Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The King vs god


"Always remember others may hate you.  But those that hate you don't win unless you hate them.  And then you destroy yourself."  --Richard M. Nixon




By the time you reach your hump day destination at the watercooler or barbershop or some other social setting there is little doubt that the Michael Jordan vs LeBron James debate will take center stage—relegating the June Season 2 premiere of Power, the season finale of Scandal or the June expiration of the Patriot Act to the back pages of importance—the latter being worse than the ACT and the author.

The on-the-court debate is a fairly easy one…, Jordan is the best player to ever lace them up—and this is coming from a Knick fan.  

He is 6-0 in championship Finals runs and his tenacity to get it done is beyond question.  LeBron, who has a losing record on the Final’s stage is probably more gifted due to his size, speed and his desire to make everyone around him better (ala Magic Johnson).  Jordan’s approach to teammates was more like "get it done" when I need you or we’ll find someone else to replace you—and I may bone your wife in the process (I told you I was a Knick fan).   

I remember when Jordan was asked to voice his feelings on a number of subjects: Chicago teen murders (with the victims missing nothing but their air and their Air Jordans), the unemployment rate, racial discrimination, unfair housing, lack of minority owners (in all sports), and all Jordan could muster up was…, “Republicans buy shoes too” An obvious attempt to not anger the hand that could possibly feed or hang you.  LeBron appears to be different; and for me, that’s where the real debate begins and ends.

WHO THE SHOE FITS, LET THEM WEAR IT

The year before James left the Cavs the unemployment rate in Cleveland was roughly 12.3% (and that’s just for the people that hadn’t given up yet). Naturally, you will need a much bigger calculator to account for the unemployed blacks in the same zip codes.  Upon his return, the unemployment rate fell to 8.4%.  Now only an idiot would think LeBron James (alone or at all) had anything to do with either.  

But, it would take a bigger fool to NOT understand that King James has a lot to do with where the employed spend their money.  The Cavs’ ticket prices have gone up 15% since the rebirth of James and the average attendance has gone from just over 17,000 per game, to an arena capacity of 20,562 or $129 Million more annually. The one year difference [alone] pays James' contractual obligation to the Cavs. Talk about an ROI.

In fairness, Jordan's numbers are probably similar—especially on the road, where he rarely played in front of a non-capacity crowd.  But, when Jordan left the Bulls for the Wizards (2001) I don’t think any major stores, car washes, restaurants, hotels, or parking decks batted an eyelash, never mind closing down entirely.  One could argue that fact says more about the (respective) cities than it does about the actual players.  But, you also get the feeling that it would ONLY matter to one of the players.
  
I mean, let’s face it, one player wore an “I Can’t Breath T-shirt” in protest of the Eric Gardner murder in NYC and the other player seemed more concerned with the shoes the cop had on when he killed him.  
Jordan’s Hall of Fame speech sounded like he will be waiting outside for his doubters.

LeBron’s memo regarding his return to Cleveland sounded like a high school baller asking the homecoming queen to go steady.    

Jordan once bet Pippen (his best friend on the Bulls at the time) a grand that his (Jordan's) bags would come off the plane first.   What Pippen didn’t know was, his good pal, Jordan paid a baggage handler $100 dollars to make sure his bags came off the plane first.  Jordan made a grand (extra) that day. Pippen said the money wasn't nearly as important as the revelation of the character he lost it to.  



I think Jordan is the greatest basketball player that ever stepped foot in the NBA, but if there is something about him that just makes you feel like the community lost a bet.





1 love,


Ray Lewis 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

TOM BRADY'S TEXT MESSAGES



"Men are able to trust one another, knowing the exact degree of dishonesty they are entitled to expect. "   


--Stephen Leacock




FROM A to Z
 

A.      Why is everyone tripping..., my tight end Aaron Hernandez killed somebody.

B.      Y’all should see what I do to my own balls.

C.      I can’t believe this attack on white American quarterbacks.

D.      The NFL defenses would be pissed if they saw what was in my cup.

E.      The Eagles signed Mike Vick.

F.      This fine only hurts the Boston strippers.

G.     You call this a punishment, 4 more weeks at home with my underwear model wife, Gisele?

H.     Do you know how many balls I would have to deflate to lose to the Colts?

I.        Y’all should’ve seen what I did to the balls in the Super Bowl.

J.       I wonder just how many jump-offs I will be able to smash now that I have four extra weeks.

K.      When the 2015 season kicks off, I will still look better than Payton Manning.

L.       The real losers are the gay camera men.

M.    Most Patriots fans are cool with cheating.

N.     Note to self…, I should’ve paid $2 Million to let the air out of Roger Goodell.

O.     What offensive doesn’t take advantage of the rules?

P.      Prince needs to do a concert on the attack of the white man’s freedoms.

Q.     You should see the other questionable shit in my phone!

R.      Did I hear Ray Lewis says something about my morals?


S.      When the season starts I will still look better than Shannon Sharpe.

T.      I often wonder…, when my nieces and nephews call me Uncle Tom… Joyner always answers.

U.     Under no circumstances will this keep me out of the Hall of Fame.

V.      We still have more Super Bowl victories than your team.

W.    What in the @!#$ is a Wells Report?

X.      If you saw where Bill Belichick steals his X’s and O’s from Goodell would really be pissed.   

Y.      Wait until y’all see the ratings for the first 4 Patriots games without me.

Z.      I am suspended for 4 games and Isiah “Zeek” Thomas is still coaching?   


1 Love,


Ray Lewis

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

SUPREME BEING


"What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is a mildly peculiar position for me.  Upon first glance there is no way that I would’ve ever dreamed that I would say anything like this… okay, sit down…, ready, Black Entertainment Television (BET)—or as I like to refer to it—the Hospice of Hope; just may be the home of the  best show on television.  I know “best” is a very relative term.  Admittedly my euphoria could be tainted by the extremely low exceptional standard the network has proudly propelled to for the last 30 years. Ironically, we cannot even blame this horrendous history of neighborhood programming on “White Flight”— especially when you consider…, since Viacom’s Take Over (in 2001) I could make a case that the network’s programming has demonstrated a marginal improvement. I would have to receive some sort of immunity for that public testimony, though.


Anyway, enough of BET’s counterproductive history of cultural commerce, today I honestly believe that Being Mary Jane, starring the dimpled dyme, Gabrielle Union, is the absolute best show on TV.  I am not even talking about the fact that the show wins the Tuesday night rating’s wars in the advertiser’s dream demo Adults 18-49.  Impressive as it may be, what I find extremely alluring is the witty dialogue; the show’s approach to social issues and the extraordinary dope music.  Of course, to no one’s shock or awe, I will start there. 

The Music
On any given Tuesday you may hear the underground soul music sounds of the Swedish hipsters Little Dragon or you may involuntarily nod your dome to the Brooklyn-bred Stacy Barthe, one night you may even experience the earthy vibes of Emeli Sandé.  Whatever the night’s playlist selection, the music tends to be an unescapably, enthralling treat.   

Though I must admit (at times) the lyrical overtures seems overtly obvious; even somewhat anticipated—especially to the ear of a self-proclaimed supreme musicologists like myself. My delusions of grandeur aside, the fact that many of the artists that are sprinkled throughout the hour-long are mostly obscure to the average ear and the way the music nestled within the drama is really noteworthy.   Last night’s Erykah Badu-theme show almost made me R. Kelly the screen.  

The Plot
On the surface the story line seems fairly typical…, a successful black female fighting a daily battle for the illusive “corner office” in her glass ceiling stroll through the corporate chaos.  If you have been paying close attention, ever since the 1921 Black Holocaust bombing, America has been a constant reminder to the black life limitations of climbing this engulfed ladder. Today the reminders seem less and less subtle and it isn’t limited to the hours of 9-to-five.


Once Mary Jane’s corporate limitations are decidedly difficult to cope with alone, she finds an even tougher battle searching for the black male equivalent to add balance in her equally turbulent personal life. There is a constant theme that MJ’s highly visible position as a popular nighttime news anchor becomes a referendum on financially supporting her immediate family and the ‘hood champion aspirational carrot.  What uppity black clan has not had that conversation?

My preconceived notion of this “blah, blah, blah” storyline turned out to be beyond refreshing.  The current feel and the wonderful execution of characters is actually worth setting the DVR.  The cast is nothing of short of magnificent.  The Union-led team polishes the screen as a fresh, relevant and authentic day in a black life—unlike say…, ABC’s Black-ish, which has many noteworthy storylines, but comes off as a minor league Modern Family.

I am fairly confident BET has tried their darnedest to fumble this wonderful triangular blend of social, moral and corporate conundrums, but even their counterproductive Wharton Wannabes are having a hard time turning this into a Jailhouse Girl’s Rock!

Being Mary Jane has been inked for another season—it’s third—which will give the dynamic duo of Mara Brock Akil and (hubby) Salim Akil more than enough time to continue to entertain, educate and enlightened  the landscape of America on the Mary Jane in all of us.  

1 love, 
Ray Lewis

Friday, January 23, 2015

HIP HOP vs RAP

'You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."

--Ray Bradbury


Hip Hop -- This is an art form that is deeply rooted in an inner city, cultural fusion that was designed to embrace and enhance (said) culture which is typically ignored by those with no real VESTED interest (i.e. popular culture). The focus of Hip Hop music is generally (but not limited to) political accountability, social imbalance, street justice and it tends to be more intellectual in its lyrical content and wit. The artists are most often referred to as emcees, which is a rhyme skill that NOT every person that is standing on stage, rhyming into a microphone possesses.   



The quizzical nature of this subgenre is layered in utter complexity and cultural conundrums which is precisely why it’s not heard on the radio (anymore).  More plotting Hip Hop is not just limited to music.  The other aspects of the art form includes: graffiti artists, unique fashion, aftermarket car accessories, and most especially language, which all play a HUGE part in this art. Its cataclysm is often misunderstood by those with no desire to understand its origin since these loosely-termed analysts or pundits don’t live in or understand the environment that breeds a great emcee.

So, in short, Hip Hop music is much harder to marginalize using the magnifying glass of capitalism. 


Rap Music - This is an art form that is rooted in mainstream, popular culture and designed for MASS CONSUMPTION--similar to that of fast food and paper towels. Rap music was made, designed and sold strictly for entertainment purposes with little (if any) socially-redemptive value and/or shelf life, which makes it a gold mine for record label executives.  Most rap music is gimmicky in nature and unlike “the emcee” most rap artists sound and act similar which (naturally) makes them very interchangeable.  




There is no real substantive goal or allegiance to any particular culture…, as long as the listener is willing to consume its message or lack thereof, this art will always be there to take advantage of that their apathy—especially when you consider that rap music is the opposite of cerebral and is faddish in nature.  The typical rap artists’ goal is to make music for the radio and/or the adult night clubs; and in doing so propel and prorogate images that confirm the stereotypical mainstream exploitative aspirations.

In short, rap music is the epitome of capitalism.

Below are 50 alphabetical listed examples of both:


HIP HOP
RAP


2 Pac
2 Chainz
Andre 3000 (Outkast)
50 Cent
AZ
8 Ball MJG
Bahamadia
Al Kapone
Big Daddy Kane
Big Sean
Big L
Bobby Shmurda
Big Pun
Chief Keef
Black Thought
Childish Gambino
Busta Rhymes*
Da Brat
Canibus
Dolla
Chuck D (Public Enemy)
Drake
CL Smooth (Pete Rock)
Fat Joe
Common*
French Montana
Del La Soul
Future
DMX
Gangsta Boo
Doug E. Fresh
Gucci Mane
Elzhi
Iggy Azalea
Eminem*
Jay-Z*
Goodie Mob
Jazze Pha
Grand Master Caz
Juicy J
Grand Puba
Juvenile 
Heavy D.
Kanye West*
Immortal Technique
Kid Ink
Invincible
Lil John
Jadakiss
Lil Scrappy
Jay Electronica
Lil Wayne
Jay-Z*
Ludacris
Jean Grae
Mannie Fresh
Keith Murray
Master P
Kendrick Lamar
Meek Mill
Kool G. Rap
Missy Elliot
Kool Moe Dee
Mystikal
KRS-One
Nicki Minaj
Lauryn Hill
Puffy
Lupe Fiasco
Rich Homie Quan
MC Lyte
Rick Ross
Mele Mel
Sir Mix-a-Lot
Method Man (Wu Tang)
Snoop Dogg
Mos Def
T.I.
Nas
The Dream
Notorious B.I.G
T-Pain
Pharoahe Monch
Trina 
Phife (Tribe Called Quest)
Trinidad James
Raekwon
Waka Flocka Flame
Rakim
Wale
Royce Da 5’9
Wil I Am
Run DMC
Ying Yang Twins
Scarface
Yo Gotti
Styles P.
Young Jeezy
Talib Kweli
Young Joc

* Denotes artists that are MORE comfortable living in both spaces.  

Then there are artists that have made a clearer distinction where they are MOST comfortable, but their plight deserves further context (see below):

·        Jay-Z:  Shawn Carter is the poster child for this duplicity.  He began his music career with one Hip Hop’s best LPs ever, Reasonable Doubt.  His pathway was paved with great aspirations.  The debut CD is full of rhyme twists and complexities that made it to most every Hip Hop fan’s collection.  



Jay-Z is one of the more witty emcees ever. His duets with Mary J. & Biggie underscored his charm, wit and charisma.  However, since his street credible classic, commerce has been Jay-Z’s goal and he is becoming less and less apologetic to his original fan base.  In fact some have embraced it.  His stance on social issues are muffled or compromise by his associations with corporations that clearly demonstrate an antithetical agenda to the culture.  While Jay-Z sometimes shows signs of cultural commitment (Open Letter) don’t be surprise if a war between corporate and culture erupted which side he would lend the knife to and which part of your back it landed.

·        Common:  Just like Jay-Z, Common began his Hip Hop career spitting out one classic after another.  His single “I Used to Love Her” is probably the single-best metaphor for the love and complexity under the umbrella of Hip Hop.  That single was also the catalyst to one of the best movies (Brown Sugar) in the history of Hip Hop. Then the Chi-town native decided to shred his cultural consciousness to appeal to wider array of "fans" that are more comfortable being called B’s and H’s versus queens and princesses.  What’s more troubling is…., his newfound fans are his loudest defenders AND actually the people he denigrates most often.

·        Ice Cube:  It is simply hard to imagine that a man that once (lyrically) threatened to burn down Hollywood for its lack of cultural support is now their box office meal ticket.  Ice Cube has cut his ties to South Central and comfortably moved up to Beverly Hills.  Only he knows how well that view helps him to rest at night.

·        Joe Budden:  Only Royce Da 5’9 tops the New Jersey native’s lyrical wit in their Detroit-stationed group (Slaughterhouse). Joe’s lyrical prowess is unquestionable.  However his reoccurring appearances on the cultural tidy bowl reality show, Love and Hip Hop makes it tough to defend or pledge his allegiance. 
       
·        Eminem:  He just may be the best freestyle rapper in Hip Hop history.  Once dubbed an irritating, commercial Midwestern with a boy-band look, Em has emerged as one of the best emcees the genre has ever spun.  He simply slayed Jay-Z on Carter’s “Renegade”.  He is the architect of Slaughterhouse Group and the mastermind behind 50’s In the Club.  At this stage one could argue he is MORE relevant in the Hip Hop game than Brooklyn’s own Jay-Z—which is another example of the ironic twists this culture continues to unleash.  



1 Love, 
Ray Lewis 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

EMPIRE STRIKES BLACK

“Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture.”
Allen Ginsberg






I have a few thoughts on the Fox season premiere of Empire, starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. 

For starters, I am really happy that scripted series (in general) have seemingly taken back the reigns from Reality TV.  After all, there are few things in life further from reality than Realty TV.  I challenge you to find any love or Hip Hop in Love and Hip Hop. Naturally, there is room for it all, but in recent years it seems like the tomfoolery is running unopposed.  It’s clear (to me) that the Writers Guild of America strike (in 2007-’08) probably had the greatest impact on American television since the launch of cable TV.  Nothing like a good boycott to bring a reality check to a plastic entity.




Here’s the Half Full Side

For the most part it’s always good to see people of color working in this industry—especially when you consider most of America is more Des Moines than New York, L.A., Detroit, Chicago or Atlanta.  So having a predominately black cast on broadcast television in prime time is certainly worth noting, no matter how low a bar.  Now we know Empire won’t have the television impact of (say… a.. Cosby Show, but…, hey, unless you are one of Bill’s attorneys you probably wouldn't want that type of association anyway.
  
Here’s the Half Empty Side:

Did we really need a TV version of Hustle and Flow, meets Baby Boy in South Central?   Granted this series has a more plausible plot than the last time Howard and Henson locked lips and glock on TV.  And, a better storyline is saying alittle something since I am about as big of fan of the show’s producer, Lee Daniels as I am of: potholes, red lights and cold toilet seats—I would rather avoid them but I deal with them when I have to. 


The high-profile peek into the record label “empire” has a bit of intrigue, but the storyline seems almost as typical of the cast themselves.  Taraji P. is not-so slowing becoming THAT neck-rolling, gum-poppin' loud-mouth, fast-talking chick that every man dreams of smashing then dashing.  Howard is an above-average talent and his flair shines in this "Belly" of a storyline.
If you like mainstream (Timbaland-induced) RAP music (and I stress rap music), shiny P. Diddy-eqque suits and sitting at the bar, popping bottles in your typical urban filled night spots this will be appointment viewing for you. The rest of us should wait for the book. Now there are some decent acting from Jussie Smollett, Trai Byers and a cool showing from the not-so-newcomer like, Gabourey Sidibe—who isn’t a bad actress.  And, honestly..., what would a black nighttime drama be without Malik Yoba?

Overall, I give it a C- mainly because I like black people FAR more than I like the low standards Hollywood holds us to.
    
1 love,

Ray Lewis