Tiger Woods Had Us At, “Hello World”

Comebacks take more than willpower. They take more than just wanting to. They aren’t as simple as deciding to ‘just do it’. They are not as easy as we hear in the stories.

We all know how the story goes. The old champion that’s past his prime comes back to win one last time. We all know the story, but we had never actually lived it.

Our fathers had Jack Nicklaus in ’86. He’s still the oldest player to ever win the Masters. It was a great story and an amazing moment, but it was theirs not ours. It belonged to our fathers, not us.

On a rainy Sunday in Augusta, Georgia, with a storm brewing in the skies above and an Italian front runner that seemed to be as solid as concrete, we finally got our story.

Even though we knew it way before he did, Tiger Woods was ours. He was our golfer. He was our generation. He had us at, “Hello world.”

Tiger was young and fresh and new and black and Asian and uniquely American and dominant and exciting and a winner. Tiger was hip-hop and the internet and titanium and 300 yards and fist pumping and Sunday red. Tiger’s name was ‘Tiger’ for crying out loud, not Greg or Nick or Phil. Tiger was ours, not theirs. Golf was for old men, Jack was for our fathers, but Tiger was for us.

Tiger was the hype that was for real. A game changer. A course changer. He won and won and then won some more. He won so much that we got bored with his winning. We became numb to his greatness. Ignorant to the history we were watching. Indifferent to what it must take for a man to master a game that can’t be mastered.

Maybe we weren’t the only ones that grew bored and numb and ignorant and indifferent. Maybe after winning everything there was to win, Tiger did too. Maybe he wanted to try and do it all again with a new swing and then with another. Maybe do it with a new coach. Maybe change his body. Maybe do it without his father. Maybe do it while cheating on his wife. Maybe do it without even trying. Maybe after winning a U.S. Open on a broken leg, Tiger decided that he’d given us enough…given us more than we deserved. Given us all he had.

Maybe the only thing Tiger ever wanted was more. More wins, more majors, more muscles, more women, more sex, more glory. More obstacles to overcome, more injuries to rehab, more pills to numb the pain. Maybe at some point, wanting more turns into needing more.

Being in the valley is especially hard when you’ve only ever lived on the mountaintop. Can you imagine the depth of Tiger’s valley? The bone-chilling cold of the darkness after spending so long basking in the warm light? We felt righteous and morally superior and betrayed. Maybe even pushed him a bit deeper down. This wasn’t our Tiger. This wasn’t our champion. This was someone that made us feel foolish for ever believing in him. Someone we couldn’t love or even like. Someone we were ashamed to cheer for.

Maybe Tiger didn’t deserve a miracle surgery. Maybe he’d had his time and his chances and had wasted both. Maybe it was over and maybe it should be. We would have to tell our children what he’d once been, because they would never see it. They would never see him stalking a putt or pumping his fist or hitting an iron shot so pure that it would take their breath away. They would never see him do the impossible or will himself to victory. Our children would never see it and neither would his. Neither would Sam. Neither would Charlie. If they wanted to know what he’d once been they would have to Google it and scroll past the mugshot and the cop-cam footage and the nude pictures and the tabloid stories and the jokes. Maybe Tiger didn’t want that. Maybe this time it was good that he wanted more. That he needed more.

Comebacks take more than willpower. They take more than just wanting to. They are not as easy as deciding you’re going to do it. They are not as easy as we hear in the stories. Comebacks take pain. They take crawling and baby steps and setbacks. They take being willing to fail and actually failing. They take embarrassment and shame and sadness and anger. They take self-doubt and self-belief. They take doing it all over again the next day.

There were signs. There were setbacks. There was hope. There was even victory. Victory that filled fairways and engulfed putting greens. There was redemption. It was enough. It really was. It was enough for us, but Tiger wanted more. He needed more.

This Masters was supposed to be a fairy tale for the kid that took Tiger’s video game. Or for the guy that would replace Jack as the oldest to ever win a major. Or for a Tongan kid from Utah. Or for the steely Italian that had denied him at the Open. Or for the new destroyer of worlds that didn’t flinch at Bellerive. We had already had our happy ending last year in a different Georgia city. It was enough. It really was. It was enough for us, but Tiger wanted more. He needed more.

The red was still there on Sunday, but most things had changed. He was no longer the youngest, or the most talented, or the longest, or the one we expected to win. Gone were the days of our boredom and numbness and ignorance and indifference. Gone was our self-righteousness and judgement. As the phenom and the Italian found the water. As golf’s new terminator missed putts. As our Tiger began to play more like our father’s Jack, we started to believe again. We wanted more. We needed more.

And like he had on 14 previous occasions, he gave us more. He gave Sam more. He gave Charlie more. He gave his children their moment to live in and us our story to tell.

Even though it took him a little while to figure it out, he finally did. Maybe the lessons learned in the valley outweigh the importance of another green jacket. Tiger Woods is ours. He is our golfer. He is our generation. He had us at, “Hello world.”





The Review Of Blu And Oh No “A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night”

Sparky drops his latest album review for ‘Combine Culture’…

There was much apprehension before reviewing “A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night’  concept albums can be tricky.  Sometimes the artist and or artists get too wrapped up in the story and the music can become bloated and unlistenable.  The other end of the spectrum is that they create a story and world that feels lived in and that the album feels like a living breathing thing.  Well with “A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night” it definitely feels vibrant and alive.

When listening to “A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night” the level of storytelling is front and center.  Right from the start “The Lost Angels Anthem” drops you right into the setting and vividly describes the atmosphere without feeling hokey.  The album then continues to build as you listen to Blu describe how he is getting ready to go out while his friends are all hyping each other up for the night’s festivities.  Then later on in the album, things go from bad to worse as the story gets fleshed out.  I won’t spoil the story even if it isn’t difficult to follow along.  The nice thing is that even though “A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night” had quite a few features because there are multiple characters in the story, the album didn’t feel bogged down or choppy more like that it felt like actors in a drama.  All of the lyrists on the album really give tons of effort and it shows as none of it felt tacked on or unnecessary.  Overall the lyrics are phenomenal and makes the listener see and feel what the characters are going through.

Oh No produces every track on the album and the beats are stellar but also give the performers plenty of room to shine.  Many tracks on “A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night’ have a subtle 70’s vibe with songs like “Make The Call” and “Fresh Out” with different horn loops that really bring out the mood to the track.  While to change the feeling throughout the story the tempos change subtlely and the instrumentation changes from woodwinds to synth loops.  The track “Pop Shots” even feels like a gangsta rap “West Side Story” and it feels energetic and not corny which is a skill all by itself.  On top of all of that the song “Murder Case” evokes the legendary Snoop Dogg song “Murder Was The Case”  without feeling like it was ripped off but instead paid homage to the classic song with a new but familiar quality.  It is obvious when listening to”A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night” that enthusiasm and care were taken with the entire project and the listener is the benefactor.

Overall “A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night” isn’t a perfect album with some of the hooks feeling forced and some outros to songs feeling slightly too long but largely it’s fantastic.  For the minor faults that the album does have, it is made up for with artistry and storytelling.  This is one of those albums where you are not just happy to review it but you feel lucky to have heard it.


Source:  https://www.genius.com

The Review Of Wiz Khalifa And Curren$y’s “2009”

The Combine’s ‘Sparky’ comes away from “2009” feeling empty…

When listening to “2009” by Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y you by nature want to have a nostalgic trip back to the first time the two artists got together to make “How Fly” back in 2009.  That or at least hear some good tracks that may sound decent but make you want to go back and listen to their older stuff because the new stuff is okay.  Well, the problem with “2009” is that it almost makes you wonder what you liked about them in the first place.

Let’s start with the rhymes.  For the most part, the lyrics are mostly forgettable.  Both emcees have the right flow patterns and enthusiasm that is needed.  Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y both show that they are capable of making decent tracks that fit the beats that they are rapping over.  The real problem is that the lyrics are largely unmemorable.  When lyrics are really bad or really good they make you feel something.  When a rapper is at their best they either have tremendous lines that wow the listener with their wit and creativity.  Or the other way an emcee can be successful is to make you feel what they are feeling or seeing and transport you to their space.  In this way, “2009” fails spectacularly.

The production in many ways mimics the problems with lyrics.  When listening to the instrumentals they are well made with slick production with additional loops woven throughout that are made properly but leave you wanting more.  The producers do a very good job of creating beats that feel like the music from when Wiz Khalifa was growing up and Curren$y was just starting out but feel like a sad imitation and not a homage.  The beats range from late 80’s early 90’s slow jams to late 90’s West Coast hip-hop.  Many of the tracks like “10 Piece” and “First Or Last” feel like they came right out of an early “Bad Boy” album and at the end of the songs you are still surprised you didn’t hear a Puff Daddy feature.  While for many that listen to “2009” this is great and nostalgic for anyone that grew in this era of music you feel that the beats are worn and tired.

Listening to “2009” will probably have you with a very empty feeling.  Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y give a solid effort but it almost seems like both artists made “2009” not to scratch a creative itch or even wax nostalgically with an old friend but just to almost shut people up when they asked if they would make a follow-up to their successful project “How Fly”.  Reviewing “2009” gave me a sense of nostalgia but in a much different way.  I felt like I was eating a McRib it tasted okay but not awful and left me mildly disappointed that I was so excited for it in the first place.


Source:  https://www.genius.com

Will Zion’s Shoe Bring An End To The ‘One And Done’ Era?

How much impact will Zion Williamson’s injury have on the NCAA’s ‘One and Done’ rule?

Imagine if LeBron James had went to college instead of the NBA. Probably Ohio State, maybe Duke…it’s safe to say he would have went to a big-time program. Now imagine that midway through his one and only college season, LeBron suffers a gruesome knee injury. The injury is caused by a Nike shoe blowing out. LeBron is wearing a Nike shoe because that’s who Ohio State has a multi-million dollar equipment deal with. In this alternate universe LeBron recovers from his injury and still goes first in the NBA draft, but it’s now 2004 instead of 2003, because of his year at Ohio State, and he goes to the Orlando Magic instead of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He his still an amazing player, but not ‘LeBron James’, not the one that we know anyway. James plays 54 games in his rookie season for the Magic and misses time due to knee soreness. He spends the next several years battling various injuries, while always struggling with his knee, the one he injured in college. The Magic reach the Eastern Conference semi-finals in LeBron’s third year, but never advance past that. After his seventh season in the NBA, Orlando decides to blow things up and rebuild. James gets traded to the Knicks and after three losing years in New York, he ring chases for two seasons with two different teams and retires after an All-Star caliber 12-year career. No titles, no MVPs, no greatness.

Ok, now we’re back in present-day 2019. The above scenario seems eerily possible for this generation’s LeBron James. Duke’s superstar freshman Zion Williamson suffered a knee injury last night against hated rival North Carolina due to his shoe blowing out. We don’t yet know the severity of the injury or if there will be any lingering effects, but the thing is there could be…and for what? So Duke and Nike can get richer? So the NCAA can become more powerful? So Mike Krzyzewski can pad his resume with another championship?

Listen, I’m a huge supporter of college athletics. I’ve been a UT Vol fan since I could walk, but let’s call the NCAA’s ‘One and Done’ basketball rule what it is: a farce. It’s a totally absurd exercise that is designed to: keep the institution of the NCAA popular and powerful, allow powerhouse programs and high-profile coaches to keep winning, and enable companies like Nike to continue to sell products. As I said, I’m not anti-college athletics, but can any reasonable person make a legitimate argument about why Zion Williamson is required to be in college right now? I know, I know…there’s the NBA’s G-League, there’s Europe, China, etc. I said legitimate argument.

Here’s a crazy notion…let kids that are able to get rich playing in the NBA actually play in the NBA. Let kids that need a few years of college to grow and improve play in college for a couple of years before jumping to the pros. And let kids that are just happy to have a scholarship play their four years and graduate with a college degree. It’s really not that complicated. Should school’s pay athletes? I honestly don’t know that there is a simple answer to that question…but I do know that the Chicago Bulls, or the Dallas Mavericks, or the Atlanta Hawks and every other NBA team would be more than happy to currently be paying Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish, and R.J. Barrett. Is it fair to force these kids to gamble their future careers and fortunes just so March Madness is a little more fun to watch? In the age of social media, growing unrest among players, and ‘woke’ student-athletes, Zion’s shoe malfunction and resulting injury might be the shoe that breaks the ‘One and Done’ rule’s back.

The Review of “Czarface Meets Ghostface”

Sparky dives into the latest Czarface outing for The Combine

When “Czarface Meets Ghostface” was announced at the end of 2018 many underground hip-hop fans were eagerly anticipating this album by the group Czarface.  Czarface is the trio made up of emcees Inspectah Deck, Esoteric and producer 7L.  With the project “Crazface Meets Ghostface” fans of the group Wu-Tang Clan fans get two members of Wu-Tang Clan on top of the fun references to comic books and other things that many would consider geeky in nature that Czarface normal does.  Well “Czarface Meets Ghostface” doesn’t disappoint the fans.

The lyrics in “Czarface Meets Ghostface” give the fans what they want.  The lyrics are jammed packed with pop culture references that range from deep comic book cuts all the way to news organizations and all points in between.  Fans of intricate lyrics that love to pour over them to find hidden easter eggs should listen to “Czarface Meets Ghostface” with the genius.com page already up.  When think you heard a crazy one-liner with a great allusion to an obscure pop culture reference only to realize you missed three others in the process.  I was even pleasantly surprised that Ghostface Killah didn’t use any Iron-Man mentions as in previous works he has referred to himself as Tony Starks and Iron-Man on numerous occasions.  This not just lets the hardcore listener know that everyone involved had taken great care into crafting the lyrics but that the artist didn’t want to use the easy low hanging fruit that was available to them.

The production of “Czarface Meets Ghostface” gives listeners to previous Czarface albums much of what they expected.  The album starts off with a fake wrestling promo by a Macho Man impersonation to give listeners the feeling right off the bat that “Czarface Meets Ghostface” is definitely not your standard rap album but instead something that everyone making the album wanted to do.  The rest of the album is filled with a blend of simplistic but hard pounding beats with instrumental loops that further enhance the Saturday morning superhero cartoon/ sci-fi elements.  This not just give the listener a sense of where they are in the artists’ minds but gives the rappers plenty of room to spread their wingers without being drowned out by the musical accompaniment.

The record “Czarface Meets Ghostface” isn’t for everyone though.  If you care more about trap beats that sound amazing as you cruise around or if you are looking for club bangers that will get the party bumping this album isn’t for you.  If you are looking for a hip-hop album that has tremendous wordplay that constantly will keep you on your toes give this a listen.  Younger fans, unfortunately, may not get as much as older fans of hip-hop will, as many of the references that are used have a 35 and older feel.  Rap fans that are old enough to remember the 90’s east coast rap scene will be pouring over the lyrics with not just a fond smile but with a sense of wonder.


Source: https://www.genius.com


Matt Kuchar Controversy Sheds New Light On Golf’s Old Problems

Matt Kuchar’s caddie payment controversy is a tale as old as golf. Joe Nicely discusses for The Combine.

I love golf. I love playing it, watching it, talking about it, betting on it, and playing PGA DFS. And like many others that love the sport, I love it maybe a little too much. It’s hard to explain to someone that isn’t a fan of the sport, but suffice it to say, folks have obsessed over golf since the day it was first played. Like many of my fellow golf nuts, I’ve been following this Matt Kuchar caddie controversy on social media over the past couple of months, as with all things golf, maybe a little too much. What started out as a heartwarming, feel-good story has devolved into a publicity nightmare for Kuchar, and to a lesser extent, a bad look for the sport. Golf has a fairly ugly history and deserved reputation of being an exclusive, racist, and elitist sport. And while this Kuchar situation seems minor on the surface, it does drag out and dust off some of golf’s oldest skeletons.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the story, here’s the CliffsNotes version: Matt Kuchar, a successful, longtime player on the PGA Tour, traveled to Mexico in November for the Mayakoba Golf Classic, a ‘swing season’ event, but a legitimate PGA Tour event nonetheless. Kuchar was a late commit to the tournament and his longtime caddie John Wood wasn’t able to make it due to a previously scheduled engagement. In need of a caddie, Kuchar went with the man considered to be the best local caddie available, David Giral Ortiz, or as most know him, ‘El Tucan’. Ortiz caddied at the host club daily and had experience in PGA Tour events (he helped journeyman pro Alex Cjeka log a top-10 finish in the previous year’s Mayakoba Classic). Of course, in true Cinderella fashion, Kuchar goes on to win the Mayakoba Classic with ‘El Tucan’ on the bag. It was the PGA Tour veteran’s first victory in over four years and he took home a massive $1.3 million winner’s check. It was a great story, golf fans loved seeing ‘Kuch’ win and it was made even sweeter by his use of a hometown caddie like ‘El Tucan’. Everyone was happy, until they weren’t.

Things got stirred up in January on Twitter. Former PGA Tour player Tom Gillis responded to a playful Tweet by current Tour caddie Kip Henley with an insinuation that a PGA Tour player had stiffed a caddie by only paying him $3,000 after winning an event in the fall. Twitter did what Twitter does, and it didn’t take long to figure out the player Gillis was referring to was Matt Kuchar. This came as a shock for a couple of reasons…the first being that Kuchar has long been considered one of the ‘good guys’ on the PGA Tour with his ‘aww shucks, golly gee-whiz’ persona and ever-present smile making him a fan favorite over the course of his career. The second reason is that Kuchar has printed money on the golf course. He has racked up over $46 million in career earnings. Yeah…that’s not a typo, $46 MILLION. It would maybe be easier to understand if a scuffling Tour pro went cheap on a bonus, but not a player as accomplished (and rich) as Kuchar. Kuchar was asked about the validity of the allegations on social media concerning his payment to ‘El Tucan’ during the Sony Open (a tournament that he went on to win with regular caddie John Wood on the bag) and responded by saying, “That’s not a story. It’s wasn’t 10 percent. It wasn’t $3,000. It’s not a story.”

To give this thing a little perspective, the typical payment to a regular caddie on the bag for a PGA Tour win is 10% of the prize money. So, in the case of Kuchar’s $1.3 million winner’s check at Mayakoba, his caddie’s take would normally be around $130,000, whereas $3,000 (the alleged amount paid to ‘El Tucan’) would be 0.23% of the winning prize money…less than half of one percent. Now, here’s where things get sticky…regular PGA caddies work extremely hard and they are away from their families most weeks of the year. They incur lots of travel expenses, just like their players. Caddies must also endure lean financial times when their player is struggling and missing cuts. So, the usual bonus money that comes with wins and good finishes is a way of evening things out over the grind of a season or career. ‘El Tucan’ didn’t endure any of these hardships over his four days on Kuchar’s bag, so there’s a legitimate argument that he didn’t “deserve” a full 10% share and I think most reasonable people would acknowledge and understand that reasoning. However, I also think most reasonable people would agree that $3,000 on a $1.3 million win is a ridiculous amount. Some, like the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee, would argue that it’s no one’s business.

Both Kuchar and ‘El Tucan’ remained tight-lipped about what the actual payment was, until Ortiz broke his silence by speaking with GOLF.com’s Michael Bamberger earlier this week. You can read that excellent piece here, but ‘Tucan’ details his pre-tournament payment arrangement with Kuchar and how he received payment of $5,000 after the Mayakoba win and nothing more, even though he was expecting a bigger bonus to come at some point. Kuchar recently responded to the claims, in an interview also with Michael Bamberger, and that response has been an unmitigated PR disaster.

“For a guy who makes $200 a day, a $5,000 week is a really big week,” said Kuchar to Bamberger, referring to ‘El Tucan’. That’s my biggest takeaway from Kuchar’s tone-deaf interview. It’s the perfect illustration that despite the PGA Tour’s efforts to “grow the game”, there is still a huge disconnect between golf’s elite and the regular Joe’s that make their lavish lifestyle possible. Kuchar might as well have said, ‘I’m rich a white American, the guy I let carry my bag is a poor Mexican, he should be happy with whatever I decide to give him.’ I would be really interested to know if payment would have been different if Kuchar won the Scottish Open with a local club caddie. Let me be clear, I don’t think Matt Kuchar is a racist, I just believe that he’s completely out of touch, which has been a problem in the world of golf for a long time.

Kuchar’s utter tone-deafness is surprising, but perhaps it shouldn’t be. The PGA had a ‘caucasian clause’ in effect until 1961. The 1990 PGA Championship was held at Shoal Creek, a club with an openly racist founder. The hallowed grounds of Augusta National have long been haunted by their co-founder Clifford Roberts’ statements on white players and black caddies. We could even dive into the PGA Tour’s current treatment of modern-day caddies, who are almost all white, and weren’t even allowed in from a rainstorm at Riviera Country Club just this week.

Perhaps the most revealing thing about Kuchar’s statements is the obvious disconnect between the financial haves and have nots. Golf has always revolved around money. The PGA Tour kept standings according to earnings up until a few years ago when they instituted the FedEx Cup points standings (the winner gets $10 million).While Brandel Chamblee can argue that what Kuchar pays a caddie is no one’s business, my rebuttal would be that discussion about it became fair game the moment he accepted endorsement money to sell products to the public. Other sports can be played by children relatively cheaply, but golf is another matter. Equipment alone (the same equipment that Kuchar and other players make millions to endorse) is ridiculously expensive, and access to courses and the ability to afford greens fees are a huge obstacle to those of meager financial status.

We can’t throw all of golf’s social missteps at Kuchar’s feet, but his monetary faux pas does, and should, bring to light some of the socioeconomic issues that the PGA Tour still struggles with. Many will point to the time and financial support he has given to various charities as a sign that he’s a good guy…and maybe he is. It’s probably never fair to judge a person on one mistake, but the real shame here is Kuchar’s refusal or inability to see that he even made a mistake.

Kuchar asked an open-ended question to close out his interview with Michael Bamberger: “Maybe I missed the boat here. I kind of think I go there [to Mexico City] next week, and win, am I expected to pay him $130,000?” Yes Matt, you did and yes Matt, you are.






Fear The Deer: The Acquisition of Nikola Mirotic Has The Milwaukee Bucks Primed For A Championship Run

While everyone was focused on where Anthony Davis might land at the NBA’s trade deadline, it was a different New Orleans Pelican that may prove to be the best acquisition of them all. Milwaukee’s move to nab Nikola Mirotic from the Pelicans was a microcosm of how this Bucks team operates: under-the-radar and extremely efficient.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is finally getting the hype that he so richly deserves as an MVP candidate, but despite owning the best record in the NBA (yes, better than the Warriors), his team still seems to be somewhat of an afterthought.

The Bucks sit atop the standings, but lag behind their Eastern Conference foes in media buzz. Philadelphia’s star-studded roster and flashy trades are certainly entertaining. The legendary Celtics franchise always demands attention, and between Kyrie Irving’s seemingly constant media sound bites and Boston’s obsession with acquiring Anthony Davis, there is tons of focus on the preseason East favorites. Toronto has become something of a media darling and a splashy move to acquire Marc Gasol from Memphis at the deadline has been well received.

With the majority of the Western Conference standing pat and appearing to accept their inevitable playoff fate of ‘death by Golden State’, the newly Lebron James-less East entered into a bona fide arms race at the trade deadline in an attempt to win a conference that is more wide open than it has been in years. Milwaukee wasn’t expected to be a big player at the trade deadline, and on the surface the Mirotic deal doesn’t scream ‘blockbuster’, but the move makes the team that is already the best squad in the East even more dangerous.

Mirotic is perhaps best known for getting his face wrecked by his then-Chicago Bulls teammate Bobby Portis. Chicago moved Mirotic to New Orleans and the 27-year-old has paired surprisingly well with Anthony Davis over the last season-and-a-half. That part is important, because it signals that he should fit in seamlessly with Giannis in Milwaukee. Mirotic averaged just a shade under 16 points and eight rebounds per game in New Orleans, but the Bucks are bringing Mirotic in to space the floor. He is shooting nearly 37% from the three-point line this season, good enough to force opposing defenses to respect him from deep. This ability to stretch the floor will give the Greek Freak plenty of room to drive and create.

While he’s not known for his defensive prowess, Mirotic will be able to help the Bucks in that regard as well. Brook Lopez is having an amazing season for Milwaukee (even adding a three-point shot to his arsenal), but he is more of a traditional center (big and slow) at the defensive end. Mirotic’s ability to play the five-spot defensively will allow the Bucks to handle pretty much any lineup an opposing team throws at them (think Golden State’s ‘Lineup of Death’), while also creating mismatches in Milwaukee’s favor.

The Bucks are already one of the most flexible teams in the league and Mirotic only adds to their shape-shifting abilities. There aren’t many matchups that Milwaukee has to fear now. They can handle the quickness of the Celtics going small or the size of Joel Embiid and the Sixers. While it’s a bit presumptuous to discuss a matchup with the Warriors, Milwaukee did log a 134-111 win over Golden St. at Oracle Arena earlier this season. Golden State has superior talent to almost every team in the league, as well as the roster to create mismatches and disadvantages on both ends of the floor. However, what Milwaukee has in Giannis a great talent equalizer and the addition of Mirotic rounds out a sneaky-good and surprisingly deep Bucks roster.

First-year Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer’s impact also can’t go overlooked. He has brought an offensive breath of fresh air with him to Milwaukee and his schemes have allowed the spacing that Giannis needs to flourish. Mirotic is the perfect player to throw into Budenholzer’s bombs-away philosophy and gives Milwaukee another shooter on the floor to help unlock Giannis’ seemingly limitless ceiling.

All we can ever do with sports trades is speculate as to the outcome. While Nikola Mirotic isn’t the same caliber of individual player as Marc Gasol or Tobias Harris, he has the opportunity to make a championship-level impact in Milwaukee.

The Review of People Under The Stairs’ “Sincerely, The P”

The album “Sincerely, The P” by People Under The Stairs does exactly what it intended and give themselves a proper send-off into retirement.  The group announced before the release of the album that this will be their last and when you listen to “Sincerely, P” that feeling really resonates through the entire record.  The group started in 1996 and they take the listener to on a trip down memory lane and gives the world a very fond and thankful farewell.

The two-man group People Under The Stairs consists of Thes One (Christopher Portugal) and Double K (Michael Turner) that MC and produce the entire album.  The lyrics on the album let people in on where the group has been during their career but also lets the listener in on who they are as people.  Tracks like “The Redeemer” and “Here, for a Good Time” among others give a feeling of nostalgia that gives the audience a sense of peace, knowing that the group is retiring and in a good place.  Overall the lyrics are a wonderful balance of good-bye and braggadocios about how prolific People Under The Stairs think they are at the craft of making music.  When realizing that the group grew up in the Los Angeles hip-hop scene in the early to mid-’90s where acts like The Pharcyde and Jurassic-5 came up the lyrical flow and subject matter make even more sense.

The production of the “Sincerely, P” evokes an even bigger sense of nostalgia when listening to it.  People Under The Stairs embrace a backpack style production that thrives on loops and record scratching that is at the heart of early days of hip-hop.  The track “Hard” feels like a homage to Eric B and Rakim and gives the audience sentimentality towards not just the art form but the artists’ own lives and careers.  Even the loop samples have this pervasive feeling throughout the album as the songs like “Reach Out” samples Andre 3000’s vocal hook from “Ms. Jackson” to the theme from the show “Family Ties” on the song that shares its name.  The only real problem with the production of the album, in general, is that too many songs end with extended instrumentals that go on too long.  This isn’t to say that the musical production is bad quite the opposite but when in excess of ten minutes of the 56-minute album is instrumental fade out it does get tiresome.

Lovers of “old-school” hip-hop will thoroughly enjoy this record and should definitely give People Under The Stairs a deep dive since “Sincerely, The P” is a wonderful introduction to the group to people that never heard of the group.  That is what makes the album kinda genius as long-time fans will feel the group’s good-bye and know that they are in a good place but new listeners get a snapshot of who they are and what they are about.  The gift and the curse of being an underground group are that they never had anyone watch over them.  People Under The Stairs convey the message of who they are brilliantly but they just need an editor.

Source: https://www.genius.com

The Review of Future’s “Future Hndrxx Presents: The WIZRD

Sparky dives into Future’s new album for The Combine

The new Future album “Future Hndrxx Presents: The WIZRD” or as I will shorten for the rest of the review “The Wizrd” is a very mixed bag.   “The Wizrd” is also the twelfth album or mixtape that Future has put out since 2012 and that does include Future’s collaborative efforts.  This record definitely has some highs and some lows but when an artist chooses to produce this much material in such a short span of time there will be some hits and misses.

The lyrics on “The Wizrd” are not the most interesting part of this album.  For the most part, Future’s topics are wealth, material possessions, crime and having less than healthy relationships with female partners.  That’s fine but with the album having twenty tracks and running at over an hour the record sometimes becomes taxing to listen to in its entirety.  There is also some guest appearances on “The Wizrd” as well with Gunna & Young Thug on the track “Unicorn Purp”.  Also, Travis Scott is featured on the track “First Off”.  The features do very little to enhance the tracks that they are on as the artists feel uninspired. It feels more like they are there to just kinda help out a little similar to that friend that helps you move but only carries the light boxes.

The delivery of the lyrics on “The Wizrd” is better than it has been in the past for Future where he is more decipherable than normal but still mumbles more often than not.  This creates a listening experience where instead of trying to discover interesting wordplay and expressive language you are reading lyrics just to make heads or tails of what is being said.  That’s fine for some but personally, it leads to a less than enjoyable experience.  Also on “The Wizrd” Future uses less autotune than normal but at times when it is used the effects that are added to the vocals make the lyrics even less intelligible.

The production on “The Wizrd” is the more interesting part.  Most trap records have oversimplified beats that lack many nuances but here that isn’t the case.  Many of the tracks layer the percussion to interesting places where the loops seem to cascade into one another and make the listening experience richer than standard trap music.  Also, the tempos can sometimes change very abruptly during a song that not just flows with the lyrics but makes them feel more vibrant like in the track “F & N”.  Besides the tempo changes, there are times on “The Wizrd” where the beat completely drops off and lets Future shine or adds spacey ambient parts to the beats as well to enhance songs which added a nice variety to the production as well.

For fans of Future or trap music, in general, “The Wizrd” isn’t a bad record and probably sounds great in a car as well.  If you don’t enjoy “mumble rap” run from this record as the lyrical delivery will become extremely tiresome.  I personally don’t have a strong feeling either way for this album but I could see myself if Future ever released just an instrumental version of this album adding some of the tracks to my writing playlist but that rarely happens for trap albums so I doubt I will voluntarily listen to any of the tracks off of “The Wizrd” ever again.


Source:  https://www.genius.com

Where Does Markelle Fultz Go From Here?

The Philadelphia 76ers have officially moved on from their former number-one pick and it might be exactly what Markelle Fultz needed.

When the Philadelphia 76ers traded Markelle Fultz Thursday afternoon it didn’t come as a surprise. Philly’s moves to acquire Jimmy Butler earlier in the season and Tobias Harris at the trade deadline signify that they are all-in on the present. Fultz, the player the Sixers traded up to draft at number one less than two years ago, was supposed to be a huge part of Philly’s future, but as of Thursday the organization’s future plans no longer include the former number-one pick. After a tenure with the 76ers that was borderline bizarre, sometimes heartbreaking, and always frustrating…where does Markelle Fultz go from here?

It’s easy to forget now, but Philly’s aggressive pursuit to move up in the 2017 draft in order to select Markelle Fultz out of the University of Washington was almost universally applauded at the time. This was a Sixers team that was knee deep in “The Process” and Fultz was viewed as a great fit with Philly’s young duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Ironically, one of the main reasons the Sixers felt comfortable pairing Fultz with the jump shot-less Simmons in their backcourt of the future was Fultz’s ability to shoot from outside. He shot just over 41% from behind the 3-point line in college…add in great size for a point guard (6’4″) with lightning-fast speed and it’s easy to see why Fultz was the consensus top pick of the 2017 NBA draft.

The future looked bright for Fultz and the Sixers, but then the unfathomable happened…at some point between the 2017 NBA summer league and the start of training camp, THE NUMBER ONE PICK OF THE DRAFT FORGOT HOW TO SHOOT. ‘Forgot’ might not be the right word to use here, because no one really knows what the right word is. There have been tons of draft busts over the years, but that label doesn’t quite fit Fultz, as his saga is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. There have been thousands of words already typed on this subject, so I’ll spare you a deep dive, but whether due to injury, psychology, or a combination of both…Fultz was no longer able to shoot a jump shot when his rookie campaign kicked off. Numerous doctor visits and sessions with shooting coaches followed. This is the point where it becomes really easy to sympathize with Markelle Fultz, a then 19-year-old kid with the expectations of an entire city and organization on his shoulders, who is suddenly unable to do the one thing he’s been great at his whole life.

While Fultz toiled on the Philly bench during the 2017-18 season, teammates Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons proved themselves to be the real deal. The duo was much better, much faster than anyone truly anticipated, leading the Sixers to 52 wins in the regular season. Philly then knocked out Miami in the first-round of the NBA Playoffs and the team that was all about “The Process” was suddenly about “The Present”. This was all accomplished without Fultz, who appeared in just 14 games as a rookie. After an offseason filled with glimmers of hope and shaky iPhone videos of Fultz’s jumpshot, the Sixers tried to work him into the rotation at the beginning of this season, but it quickly became clear that Fultz still wasn’t the player that the Sixers drafted.

So, after just 20 months and 33 games played, the former no. 1 pick is now a former Philadelphia 76er. Just before this past Thanksgiving, Fultz played his last game for the Sixers and received a new medical diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome shortly thereafter. The acquisition of Jimmy Butler earlier this season signaled that Philly was accelerating their championship timetable and the Tobias Harris trade earlier this week kicked it into hyper drive. Fultz and his issues were no longer a luxury the organization could afford and the Sixers sent him to Orlando for Jonathon Simmons and two draft picks. The move killed two birds with one stone for Philly, creating the financial room to attempt to retain both Harris and Butler after this season, while also washing their hands of the scrutiny the Fultz situation brought.

Orlando is a beautiful city, but it’s the closest thing the NBA has to Siberia. It also might be exactly what Markelle Fultz needs right now. He can rehab and work on his game with little media scrutiny in Orlando. He also won’t be carrying the hopes and dreams of a franchise on his shoulders. The Magic are in perma-rebuild mode and it’s the perfect situation for Fulz. It’s easy to forget that this kid is still just 20-years-old. His short time in Philly wasn’t without brief glimpses of his elite talent. In his rookie season he became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double at just 19-years-old and he did it without being able to shoot a jumper! Things might never improve for him in Orlando, the place where talent goes to be forgotten about, but maybe being forgotten about for a little while is just what Markelle Fultz needs.





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