have "I Wish I Could Eff Every Girl in the World" attached to the moment your child is conceived?

I think there's something to be said for the person that resists what's on the radio and creates their own "station programming". And that's not because I do it (I'm definitely not the first, the most creative, or the most consistent), but because it's original (and part of human nature if you ask me) to like "what you like" and not what everyone else thinks you should. And if you have some overlap between what you like and what everyone else likes, its all good. But don't be afraid to turn off the radio every once in-a-while and and listen outside the box.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Latest Pair: Chrome Kursk Cordura

Just got these in the mail yesterday at the same time as the Vibram's. I like these shoes even more than when I saw them online. Chill, casual, and durable.

My Latest Pair: Vibram Five Fingers KSO

YES, that's my foot (lol)!

By now, most of you have probably seen some random person wearing these and wondered "what the hell are those things?" What they are, is a pair of shoes that you can use to exercise, run, play, and do much more in. I have yet to do anything other than try them on but I'm going to wear them this weekend for a couple activities and see how they feel.

According to the Vibram website (and I will definitely be testing this out first-hand now that I have them) they: 1) strengthen muscles in your feet and lower legs, 2) improve your range of motion in ankles, feet, and toes, 3) stimulate neural function important to balance and agility, 4) improves proprioception and body awareness, 5) eliminates heel lift to align the spine and improve posture, and 6) allows the feet and body to move naturally.

Not to mention they stand out, lol. But probably for all the wrong reasons. I guess they do look like gloves for your feet. Anywho, there are more pics below.

Album Review: Drake - Thank Me Later

My enjoyment of Drake's music is pretty well documented on this blog so I feel like I'd be remiss and kind of lame if I didn't do a blogpost reviewing his album.

With all the hype leading up to Drake's album I was excited when I learned that it leaked so I could get a chance to preview it. I knew I was gonna buy the album regardless so listening to the leak didn't seem sacrilegious for a close-but-not-quite-yet Drake stan such as myself. I'd heard "Over" and been pretty unimpressed but realized it was a fairly safe first "radio single" so from a marketing perspective, it made sense. Then I heard "Find Your Love" which took about a week to grow on me but once it did, I really enjoyed the song (and still do) even though most dudes probably won't want to admit that they like it.

In my world, Drake would have dropped this album way back when the buzz for "Best I've Ever Had" was at epic proportions (if you don't think the buzz for that track was epic you have a touch of Downs). You could not get in your car and turn on the radio or go to a club without having this song shoved down your throat (and about 90% of us were loving it, myself included). In my world, Drake's second single would have been "Say Something" being dropped about a month after "Best I've Ever Had". "Say Something" is a song that Drake completely owned! To this day I don't understand why Timbaland didn't just listen to Drake's verse and say: "Homie, you deserve this joint. I'm taking myself off, go head and run with it." And a month after "Say Something" dropped I'd have put out "Un-Thinkable". But of course, that song is Alicia Keys's and not Drake's. And after that I'd have killed the game with "Invented Sex" (notice a theme here?).

Best I've Ever Had -> Say Something -> Un-Thinkable -> Invented Sex

Club banger -> Club banger -> Lady-friendly -> *DROP ALBUM* -> Club banger -> WORLD EXPLODES AND ONLY DRAKE AND HIS HAREM OF SCRUMPETS SURVIVE!!!

If that formula wouldn't have gotten Drake a million units sold in the first week I don't know what would have. And I'm not necessarily a fan of formulaic rap marketing plans but if any artist right now was built to proliferate to pop ubiquity because of a rap marketing formula, IT'S DRAKE (Justin Beiber notwithstanding)!

The sad part is (for me), my world is far from reality. Drake doesn't care what I'd prefer, Drake cares about what he wants to do. And the reality is that Drake waited months after his initial buzz began and grew to a ridiculous level to drop his album, and he didn't come close to the order of releases I listed above. Heck, 3 of the 4 tracks I listed aren't even on the album (that's the theme I was hinting at)!

Speaking of the album, here's my track-by-track review.

Fireworks feat. Alicia Keys: Dope! I heard a live version of this before the CDQ and have liked it from the start. I'm still trying to figure out if the second verse is about the time he spent with Rihanna. Then again, Drake's heartache episodes do come up several times on the album so it could be someone that isn't famous.

Karaoke: I may be the only person on earth that enjoys this song (no, the singing doesn't bother me). And if so... So be it! To put it simply, I enjoy the vibe of the song and the hook. It has that relaxing vibe I like when I'm chillin' in my backyard on a night with clear skies, star-gazing. Drake does us the "favor" of rapping on this track but I think I'd actually prefer it without him rapping. I would jump out there and say that it's my favorite song on the album but Jay-Z is on track 10 with a pretty sick verse.

The Resistance: This is apparently the song that lots of people feel is the best on the album. I missed the memo. It's a good song (very well-written) but it just doesn't do it for me enough to say it's the best track on the album. It's a good listen though.

Over: He makes a nice segue into the song but I'm tired of hearing it. SKIP!

Show Me A Good Time: This track starts off upbeat and caught my ear off the break. It has a Baltimore club vibe to it that makes you wanna move. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album, even with Drake's weak/flat flow at times. But this song is supposed to get you up and grooving and it succeeds in that area.

Up All Night: I like the sinister feel to this beat, especially the way the beat drops. Drake's verse ain't bad but Nicki Minaj stole this track to me. Her style and flow on the track is perfectly swaggerrific lol.

Fancy: Showtime! You know it's a party track when you see "feat. Swizz Beatz". And as usual, Swizzy delivers. This song is about empowering the ladies and has a Beyonce-esque hook (ie - "nails done hair done everything did!"). Tippord came through with a nice verse on this one also. The part at the end where they slow it down and Drake sings and then raps kinda threw the song off a bit for me and makes it seem to drag a bit. But up until that point this song rocks!

Shut It Down: Fact... I like The Dream's music a lot. Fact... I think The Dream and Drake are both good at song-writing and composition. Fact... I really can't get with this song. It's way too long and it screws up the flow of the album. You go from party-happy "Fancy" to red light special? Not feeling it. And "ice cream conversations, they all want the scoop" is a horrible line Mr. Nash! I'm interested in seeing if any of you like this song.

Unforgettable: This track succeeds where the last one fails. It's not too long, overdone, or seemingly contrived. Jeezy brings that street feel to a record that Drake is whining about his love life (again) on. Maybe he should be classified as singer first and rapper second since he talks about love and sings so much (not that there's anything wrong with singing about love, I'm just saying). And Jeezy has the what is undoubtedly the most reckless line of the album on this track, "... done everything in the A but effed Chili". It's so uncalled-for and reckless but that's the type of shenanigans you would expect from Jeezy. It's still a step up from "paddy-cake paddy-cake MICRO-WAVE!" though, lol.

Light Up: I thought Drake's verse was dope until I heard Jay's. I mean, Drake's verse is pretty good but Jay killed his verse and if you think anything otherwise you are crazy! I have actually replaced the version with Jay and Drake with the version that has Lil Wayne's Rikers Island call-in verse (rofl). Jay verse > Wayne verse > Drake verse. As far as rapping goes this is arguably the best song on the album. The only contender is...

Miss Me: Drake kills his verse. His flow and swagger are on point and it reminds me of his flow on some of his old mixtapes. Question, why not give Bun a verse rather than just having him do a "drop" in the middle of a verse? Or maybe Bun will appear on a remix of this track. "Bills everywhere! Trill everything! And Drake just stand for do right and kill everything!" I had to get that one out of my system, lol. Lil Wayne stans won't agree but Drake's verse is better than Wayne's. Oh and did I mention that the beat on this song is vicious?!?!?!!!!

Cece's Interlude: Another one of (what I consider) the misplaced tracks on this album. I could do without this one on the album at all. It messed up the flow of the album to me. And it's yet another track of Drake addressing his heartache. *YAWN*. It's not that I don't care about Drake and his women issues, it's more so that Kanye did it sooooo much better on 808s. It's like my man Kev said, "Drake is a poor man's Kanye West!" He was referring to the the 808s version of Kanye only though, lol.

Find Your Love: I really like this song. It took me several listens but it grew on me. This is a complete rip-off of the type of track you'd expect on 808s & Heartbreaks, which is understandable (I guess) considering Kanye produced this track. I can already see a video with Amber Rose as the star even though it's not Yeezy's track.

Thank Me Now: My response to the title of this track...Ummmm, try again. Thank you for what exactly, Aubrey? This track sounds forced to me and I'm not quite sure why. The ill part about it is that Drake spits some of his best lines on this track. "your idols become your rivals...A-I'em for your survival." That's dope shyt.

I'll get it out of the way quickly because this is what you probably wanted to know rather than my opinion on each song...

I like the album but I think that it's average. Easy-listening (some would say it's boring I'd imagine) and Drake doesn't do anything to turn you away (then again, that's if you don't mind his singing so much). Overall I'd give this disc a 3 on a scale of 1-to-5 (I'd upgrade it to 3.5 if he took off the song with Terius Nash and "Cece's Interlude"). Ok, there you have it! Now onto more prognosticating and opinionated bantering.

I'm gonna be honest and say I love Drake's music prior to the release of this album more than I enjoy this album. So Far Gone still gets consistent play in my rotation and Comeback Season gets put into the rotation at least once every couple months. I don't listen to his first mixtape (Room For Improvement) very much at all but even that one's not bad (it's not better than Thank Me Later though). I won't jump out there and say Room For Improvement is better than this album but So Far Gone (the original version) just might be. I could see people saying that this album is more polished than So Far Gone and I agree from a production stand-point. But from a quality and consistency stand-point, I think So Far Gone has the upper-hand.

What's ironic is that Drake would have named this album more appropriately had he named it "Room For Improvement" rather than "Thank Me Later". The latter title denotes a certain level of confidence/arrogance (depending on how you view it) that the album just doesn't quite live up to. It's like when Slim Thug released the album Already Platinum which I don't think even went platinum (could definitely be wrong on that and definitely don't care enough about Slim Thug to look it up). Songs like "The Resistance", "Light Up" (though Jay-Z Renegade'd him on the track), "Unforgettable", and "Miss Me" show that Drake's got talent and potential. But other songs come across as duds that are ill-placed in the flow of the album ("Shut It Down" and "Cece's Interlude"). It's obvious that Drake can be a great writer ("UnThinkable" with Alicia Keys, "Miss Me", and "The Resistance") but it just seems he hasn't fully put all the talents he has together in a way that is cohesive through-out an entire album. But the great part is that this is just album #1 so he'll have at least one more shot at putting it all together.

This is a solid/serviceable/decent initial release musically and seems like it will be a commercial success on the level of Jay-Z's Blueprint 3 (Drake sold 462K units in the first week and will undoubtedly go platinum and Jay sold about 100k more than that his first week). There are also rumors circulating that Drake is making $5 off each album copy sold which would mean he's already a couple million off the album sales alone (not taking into consideration tour money and whatever other back-end deals he has like the Sprite deal). With that said, I don't consider those first week sales numbers a failure for Drake because he was hyped up so much that he was never going to measure up to it. And even if the numbers aren't a millie out the gate, he is at least making a decent penny for his efforts.

If Drake's as talented as I think he is, he'll continue working on music that brings out what he does best which is rapping (not singing) and also writing songs for people that CAN sing like Alicia Keys. If Aubrey sticks to the melodies on hooks and bridges only and continues to work on his lyrical dexterity, he'll be okay. That is, if he wants to be a rapper. I get the impression he wants to be Kanye-esque and form-fit himself into the genre's he enjoys and is influenced by. Drake has a decent ear for beats that the mainstream enjoys so radio play won't be an issue, and he gon' be ayight if he keeps himself on every hook, lol. But instead of thanking him, after listening to this album I feel like he's done average and maybe even good up to this point but there's definitely room for improvement.

If you would like to see a list of all my past posts that are Aubrey Drake Graham related, you can check them out here.

For another perspective on Drizzy's album, check out the homie @marcusjmoore's post on Thank Me Later over at www.sound-savvy.com.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Latest Pair: Creative Recreation Cesario Lo XVI

Like I normally do, I'm posting my latest pair of kicks for you guys to bash or love. I like to think I have good taste in shoes and definitely an eye for shoes that no one else has but feel free to humble me, lol.

This pair actually isn't the latest pair I've bought, technically. But unless you guys want to see a pair of Nike flip-flops I'm gonna go ahead and assume that I'm ok with posting these as my latest pair.
The strap on these may look familiar to you because they're the same brand as a previous pair I posted, Creative Recreation. The pair you see above is essentially a boat shoe. The black part is canvas and the sole is white and made of the same material as a pair of Chuck's or Pro-Keds.

You'll probably see about 3 more of these in the next month or so as I've went on a shoe purchasing binge via my favorite retailer, the INTERWEB.

Friday, June 18, 2010

NBA Real Talk: Where Phil Jackson Signs > Where LeBron Signs

One thing rings true in every NBA-related conversation I have with die-hard basketball fans, Phil Jackson is not to be effed with as a coach. People don't like Kobe. People don't like LeBron. But everybody seems to like and respect Phil Jackson. Why? Because Phil is that dude. Phil Jackson is in a category all by himself when it comes to basketball coaches that have been coaching since the year I was born (you are a fool if you think I'm gonna list the year). Jerry Sloan has had longevity and deserves a mention but you know what he doesn't have, an NBA title (and the sad part is he won't get one). Phil's got like a baker's dozen of them shyts (not really a baker's dozen, but close)!!!

Phil just capped off a second season in a row of winning a title with arguably the best player in the game (definitely the most hated superstar player) and a supporting cast of 2 all-star caliber players (Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol), 1 old guy with a ridiculous amount of heart and resolve (Derek Fisher), and a young kid that may blossom into a pretty good center some day that happens to be like 7 feet tall (Andrew Bynum). The Lakers starting 5 couldn't get much better than it is right now considering salary cap restraints in the NBA. It's not like they're going to go sign Wade, LeBron, Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Bosh, or another one of the big names this off-season AND still be able to keep the nucleus they have. Phil's got nothing left to prove with this team other than they can win a 3rd title in a row.

This would be a great challenge and is the primary reason I think Kobe will go so far as to beg Phil to stay (will he offer to eff him in the A is the question b/c you know how Kobe rolls and Phil's a lil too "Zen" sometimes...Yes, I'm a Kobe-hater). But I think there's a much more interesting scenario that I'd like to see play out, and partly because I'm a huge fan of that guy from Akron.

What if Phil Jackson signed-on to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers?

I don't think I've heard any commentator mention this yet so either I'm uninformed about some reason he can't/won't go to Cleveland, or I need to apply for a job at ESPN. Think about it...
  1. LeBron would come back FOR SURE because Phil is a gigantic upgrade from Mike "Can't Figure Out the Proper Rotation" Brown and would immediately give LeBron a coach he could trust without second-guessing. Phil's a proven coach and LeBron's coachable so my assumption is that LeBron would be fine with doing whatever Phils says because it's obviously worked.

  2. Phil would have the opportunity to have coached the 3 greatest players of my lifetime and take them all to at least 1 championship. Imagine 10 years from now when they're talking about the greatest coach ever and they say he coached Michael, Kobe, and LeBron to NBA titles. Seriously, that would be amazing! Three sure-fire Hall of Famers and 3 of the best 10 basketball players of all-time (assuming LeBron doesn't get injured, fall off a cliff athletically, or let his mother's scrumpet tendencies screw up his life). Phil's legacy would be completely cemented and we'd probably not see another coach pull that off, eVAR!

  3. Phil would also have the chance to build a supporting cast around LeBron the same way he did with Michael in Chi-Town and Kobe in L.A. I'd argue that Kobe's supporting cast is better than what Mike had back in the day and also what LeBron has had since he came into the league. People don't seem to realize just how good Pau Gasol was in Memphis and how Lamar Odom's versatility creates nightmare match-ups even when he is as inconsistent as he is (you've still gotta account for him). And throw in Bynum as another tall guy on the block and that's more trouble to deal with. Then add Mr. Fake-Azz Queensbridge (Ron Artest) to the mix and you've got a defender who can give the best swingmen in the league a tough time. That team is LOADED! Imagine Phil taking a year or two or three to build that in Cleveland and also helping LeBron mature as a basketball player (just like he helped Kobe).
All this makes me feel that the question of where Phil ends up (that is, if he is actually gonna consider leaving) is FAR more interesting than where LeBron will end up. It's been shown that neither Kobe nor LeBron could do it by themselves. Kobe needed the cast he has now and LeBron needs a better supporting cast. M.J. had Scottie (ummm yeah, that's pretty much it people). No disrespect to John Paxson, BJ Armstrong, Craig Hodges, Steve Kerr, Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant, Tony Kukoc, or whoever else you name, but collectively (over 6 championship years)they do NOT compare to the talent of this year's Lakers. Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time because he willed those guys to win and that team played like a well-oiled machine (thanks to Phil).

The common denominator in all this however, is Phil Jackson. In my mind he's without argument the greatest coach ever at this point and he's still young enough to coach for more years should he choose to do so. He's gonna get paid a ridiculous amount of money no matter where he goes so it's going to be about a challenge for him. Whether the challenge of another championship in L.A. is more intriguing than building a winner elsewhere is something we'll see in a few months. I hope Phil elects to take the road less traveled because that's damn sure the one that leads to Cleveland. I can already see the "PhilBron" and/or "LeJackson" signs at the Q, lol.

P.S. - The one wrinkle in my theory is that Phil's girl is Jeannie Buss, daughter of Laker's owner Jerry Buss. I'm sure she could find a way to influence him, lol.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Seattle Cop Punches Teenage Girl...So Uncalled-For

My thoughts on this:
  • Why did they have to be on "MLK south" though? No matter where you go in the U.S., if it's an urban area, there's a MLK-something (street/blvd/ave) and no matter what, it's either hood as hell or close to it. Why do our people STAY trashing Martin Luther THE KANG's name!?! Hold up, I just trashed it, didn't I?

  • The amount of force the officer used was definitely NOT needed but Black folks need to understand that these cops are out there scared as shyt (especially around young black folks - male or female) when people "we" come off as aggressive. As a result, their "natural" tendency is to over-compensate by using excessive force when they feel like they need to defend or protect themselves. It's not right, it's not fair, but it will get you Rodney d@mn King'd! Keep that in mind the next time you talk junk to a cop. I have done that in the past and gotten lucky but it's situations like this that make me realize I need to shut the heck up.

  • The Sergeant from the Seattle Police Department said he was glad no one was "seriously" hurt. Of course he is! The difference between a punch and a broken jaw in civil court (and ultimately a settlement) could be millions I'd guess. He doesn't want his department to get sued for anything too egregious or outlandish. Not that this isn't, but without a real injury they probably won't get taken to the bank for as much as they would if she had a broken eye socket or something worse than that.