The sights, sounds and experiences of a Chicagoan and University of Pittsburgh grad who fled Big Ten country. From my Euro trip and published work, to hip-hop lyrics and sports references, welcome to a close look at my post-grad life and work in New York City.
“Aiyyo, I got a slight problem I smoke weed too much, Knees buckle the fuck up when I’m splittin’ my dutch.”
Last night, two of the Association’s top teams met in the Pacific Northwest for a battle that would be used as a benchmark of each squad’s potential. On one hand, there was a Rip City team that few believed was the real deal, having faced few opponents with positive records. Their opponent, Larry…
According to Indiana Pacers’ center Roy Hibbert, this year’s NBA Finals matchup will be between his squad and the Portland Trail Blazers.
“Yo it’s the Ox in the flesh, of course I’m fresh, Yes, I’m livin for the funk like I was Lord Finesse. Last night I screamed till I lost my voice I guess, Had a few things left to get up off of my chest.”
“Introducin’, It’s Bronsonlino, With my hair slicked back, I look like Rick Pitino. 3 Japanese dykes in my El Camino, Lettin’ trees blow, oh. I rep the East Coast, I got a team of hoes like Pat Summitt, I look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a black hummer…”
“No, we’re merely analysts, observing what’s occurring, like, Who’s doing the serving, keeping our people from flourishing. We mourn about nourishing, who’s deserving teaching courage, Cause the earth’s being engulfed and what they teaching is murders. Homicides, trauma’s live on HBO’s the ratio, It’s so unbalanced…”
By now, news of Derrick Rose’s torn meniscus has settled in. The Bulls have played a game without their star point guard, losing 121-82 to the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. Coach Tom Thibodeau, who has a strong personal relationship with Rose, has already reverted to last year’s highlight reel of sound bytes about focusing on the season ahead and using defense to win games. It’s only been three days, but it already seems like a continuation of Chicago’s 2012-13 campaign, and the memories aren’t always pretty.
But as a Bulls fan, it’s much more than a terrible knee injury to our star player. With the current season only just begun, the sad reality is that the current roster, one which plays as a cohesive team in a way few squads have managed to during the current NBA era, will have to be broken up this spring. To GM Gar Forman and the rest of the Bulls’ management: Good luck.
With a more than capable team at his disposal, Thibs should have no problem coaching the Bulls into the playoffs. Whether or not these guys can scrap and claw their way to the second round like they did last year is hard to tell, but the fact of the matter is that Chicago most likely won’t be getting the best pick in the draft. Luckily, the Bulls have possession of Charlotte’s first round draft pick (provided ten teams finish the season with a worse record than the Bobcats). The hype surrounding the 2014 draft class is just as loud as the debate about the impact two knee injuries will have on Rose’s career, and for the first time in a long time, MJ’s squad isn’t looking too shabby. This is just the first of many options on the table.
Once the season does end, the Bulls have a number of other big decisions to make as they attempt the slow, heartbreaking process of reshaping their roster. Without hesitating, Forman needs to amnesty the Boozehound. Yes, Carlos Boozer has been a valuable asset to the Bulls since coming over from Utah, providing tons of high-arcing 20-footers, ample space in the lane for the opposition, and more than his fair share of high-pitched pleas for fouls. Yeah, yeah, so the dude averages some solid numbers, but until you’ve watched Boozer play defense, it’s really impossible to understand just how overrated he is.
As Boozer continues to prove just how ‘talented’ he is to other teams in the league, however, the idea of amnestying such a valuable trade asset is just ridiculous, even if his hefty price tag scares off most of his potential suitors. Forman will doubtless have to make this a package deal, and it’ll be interesting to see what moves the Bulls make before the trade deadline in February, especially when you factor in the expiring contract of the Bulls heart and soul: Luol Deng.
No player, aside from arguably Captain Kirk Hinrich, has meant more to this organization since Michael Jordan helped hang six banners in the United Center, and it would really be a shame to see him leave. Even though he led the league in minutes per game last season (38.70), Deng has been able to overcome the wear and tear on his body, and has continued to improve in every season since the Bulls drafted him in 2004. He may be 28, but Lou deserves to finish his career in Chicago, even though it may not help ease the Bulls’ financial situation. If Forman has one priority this summer, it should be to make sure that the core of Rose, Deng and Noah are given another opportunity to dethrone King James.
The 2014-15 Chicago Bulls may have a roster with few familiar faces. After witnessing the Baby Bulls flourish into an era marked by staunch D and a group of characters that were simply fun to watch, it’ll be hard to part with a cast that gave it their all each and every game, banding together and proving to basketball fans everywhere that team ball still exists. We’ll never know if a lineup of Rose, Butler, Deng, Boozer and Noah could have won it all, but with the right rehab, we may get to see this band of brothers fight together in the 2013-14 playoffs.
From a grateful Bulls fan, thank you Derrick, and thank you to every one of the players that helped make Chicago basketball enjoyable once again. This season isn’t over yet.
Down, but not out. The ball’s in your court, Gar Forman.
"Machete Mode" is Esoteric and Stu Bangas’ way of providing fans of Hip Hop’s raw underbelly with further proof that the subgenre is still alive and well.
Hip Hop, like every other musical genre, is broken down into subgenres that can be loosely tied together by their affinity to the beats and rhymes that have drawn so many fans to the popular form of music. There’s radio Rap (think Lil Wayne), underground artists like Joey Bada$$, emcees that preach conscious Hip Hop like Brother Ali, and the creative genius types that are tough to categorize like Kanye West.
Then, in a class unto itself, there’s hardcore Hip Hop, a sect of the genre known for its aggressive, battle-like rhymes and heavy beats, both of which are intended to sound as menacing as the subgenre itself.
Ever since the late Guru of Gang Starr put Beantown’s hardcore scene on the map during Hip Hop’s Golden Age, the area has produced numerous hardcore acts, including Boston emcee Esoteric, who has dominated the underground for over a decade with his raw yet passionate sound.
Known for his work with producer 7L, Esoteric has taken his lyrical prowess to the beats of beatmaker Stu Bangas, whose rugged and rough productions are well-suited for Esoteric’s gruff-sounding vocals. The end result: Machete Mode—an album that will simultaneously have you scheming to rob a bank and preparing to go to war.
“I didn’t come for the case. I came for your boss. I came for Seamus,” says Robert De Niro in a clip from the 1998 spy thriller Ronin, the first of many pop culture samples included on the album. Who better than to kick off an album than the voice of The Godfather II’s Vito Corleone? The first track, titled “Attack” then proceeds to take off at breakneck speed, as Esoteric wastes little time letting the listener know about his reputation.
“I’m John Lennon combined with Spidey and Venom,” raps Esoteric over a dark piano line that races throughout the track, setting the tone for the duo’s project, yet shying away from both horrorcore and the type of cliché material found in many of the classic ‘90s hardcore tracks that detailed brutal killings rather than playful boasting.
Much like the rest of Machete Mode, “Attack” is filled with enough punchlines and battle raps to get an entire locker room hyped up; the song, and the majority of the album, isn’t meant for all-nighters spent studying for an exam—just make sure not to take the title of the third track, “Apprentice to Master (Study),” literally.
But what makes an album like this so impressive is that even though the majority of the songs have the same message, the wordplay throughout is creative enough to keep you from hitting the “next” button and the beats break the mold of the repetitive, albeit hard-hitting, rhythms that dominate the subgenre.
In addition to the standard drum kit loops and record scratching found throughout Hip Hop, Stu Bangas also introduces the sounds of guitars and pianos into the mix on “Attack,” followed by a terrifying set of strings on the album’s second song, “Repercussions,” which features legendary New York City underground emcee Ill Bill.
The sounds of electric keyboard notes can also be heard throughout, along with samples from The Departed and other TV shows and films that reinforce the theme of cocky villainy in the form of a string of verbal assaults that are only rarely interrupted by tracks such as “Wonder Why,” which allows Esoteric to reflect on his love affair with Hip Hop, his outlook on life and his struggles to follow his dreams, something rarely found in the hardcore subgenre.
While underground Hip Hop is notorious for its collaborations and networking, Machete Mode has a truly daunting list. Enlisting the help of five of his fellow Army of the Pharaohs members, Esoteric is joined by Apathy, Blacastan, Celph Titled, Planetary and Vinnie Paz, along with former member Reef the Lost Cauze. The album also features Joell Ortiz of Slaughterhouse on the track “Save Ya Breath,” while Madchild of Swollen Members tears “Bounty Hunters” apart. And of course, Boston’s most notorious athletes are given shoutouts, too.
In a day and age when artists like Drake receive the vast majority of the music world’s attention,Machete Mode is Esoteric and Stu Bangas’ way of sticking it to the man and providing those with a taste for Hip Hop’s raw underbelly with further proof that the subgenre is still alive and well.
“Top of the Hold’em totem, rich forever, a million was not the quota, My father owned half of MoMA and did it with no diploma. Year off, got no rules, tripping off of them toad stools, More green than my Whole Foods and I’m too fly, Jeff Goldblum.”