Thursday, February 5, 2009

Over and Under Rated 1 (2009)


Retro Releases from companies that are not NIKE

Since companies started doing “retro releases” and finding classic kicks no longer required scouring mom & pop sporting goods stores or paying insane prices on ebay the sneaker game has inarguably changed.  Whereas before anybody rocking real heat had to have the commitment and instincts to hunt down the hottest shoes or serious connects, now anybody with a Visa and access to a Footlocker can get sick sneakers.  I am a purist in just about everything I’m into (Hip-Hop, Fashion, Comic Books, etc.), however I’m cool with this.  I’ve spent way too much time looking for Air Max 95’s online and in drop lines for Jordan 5’s to argue that it’s not waaaaay better to be able to drive to the mall and pick up what I want with no lines, shipping & handling fees or waiting outside at midnight to elbow my way past hipsters that look like Spencer Pratt to get my size 8’s.  

However, since the “Retro Release” craze started (early 2000’s) every company except Nike has dropped the ball.  I’ve spend a lot of time telling my boys “If Fila does the Grant Hill’s, I’m definitely buying them” or “You remember the Converse Larry Johnson’s? Yeah, the Grand MaMa’s...they gotta put those back out!” Only to be devastatingly disappointed when I finally see them in the stores.  Maybe it’s the anticipation of waiting for years for these releases that make them impossible to live up to the hype or maybe all these kicks were only hot to my pre-pubescent eyes and not as attractive since I got my grown man on (and got contact lenses), but now I seem to be saying things to myself like “Were all the Reebok Pumps always so high?” and “Were the Adidas Equipment joints always so cartoonish and childish?” I’m not saying other brands are not cool, Adidas Shell Toes, Puma Clydes, Converse All-Stars and New Balance 995’s are all undeniable classics, but for some reason the lesser known designs from these companies are not nearly as cool as I remember them.  It’s kind of like watching a cartoon you used to love (for me it’s “He-Man” or “Transformers”) or playing an old school video game and thinking you must have been  a dumb ass when you were younger for liking such nonsense.  

Don’t feel too bad for sneakerheads though, as long as Nike continues to put out 300 colorways of Air Force 1’s and continues to re-package Jordans every couple of months I’m sure we’ll all be OK.  

Rappers that “Don’t Write”

If your government name is not Christopher Wallace, Shawn Carter or Dwayne Carter (sometimes), you should go get a pen & pad.  

“American Idol” bridging the musical generation gap

I understand that “Idol” (as some segments of our population call it) is watched by entire families together and is the kind of “Event Television” that encourages parents to cancel poker nights and kids to take a night off from smoking at the mall in favor of gathering around the plasma and intently watching and discussing each week’s wannabe pop-stars.  While this type of family bonding is probably a positive thing, the idea of multiple generations finding a common ground over the worst, most mindless, cookie-cutter pop music and entertainment industry pariahs that aspire to sing idiotic songs written by teams of corporate “songwriters” that were favorably tested in key demographic focus groups is absurd.  

Family bonding over music is cool, but not this music and not this show! If you want to show your kids how cool you are find some truly timeless, significant music and listen to it together and discuss why it was cool then and why it’s still relevant now.  There is a long list of musicians that fall into this category, but here are a few to start things off: Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Parliment/Funkadelic, James Brown, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Metalica, Run DMC, Boogie Down Productions or Nirvana (yeah, grunge was that long ago).  And if you are a “child” trying to find musical common ground with your parents, play them some of today’s hottest artists and try to make them understand why you like them.  I’m pretty sure most 40-50 year olds would be at least mildly impressed with guys like Jay-Z, Nas and Lil’ Wayne and bands like TV on the Radio and The Killers, if they actually listened to their music instead of Fox New’s reports on how they are ruining society and corrupting our youth.  As a side note, I’m reasonably sure living in a country where the school system is in shambles, pharmaceutical companies work in concert with the government to keep people in a prescription drug-induced haze, sports and gossip magazines have taken the place of any kind of substance or intelligence and Drug & Alcohol abuse is celebrated has done more to corrupt my mind state than “Ready To Die,” “Reasonable Doubt” and “The Marshall Mathers LP” combined, but that’s just my opinion. 

Websites with unpronounceable names 

It’s hard to believe there was a time when “google” was not a verb, “blogging” didn’t exist and people didn’t know what the ‘eff a “facebook” was, but when new websites come out it is awkward and almost embarrassing to tell people about them when they can’t understand the URL because it is composed of invented words that are unintelligible for the unfamiliar.  

I am sick of the following conversation:

Other Person: Where do you watch The Office?


OP: What?

Me: Hulu (slowly)

OP:, like hawaiian?

Me: Hu-LU!

OP: What the hell is a Hulu? 

Me: I don’t know, but it’s H-U-L-U .com and it has all old TV Shows...blah, blah, blah

Give me one reason why it couldn’t be called “” or “” so it would be that much easier to promote the site to friends.  

The “Locker Room Code”

How many “Tell All” books, candid interviews, emotional press conferences, blog posts demanding trades and sideline meltdowns do we have to endure before we collectively admit that whatever code once existed that stated “What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room” is about as obsolete as making “emergency breakthrough” phone calls?  The current fervor over Joe Torre’s book about his time with the Yankees (where it appears he makes such earth shattering declarations as “A-Rod cares about stats and public opinion” and “Carl Pavano and David Wells are pricks”) has the entire sports media discussing this “Locker Room Code” when it seems like the “Code” is violated weekly by the esteemed athletes and coaches we view a pillars of our society.  From any number of wide receivers publicly questioning their coach/coordinator’s decision not to throw to him in triple coverage to Mike Singletary publicly berating Vernon What’s-his-face and the subsequent pants-dropping episode in the locker room that made it to the Phoenix papers (this is fairly interesting considering the game was played in San Francisco and did non involve the Cardinals in any way) these “Code Violations” are everywhere.  With the frequency that this “Code” is violated it is not a “Code” as much as a suggestion...kind of like the sports world’s “ban” on drug use, domestic abuse, traffic violations, child support payments, public intoxication and other crimes.


New Material from 50 Cent and Busta Rhymes

Like most Hip-Hop heads I wrote these guys off a few year’s ago, but the new stuff I am hearing from them is pure fire.  Despite 50’s clownish and seemingly staged “Beef” (aka WWF wrestling match) with Rick Ross, the early songs from “Before I Self Destruct” sound legit. Not “50 Cent is the Future” or “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” legit, but way better than “Curtis” or “T.O.S.” Hopefully the DJ Premier produced “Shut Your Blood Clot Mouth” will actually make the album because any time a Primo beat and the words “Blood Clot” are involved, it can’t help but be ridiculous.  Add in collaborations from Dr. Dre and Eminem and probably some jabs at Young Buck and DJ Khaled’s whole crew and it could be one of the best albums of 2009.

I am still embarrassed to be a Hip-Hop fan every time I hear Busta’s “Arab Money” (regardless of what part or remix is being played), but the other cuts from B.O.M.B. have made me excited for this release as well.  “Hustler’s Anthem” includes a less-buffoonish-than-usual appearance by T-Pain, “Respect My Conglomerate” demands respect and the “Please Listen To My Demo” inspired “Please Give Me More Ammo” are all bangers, if the album includes last spring’s criminally slept on “Don’t Touch Me (Throw The Water On ‘Em)” this album should be the soundtrack to the spring, even if you have to skip “Arab Money” and it’s various remixes every time you listen to it.  

Dane Cook’s Stand-Up Act

I’l admit Dane Cook’s movies range from mediocre to unwatchable, but as a stand-up comic it’s hard to argue there are many on his level.  He’s been grinding on the national scene since the mid-90’s, handles crowds in massive venues like basketball arenas and outdoor amphitheaters like they are 100 seat comedy clubs and if you doubt how funny he is check out any old Comedy Central Special, the “Harmful If Swallowed” CD/DVD or any of his calls on “Crank Yankers” (where the term “Fifth Round” originated) and I promise you will begrudgingly laugh until your eyes water and your sides hurt.  

It is currently in vogue to hate on this guy to the point where his name has become a four-letter word in the entertainment world, but this was started and perpetuated by comics that are angry he is selling out The Garden and they are still doing “bringer” shows and open mics. It’s the equivalent of me spending all my time trashing Ronin Ro and Cheo Hadari Coker because they are writing best sellers about Hip-Hop and I am writing this blog for a handful of followers, being a “hater” is not going to put those comics in MSG or give me a book deal, so what’s the point? On top of that, the quote “The fact that Richard Pryor and George Carlin are dead, but Dane Cook is alive shows there is no justice in the world” is stupid and overplayed and should not be anybody’s quote on “myspace” or “facebook” anymore.  Yes, Pryor and Carlin were amazing, groundbreaking, awesome comics, but they lived long and productive lives and the fact that they passed away in their 70’s and new guys like Dane Cook are getting some shine does not mean there is no justice in the world, it means people have their time and then they pass and it’s somebody else’s turn, like Flava Flav said “That’s the way the ball bounces, G!”  

Also, for my money, the bit he did in the late 90’s about different ethnic groups fighting that ends with him walking off the stage in nothing but boxer-briefs and dress shoes (no homo) is quite possibly the funniest thing I have ever seen.  

The Post-Super Bowl episode of The Office

I stated earlier that I was looking forward to better episodes of my favorite TV show in 2009 and so far they have delivered.  Every one since the holidays has been good, but this one-hour opus took the cake.  It involved a hysterical fire drill and a roast that was as funny/awkward/painful to watch as anything in the series’ history.  Hopefully they can do more episodes like this to keep Thursday nights interesting through the spring.  


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