Daily Dose: 4/19/17
Aaron Hernandez found dead in jail cell
When someone writes a book about Aaron Hernandez’s life, it will be fascinating. The former New England Patriots tight end apparently killed himself Tuesday night, providing an end to one of the most bizarrely violent episodes in recent history involving the NFL. He beat a double murder charge last week and Wednesday morning was found dead in his jail cell. Hernandez had quite a few run-ins with the law; it was a pattern dating back to his college days at Florida. It’ll be interesting to see what the NFL says about this, if anything at all.
Speaking of the Patriots, things are getting more awkward. Back in February, a bunch of guys from the Super Bowl-winning squad said they did not want to visit the White House as part of their celebration. It’s obviously a tradition that’s well-worn and in the past, and quite a few athletes have said no to the invitation for various reasons. In this case, many were political. But a big shocker comes today. Tom Brady won’t be attending. He and the president are apparently friends, but Tom’s got family obligations, it seems.
Tennis is an exciting sport. The back-and-forth rallies, the grueling grind of facing off against one opponent for the duration — it can be a workout. Sort of like another activity. What happens when the two things come together? Well, you get one of the most hilarious YouTube videos of all time, and a bunch of sportswriters trying to come up with a way to make jokes about it. The match was between Frances Tiafoe and Mitchell Krueger at the Sarasota Open, which instantly just became a far more popular tournament.
The Cubs won the World Series and are still doing the most. First they held a rather extravagant and excessive banner raising, which people sat through the rain and cold to see in person for who knows what reason. Then they had a separate ceremony for the ring unveiling, because in 2017 you can’t just win a title and act like that was the goal all along. Now they’re trying to do everything they can to prevent those rings from becoming cash cows for everyone else besides them. Follow the money, kiddos.
Coffee Break: Redman is my favorite rapper. This has been the case since I was in high school, so don’t come at me with your foolishness. He’s also a very funny dude who’s found himself in a couple of movies. He keeps it notoriously real on many fronts. Listen to him break down his top three roles.
Snack Time: I’m enamored with the science of extremely basic things. Tying your shoes is a pretty simple concept, but here’s a question — why do they ever become undone? Some engineers found the answers.
Dessert: Weird how when you get out and talk to people who actually live across America, they can tell you great stories.
I can’t handle Kendrick Lamar
We don’t normally get this much from a singular rap artist
6:30 PMIt doesn’t matter whether you think Kendrick Lamar is the so-called best rapper on earth. It doesn’t particularly matter if you like his music. It also doesn’t really matter if you even claim to care about hip-hop. From a creative output standpoint, KDot is doing something that this game has never seen. At the height of his powers, he is a solo artist who is outputting at his most effective level, with the world watching and eagerly waiting.
We do not usually get this in the rap game. For whatever reason, things get shortchanged. Sometimes it’s death. Sometimes it’s petty crew battles that screw up careers or whatever music industry nonsense du jour that just plain prevents rappers from doing the most. Lamar is doing it, and doing it better than everyone.
There’s no need to take a superlong-lens look at the history of rap to understand this. Kung Fu Kenny is not just in a zone. He’s making the type of art that forces you to re-evaluate what you’re doing with yourself. The tracks make people eagerly want to hear them in public spaces. The videos have you grabbing your phone to contact people you care deeply about to talk to them about it.
His latest, “DNA,” is a complete masterpiece. Let’s just start with the fact that Don Cheadle is in it. Let’s then think about the fact that Cheadle then TRADES BARS with Kendrick, showing off his 52-year-old rap hands with flawless execution. “Two first names, the f— is up with that?” might be the best line I’ve heard in all of 2017. After all that, we can get to what actually goes on in the rest of this gem, which ends with a blunt-smoking Schoolboy Q punching a camera.
I’ve been a hip-hop fan all my life. There’s never been a world I’ve lived in where it wasn’t the main life force of my creative mind. Same goes for most of my friends. The rubric that Kenny has created is sophisticated, elegant, rugged, whimsical, scary, fun, dark and joyous all at once. I can’t process anything he puts out fully until digesting it at least three times. The closest person I can even think of at that level of psychological immersion is Andre 3000, and even still, he will always have the probably unfair distinction of being part of a group. In short, I can’t handle it. I’m a grown man. I love it.
His entire oeuvre has moved from “Things I make sure I am a part of” to “Canon that I will force my future kids to listen to and recite back to me” levels. As my friend put it to me, his work affects you “in the best [way], makes me want to be better at my creativity every day” kind of way. If you’re an artist who’s anywhere near his lane, or even not, you’ve got to be afraid of looking like a complete basic in a world that Lamar is living, recording and shifting paradigms in.
The specific topics of his lyrics are obviously worth mentioning, too. There are quite a few people who believe that he’s a dressed-up hotep with a zany mind and some rap skills. Part of that is true. The discussion around his video for Humble is an example. By dropping the super problematic line of “I’m so f—king sick and tired of the Photoshop, show me something natural like Afros on Richard Pryor,” he quickly became the target of perfectly legitimate criticism of himself as a misogynist.
I don’t have the time or the inclination to break down rap’s relationship with that right now, but that must be said to point out that Kendrick is still an artist of his time. In this generational iteration of hip-hop, the foremost star in the game is not some fully formed feminist. But Lamar is an example of exactly where the genre is at its apex when blackness is not relegated to being a secondary element of presentation.
His latest Coachella is already the stuff of legend, and his upcoming interview with Zane Lowe is one of the most anticipated music sitdowns in recent history. There are pockets of the internet that believed he was going to drop a second album to complement DAMN on Easter Sunday, meaning people are mentioning his name in the same sentence as Jesus Christ, not even said in vain. It’s not even really about his popularity.
Once I saw him live. It was in Los Angeles at a private show, and even a short set was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. Before that point, I’d very publicly praised Lamar for “good kid, m.A.A.d city” but didn’t honestly feel the full fervor of his energy. That night, I did.
After today’s drop though, I’m changed.
Daily Dose: 4/18/17
Our favorite power couple appears to be no longer
12:54 PMBaseball has had a whole lot of racism in these streets for quite a while. If you’re older than 40, you know who Al Campanis is. He was a racist who was VP of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Need a history lesson? Here you go.
Carmelo Kyam Anthony, what you doing, baby? First, there’s the terrible news of you and La La breaking up, which is heartbreaking on so many levels. Y’all were the celebrity couple we were all rooting for, and then we all realized that people are still people and everyone has problems. But us fans all rode it out, rooting for each of you individually and collectively, even when those things seemed to being going awry. Now you’re breaking up, and we’re not ready to choose. News of Melo getting a side chick pregnant doesn’t help the cause. Jesus, take the wheel.
David Fizdale is awesome. If you don’t know who he is, fair enough. He’s the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, the trillest team in the league, and he’s not here for your nonsense. Not remotely. He’s a rookie head coach in the league, but he’s in the playoffs with his team and he’s doing it without his best player, Tony Allen. They’re up against the Spurs, so it’s a tough go, but Monday night’s matchup was particularly unnerving for Grizz fans. And Fizdale delivered one of the all-time great postgame pressers in playoff history, to boot.
You want to know how supremacy works? I’ll explain. It’s an intricate system of power, portrayal and privilege that shapes how people feel about themselves and others, to believe that when the ruling class has something that works, it makes sense. But if others have it, something’s wrong. That’s it. Personal agency is stripped away, and the concept of human value is reduced to a dollar amount. So, with all that in mind, you might want to hear the story of how a Native American tribe was summarily extinguished when they found oil on their land.
Major League Baseball is about to do something really dope. Like, really, truly fun, that we rarely see out of the game. Here’s the thing about baseball: There’s so much to the sport that will never really translate to TV because if you’re not close to the field, it just doesn’t make sense. The umpires are a perfect example. They talk a lot during games, and what they have to say is, in fact, quite informative to any game. Now, it appears that MLB is looking to mic up Blue to explain various replay calls. This is nothing short of amazing in my world.
Coffee Break: Good news! There’s a new late night show coming to Comedy Central, and we’re here for it. Also, you missed out if you never saw Kara Walker’s sugar sphinx, but you might want to know what she’s up to these days. Hint: It’s awesome.
Snack Time: If you’ve ever had a pet, you know how much joy they bring to your family. This optical illusion ad campaign to show that value is really, really excellent.
Dessert: This track bangs. Straight up.
Daily Dose: 4/17/17
Fearless Girl is more important than Charging Bull
A lot of people smoke weed. Your librarian, your doctor and likely your local police chief. This is just a fact of the matter in today’s America. You know why? Because from what I understand, marijuana usage makes people happy and makes them feel better. It helps people with seizures. It helps people eat. It helps people sleep. Which is why Canada is getting ready to legalize it. It’s also why various states have decided that criminalizing its sale isn’t worth their time. Meanwhile, fun fact: More than half of Americans have tried it, according to a new poll.
The guy who created the Charging Bull statue is not happy. His name is Arturo Di Modica, and he claims that a little girl is compromising the artistic integrity of his work. When someone erected the Fearless Girl statue across from Charging Bull, the world came to celebrate the former, which is a pretty dang good symbol for where we are in this nation and world with feminism. Di Modica’s taking the whole fight to court, and it’s pretty embarrassing from a self-awareness standpoint. Whether it’s a corporate stunt or not, it’s worked. Deal with it.
Here’s the thing about the White House Easter Egg Roll: It’s for children. As in, little kids come to the South Lawn for the purpose of finding items left around by a fake rabbit to celebrate a Christian holiday, and it’s an officially sanctioned event. Point being, in the overall scheme of things, it matters not and is strictly a ceremonial event for fun. Unless you screw it up. But because this group feels the need to reaffirm its existence every second of the day, the president says things like this to a group of non-adults. Awkward.
The Atlanta Hawks are afraid of the Washington Wizards. Every team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference is afraid of the Washington Wizards. Fans of the Washington Wizards are afraid of the Washington Wizards. By that I mean everyone knows they’ve got talent. They know they’ve got talent, and they know that you know that they know that. So they’ve taken a fun strategy in the playoffs: Beat people up and talk mega trash. I could not be more here for it. Paul Millsap is complaining because it’s too physical. News flash: Get used to it.
Coffee Break: Hey, if you play a superloud, screaming maniac on TV, don’t be surprised when people think that’s who you are in real life. Alex Jones, that InfoWars guy who you only hear about when he’s going nuts about the conspiracy theory du jour, says it’s all an act, but his ex-wife thinks he’s crazy.
Snack Time: A coming-of-age movie on a Caribbean island that involves a goat? Sure, I’ll give them some money. They need it to get it done.
Dessert: If you still weren’t in the mood for baseball season, just watch this.
Daily Dose: 4/14/17
James Baldwin’s papers find new home in Harlem
9:56 AMQuick announcement: On Saturday from noon-2 p.m. EDT, Aaron Dodson and I will be hosting an ESPN Radio special for the 70th anniversary of Major League Baseball’s Jackie Robinson Day. Should be a fun one, kiddos!
The United States dropped on a bomb on Afghanistan. It’s still not really clear why. According to officials, 36 ISIS fighters were killed, but judging from the size of the bomb, who knows how many other people died in the attack. The bomb has a nickname — “Mother of All Bombs” — which in itself is a bit scary as a concept, both the title and the shorthand for explosives. It’s the largest non-nuclear device of its kind used in combat. Here are the details on exactly how it was deployed.
How much of James Baldwin’s work are you familiar with? In the new movie I Am Not Your Negro, the legendary author’s last work is explored through the eyes of today’s news and societal progress in America. But that’s just one movie that reflects one unfinished book. He had plenty of other published works and private papers, which will soon be on display at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, thanks to his estate. In general, the concept of being important enough to have “private papers” is pretty dope.
If you’re into weed, Canada might be the place for you. Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made good on a campaign promise to legalize recreational marijuana use in the country with something called the Cannabis Act. It’ll be up to each province to figure out how it wants to regulate things, which will lead to some interesting political discussions across that country. But it’s not all bongs and vape clouds. The penalties for breaking the rules will be pretty stringent, considering that growing and smoking it will no longer be illegal.
It always interests me what non-playoff NBA teams do once the tournament starts. Plenty of teams miss a chance to get a title and the panic that ensues is intriguing. For example, the Orlando Magic fired its general manager. Granted, it hasn’t been to the postseason in five years. And the Los Angeles Lakers sort of screwed themselves by ending their season on a winning streak, but they say they have a plan in case they don’t get a top 3 pick. But come on, it’s the NBA. There’s no way they don’t find a way for Lonzo Ball to end up at the Staples Center.
Coffee Break: The greatest American comedy of all time, for my money, is Coming to America. Now that a sequel is officially in development, some people are nervous about how it could affect the legacy of the previous film. Good news, though, the original writers are actually back on board.
Snack Time: You know your cable news network has a branding problem when a local station, in Boston no less, doesn’t even want your name in its broadcasts.
Dessert: The new trailer for the Dear White People Netflix show is incredible. Can’t wait for this show.