EuroBall and Beatz: “El Chacho” and “Baby Blue” by Action Bronson

This is the first part of a series called “EuroBall and Beatz” where I highlight a Euroleague player’s highlight MixTape and a song from an up and coming musical artist or act. Check the page on the header to see the complete collection of posts in this series.

That is not a homeless guy or the lead singer from Bon Iver…that is El Chacho, and safe to say European basketball fans’ loss will be the NBA’s gain (hopefully…)

“El Chacho” Sergio Rodriguez “Euroleague Stars” Mix

If there is one player I’m going to miss greatly in the Euroleague next year, it is “El Chacho” Sergio Rodriguez from Real Madrid. In many ways, Chacho was the Euroleague and ACB’s answer to former Sacramento King and Memphis Grizzly (and Orlando Magic and Miami Heat if you want to be semantic) point god Jason Williams, only Spanish-speaking, a bit smaller, and a whole lot more hipster with that killer beard of his. (Seriously, that beard is dope; he looks like a logger from Western South Dakota, only instead of cutting trees up with an ax, he’s cutting defenders up with slick handles, and no-look passes).

Rodriguez isn’t exactly young at 30 years old, but his career has gone through a bit of revitalization after coming back to Spain from the NBA in 2010. In that time span, he has primarily played for Real Madrid, and in addition to tantalizing fans (and like, on the cusp of erotically tantalizing…just kidding…or am I?) with his assortment of killer crossovers, sensational passes, and crazy, streaky shooting, he also has helped kept Real a power on the European and Spanish scene. He has been a 3-time All-ACB player (2014-2016), a Euroleague MVP (2014) and an All-Euroleague 1st team player (2014) and led Real to a Euroleague title in 2015. And he’s done this despite the presence of Sergio Llull, another high-profile, high-usage Spanish guard, who more or less plays the same position (Llull is more of a point guard who focuses on shooting and scoring rather than El Chacho, who focuses more on playmaking; but they are essentially both point guards).

The most endearing part of El Chacho’s legacy in this latest go-around in Europe is that he doesn’t seem to worry about the media or the spotlight (seriously, how many players would defer the “attention” to another player on a team as big as Real Madrid?). Instead, he’s all about letting his game on the court do the talking and creating magnificent play on the court. He’s like an Andy Warhol, but instead of Campbell Soup and Madonna postmodern paintings, and canvases, El Chacho stupefies audiences (and opponents) in the pick and roll and with floaters at the rim. There were glimpses of this kind of “El Chacho” when he played in the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings, but it hasn’t been until the last few years or so in Real that El Chacho really has been given the freedom on the court from head coach Pablo Lasso to stretch out his wings and fly as a point guard savant.

I know that some basketball fans aren’t as pumped about his arrival. People will point that he’s 30, and that he didn’t succeed in the NBA the first time, and that the Euroleague isn’t the same as the NBA. Yeah, we get it. The Euroleague and European basketball isn’t the same as the NBA. But you know what? El Chacho will have a better coach in Brett Brown that will allow him to play more freely than he was allowed to in Nate McMillan’s “boring ass” offensive system in Portland. (Seriously Larry Bird…you fire Frank Vogel for not running a “fast offense” and you then hire Nate “I’m so fucking boring, let’s see how many Isos I can run for Brandon Roy even though he is clearly 75 percent healthy” McMillan? Good luck!) He will be going to a team that is used to misery; and TJ McConnell, Kendall Marshall, and Ish Smith at point guard; and the mindset that they won’t be competitive for at least another 2-4 years. Just imagine the joy El Chacho will bring with his passes, his crossovers, his crazy step backs from feet beyond the arc? Forget “the Process”. Sixers fans will be making all kinds of “El Chacho” chants instead of their usual “Trust Sam Hinkie” ones (which they can’t do anymore anyways, because you know, he’s fired).

Maybe El Chacho wasn’t the best player on his own team that past few years (you could argue Llull or Gustavo Ayon would take that honor). But he was the most fun and entertaining, and did so in a joyful, playful, but humble way. Damn it, Philly. You better appreciate it him for who he is and what he brings on a nightly basis, because you know Spanish and Euroleague fans will be aching for his spectacular skill set by November, maybe sooner (myself included).

 

Action Bronson is a musical savant who entertains audiences in a multitude of ways (like El Chacho) and has a really awesome, gnarly beard (also like El Chacho!)

Action Bronson (feat. Chance the Rapper)-“Baby Blue”

To stay on the theme of “Savants with Beards”, the beatz portion will focus on Action Bronson’s track “Baby Blue” which features Chicago-based hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper, who’s like the biggest fucking thing in rap music right now. I mean, honestly, Chance right now is like at “Pokemon Go” levels with his latest rap album “Coloring Book”. The album and his status spit so much fire, that you have all kinds of hipsters, rap critics, and twitter folks losing their shit every time the song is added to a public playlist on Spotify or is played in a coffee shop or hookah bar beyond 7 p.m. on a weekend evening.

But this isn’t about Lil Chano from 79th, this is about Bronson, an artist in the current rap game now like El Chacho is in the world of basketball. Bronson (a former high-end restaurant chef turned self-made hip hop lyricist) and his style harken back to that intense 90’s hip-hop scene that really developed general music fan’s opinions and educated them how rap could be a diverse, deep, and legitimate musical art form. His rap reminds you of a cross between old Wu Tang, Nas, and Biggie with some Fat Joe or Big Pun stylings slightly mixed in. It’s definitely loud, blunt, and in your face, kind of like Action Bronson’s presence himself, who definitely sticks out with his large frame, Brooklyn Hipster-chic wardrobe (he is from Queens, New York) and bushy, dope-ass beard. (He has to hold his facial locks while eating sometimes, as evidenced on his own show on Munchies, appropriately named “Fuck, That is Delicious”, which is by the way, fucking awesome).

And that’s what makes this collaboration with Chance such a refreshing tweak to Action’s musical style: Chance is not the kind of intense, “I’m gonna fuck you up if you jack with me” rapper that Action is, and that really balances “Baby Blue” out. Chance is really chill as fuck as a rapper in his music, and to be perfectly honest, somewhat joyful in his style (not to say he doesn’t have edge; but let’s be honest here, there are a lot of God and church influence in “Coloring Book”; nihilism is something Chance ain’t down with). And with his more “upbeat” influence, it blends well with Action’s brash approach, creating a dope track that is worth jamming to on multiple occasions.

Action Bronson and El Chacho. Two bearded artists who are killer at their craft and probably don’t get the appreciation they deserve at times in their respective fields.

We need to get these two together, with Action wearing a Philly “El Chacho” jersey in a Snapchat or something soon. Maybe when El Chacho gets more situated to East Coast Philly life of course; I’m sure he’s focused more on working with Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor in the pick and roll, not hanging with hip hop artists who are filming restaurant shows on Vice on the side.

But give it a couple of months. And keep an eye on that “Rodriguez” jersey on the Sixers NBA Store. And see what Action Bronson does…(I can hope, right?)

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Fresh Friday: Post Malone, OB OBrien, A Tribe Called Red and the 1988 McDonald’s Open

Post Malone and his basketball-inspired lyrics, make “White Iverson” one of the more refreshing Hip Hop tracks you’ll hear today.

This post is coming a little late, but I didn’t want to overlook another Fresh Friday, a place to share some music as well as some basketball gems lurking on YouTube. This week’s edition centers on Hip Hop, specifically Post Malone, OB OBrien and A Tribe Called Red, which is more of a dubstep meets hip hop meets Native drum music. It’s a real treat, along with the other two listed above.

This weekend is kind of a mellow weekend around Kansas City, as typical with most long weekends. That being said, the Royals and Chiefs are both playing Sunday, so you known people are going to get after it when comes to grilling and even tailgating (the Chiefs play at home). So it’s important that you have some good sundries and beats to complement your time with friends, even if the focus may not be of the basketball variety.

This weekend’s beer of choice is Boulevard Funky Pumpkin. You want something you can easily drink, but you don’t want to have something you can down too quickly, especially on Sunday where the Chiefs and Royals will be playing back to back. Boulevard’s underrated October brew is a hybrid between a fall, Pumpkin ale and a sour beer. It’s a nice middle ground for those who may be averse to fall specialty ales as well as sour beers. The balance of sweetness and tartness makes this one of Boulevard’s more underrated ales, and you’ll feel good about drinking it too since Boulevard is a Kansas City brewery and you’ll be cheering on the Royals and Chiefs.

Now onto the music and basketball.

Post Malone “White Iverson”

I cannot describe how much I love this song. I heard it originally this summer while meeting up with friends from Portland. One of my friends loved it so much that he played it on loop like 48 times. Since then, my ears always perk up when I hear the song play. Whether it’s on my friend’s Sirius radio, as a ringtone, or blasting from the speakers at a coffee shop/bar at First Friday’s in the Crossroads, I just have to sit and sink in Post Malone and the song “White Iverson”. The beat is absolutely fantastic, mesmerizing and hypnotic, and Malone’s smooth voice complements the beat well. However, the lyrics is what puts the song over the top for me. There is always a risk when using “basketball-centered” lyrics. We have seen many examples of basketball rap songs or even rap tracks from basketball players fail miserably (this remains my personal favorite trainwreck ever). Post Malone not only avoids that, but somehow allows his lyrics to enhance the “coolness” of his popular track. Check out this verse below:

I’m ballin’, money jumpin’
Like I’m Davis from New Orleans

Or bitch I’m Harden, I don’t miss nothin’
Fuck practice, this shit just happens, know y’all can’t stand it
I have it, I’ll never pass it, I work my magic
High average, ball on these bastards, it makes me happy
It’s tragic, I make it happen, and all y’all Shaqtin’

God. Those lines are so freaking great. A song with an Anthony Davis, James Harden, Shaq and of course AI reference? You better be listening to this song as you read this.

OB OBrien “Schemin Up”

If you are a Canadian right now, there is a lot to be happy about. Canadian basketball is finally surging toward major respectability, especially when it comes to their national team which features young, likable stars like Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Olynyk, Anthony Bennett, Nik Stauskas and Robert Sacre (well…maybe not a star, but I love Sacre from my experiences interviewing him at Gonzaga). The Toronto Raptors are the new “in” team again, something that faded away after Vince Carter stopped being “Air Canada” and went to the New Jersey Nets. The Toronto Blue Jays are in the playoffs for the first time since 1995 (though they dropped the first two games of the series at home to the Texas Rangers), and the NHL season is underway, which means hope springs eternal for Maple Leaf, Canucks, Flames, Oilers, Senators, Canadiens, and Jets fans.

And when it comes to Rap music, Canada is experiencing its own renaissance as well. We all know about Drake, but there are also a lot of up and coming Rap artists that are starting to make their way into the mainstream as well. OB OBrien, a rapper from Hamilton, Canada who looks more like a Maple Leafs defenseman than budding musician, is a prime example of some of the Hip Hop talent from the land up North. While the lyrics aren’t anything special, his collaboration with Drake and P. Reign on this is a solid jam, and is a great party or club jam on a Friday and Saturday night. I do hope OB OBrien progresses his music, especially lyrics, a bit more as he gains more experience and popularity (I also hope so since I share the same surname as him), but this is a nice primer to Canadian rap music beyond Drake.

A Tribe Called Red “Working for the Goverment”

While working on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, I got exposed to A Tribe Called Red a First Nations electronic group from Canada. While their debut self-titled album brought them on the scene in a big way (especially the track Electronic Powwow Drum), I felt that their second album Nations II Nations was a better, more well-rounded album featuring a lot more collaborating First Nations artists such as Northern Voice. A Tribe Called Red seamlessly brings together electronic, hip-hop and traditional First Nations drumming music into their tracks, and their sound is unique and refreshing and causes you to get lost in it for hours.

“Working for the Government” is one of their newer tracks featuring Buffy Sainte Marie, and is a remix and revitalization of her earlier song of the same name from the 70’s. It’s 70’s meets modern day. AIM meets Wacipi meets dubstep. And it’s a great track that is the unique sound that showcases First Nations people in the light they deserve: creative, talented, and molding mainstream culture to enhance their own, not vice versa.

Basketball Video of the Week: 1988 McDonald’s Championship: Boston Celtics vs. Real Madrid

The late 80’s marked the beginning of the NBA starting to globalize their brand and game. Part of that stemmed from the 1988 loss in the Olympic Championship game, but also a lot of it stemmed from a lot of the talent that existed globally, especially in Europe. Now, basketball is probably one of the most global games, and is certainly the fast growing sport in terms of popularity globally (and closing fast on Soccer, who seem to not be able to get out of their own way with all this corruption in FIFA). Just this pre-season, the NBA Global Games featured not only NBA exhibitions against European clubs such as Real Madrid, Fennerbahce Ulker Istanbul and EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, but also other European clubs on American soil (EA7 played Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv in Chicago). Basketball is huge, and the growing diversity of the game and its players is only good for the sport and its fans.

The 1988 McDonald’s Championship is pretty much where the global revitalization started, as the Boston Celtics traveled to Spain to take on Real Madrid, who featured star point guard Drazen Petrovic, a legendary player of Croatian descent who played for the Portland Trail Blazers and New Jersey Nets (and the focus of one of the best 30 for 30’s ever, “Once Brothers”). The Celtics won 111-96, but Real Madrid and Petrovic showed the potential European basketball and players had and that the NBA game could benefit a lot from the European style. And that has been realized today, as European players and strategies influence the NBA and even college game in so many ways from the pick and roll to the stretch 4.

Ironically, the Celtics played Real Madrid in this year’s Global Games in Spain earlier this week. The score? 111-96. The same exact score 17 years ago.

It makes you wonder if that’s a sign of more things to come for the game globally.