I'm just gonna go ahead and preface this blog by saying that yes, I'm a USC Trojans fan, but the only effect that has on me is that it's motivated me to write this blog. Regardless of the team, I've felt this way about collegiate sports for a long time.
Although the official announcement is supposed to come out tomorrow, there's already an ESPN report saying that the NCAA will impose a 2 year postseason ban on USC along with a loss of scholarships, possibly stripping Reggie Bush of the Heisman Trophy and maybe even taking away their National Championship when they demolished Oklahoma in the final game.
The thing that really annoys me about this whole situation is the high level of hypocrisy across the country. These schools are making tons of money from student athletes, but the athletes themselves aren't allowed to get any perks?! The top tier college coaches are getting multi-million dollar deals, but it's wrong for a student to accept a rent-free residence for his family? Really?! (If you haven't seen it already, I highly recommend you check out the movie Blue Chips with Nick Nolte and a young, skinny Shaquille O'Neal).
What's even worse is that the new recruits will have to suffer the consequences of violations that occurred when they were in middle school and high school. I understand punishments need to be handed down and that there are a lot of gray areas, but the people involved should still get penalized...even if they're no longer affiliated with the school. If we can find a way to extradite a criminal who fled to another country, then there's gotta be a way where the NCAA can impose fines on people like Bush or Pete Carroll who are now in the NFL. But then again, we're talking about the same people/organization who messes up year after year with the BCS system. Should we really be surprised at the lack of logic behind their actions?
[disclaimer: I'm not going to act like I'm on this "F**K Pete Carroll" tip b/c he did so much to bring the program back to the national spotlight, but if he knowingly participated in the violations, then I say fine his ass! At the same time, he knows the system and bounced to the NFL in order to avoid the consequences. You can't really hate on that...it's the American way]
Okay, I've expressed my objective viewpoints, now it's time to be more subjective. I don't have a rebuttal if it's proven that USC made these violations in the recruiting process, but if the violations took place after the athletes were already enrolled in the school, that's where I have to address the haters. You can take away the victories, the Heisman, the titles, etc. but you can't take away the fact that SC dominated for so many years. If anything, the conference should be thankful that the Trojans brought more attention to them as a whole b/c we all know that the Big 12 and SEC get the shine while the Pac-10 gets shunned.
I guess one positive thing about this situation is that it can finally weed out the real fans from the bandwagon fans. USC became real trendy here in L.A. over the last few years, so let's see who's cheering for them now that they can't get into any bowl games. Those "fans" will disappear in the next few years and will conveniently pop up again when, not if, the program rebuilds and gets back on top. I've been a fan since 1st or 2nd grade...how about you?
A few day ago, as I was partaking in my usual unproductive routine of checking my Facebook account, I started seeing all these posts that Guru from Gang Starr had passed away from a heart attack. Although it didn't have as big of an impact on me as the day MJ died, I was still in a state of shock. Luckily, his death was just a rumor. Unfortunately, he's still in critical condition.
Before I go on, I have to give a disclaimer that I'm not trying to act like I'm Gang Starr's #1 fan -- I'm actually not too familiar with their early stuff (a few years ago I might've fronted like I was a big fan in order to get some recognition from the "hardcore underground hip hop heads," but I'm old enough now where I don't need approval from an elitist suburbanite. I know I'm Hip Hop). However, I will say that their Moment of Truth album from '98 was one of the few East Coast joints at the time that was able to break through my closed-minded "strictly West Coast" mentality (I'm still kicking myself in the ass for sleeping on the Black Star album when it was first released, which is now one of my all time favorites).
So although Moment of Truth held a lot of significance for me, that's not what took me by surprise upon hearing the news of his heart attack. The answer to that can be traced back to '03 when my brother took me to see Gang Starr, Talib Kweli and Common at House of Blues. In between sets, he went to the bar to get us some drinks and came back excited: "Jr., I was just talking to Guru right now. He's at the bar. You wanna go meet him?"
When we got there, my first thought was "Damn, he's shorter than he looks on stage!" I stand at a whopping 5'6" and he was around the same height as me. Anyway, since I recently turned 21, my star struck/faded ass offers to buy him a drink, but he politely and nonchalantly says, "Ah no thanks man. I don't drink. Thanks though." Since I probably looked as stupid as I felt, he added, "It's cool. You're still young. I've been there too," which definitely made me feel like less of a jackass. And other than seeing Magic Johnson chillin' in the VIP area, it's amazing how my interaction with Guru was one of the few things I remember from that night. The next day, it all made sense to me after listening to the Moment of Truth song:
Suicide? Nah, I'm not a foolish guy Don't even feel like drinking or even gettin' high Cuz all that's gonna do, really, is accelerate The anxieties that I wish I could alleviate
That's why I was so shocked to hear that he had a heart attack. To see something like that happen to someone who's relatively young and conscious of their health put things into perspective for me. First, it helped reinforce the notion that I need to be more mindful of my long term health and start thinking about my future. Second, I need to utilize my time better and be more productive when it comes to music.
Guru and Gang Starr have a pretty extensive catalog that they could leave behind as their legacy. When 2Pac died, he still had a ton of unreleased songs b/c he was just a beast in the studio! If something were to happen to me tomorrow (*knock on wood*), what would I leave behind? Two mixtapes? That's it?!? And one of those is from '05, under a different MC name, so I don't even want to count that since it's pretty crappy quality. lol. I've got a bunch of random verses and songs written, but they haven't been recorded yet. For my next mixtape I'm already done with about 12-15 tracks, but I've been lazy with recording the rest of it. This project should've been done by now, but I've been sitting on it for the longest time. If there's one positive thing I can learn from Guru's situation, it's that I need to create a greater sense of urgency with my art...
But just as you'll receive what is comin to you Everybody else is gonna get theirs too I ain't no saint, therefore I cannot dispute That everyone must meet their moment of truth
Just like I've done in in the past, it's time to list my favorite albums of 2009. I know we're already two months into 2010, so it's probably too late to do the "end of the year" countdowns, but oh well. The beauty of having my own blog is that I don't have to worry about meeting deadlines.
1.) Zee Avi [Self-Titled] Although it was a real tough decision, this was definitely my favorite album of the year. I already wrote a previous blog about her, so I don't need to go into too much detail. All I'll say is that I'm glad I was able to catch one of her live shows in the summer. She was playing some pretty big venues on her tour, so my friends and I were lucky enough to see her perform at a real intimate venue in Hermosa Beach...for only $10!! FAVORITES: Poppy, Honey Bee
2.) The Counterparts [Self-Titled LP] Although it didn't get my top overall spot, this was my favorite hip hop album of '09...hands down. After hearing their Appetizer sampler CD in Fall '08, I knew this would be a solid album once it was released. This is a perfect balance of beats and lyrics that make for a "no-filler" kind of album. I listened to it non-stop in my car for at least a week straight when it first came out. And even though I was featured on the song "Universe" (shameless plug: I'm the 3rd verse), that had nothing to do with my final decision...I swear! This would still be the best hip hop album of '09 even if I didn't have a guest spot. FAVORITES: What We Do, Home in the Bay, Until
3.) Brother Ali - Us After listening to his two most recent albums, this guy has definitely become one of my favorite MCs. It took a little while for me to get used to the sound of his voice, but once that happened I couldn't stop listening. I admire and respect MCs who are willing to put everything out there, and Brother Ali is one of the most honest dudes in the game right now. And his beats are always so damn dope! He's got a great production team behind him. FAVORITES: Fresh Air, House Keys
4. K'Naan - Troubadour I almost slept on this album, but decided to check him out after hearing some of his collabos with Wale as well as through word of mouth. You'll be disappointed if you're expecting a traditional "hip hop" album because he raps and sings over production that's heavily influenced by his African roots and rhythms. Overall, it's just a good musical album. FAVORITES: Somalia, 15 Minutes Away
5. Jay-Z - Blueprint 3 This was definitely a solid release. After so many years in the game, this guy can still hold it down and can probably crush any mainstream MC out there. Since there's so many people who are exposed to his music, I probably don't need to go into too much detail. FAVORITES: D.O.A., Empire State of Mind
6. Zion I - The Takeover I bought this album in the early part of the year, listened to it a few times, then kind of forgot about it until a couple months ago when I was getting revisiting music for the purpose of this blog. Amp Live, the producer, has always had a wide range of beats that were showcased perfectly on The Takeover. There was a good mix of the grimy sounding 808's, synths and just plain old head nod music that let Zion, the MC, do his thing. This is one of my favorite hip hop groups who don't always get the credit they deserve (I'm even guilty of underrating them sometimes too). I would recommend any of the albums in their catalog. Trust me, you won't be disappointed! FAVORITES: Antenna, Coastin'
7. Fatgums x Bambu - ...A Peaceful Riot... One of my favorite producers and one of my favorite MCs on the same project?! Yeah, I was definitely waiting for this one to come out, especially after hearing their work together on Exact Change (which got my vote for the Best Album of '08). My only complaint is that I wish it was a full length album instead of just an EP! lol. As an added bonus for me, my band (The Committee) had the opportunity to perform at the album release party. Good times... FAVORITES: Good Clothes, Peddlin' Music.
9. Mayer Hawthorne - A Strange Arrangement I saw someone post his video on Facebook, then a week later someone else posted another one of his videos. Since I respect those people's taste in music, I knew I had to check it out for myself. This is a good album that's reminiscent of the old Motown sound. FAVORITES: Just Ain't Gonna Work Out, Maybe So, Maybe No (which was also my favorite video of the year)
10. Aimee Allen - A Little Happiness Just like in the case of Zee Avi, I heard about Aimee Allen through an MTVu video contest. I originally went there to support Inverse (who ended up winning), but I became a fan of hers in the process. I haven't heard her previous work, which had a big rock influence, but this was definitely a good summertime album with its chill, laid back vibes. FAVORITES: On Vacation, Santeria (Sublime cover)
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Mos Def - The Ecstatic (I wasn't really feeling the production. C'mon Mos!! I know you still have it in you!)
FAVORITE MIXTAPES: 1. DJ Jazzy Jeff - He's the King, I'm the DJ [FREE download] This is a pretty lofty claim, but I think this just might be my favorite mixtape of all time. He covers a wide range of MJ's library and also threw in some real dope remixes. This is feel good music at it's finest! Don't sleep on this one!
2. Sabzi - 69 Rolls & Oof! Mixtape [FREE download] Another perfect selection for the summmer! If you like that chill island vibe, this is a mixtape you don't wanna miss out on!
3. DJ Un.D.Fine - Soul Nice Reggae Mixtape This DJ from the Mass Movement crew always comes correct with his mixtapes. I don't know if Soul Nice Reggae is available for download or purchase, but you won't be disappointed with this reggae mix of classic hits.
I was on my way to work this morning and caught the tail end of this rant from Sam Rubin (KTLA Morning News). This dude went in hard on Perez Hilton! I mean damn...I've never seen a news anchor lay into somebody like that before, which is why Sam Rubin is my new hero. I've always been a fan of the Channel 5 news crew, but I now pledge my undying loyalty to them. Perez is a hypocritical, obnoxious jackass who had it coming! Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I was able to find video of the whole thing, which is now presented for your viewing pleasure.
I ride the metro all the time from Long Beach to LA or all the way up to the valley and every trip is full of interesting observations. There are the loud, obnoxious passengers. There's the parents hopping from train to train trying to sell candy, jewelry or cologne. There are the homeless people who, despite their situation, end up make the other passengers feel uncomfortable (ain't that some ass backwards shit?). And that's exactly what has inspired me to write my first blog using my phone.
There was a homeless person (not a "bum") who just got on the train, fucked up on some kind of drug and smelling like piss, yet he was still a source of inspiration. Much to his surprise, someone randomly gave him some change. All the good samaritan said was "Hey man, I've been there before. When you're at the bottom the only way you can go is up."
It was a long conversation that's hard to summarize typing away on my phone, but it reminded me of the importance of connecting with others and truly serving the people. Even right now someone hit me up for food money. After I gave him $3 someone else shook his head and told me I just got played for a sucker. Maybe I did, maybe I didn't...but it takes a lot to swallow your pride and ask for money from strangers. He was in a tougher situation than I was, so why not help out if it's in my capacity to do so?
I don't want to get all preachy and self righteous because no one's perfect, but sometimes we have to remind ourselves that it's not just about us. We need to help out any way we can, even if it's a complete stranger.
"I believe in Growth and moving forward always / I'm just an ordinary guy tryna do what it takes / to find my place in this life"
I'm an MC in a live hip hop band (myspace.com/thecommitteemusic). And while music is my passion, I still need to have a regular day job where I have to deal with PC Load Letters and TPS Reports. Oh yeah..."I love lamp."