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: Reminiscing R. Kelly and Prepping for the “Buffet Tour”

r-kelly

This Saturday, April 30th, I will be seeing R. Kelly perform at the Sprint Center in Kansas City as he will be promoting his newest album “The Buffet”. While I have only listened to a couple of tracks here and there from his new album, this concert is a bit of a culminating lifetime event for me, as R. Kelly has been an active part of my musical listening life since I was in 3rd grade. Yes, that sounds odd for a R&B artist who is known for singing sexually provocative songs to be booming through the earbuds of a 9-year-old Pinoy kid, but believe me, R. Kelly is sacred to me. R. Kelly (along with Bone Thugs and Harmony) was responsible for introducing my young ears to the world of R&B and Hip Hop, and even to this day, R. Kelly has always been considered one of my music staples.

So, to get ready for the concert, not to mention this weekend in general, I will be examining two R. Kelly songs that I have the closest ties to. Furthermore, they’re dope throwback jams (which come at different points in R. Kelly’s career), and they’re worth listening to in your car or in your place if you got company or are getting ready to go out. These two songs are not only R. Kelly classics, but in my mind, they are essentials in the modern R&B world as well.

“Down Low” featuring the Isley Brothers (1995)

Down Low was my first exposure to R. Kelly when I was in the 3rd grade and just discovering Hip Hop on MTV. I was living in Spokane, Washington, which is a cool town (I went to Gonzaga University, which is also located in Spokane, so obviously I did not hate the place if I decided to spend four years there to get my academic degree) but to be honest, is very white and for a while, was the biggest city in the state of Washington that was mostly Republican (that has changed a bit over the years, as more Gonzaga graduates are staying in Spokane, hence changing the Blue-Red spectrum). My only really exposure to R&B and Hip Hop was through MTV Music Videos, and while Down Low was not the first (That belonged to Bone Thugs’ “Crossroads“), it was probably one of the more profound and impacting songs/music videos I listened to that got me transitioning from grunge rock to R&B and Hip Hop.

To be honest, one of my reasons for the musical transition was at the time, I knew my family and I were moving to California, and I looked up to my cousins on my Mom’s side (the Filipino side) and they were all about Rap, and I wanted to associate myself with as much Hip Hop as humanely possible so I wouldn’t look like an ass hole who “didn’t know jack about music” in front of my cousins, not to mention my soon-to-be California classmates wherever I went to school to (which, considering I went to a Catholic school that was mostly white, proved to be fruitless, as not many kids in my class ended up listening to hip hop; they mostly were the punk and metal rock crowd, and I had my brief period of time with those genres as well). So, whatever I listened to that mirrored Rap, I was into, and R. Kelly, in my pre-pubescent mind fit in that category. It had the same kind of beat as Rap, though a bit slower and softer, and better yet, I could buy the albums because they didn’t have the parental advisory label on it.

When I moved to California the summer after 3rd grade, and was hanging out with my cousins in Vallejo, we went to the Wherehouse where they were trading and buying albums. Since they were a combination of 8th graders in middle school and freshmen in high school, and had parents who didn’t give a “F” what they bought musically, they bought all the cool stuff: Bone Thugs, E-40, Wu Tang Clan, etc. I could not buy that stuff because you know, I was nine years old and not only would the cashier not sell me a “36 Chambers” album on cassette, but my parents would flip their shit if they found out I was jamming to “C.R.E.A.M.” in my room (though as I got older and visited my cousins more often, they were able to sneak me cassette copies of their albums, and I was able to listen to them on my cassette Walkman; damn those days were great). So, as they bought “the good stuff” I decided to buy the R. Kelly self-titled album because a.) I had seen the “Down Low” music video on MTV when I was in Spokane and b.) it was the closest thing to rap I could get because it didn’t have a parental advisory sticker on it (the more I think about it, I have to imagine that the Wherehouse cashier was like “WTF????” when I paid the money to buy that tape).

Now, going back to the “Down Low” music video, when I watched it initially when I was nine, I loved it because I loved the beat, I thought R. Kelly was cool as shit, and the whole music video had this elaborate story with some serious production values, which catered to a wild-imagination kid like myself who also liked mystery stories and action films. But holy crap, I HAD NO IDEA WHAT KELLY WAS TALKING ABOUT OR DOING WITH LILA HEART IN THE DAMN VIDEO!!! I mean, the ripping off of her shirt; setting her on the kitchen island; the making out with him on top of her while she was only in her red lace bra (though I didn’t really know what a bra was at the time let alone lace); Isley getting all pissed off when he finds Kelly in bed with her (and taking off his sunglasses and whipping his ponytail back in the most dramatic fashion); Isley and his crew beating the shit out of Kelly (and eventually Lila to death…though you never see it); and finally, leaving him in the middle of the desert and him grabbing a bloody Kelly by his tanktop and yelling “LOOK AT ME!!! I DID THIS TO YOU!!”

Yeah. I didn’t really understand any of that as a 9-10 year old. And to be honest, I really thought Isley was overreacting. In my mind, I was like “What’s he so mad about? Yeah they kissed and stuff, but they were just taking a nap! Why the hell was he flipping out?”

(Then again, I also thought the girl originally was his daughter when I first watched this, which got me all confused, because Disney animated movies (mostly Aladdin, which also came out at the time, and involved a dad trying to hook Jasmine up with a variety of suitors; so to me Aladdin and Kelly were like the same person) taught me as a kid that all dads wanted their daughters to find good dudes to marry. And I thought Isley was just trying to be a protective “father” in the opening scene of the music video (I also came to realize later that older guys could date younger women). This brand of naivety also came into play with AZ Yet’s “Last night” as I thought the verse “Last night, I was inside of you” was talking about a baby being born; they were talking about a baby, but more about making one than giving one, which I found out later in my teenage years.)

But then years later, I found out that Lila was Isley’s “woman” (never specifies whether she’s a wife, girlfriend or “side” of his), Kelly was having sex in secret with her at her request, and Isley was pissed because Kelly worked for him and trusted him (like a “bro”) and that’s why he flipped out and tried to leave him in the middle of the desert to die “Casino”-style (though he somehow not only gets to the hospital all right, but also the same hospital as Lila; this really was under-explained and deserved more…and yes, this is me demanding more from a R. Kelly music video, which sounds like sacrilege after “Trapped in the Closet”). I realized that this song was referring to having an affair and keeping it quiet, which in my teenage years sounded like the craziest concept ever, especially since I was pretty sheltered as a kid by my parents and anything beyond a monogamous relationship at the time sounded not only so against the grain, but also unfathomable because I assumed all marriages were “happy” partnerships. “Down Low” and R. Kelly exposed me to the underbelly of “secret” relationships, and in a rhythmic and entrancing way that encouraged me to push down the walls of “cloistered-ness” that I grew up in. That isn’t saying I got into a “Down Low” relationship or wanted one, but it made me realize that this “secret” world existed and as bad as it sounded, good music could come out of it.

And yes, this realization all developed in my middle and high schools years. R. Kelly had me examining the “morality” of infidelity through his 1995 hit song, all because I wanted to listen to hip hop. That is some Socrates shit right there, and in addition to a new realization of relationships, I also delved into R&B hardcore. Because of “Down Low” and R. Kelly’s self-titled album, I went on to buy other albums from artists like Keith Sweat, Blackstreet, AZ Yet, Boyz II Men and even Toni Braxton (though that was more my mom who loved “Unbreak My Heart” for whatever reason…I’m not going to ask her on that one).

And I did this all before I graduated middle school.

 

“Fiesta” (Remix) featuring Jay-Z, Boo and Gotti

The “Fiesta” remix came out in 2001, right when I was becoming a freshman in high school. The song was absolutely dope, as it was a hot track that was widely played on 102.5 and 103.5, two hip-hop and R&B based radio stations in Sacramento. To be honest, my listening to R. Kelly and R&B waned in my late middle school years, as I went through this weird metal phase where I listened to Limp Bizkit and Rob Zombie (I instantly regret and try to forget this period of my life musically). However, after being exposed to the “Fiesta” Remix, I was back all-in on R. Kelly.

During the Christmas Break of my Freshman year, I got a Borders Bookstore certificate and went to the music aisle to buy some CDs (because Borders had music, so why the hell would I buy books when I could by music instead? My parents hated me for this and stopped giving me Borders gift certificates as gifts when they realized I wasn’t buying it on books). In the “Top Hits” section, I found the TP-2.com CD which had the song “Fiesta” on it, and since I loved that song, and had fond memories of it from my younger days, I decided to use my gift certificate money on it.

There was one problem: it had a parental advisory label on it.

I remember taking about 10 minutes debating whether I should buy it or not. I looked at it, thought about going to the cashier to buy it, then I changed my mind, put it back, went to another aisle, saw some Matchbox 20 or shit like that, realized that I was compromising, and then would go back and stare at the TP-2.com CD some more. It was very similar to how I approached girls at dances in high school, with the only difference being that unlike the album which was still there on the rack, either a.) the girl would be dancing with another dude by the time I made the second pass-by or b.) they would be creeped out and wouldn’t want to dance (Yes, I didn’t date much in high school consequently).

After much deliberation, I grabbed the CD and decided to buy it. I remember sweating bullets as I gave it to the cashier, who looked to be a dude in high school or college. I thought he was going to ask how old I was or if I had ID, like I was buying beer or cigarettes or porn. But much to surprise, all that anxiety and worry came to naught. He rang it up, I paid with my gift card, he put it in the bag and I was on my way. He didn’t mention a damn thing about the parental advisory label.

And boy, I remember strutting out of that Borders with all the damn confidence in the world. I had just bought the TP-2.com and my first parental advisory album. It was like I just grew my first armpit hair or had sex for the first time. That’s how elated I felt as I gazed at R. Kelly in his white beanie, sunglasses and fur coat on the cover when I got home in my room with the door closed,  right before I popped it in to my CD Walkman (notice how I remained loyal to the Sony Walkman brand after all these years).

But there was one problem: the album didn’t have the “Fiesta” Remix! It had the original “Fiesta” song, which was cool, but it wasn’t the version with Jay-Z and Boo and Gotti.

I felt like I had just gotten a number from a girl at a dance, only to find out she had given me a fake (not to say that such a thing happened…sigh…okay it did…like I said, I didn’t have a lot of dating experience in high school; sue me).

After some time with the album, I grew to appreciate it. The original “Fiesta” song, though not as good as the remix, still had its moments, and I enjoyed the “I Wish” song more than most, even though it is really a depressing song that no 15-year-old freshman should be listening to. But the “Fiesta” Remix in my opinion is one of Kelly’s best. It’s at a time in his career when Kelly revamped his style and  blended his sound and writing skills into the hip hop genre. While LL Cool J and A Tribe Called Quest obviously came before when it came to the “Rap Ballad”, Kelly’s “Fiesta” was one of the major “R&B Hop” songs that fused an R&B song with a Rap flair. The song is flexible in all kinds of scenarios: You can put it on at a party, you can jam to it in your car, you can put it on when you’re hanging out with that special someone, and guess what? It’ll still be appropriate and match the mood. That is how great the “Fiesta Remix” is and what cemented Kelly with me as one of my favorite artists in the R&B genre, even to this day.

Kelly has had some highs (“Happy People” is one of my guilty pleasures; though lyrically it does sort of suck) and lows (“Trapped in the Closet” probably remains one of his most embarrassing and ridiculous ventures) in my musical experience with him. However, Kelly has always struck a chord with me when it came to how I developed my musical taste, and if it wasn’t for Kelly I wouldn’t have appreciated R&B music like I have over the years. R&B to me is like that girlfriend who you keep breaking up and getting back together with time and time again. Just when I think I’m going all House music, I am listening to Avant. When I am convinced I’m an Indie Folk guy, I am downloading The Weeknd’s mix tapes. R&B and me are forever twined, and R. Kelly is responsible for that, mostly thanks to “Down Low” and “Fiesta” Remix.

April 30th is going to be a big day. At midnight, I will be turning 29 years old, one year shy of 30.

It seems fitting to celebrate such a day with someone who has been part of my life for nearly 20 years.

Fresh Friday: Remembering Prince Through “Purple Rain” and…”Batman”?

(Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)

It was a somber afternoon today, as it was announced legendary musical artist Prince died today in his home at age 57. While this is obviously a huge blow to music community, as well as his legions of fans, this also hits me a bit personally. I have always been sort of a closet Prince fan of sorts. I had three of his “Greatest Hits” albums that I acquired for free from one of my uncles while I was in high school (I convinced him to give it to me as a gift before he put it out for a garage sale), and I used to jam to them sometimes during my morning commute to school. The Dave Chappelle “Prince Playing Basketball against Charlie Murphy” skit remains my favorite Chappelle’s Show skit over time, even trumping the more famous and popular Rick James and Charlie Murphy one. And when I first moved to Kansas City, the first concert I went to was a Prince cover concert at the Uptown Theater. So, this unfortunate passing of Prince, such an influential artist in the RnB and even Hip-Hop community, really has swirled up all kinds of thoughts and feelings of nostalgia in me.

So here are a couple of Prince Songs/Music videos that I am posting on this blog in honor of the legendary, though somewhat eccentric (the Carlos Boozer subletting story remains one of my favorite “WTF” stories of Prince) artist.

“Purple Rain Live at the American Music Awards”

I really wasn’t alive when the “Purple Rain” bonanza hit: the song, the film, all of it. That was really before my time, but that didn’t stop my cousins from familiarizing me with this greatness in my early years. Whenever I hung out with my cousins, there were really five things they exposed me to on a regular basis: Hip Hop, Video Games, Professional Wrestling, Van Damme Movies and Purple Rain (all very typical 90’s young Pinoy things when you think about it). I must have seen Purple Rain 4-6 times before I was the age of 13 (though my parents never knew it) and it became a regular part of my watching rotation ever since then. Even one of my exes and I bonded because we both had fond memories of Prince and his father scenes in “Purple Rain.” (Though in reality, that proved to be one of the “only” bonding moments we had in our relationship…hence why we are no longer together; but big ups to her for her love of “Purple Rain.”)

If you haven’t seen it, you are missing out on something glorious. Yes, it is a bit over the top, but for it’s time, it really was revolutionary, the first kind of Black “Rock Opera” of sorts that really broke down barriers from the typical White “Musical” we were all kind of used to (“Grease”, “Xanadu” etc). The songs were awesome, Prince was unabashedly raw and passionate in his portrayal of himself, and the story put an urban spin on a tale that was relatively reserved for white, blue-eyed leads. Purple Rain was the Jazz Singer, but blacker, cooler, better music, and supercharged to the point where you almost felt the cast was hopped up on something before each and every take. As a young Filipino trying to figure himself out, Purple Rain didn’t just open the door of my curiosity into the world of RnB and later, Hip Hop, it kicked it open and splintered the doors in true “Prince” fashion.

But the song “Purple Rain” is amazing to listen to even after all these years, especially when you watch “live” versions of it on YouTube. This video embedded on this blog is from the American Music Awards in 1985, but it is similar to other performances posted online: Prince just kills it, letting it all out in his performance, putting his trademark emotion, heart and passion into every word of every verse of the six-minute song. Prince was a weird cat at times. My most recent memories of him (i.e. memories I experienced personally in the moment) when he was in the limelight was in my teenage years when he changed his name to “the Artist formerly known as Prince” and he was more known for his weirdness as well as his ambiguous sexuality and preference than his music. (In reality, it probably would not be such a big deal now, but in the 90’s, with the AIDS epidemic still sort of a fiery topic among people, this really was a huge topic of gossip discussion, not to mention a somewhat confusing issue at the time for a pre-teen like myself). Despite that whirlwind phase though, Prince will always be “Purple Rain” to me, even if I didn’t live in the moment like my older cousins did. The song above and everything related to it, will always be one of my more lasting memories of him as time passes after his death.

The Batman Soundtrack and “Partyman”

While my cousins introduced me to Prince and “Purple Rain”, Prince’s contribution to the Batman soundtrack is where I really went into depth into Prince and truly appreciated who he was. As a kid, Batman was my favorite superhero hands down, no questions asked. I had a ton of Batman comics, I watched the Batman Animated Show regularly, and the first Batman movie remains sacred to me to this day. Even with the release of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, I still prefer Tim Burton’s original “Batman” from 1989. I love Michael Keaton as Batman for his more subdued performance of the Caped Crusader (in comparison to the “changing voice” Christian Bale). Jack Nicholson’s slapstick version of the Joker struck more of a chord with me than the more popular Heath Ledger version (on repeated viewings, it becomes harder to see why Ledger won the award for best supporting actor; he did a fine job, but I just liked Nicholson’s more “comic” version more). And as a kid, I had serious hots for Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale, and any role she has been in has involved me saying “But I liked her better as Vicki, the babe photographer who covered the Corto Maltese crisis.” Even some scenes that Nolan and Burton sort of shared favored the 1989 version more, with the most poignant and obvious comparison being when Batman in a vehicle is charging at Joker, only to result in Joker somehow veering Batman off course.

Here is the Nolan version:

Pretty cool. Pretty intense for sure. But here is the Burton version:

Oh fuck. I need a cigarette or something. There’s no question that the Burton version is better by leaps and bounds. I mean, he draws a gun with a long-ass barrel out of his damn pants and knocks out the Batwing with one shot which ends him back a couple of feet. Even Nolan knew he couldn’t match that kind of shit. So amazing.

But greatness of the Batman movie aside, it wasn’t until college where I really dug into the 1989 Batman even further (mostly due to the release of the Dark Knight my junior year) and discovered the soundtrack and realized how many Prince songs there was on it. Yes, Prince was the main artist on the Batman soundtrack. Yes, Batman, a comic book hero, and Prince was the featured artist. And in true Prince fashion, he did his share of music videos to help promote the movie including the much maligned, but cult-favorite “Batdance” and the video I posted above, “Partyman” which is featured in the movie.

And how is it featured? Well, the song comes on  after Joke gasses and kills everyone in a museum except for Vicki (whom he sends a gift of a gas mask before he does the act) and before he sits down for a dinner convo with her, he proceeds to jack up all the paintings in the museum with “Partyman” in the background. Take a gander:

And if that scene isn’t enough, the music video to the song is classic Prince: strong music with a good, classic Prince beat, and an utterly fucking nuts scene highlighted with true, passionate, typical Prince theatrics.

“Purple Rain” will always be his main legacy in the world of music and film. But his underrated contributions to Batman in a way that will never replicated again. Superhero movies take themselves too seriously these days, and in no way, shape or form would studios give that kind of creative freedom to complement a film like they did in Batman in 1989. Thankfully, if anything, Prince only helped add to the long lasting legacy of Burton’s Batman with his music and music video artistry.

So if “Purple Rain” is exhibit A of Prince’s contribution to film, then Batman should be a close exhibit B.

Or at least in my mind anyways.

Rest in Peace Prince. The music world misses you already.

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.

Fresh Friday: How to Dress Well, Sports, Chet Faker and Bosnia and Herzegovina a Budding Basketball Force in Europe?

How to Dress Well (the stage name of singer Tom Krell) is one of the rising PBR&B artists that is worth listening to extensively.

In this edition of “Fresh Friday, we’re going to take a look at some “chill” beats from some up and coming Indie artists, and examine Bosnia’s win at the FIBA Under-16 European Championships and whether or not it’s a sign that Bosnia is a European dark horse in development. As it is officially October, it means Fall is upon us, it is time to shelf the shorts and t-shirts and bring back the flannel and jeans, and basketball season is nearly upon us. Hence, it is even more important to build up some chill music on the Spotify queue in anticipation of basketball junkies’ late nights with NBA League Pass. D-League on YouTube, FIBA Global Pass (via LiveBasketball.tv) and Euroleague TV (if that thing will launch of course…if anybody has any updates, please let me know…I’m committed to covering more Euroleague for this blog) as well as cheap, but classy sundry choices that make the basketball addiction feel a bit more normal (even when in reality it is not).

This weekend’s beer of choice: Pabst Blue Ribbon. Cheap, classic, from Milwaukee (which is always a good thing and a hell of a lot better than St. Louis), and readily available in the Midtown area of Kansas City. There is a lot of good music going on this weekend in Midtown and Downtown Kansas City (with Of Monsters and Men being the headline weekend act in KC tonight at the Midland Theatre), so as you’re spending your money on tickets and covers to see some great shows, counter that with something cheap to drink that will make the night a little bit easier on your wallet.

So on with the music and basketball for “Fresh Friday.”

How to Dress Well “Repeat Pleasure”

There is something utterly endearing about “How to Dress Well”, the stage name of Chicago-based R&B singer Tom Krell. His style makes listeners hark back to older R&B acts like Immature and Boyz II Men, but has a modern-day Hipster-ish hue in the mold of say a Bon Iver (especially his voice, which makes one think of Justin Vernon, as it is hypnotic, but not exactly the easiest when it comes to deciphering lyrics). Krell started out as a nameless blogger who released new audio tracks anonymously via his blog “How to Dress Well” (which later became his stage name). In an era when self-promotion is huge in the independent music scene (I can’t tell you how many indie artists will follow random people just to get people to listen to their stuff…not that this is bad, but this is what it takes to get noticed musically as an artist), Krell seems to be a true artist, caring more about his craft than fame. He probably is more talented than most of the modern-day R&B singers out there in the scene now, but he goes unnoticed because he doesn’t have the marketability (he doesn’t have the flashy style or appearance of a Ginuwine or Tyrese for example) or product-promoting aggressiveness of some up and coming artists. But, that is refreshing, and it’s just a matter of time before “How to Dress Well” becomes more mainstream. His albums, including his most recent, “What is this Heart?” have all received rave reviews, so he is on the cusp of becoming a bigger name in the indie and R&B scene.

The track above, “Repeat Pleasure” is classic “How to Dress Well”: a nostalgic but chill R&B tune that is great to listen when un-winding from a long week day or a long night out…especially if you are spending it with a significant other (wink…wink…)

Sports “Panama”

I witnessed Sports playing live at “The Riot Room” in Westport about a month ago. They looked like something straight out of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” or “Dazed and Confused” and I guess I was expecting some kind of Punk Rock act. Instead, I was greeted with a super chill, heavily electronic group that featured a nostalgic 80’s sound that made you think of 80’s artists like Huey Lewis and Phil Collins. I was thoroughly entertained by their set, even as they struggled to get the sound they wanted from their equipment and the sound system.

From Tulsa, Oklahoma, Sports has one album out “Naked All the Time” which just recently came out this summer to some good reviews. The album is worth a listening to on Spotify or buying on ITunes, as many of the songs are the kind of hypnotic, hip and head swaying tracks that are great to jam to at a small get-together when you just need something to fill the space but not overpower the people in attendance. People will remark that it sounds familiar, as if it were something from the 80’s, and that is where you can come in and say it’s actually a band that is currently active. Sports is that kind of “Wow, I didn’t know they were an active band” remark-generating act. By knowing who they are, it will make you seem “cool” and “cultured” in the music scene with friends and even acquaintances, even if you only know them because you stumbled upon them by accident one Friday night in Westport.

So yeah, keep “Sports” on the playlist, especially “Panama” which is one of their albums’ best tracks.

Chet Faker “No Diggity”

Any time Hipster culture can clash with my own personal nostalgia, I am hooked. That was the case when I was listening to one of Spotify’s playlists (Indie Chill: Covers) and stumbled upon this. I loved this song when it came out performed by Blackstreet. I was in like the fourth or fifth grade, and this single was in my music collection along with Keith Sweat, R. Kelly, Boyz II Men, and AZ Yet. And yes, I was in the fourth and fifth grade. And my mom was totally cool with me listening to this music. Music that featured lyrics like this, from AZ Yet’s “Last Night”.

Last night
I was inside of you
Last night
While making love to you
I saw the sun , the moon
The mountains and the rivers
I saw heaven when I made sweet love to you

Again. I repeat. I WAS IN THE FOURTH AND FIFTH GRADE WHEN I WAS LISTENING TO THIS. By the time we talked about sex ed in 6th grade, I knew a lot about the sexual reproduction process because that’s all that was talked about in my music collection. Maybe that’s why my mom let me listen to all that R&B: Keith Sweat, Blackstreet and AZ Yet could teach me about the “Birds and the Bees” so my parents didn’t have to.

As for Chet Faker’s rendition, it is not the original Blackstreet of course, but for covers it stands out firmly on its own. I like the chill, lo-fi remix to the classic R&B track, and it is the perfect track to jam to while reading or writing or just hanging out in your apartment. Faker has a fantastic voice and unique sound, like lounge meets indie pop meets soul. He’s worth checking out more of if you dig any of the three listed above, with his first major EP “Thinking in Textures” being a good start.

Replay of the Week: Bosnia and Herzegovina-Lithuania FIBA U16 European Championship

Bosnia and Herzegovina may be one of the most intriguing basketball countries as of late. While we know about the impact Jusuf Nurkic had as a rookie with the Denver Nuggets, the intimidating center may be just the tip of the iceberg of what kind of potential Bosnia and Herzegovina may have in the future. BIH didn’t do great in the FIBA Eurobasket 2015, as their Men’s National Team went 1-4, finished last in their group, and failed to make it out of group play (though they did have an exhilarating win over Israel in their third game). However, the future of their program may be quite bright, as evidenced by their Under-16 Boys squad.

BIH’s youth team went undefeated in the tournament, with big wins over France and Germany in the early rounds, a big win over Spain in the semifinal, and then a 85-83 win over Lithuania in front of a packed pro-Lithuanian crowd (as the U16 European Championships took place in Lithuania). The game was also a showcase for BIH star Dzanan Musa who scored 23.3 ppg, nabbed 9.0 rpg and dished 6.3 apg in the 9-game span. The 6’6 shooting guard displayed an incredible shooting touch, as he regularly sized up Lithuanian defenders in the tape above and made all kinds of incredible “Curry-esque” shots from beyond the arc. Only 16, Musa is an international player that will be worth paying attention to and following as he grows older and transitions from development ball to more serious professional ball, be it in Europe or here in the States.

Also, another thing worth noting about BIH’s win over Lithuania was the celebration in Sarajevo following their victory. Just look at the picture below and see what I mean:

God, can you imagine what the city would do if they won the FIBA Eurobasket? Or World Cup?

I can’t…really I can’t considering that scene above and its massiveness. But I will say this: the U16 championship game and the BIH celebration in Sarajevo is a reason why I love European and International basketball. Fans really care…a whole hell of a lot…when it comes to national pride in sports, especially basketball.

Iron and Wine, Chucks and Pour-Over Coffee: The Chronicle of a Self-Hating Hipster

“I asked you a question and I didn’t need you to reply
Is it getting heavy?
But then I realize, is it getting heavy
Well, I thought it was already as heavy as can be”

-Iron and Wine from “Waiting for Superman”

Being in your late 20’s is a weird thing. I am 28 now. I live in Kansas City, a city that I would have never though I would ever reside in back when I was in high school. In the six years since I have graduated college, I have been to many different places, experienced many different things, been through different relationships and relished my own unique joys, and walked through my share of painful valleys. Furthermore, it’s amazing too how life, culture, society has changed in the six years since I left Gonzaga and made my way toward Culver City, California. Back in 2009, the touch phone was still a luxury, twitter was just becoming relevant, and I’m sure there was still a size-able minority that still thought MySpace was a legitimate form of Social Media.

However, the biggest rise in the past six years has been the emergence of the Hipster. Yes, the coffee-drinking, flannel-wearing, Chuck taylor and rolled up jean sporting socialite that has become such a recognizable figure in our society. Much like the Beatnik to the 50’s, the hippie to the 60’s, the yuppie to the 80’s, the hipster is the “culture” of the 2010’s. Some people embrace it thinking of it as the new progressive approach to life. Others despise it as a hypocritical figure of 21st century consumerism. Whatever side of the fence you find yourself on, the “hipster” will generate debate in all kinds of communities and forms.

The “hipster” debate always strikes a chord with me though because it is tough for me to not find myself falling into that taboo demographic. After all, I am in my late 20’s, PBR and Miller High Life tend to be my beer of choice (typical for hipsters), I have found myself shopping for flannel shirts at thrift stores as of late and I have grown to adore Indie folk bands (such as Iron and Wine, Mumford and Sons and Low Roar), even going to concerts here in Kansas City, which is something very atypical of me (I have never been a concert-goer until this past year). So with this being the case, why do I to hesitate to consider myself a hipster? Why do I still feel anxious to categorize myself as someone that is characteristic of the decade that we currently live in?

The answer to that question is really two-fold, stemming from both my previous relationships here in Kansas City. The first part centers on my second-to-last ex who I moved here to Kansas City from Pine Ridge for. In all honesty, she really was a hipster. She listened to that indie folk music (though she also tended to listen to a lot of hip-hop, so she was kind of a “uber-hipster” I guess, if that does exist), she always wore beanies, she tended to be very anti-consumerism with her shopping, preferring farmer’s markets and thrift stores (which was mostly due to her best friend, who was totally on that spectrum), had tattoos, and also smoked and preferred cheap “non-popular” beer (i.e. not Bud Light). After we broke up, though I found myself enjoying a lot of the same interests, I did not want to admit it because it brought up painful memories. Memories of her, both good and bad, whenever I engaged in these “hipster” activities. And that is why I did not want to typify myself as such a person: it would put me in her category, and not only would it make me recall less-than-stellar memories, but make me feel as if I was her, which would make me feel worse, almost masochistic, since I was embodying her in some way by embracing “hipster-ism” even though the ending of that relationship had been so painful and life-altering that October through January of last year. It sounds strange of course to think like that, but it’s funny how a relationship, both current and past, can alter our mindset or approach to mainstream activities, even if it is fun or gears toward our interests.

So, I didn’t want to be hipster initially because of my first ex. But that was only the first part. The second part centered around my last ex, who was a Latina woman in her 30’s who had 3 kids. This woman was the total opposite of my first ex  (i.e. not hipster at all). She liked Latin and pop music, she tended to be more traditional when it came to buying food, clothing, etc (i.e. fell in line with the common consumer trends), and didn’t see how the “hipster” lifestyle was attractive or ideal in the slightest. It seemed like the perfect fit. Not only was I with this attractive woman, but she was the complete polar opposite of my last ex. If anything was going to drive me away from being a “hipster”, it was this woman and this relationship.

Instead, I found my tendency to gear toward the “hipster” ways pop up from time to time. When it came to BBQs, I would buy PBR or High Life, and she would make a remark about that. She constantly made note that my personality would be a better fit for one of her single “hipster” friends rather than her (this was probably a sign that this relationship was not going to work: when your girlfriend suggests that maybe you should be dating their friend rather than her because you share a like for flannel, a band or a certain brand of beer). Of course, I tried to fight against it: I liked Romeo Santos, I tended to fall too “in-line” with society to be categorized as a “hipster”, I was done with the “single” scene typical of someone my age. And for about 11 months, we were able to believe that, think that was the case, and carry our relationship as if we were really truly meant to be with each other despite our difference in personality, and specifically my own “lingering” personality characteristics being suppressed (though willingly on my end at the time).

Of course though, things did not work. That relationship ended for a multitude of reasons, but one of the subtle reasons? I was too hipster for her. I didn’t fit in with her personality, how she did things, etc. We were too different, going in two different directions, and we have not spoken since we broke up in November. Sad in many ways of course, but in the end it was a good thing. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was being someone I wasn’t, just to be in that relationship, thinking that was the main way I would be happy (being in a relationship with kids and raising a family, i.e the mindset of every 20-something in the Midwest.). As the months passed though, I began to come to the realization that it was good that I wasn’t in that relationship anymore. I wasn’t happy in that relationship at the end of the day. I wasn’t myself. And when you’re not yourself, it’s hard to maintain any kind of happiness, no matter how awesome or beautiful or supportive the other person in the relationship is.

So since that endeavor ended, I have been single since. And in my own “solo” status, I have grown to understand myself a little more. And for some reasons, being “hipster” comes back to the forefront. Was being a “hipster” such a bad thing? Was I a hipster in the purest sense? No. I didn’t have tattoos and didn’t plan on getting anytime soon. I don’t wear bottleneck glasses. I don’t live on my parents’ trust fund account. But the other aspects? Yeah, I guess I can consider myself hipster in that sense. But did that make me happy? Did that make me feel comfortable with myself? Or would it be another crutch, much like that last relationship with the 30-something-year-old mother?

In April, I bought tickets to the “Middle of the Map” concert at the Uptown Theater that featured Sean Rowe, Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, Strand of Oaks and Iron and Wine. It was something uncharacteristic for me because I didn’t go to concerts. I didn’t see myself as a “music” guy by any means, let alone enough of one to go to a concert that featured the artists above. But I had my own “fuck it” moment and decided to do it, to do something different, even if it cost money and was out of my comfort zone. Would it be a hipster fest? Perhaps, but maybe I could determine if this was something I wanted and was comfortable with or if it was just a phase, a inkling that didn’t lead anywhere.

Sean Rowe and Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear killed it, while Strand of Oaks left a lot to be desired (I can’t get into a band that’s trying to be indie folk and metal at the same time; it’s like Mexican-Asian fusion cuisine…just doesn’t fit IMO). But what really hooked me, changed things for me that night was Sam Beam (i.e. Iron and Wine), especially his rendition of “the Trapeze Swinger”. This isn’t an exact version, but the video below is very similar to what he performed at the Uptown that April night.

Amazing, right? Well, after that night, that performance, my perspective on everything just changed. Being there, listening to him, along with a completely attentive crowd of 20-something hipsters dressed in flannel, rolled up jeans, bottleneck glasses, etc, I felt completely at ease. In that eight-plus minute acoustic performance, I felt as if I had broken from chains of anxiety, doubt, and to be perfectly blunt, shit. It was as if I had fallen back into a river and while lying on my back, I was just letting the water float me down the river, away from everything, away from my first hipster ex who brought me to KC, and my last relationship, which I still pressed about since I felt guilty about not only leaving her, but her children as well. As I floated on this river with the sounds of the “Trapeze Swinger” ringing in my ears, those two figures (my exes) simply started to disappear in the horizon, as the river took me somewhere else, somewhere new, somewhere where I could be truly myself and happy. It was a feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time, and certainly not at any point in my tenure in Kansas City since arriving in July of 2013.

And that is what I figured out about being “hipster”. Am I a hipster in the purest sense? It is it something I strive to be? Is it something I hold as collateral over other people to show I am better than them? Of course not. That is not me. It will never be me. However, I am hipster to some extent, and there is something freeing in that. I can say I am hipster not because I am comparing myself to someone or some time in my life, but simply because it is what describes me and brings out the best me and puts me in a good place. I wear flannel that I buy from the thrift store because I like the way it looks and it is cheap (4 bucks!). I get pour over coffee from “Oddly Correct” in Kansas City because it is delicious coffee. I wear Chuck Taylors for the first time in my life and they feel comfortable. I actually give a damn about music, especially Indie Folk. I can spend my nights listening to Iron and Wine, drinking PBR and playing Solitaire and be totally at peace. Maybe I’m not 100% hipster and maybe most hipsters who I bump into may “poo-poo” me thinking I am trying to “fit in” or “conform” in a non-genuine way. Despite what others may perceive or recognize though, in my mind, I consider myself a majority hipster and that is fine…

Because more importantly…I feel free.

“Freedom hangs like heaven over everyone
Ain’t nobody knows what the newborn holds

But his mama says he’ll walk on water
And wander back home…”

Iron and Wine from “Freedom Hangs Like Heaven”