I've been working in music and music technology since I was a teenager. In my free time, I enjoy making soul food in my Tennessee kitchen. I'm a Ubuntu enthusiast, enjoy a good weight lifting session, and I'm probably the best Axis and Allies player ever.
Welcome back to Weekend Selektor, a new weekly feature here at Bro Jackson. Every Thursday (Sorry I missed the bell here y’all. Saturday still counts.), I’ll have a smooth list of mellow tunes to help you wind down the week, before I toss you into Blow Pops, my Thursday (SATURDAY, DAMNIT!) afternoon feature, with more upbeat music ready to kick off a Friday (Saturday!) night. The filter here isn’t designed to hit any genre or demographic target. Hopefully, you’ll find some new music you love, from an artist you’re not familiar with. Without further ado, I’m turning on the Weekend Selektor . . .
CHVRCHES covering Arctic Monkeys? I’m pretty sure everyone and their grandmother has covered this song now, but the Scottish electro-pop trio breathe new life into this single. Here’s where it gets even weirder: I think I like it more than the original. In my head, this is the way the song is supposed to sound, and when a cover can do that, you’ve stumbled upon something really magical.
Until this week, I had never heard Glass Animals. They’re absolutely and totally weird, with an ethereal vocal quality that has a spidery quality over the minimal pads and drums. “Gooey” wanders, and sounds sexual in nature. Not an overbearing sort of sexual, but the sort of sexual you think about when you seek a nerdy chick in denim and heels, walking into dive bar. Understated sexuality – let’s roll with it.
A few years ago, I started listening to Mr. Little Jeans when she covered “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire. Now I’m simply a fan because I think she’s a great singer, and her pop sensibility makes more sense than about 99 percent of pop artists in the world. Everything from the dragging humming noises, to the way she pushes her vocal inflections harder over the bridge – it’s all perfectly done. It’s definitely worth heading over to iTunes and buying the EP for.
Remember when Sleigh Bells came out, and hard, rock driven, stomping electronic became a thing? I do too – but then I got a bit disenfranchised when I realized they were maybe the second or third worst live band I have ever seen. If you’re a Sleigh Bells fan, it’s worth checking out Holychild. “Every Time I Fall” flows, and the rock sounds come through without the abrupt stomp of their Sleigh Bells forerunners. This natural evolution needed to happen, and it refreshed the genre as a whole.
The answer to a question no one ever asked: “What would The Crash Test Dummies sound like making mellow electronic, with falsetto riffs?” TRUST answers it, and it’s . . . well . . . actually good. No one would have thought it panned out this way, but that’s the cool thing about music – sometimes, things just work. It’s relaxing, and still engaging enough to keep your ears focused on the details.
For the past five or six months, I’ve been focused on Lincoln Jesser. This is just some really damn good, French House-infused, modern rock music. Our last song of the day is a cover of Twin Shadow, 1 and it’s perfect for the drive home at the end of the night. Unless of course you’re drunk – then beg your Uber or Lyft driver to hook this up to the car stereo, because you need to hear it. If you’re a fan of Kavinsky, Daft Punk, or JUSTICE, this is your closing song.
See you next week.
Because of COURSE he’d cover Twin Shadow. It’s freaking awesome. ↩
Welcome back to Blow Pops, a new weekly feature here at Bro Jackson. Every Thursday, I’ll have a driving, frenetic mix of powerful tunes to set you up for a wild weekend. We drop it after the calm. What I’m looking for here is intelligent, loud, heavy, and provocative dance songs. It won’t be genre specific, but expect a heavy rotation of dance-inspired rock music, and heavier house tunes. It’ll likely be a few artists you know, and many you don’t.
I get it. Flechette is supposed to be M.I.A.-meets-trap. The sound itself works well, because it’s in the right place at the right time. I hear the East-meets-West vibe, and I totally get it. I considered not including this song, but it grew on me until I was like, “Yeah, it’ll probably be just a one-hit blog wonder, but it’s put together well.” Trap is dying, because it’s the next punchline in EDM–but this might be a good way for it to exit.
Last week I checked in with Shlohmo, and this week was another winner for the versatile producer. Teaming up with Jeremih is working well for him, with “Fuck You All The Time” being a hit, and this one probably following in the same footsteps. It’s not the same, “break everything in the house while you’re having sex song,” but it’s close. That’s got to be worth something, especially in the Drake Era. While Drake is dominating r&b with his brand of “my heart is a beating vagina” rap, this song is smooth but also dangerous. Drake is not dangerous. I watched “DeGrassi.”
POWERS makes some atypical dance-pop music. It shouldn’t make sense, but it’s just loud enough to pull all the pieces together in a wall of sound. The vocals are double-layered, and everything waves in and out with builds and drops that aren’t expected. It’s highly experimental, but just structured enough to make you want to sing along. It’s worth keeping an eye on the duo, just to see what comes next.
Rounding out the dance tracks are The Magician getting behind Chromeo, Cashmere Cat retouching Miguel, and Motez updating Frank Ocean. Remixes are fun when the original song keeps its character, and the backing production isn’t overwrought, rave-y nonsense. All three of these remixes qualify, on every count. It makes me want to order a vodka soda and make out with a stranger.
Welcome back to Weekend Selektor, a new weekly feature here at Bro Jackson. Every Thursday, I’ll have a smooth list of mellow tunes to help you wind down the week, before I toss you into Blow Pops, my Thursday afternoon feature, with more upbeat music ready to kick off a Friday night. The filter here isn’t designed to hit any genre or demographic target. Hopefully, you’ll find some new music you love, from an artist you’re not familiar with. Without further ado, I’m turning on the Weekend Selektor . . .
This sounds like Prince. No, seriously. This sounds like Prince, the man, the myth, the symbol. Smooth, low mellow lines, and a strange nasal quality bring this all together in a Purple Rain sort of way. Erik Hassle is clearly (CLEARLY) a talented singer, has a feel for timing, whines, moans and accentuated vocals. This is a dance song, but it’s downtempo enough to get away with playing at work, if you really want to.
This is the equivalent of saying, “Smokey, let that bass line take a walk.” I like the vocal qualities on this, because it mixes well with the instrumental. Shura only has this single out, and the only other thing really worth mentioning is that her management company (ATC) also has Warpaint, Laura Mvula, and another newcomer, Kyla La Grange. I’m interested in seeing where this goes next.
This is just messed up. White, Australian alt-electronic artists should not being covering Young Jeezy, because it’s just not OK. This should never happen. Ever. If it’s going to happen, this is the way it must happen–because this cover actually works. It works so well, I barely knew this was a cover until I heard Paul Conrad‘s voice start singing the chorus. If Jeezy is “Mr. 17.5,” the king of cocaine, then Conrad is “Mr. 4.0 Milligrams,” because this is aural Xanax–a whole bar, for 32 bars.
It starts slow, almost like it’s going to be some endless shoegaze, ethereal vocal meander through whatever the hell people in Williamsburg daydream about. Then, it picks up, and Fear of Men brings a ’90s Lillith-meets-modern-Vampire-Weekend sound. I mean, it’s interesting, in the “weird lonely” sort of way. It’s a Thom Yorke lonely. It’s not depressed. It’s not spacey. It’s just weird, and lonely.
Black Milk first caught my attention with his Black & Brown collaborations with Danny Brown. In an odd twist, Detroit’s downfall has become something of a sounding board for Detroit art. They’re taking the raw, unfinished, and broken city–and making raw, unfinished, broken music. This song doesn’t sound coherent, but does so in an intentional way. Midway through, it breaks through into a segue, and it doesn’t come back. I thought there would be something else, but it didn’t happen. It just tails off, and stops making sense. It’s Detroit, in a song. I dig it.
Sometime during mid-season, I remember noticing Michael Sam. I’m something of an SEC purist, so I’m still a little uncomfortable with Missouri. It’s sort of like when your newly remarried mom tells you that your stepbrother should be treated just like a real brother. We already had the Bayou Bengals in Baton Rouge, and the plains of Auburn could claim Tigers of their own. Why in the hell did we need some cut-rate Missouri team joining Kentucky and Tennessee as SEC also-rans?
As a Nashville resident, I try to watch Vanderbilt football. 1 On October 5, I positioned myself at El Ranchero, a Mexican restaurant I tend to haunt, and I watched a quality SEC football game. At this point in the season, Missouri was starting to look like a real football team, undefeated, headed into Nashville to play Vanderbilt at home. One player really stood out to me: Defensive End, Michael Sam. Vanderbilt quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels never had a chance against the relentless onslaught of Sam, who registered three sacks during the game.
In the age of smartphones, we can learn just about anything, instantly: So I Google’d his ESPN stats. I distinctly remember talking to my drinking buddy Keel about Sam’s performance. We noted his previous week’s performance against Arkansas State, where Sam had also registered three sacks. As a Georgia fan, I was sweating the next week, when a soft Georgia offensive line would be faced with stopping the onslaught of Sam. Thankfully, Georgia’s pass protection kept Sam from dropping Aaron Murray, but he still created mayhem up front. It’s not all about sacks and tackles, because just creating pressure is enough to force bad throws. Murray was intercepted twice by Missouri, at home, in Athens, Ga., and much of that can be attributed to Michael Sam.
One week later, I was again watching Missouri. By this time, I began to respect the awkward stepbrother of a football team–and I was sort of cheering for them. Any good Georgia fan is going to celebrate Florida being annihilated, and Sam delivered. For the third time in four contests, Sam registered three sacks. It was obvious I was watching a special and gifted football player, because very few SEC players are ever capable of putting up stat lines like Sam. Missouri rolled over Florida, 36-17.
At the end of the season, I was keenly aware of Sam being a finalist for the Bronco Nagurski Award, given to the nation’s best defensive player. That’s no light company considering C.J. Moseley, Darqueze Dennard, Aaron Donald, and LaMarcus Joyner were the other names on the list. Sam earned that recognition by finishing the season with 48 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, two pass breakups, two forced fumbles, nine quarterback hurries, and a fumble recovery. Sam set the Missouri single season record for sacks–an honor previously held by some washed up, nobody linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, named Aldon Smith.
The SEC has long been a conference known for defense, and Sam earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors over players like JaDaveon Clowney, C.J. Mosely, and HaSean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix. Winners of this award overwhelmingly go on to successful NFL careers, with past winners being names like Jarvis Jones, Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne, Rolando McClain, Eric Berry, Glenn Dorsey, and Patrick Willis.
I’m not an expert on the NFL Draft or player evaluation, but ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. compares Sam to players like Seattle’s Cliff Avril, Kansas City’s Justin Houston, and Indy’s Robert Mathis. Houston and Avril were both third-rounders, with Mathis being a fifth. Kiper has Sam listed as a fourth round talent, because he’s a fantastic pass rusher, but isn’t as solid in coverage, and might not transpose well as a 4-3 linebacker in the NFL. Sam has room to grow in pass coverage, and if he can somehow manage to add that element to his skill set, he’ll be a Top 10 defensive end in the league.
At the present, I see Sam being a good fit with teams seeking an instant infusion of pass rushing, who can also afford growing pains in coverage. Jacksonville needs a little of everything, and were dead last in 2013 in sacks. I mean, they’re the Gabuars, so let’s just assume they finished last in a few categories. The Atlanta Falcons weren’t far in front of Jacksonville, nor were the Chicago Bears. This is probably glaringly painful for Bears fans who watched Aaron Rodgers take his sweet time driving down the field and ending Chicago’s season during the final game. Also, as much as it pains me to say it, my own Dallas Cowboys didn’t look stellar last year, finishing 25th overall in sacks. Dallas might have to consider taking Sam in the third round if it means getting the leaky defense a little more watertight.
I just went 800 words without mentioning something: Michael Sam is openly gay.
I’d just rather talk about football, because his personal life isn’t any of my business.
Welcome to the very first Blow Pops, a new weekly feature here at Bro Jackson. Every Thursday, I’ll have a driving, frenetic mix of powerful tunes to set you up for a wild weekend. We drop it after the calm. What I’m looking for here is intelligent, loud, heavy, and provocative dance songs. It won’t be genre specific, but expect a heavy rotation of dance-inspired rock music, and heavier house tunes. It’ll likely be a few artists you know, and many you don’t.
We’ll start things out slow and then build it up. I think Indiana(Raider of Arks) is perfectly suited to this task, with her new single “Solo Dancing.” I first picked up Indiana last year with her emotional cover of “Swim Good” by Frank Ocean–which she ripped wide open. This new single shows her dance chops, has a distinctly fuzzy French house beat, and it’s a perfect start-up track for a wild weekend.
I can’t talk about dance music without bringing up Nashville’s own Cherub, featured here with Exmag on Gramatik‘s “Obviously.” The heavy funk beat comes in, and then Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber contribute their vocals and talkbox work. Roger Troutman, watch your back. This is classic Cherub dance rock, infused with funk.
Nu-Disco, meet French House. The Knocks come in large with Sneaky Soundsystem and deliver a brilliant and danceable tune called “The One.” Dance music has one test, really: “Does this song make me want to move my feet?” With this track, the build ups aren’t ridiculous, and have rather sharp drop offs, rather than apexes. This nuanced approach keeps you guessing, but still lets you keep up easily enough.
GRVRBBRS is, without a doubt, the most slept on French House producer of the past two years. This is likely because his whole project was released under the radar, away from his other band. I mean, just looking at his Soundcloud playcount, no one is listening to this at all–and it’s sad. If you’re a fan of JUSTICE or Daft Punk, then you need to crank up your speakers, because this is perfect, glitchy, guitar-driven, melodic, symphonic, funky, and purely produced French house. This would make Kavinsky blush.
That just leaves the question: Who is GRVRBBRS? I was told by a friend that it was a secret project, and I couldn’t tell anyone–but Pulse Recordings took the liberty of crediting him with the project. This is Ryland Blackinton‘s solo project–the lead guitarist of Cobra Starship. You won’t find it on his Wikipedia, and he doesn’t endorse himself anywhere online as GRVRBBRS. (In fact, the only place I’ve seen him credited as GRVRBBRS is on his artist page, over on Pulse). It doesn’t make me want to break out any Cobra Starship albums, but knowing he has this much versatility is incredible.
Welcome to the very first Weekend Selektor, a new weekly feature here at Bro Jackson. Every Thursday, I’ll have a smooth list of mellow tunes to help you wind down the week, before I toss you into Blow Pops, my Thursday afternoon feature, with more upbeat music ready to kick off a Friday night. The filter here isn’t designed to hit any genre or demographic target. Hopefully, you’ll find some new music you love, from an artist you’re not familiar with. Without further ado, I’m turning on the Weekend Selektor…
Shlohmo produced a song for BANKS. I think that means that all is right in the world. If you ever wondered what Lana Del Ray would sound like if she were 100 percent better, and paired herself with talented producers–this is what you’d have. BANKS’ vocals build in a Lana-esque way, without the kitschy Tumblr-cool sound. This is less of a song, and more of a soundscape, until about halfway, when the anti-drop comes in, courtesy of Shlohmo. The drums are minimal, snappy, and full of reverb. This is probably Shlohmo’s best work since “Fuck You All The Time,” with Jeremih. It’s perfect for driving around to, and it’ll probably take the edge off your commute.
This isn’t a new song. In fact, it has been out for 10 months. I missed it. Yinyues recently released some instrumental remixes of Notorious B.I.G. that set the music blogosphere on fire, but I prefer his more downtempo work. Quality, expansive, and harmonic downtempo is tough to do well, especially when you’re trying to re-cut a song by Bon Iver. Dare I say, this remix might even be better than the original. Tip of the hat to Yinyues for a Soundcloud page full of winners.
YDIMITU is also known as Early Nineties, and doesn’t have much music that’s easy to find. There are only two songs on his 1 Soundcloud, and this one is the lone standout. It’s a syrupy slow R&B/chill-trap tune, complete with stretched vocals and a New York hip-hop beat. It fits squarely into its own niche, which isn’t too PBR&B, and isn’t too hip hop. It even has a pop vibe.
I like Miguel because he’s not afraid of testing the limits of his athleticism in front of a live television audience. Additionally, he’s testing the r&b market with this fuzzy-guitar, hot amp branding. The accompanying songwriting has movement, depth, and easy transitions. Where Bruno Mars is the cheesy haircut and overwrought pop nonsense, Miguel delivers emotional, adult music. You might want to double down on birth control, because this song increases your chances of pregnancy.
Songwriting is probably the most disrespected part of music creation. We live in an era of Macbook carriers running around “producing” a myriad of really interesting instrumentals, but without a song to back it up, well . . . it just feels empty. Enter, Bipolar Sunshine and “Where Did The Love Go.” The piano moves, and the live audience ambiance at the midway point adds a stadium ballad atmosphere. Sing-a-long songs are more fun, and that’s where this one lands. I’m looking forward to more like this.
Imagine for a moment that you and your friends are trying to figure out where to watch the game on Sunday. Assuming all other things are roughly equal, everyone starts on an even playing field. Then you start chipping away at the qualifications to host a good game: You’ll need something bigger than a studio, so your buddy Chad is out. His place is a dope bachelor pad, but he doesn’t have enough space on his couch. You could totally hang out with Trevor, but his girlfriend is finicky, and doesn’t really like having a lot of people around. Of course, you could totally do it at your place, but you were just there last week, so it’s someone else’s turn.
That’s when Ivan speaks up. In his heavy Russian accent, he says, “Hey guys. My place. We will watch game. It will be perfect. I spend lots of money, we make best food. Drink vodka. It will be magic. You see.”
Before I go any further, let me just say this: Ivan is a nice enough guy, but he’s just a little out of your comfort zone. He has a tendency to say homophobic things around company, and it’s a little uncomfortable. He brags a lot about his money, but always wants you to pick up the tab when you’re out getting drinks. If you weren’t in a fantasy league together, chances are you wouldn’t really be friends–but he’s friends with your other friends, so you have to put up with it.
Sensing an opportunity, your friend Sung-Min speaks up. “Hey Ivan, thanks for the offer man, but uh . . . let’s just do it at my place. I just renovated my house, and I got a new BBQ grill on the back deck.” Ivan cuts him off, “No. It is not big deal. We will love my party. All of us. I make best food, have best grill, very expensive, best you ever see. I show you. In Russia, we have best parties.” Sung-Min retorts, “Really Ivan. It’s no big deal. My place will be perfect. You don’t have to do all that. I’m basically setup and ready anyway.”
Now, Ivan is known a little for being short, so he firmly says, “No. I will make best party. I will go Best Buy, get largest LCD television. Best speakers. It will rattle whole building. Best steak. Best beer. I want show you how best party ever. We will all love game, best game at my place. You will love. You see.” Ivan then takes a long stare at everyone in the room. “You agree, yes?”
Reluctantly, all your friends finally give in. You say, “Alright Ivan. Sounds good man. We’ll be over around noon on Sunday. If you need us to bring anything, just let us know.”
On Wednesday, you get a call from Ivan. “Comrade! I am excited for big game. I want you come over, so you help me get new Bose sound system installed. It is best. I show you.” This gives you a moment of pause. “Wow,” you think to yourself, “Ivan might actually pull this off.” So you hop in your car, and head over to Ivan’s place. When you pull up, two aggressive pit bulls are in his front yard, barking and snarling at you. Opening his front gate doesn’t seem to be an option, so you call Ivan. “Hey, Ivan. You mind coming outside for a second? There are some really crazy dogs out here.” Ivan pauses for a moment, “Oh. I not have dogs. Must be strays. I come get you.” Moments later, Ivan appears at his door with an AK-47. You realize what’s about to happen, so you dive behind your car as he starts shooting the dogs.
“IVAN! WHAT THE FUCK MAN?!”
The dogs are already dead. “What? These dogs, they are crazy. Animal control will do same. I just do job for them,” Ivan laughs. “You are such baby. Come inside.” Your heart is racing, because you just watched two dogs get splattered by your crazy, AK-wielding friend, but you brush it off, because you already drove across town. As you walk through Ivan’s front yard, you notice trash everywhere. It looks like he just dumps all his trash in his yard.
Inside his house, all the drywall is half-finished, the floors are beautiful hardwood in some places, and plywood in others. Loose wires hang from the ceiling, and exposed pipes show a few spots in the walls. Every single room carries the strong ammonia stench of cat urine. “Come! I show you chandelier. It is $50,000 for chandelier. All crystal.” Ivan leads you into the living room, where the walls aren’t painted, and spackle lines show everywhere. None of the light switches have covers, but there is a chandelier hanging from the ceiling, and it looks like it costs more than a Lexus. “This,” Ivan says, “I ship from Chile. Best chandelier.”
Noting the appearance of his home, Ivan boasts, “All this work. I will have finish in three days. You come back on Sunday, it will look like brand new house. You never know all these wires here.” You shrug your shoulders, wondering how he’s going to pull it off, but you let it go, because there isn’t much you can do to change it. “Come, I show you this sound system. It is best.” Ivan begins unboxing some speakers, which you note say “BOZE,” instead of the usual “Bose,” associated with the German sound company. You speak up, “Hey uh, Ivan. I don’t know if you got authentic goods here, my brother. You might want to get your money back.” Ivan looks at you angrily, “I get these from Boris. I know him since grade school. He is best friend. He not lie to me.” Not wanting to test his mettle, you simply let him have his way. However, as you look around the room, other things start to appear remiss.
The television looks questionable, like the shiny black plastic is about to peel off. The “Somy” logo throws you off. “What the . . .” you think to yourself. A “Mibrosoft XBOCKS” sits on the entertainment center, along with a “Sasmug Blu Ray” player. “Hey Ivan, man. Question. How much did you pay for that LCD TV?” Ivan looks up at you from his sound system installation and boasts, “I have friend. He gives me best deals. I only pay $8,000.” You stare at him for a moment, not sure if he’s serious. “Ivan, you really paid $8,000 for a Somy LCD TV?” Ivan fires back, “My friends. They make best. They give me best deal.” Not wanting to push the issue on anything else, you let the issue go.
“Hey, Ivan, where’s your bathroom man?” Ivan grunts at you. “It is down hall. But do not flush toilet. It not work right now.” You squirm uncomfortably. “Naw man, it’s cool. I’ll just hold it, I guess.” Ivan laughs, “You think this not good enough? Suit self. Here, have beer.” Ivan hands you a warm beer, and you can’t read the label on the can. Popping the tab, you take a sip. It takes like soapy bathwater and lawn clippings. Ivan grins mightily at you. “See. I show you. This is best beer you ever taste, yes?” Gulping your beer down, trying to keep your eyes from watering, you reply shortly, “Yeah Ivan. This is awesome. Where’d you find this?” He laughs at you, “I have friend. He makes best beer. Microbrew. He gives me great deal. Only $30 for six pack.”
Figuring that Ivan is just insane, you decide it’s about time to excuse yourself. “Hey Ivan man, I’ve gotta run my dude. I’ll see you on Sunday man. Good luck getting all this together.” Ivan boasts back, “My friend, I will show you best Sunday game party. You will see. This party will be best ever. You have faith, I show you.”
Walking out the door, you furiously begin texting your friends, “Holy shit fellas. We’re so fucked. Ivan’s place is a disaster, and we don’t have any other options. This is going to be the worst Sunday, ever.” Then, you shoot off a few picture messages. You watch the progress bar sending the messages away, but then realize everything is stalled. You’re standing in front of Ivan’s house, so you start walking toward your car. Ivan steps out the door behind you, surprising you with his voice, “You have trouble will cell phone? We have sometimes bad service here. Let me show you, I will help send.” Ivan comes down the steps, and tries reaching for your phone. You don’t want him to see your messages, so you say, “Naw man, I got it. No worries.” Ivan then gets demanding, “No. I will help. Give me phone. I have magic touch.”
Trying to avoid letting him see your messages about his home, you change the conversation. “So, it looks like you’ve got some pretty cool neighbors. I like how they did the plants in their front yard.” Ivan shakes his head at you. “I have no neighbors. Just me here.” You retort back, “What do you mean you don’t have neighbors? I just saw two dudes walk in next door. They were walking some dogs.” Ivan talks through his teeth. “I never see them. Just me. No neighbors.”
You tilt your head a bit, “Ivan. I just saw two guys walk in the front door, next door. Holding hands. I mean, it appears you have a gay couple next door. You really should say hello.” Ivan shakes his head. “I have NO neighbors.” This line of conversation is making your stomach churn, so you finally relinquish, “Hey man, I’m gonna run. But uh . . . I guess . . . uh, I’ll see you man. Good luck.” Then, you half-sprint to your car, as Ivan lets out a belly laugh.
The 2014 Sochi Olympics start Friday. I hope we’re all ready for a house that smells like cat piss.
“My friend is a DJ.” If you’d like to instantly make a group of people despise you, break out this handy little phrase. It works if you’re a man, woman, trans, or undecided. It works no matter your race, creed, religion, or background. It’s so foolproof, I have taken to using it in any situation I want to intentionally not make any friends.
“My friend is a DJ.” What can possibly come out of your mouth next that will make me want to continue this conversation? “He/She spins trap, a little electro-house, hip-hop, dance music. He/She also does some original productions too. His/Her name is DJ Whatever. You should really check him/her out.” Fascinating! Please note the heavy sarcastic tone, because I’m not actually fascinated. I’m bored, and should be.
“My friend is a DJ.” I’m glad you have friends. At some point, you had enough people skills to befriend someone. This was before you started leveraging phrases like this in social settings. I’d rather have you tell me about a three-piece samurai sword collection you bought on a 4 a.m. infomercial. At least then I would know I was talking to a moderately crazy, but nonetheless interesting person. I could take solace in knowing when the DJ apocalypse begins, you have swords that I can use to defend myself against the ever-growing mass of DJs.
As a primer, this never used to be a problem. Somewhere in between computing power growing, the proliferation of software, Soundcloud, Facebook fan pages, and “follow me on Twitter,” DJs started appearing everywhere.
The problem I have with “My friend is a DJ” is disambiguation of nomenclature, and the definition of what we’re discussing. A studio producer is not a DJ. A DJ is not a studio producer. “All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.” This isn’t meant to act as an angry volley toward DJ’s because I appreciate turntablism. Nor do I mean to disrespect studio producers, because it’s an important role in creating music. I just cannot bring myself to be OK with the onslaught of DJs.
One of my favorite musical experiences was seeing DJ AM perform at Rain in Las Vegas. DJ AM was a once in a lifetime sort of performer, where everyone in the crowd knew they were witnessing something transcendent. Adam Goldstein wasn’t even Adam Goldstein anymore, because his place on the bell curve of talent was on the eastern extreme. DJ AM and Travis Barker pounded their way into our hearts at Coachella, performing “Fix Your Face.” It was the most innovative Coachella performance ever, at the time. Barker flailed his arms with massive flourishes, and DJ AM stood between his records, scratching like it meant something to call himself a DJ.
DJs fall under the same bell curve that everyone else does. If you’re not already familiar with a bell curve, it’s a fat parabola, stating that equal parts of everything are both above and below average, with extreme ends representing exponentially smaller parts of the whole. In crude, layman’s terms: Half of all DJs are at or below average . . . and therefore suck. That means that 50 percent of the time someone says, “My friend is a DJ,” they are talking about someone who is below average at their craft. Half of all these conversations can only lead to me wanting to stab myself in the ears with a letter opener.
But that doesn’t make the other half any better, because I don’t want to listen to above average DJs. I want to listen to virtuoso-level DJs, with an ear for pitch, speed, blending, and an uncanny feeling for the groove. You know it when you hear it, because the great ones know it’s about more than just playing the songs. DJs occupying the far right extreme of the aforementioned curve know how to create a genuine emotional response
Here in Nashville, Tenn., we know who the best DJs are. Wick-It the Instigator and KDSML unquestionably rule Nashville’s DJ scene. This isn’t meant to disrespect Strooly or SOSA, two other local producers, who often perform DJ sets.
You see, my friends are DJs. I’ll just be goddamned if I lead off a conversation with it.
My friend Andrew is a DJ, who sometimes doubles as a studio producer. In the music business, he’s known as Wick-it The Instigator, but to me, he’s just Andrew. Andrew is truly gifted turntablist. One of my favorite ever studio experiences was sitting for 14 hours with Andrew and Dylan (another friend who is a DJ, you know him as ill.Gates) as they worked on their Action Bronson remix. While Dylan was putting together all the vocals, Andrew put his headphones on and started scratching up the brand new song, because he wanted an authentic hip-hop vibe.
Andrew’s entire studio is filled with records, but also guitars. I like to believe Andrew is a fantastic DJ because he’s also a pretty incredible guitar player. You can see a look dawn over his face when he’s playing guitar along to a song he’s thinking about. Something inside Andrew’s head makes him tick in ways that other DJs do not.
My friend Jesse is a DJ. I met him through my friend Blake who is not a DJ, but a promoter. When Jesse takes the stage, he turns into KDSML, and his skills as a turntablist come to life. Jesse doesn’t lead off a set with rote, tired remixes. My friend Jesse tends to lead off with The Four Tops, then scratches in with some Sneaker Pimps, and perhaps a little Third Eye Blind. After you’ve gotten comfortable, with a smile on your face, that’s when the newest Rihanna remix by Branchez comes in. Jesse is versatile, and stylistically reminds me of DJ AM. There isn’t a “drop” to be heard in a KDSML set, because great DJs don’t depend upon over-wrought buildups to keep people smiling.
My friends are the DJs who took the time to really hone their craft, and become the best at it. There is something to be said for Robert Pirsig’s “Metaphysics of Quality” as it pertains to DJ-ing. In his book “Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” Pirsig describes watching a tenured motorcycle mechanic work on a motorcycle, how everything is a fluid motion, and effortless. A tenured motorcycle mechanic isn’t thinking about how tight the bolts need to be, or the tension of the chain. It’s about the process, and having a feeling in your gut for everything under your hands.
The great DJs have a feeling for the mixer, and wax at their fingertips. Great DJs are never victims of “Serato Face,” staring at their laptop, waiting for the colors and frequencies to line up. I am friends with some great DJs, and I appreciate everything they add to the art of DJing, because real DJ’ing is an artform.
Now let’s discuss your friend. Your friend is a DJ in the same sense that if an elephant was born in a tree, you’d call it a bird.
Your friend has a MacBook, a pair of Beats by Dre headphones, and a cracked copy of Ableton. Your friend has a Facebook page, and a penchant for using rote, tired hashtags. Your friend “produces” poorly made remixes over lossy MP3s, doesn’t even think about getting it mastered, before putting it on Soundcloud. Your friend over-hypes themselves on Twitter, telling you how “next level” their new music is, when in fact it is atrocious. Your friend leans heavily on laser sounds, and their remixes always have a predictable “drop” because your friend doesn’t have enough musical talent to pull people along without hitting their audience with a wall of noise.
Your friend bought a pair of Pioneer CDJs on Craigslist, a two channel mixer, and hooked everything up to a laptop. Your friend watched some YouTube videos on how to beat match. Your friend annoyed a local promoter into opening for a small show, and promptly showed everyone just what bad DJ-ing really sounds like. Your friend trainwrecked the past three songs, but they’re your friend, so you can’t hear just how atrocious this actually is.
Your friend is the embodiment of every punchline I have lobbed at laptop jockeys in the past five years, because your friend disrespects the title. Your friend is the reason I turn my head and wonder, “What sort of fucked up dubstep trainwreck remix of Drake is playing right now?”
Your friend is the reason I have been called an elitist; you know, because I have ears. My ears are connected to my brain, and my brain is connected to my mouth. Sometimes, I’ll open my mouth and say something like, “Your friend is fucking horrible.”
Your friend is the guy who wants everyone at the party to listen intently as he unplugs the music that was playing, and awkwardly shoves the cable into his iPhone’s headphone jack. “Check this out, it’s going to blow your mind.” I’ve seen the movie “Scanners.” Perhaps I don’t want my mind blown? Did you ask everyone in the room for permission to attack their ears with your poorly made remix? You know the guys from Adventure Club? That’s like saying you really enjoy eating at Applebee’s. I have to be white girl wasted to enjoy either. (I’m insulting their music, not who they are. I’ve hung out with Leighton a few times backstage, and he’s a really genuine person. So, Leighton, I love you, but I’d rather have a lightsaber-style battle with dirty A.I.D.S. needles than play your songs in my car.)
Your friend just stole four minutes of my life I’ll never get back, and to make matters worse, he heard I work in the music business. Now I’m stuck in an awkward position, as I fight my urge to say, “Get the fuck out of my face, you no-talent clown,” but instead I say something like, “I really like what you did with the drum timing.”
Your friend just called me “bro,” and tried to fist bump me. I’d rather fist bump Edward Scissorhands.
If you really want to impress someone, try these out:
“My friend is a guitar player.”
“My friend is a drummer.”
“My friend is a singer.”
“My friend is a bass player.”
“My friend is a pianist.”
I’m sort of holding out hope for your friend being a singer named Sarah Barthel, so I can say, “Isn’t Phantogram incredible? I remember the first time I heard them.” Then, I’ll actually have something to respond with that I care about. “My friend Jordan sings and plays guitar in a band called Cherub. Have you heard of them? If you’re into Phantogram, you’ll totally dig Cherub. ‘Doses and Mimosas’ is basically my go-to cocaine track. You’ve never heard of Cherub? Well, allow me then . . . “
I can’t discuss DJs, because there isn’t anything for me to talk about. I can’t wax poetic about how great they are at mashing on an APC controller, but I can tell you a tale about watching Gary Clark Jr. perform live. I can tell you how he and Eric Zapata stood side by side and blasted blues guitar along the century old brick inside Marathon Music Works.
In keeping with the correct theme here, I have provided some background electronic music by Blue Sky Black Death for you to listen to while you’re reading this essay. It doesn’t really add anything to the text, but it will build suspense. If the song stops playing, just hit the play button again and continue reading.
On the evening of December 24, every year, Santa Claus flies around the world on a sleigh propelled by magical reindeer. Along his route, he delivers presents to well behaved, mostly affluent, Christian children. After his journey around the world, our jolly, probably diabetic, elderly, white 1 man goes back to his home at the top of the world, to preside over his kingdom of elf-slave-labor.
But does Santa really do all this? Or is it something else? If Santa really does fly around the world as we’re being led to believe, why doesn’t the visual evidence support it? If they’re so sure Santa is real, why won’t they answer questions about him? What are they hiding about Santa?
Glowing red nose, or tracking device?
The story we’re told about Rudolph is easy to understand: On a stormy night, Santa Claus is unable to fly his sleigh due to limited visibility. A misfit reindeer named Rudolph steps forward to offer his nose as a beacon of light–but is that what really happened? Rudolph is a reindeer, and therefore a mammal. The only known animals on the planet with bio-luminescent abilities this vivid are fish, tens of thousands of feet below the ocean. So what is a reindeer, which is not a fish, glowing for? What is really happening with Rudolph?
In 1965, the United States Government ran a series of military training exercises known as “Operation Saint Nick,” where a flying moose with an affixed red light secretly mapped the homes of all “naughty” children, and deposited bags of coal in their chimney.
Anthracite coal burns at above 900 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to burn through traditional white and yellow pine home frames, and even burn through the steel commonly seen in more modern, modular homes. So is Rudolph actually a friendly reindeer, or is he being tracked by the government? What we do know is his penchant to deposit bags of coal onto lit fireplaces–which isn’t an act of kindness, but arson. Is Rudolph an arsonist and murderer? You decide.
Milk and cookies, or diabetic coma?
Santa Claus is said to enter the homes of millions of people around the world, consuming a quick snack of milk and cookies at each stop. According to popular belief, Santa is morbidly obsese, and likely to be diabetic. Assuming he weighs 350 pounds, and is lifting a 250 pound sack of toys, Santa will burn 3,760 calories per hour, and will be active for a maximum of 16 hours. 2 On average, Santa Claus would be burning an incredible 60,160 calories during his journey.
This sound incredible, until you realize the facts don’t add up. An 8 oz glass of 2 percent milk contains 120 calories, and 11 grams of sugar, and cookie weighing 12 grams will contain 57 calories, and 4 grams of sugar. Assuming that we’re using the plural form, and Santa consumes one glass of milk and two cookies per stop, he’s packing on 224 calories and 15 grams of sugar at each home.
When human blood passes 600 milligrams per deciliter of sugar, a condition known as hyperosmolar syndrome–a diabetic coma–comes next. After visiting approximately 160 homes, Santa Claus would have already consumed 2,400 grams of sugar. That’s 2.4 kilograms, or roughly 5.2 pounds. At this juncture, his blood would become syrupy, and Santa would lose consciousness. So if Santa isn’t even physically capable of completing the task, who is responsible for delivering all those gifts? If it’s not Santa Claus, why won’t the people at the North Pole tell us what’s really happening? Why are they covering up for Santa’s medical issues, if everything they say is true?
What’s really going on with the red light in the Sky?
On any Christmas Eve, we can look up at the night sky, and wait for the glowing red light of Rudolph’s nose to appear. We’re told that it’s Rudolph leading Santa’s sleigh, but the visual evidence just doesn’t add up. Even an airplane can barely create enough light to be visible at 25,000 feet, and even then, it’s so faint it barely appears. Secondly, why is the light flickering? If Santa is really using Rudolph’s nose as a means of seeing in front of him, why wouldn’t he just tell Rudolph to keep the beam on constantly? The facts didn’t add up, so I enhanced the picture you see above to get to the truth.
Below is an un-retouched image of a zoomed in part of the night sky, where the mysterious, flickering light appeared.
This is an overweight, old white man. But it’s not Santa Claus. It’s Toronto Mayor Rod Ford, and that flickering red light is his crack pipe. Why is Rob Ford flying around in place of Santa Claus? Who gave him the job, and why is he smoking crack and then entering our homes? Perhaps he’s not breaking in and leaving presents, but rather breaking in and doing crackhead things, like stealing electronics. Why is Canada covering up the truth?
The government has a long history of using the media to cover up the real problem. They said Rob Ford has been in Canada, but with this visual evidence, how do we know it’s not a Rob Ford look-a-like? Why are they covering up Rob Ford’s Christmas miracles? Just from a standpoint of time, it makes sense that Santa Claus is Rob Ford. In order to successfully deliver presents to roughly 1.8 billion Christian homes over a 16-hour span, he’d need to enter 31,250 homes, per second. A normal person cannot possibly enter and exit that many homes, but under the influence of crack cocaine, anything is possible.
Here’s what we do know about Santa Claus:
1. Santa Claus is from “The North Pole.” Is “The North Pole” a government term for “Canada?” We do know that it’s snowy where Santa lives, and Rob Ford is from Canada. Additionally, the North Pole is only covered in ice.
2. Santa Claus is an overweight, old white man, with rosy cheeks. So is Rob Ford.
3. Santa Claus is skilled at entering and exiting homes, quickly and silently. Just like crackhead Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford.
4. If Rob Ford isn’t Santa Claus, why won’t they tell us who is?
I’m a bit disenchanted with a writer that I used to look up to.
Early in October, I read a Deadspin article about Bill Simmons and his rift with Michael Wilbon, and Magic Johnson‘s subsequent departure from “NBA Countdown.” I wasn’t surprised at the shuffle, mostly because I found Magic Johnson to be annoying and borderline insane. Losing Wilbon in favor of Doug Collins is logical, because Collins is a former coach. For all intents and purposes, all this movement should make “NBA Countdown” a better show. Save one piece: Simmons.
For the record, I never set out to indict Simmons as a blithering basketball fool with little understanding of game mechanics. 1 Simmons just happens to embody what I detest most about casual basketball fans: Obfuscating obtuse opinions, backed by glittering generalities and meaningless statistics. The problem I have with Simmons is he embodies the ethos of “that one kinda smart guy” I’ve talked to at every sports bar. Making a couple valid points is worthwhile, but not understanding why those points even matter is why I think Jalen Rose is the most integral part of Grantland’s basketball previews. Rose actually understands basketball, because he’s played it recently, and it’s evident in all of his commentary.
My problem with Simmons isn’t so much that he’s the fulcrum of the problematic basketball media machine, but that he’s exerting greater leverage than anyone else ever has. The words in his essays are entertaining, and his television persona is likable, but when you actually listen to what he’s saying it doesn’t make any sense. Simmons simply exists as an entertainment figure, rather than an entertaining analyst.
The best way I know how to show this is by breaking down his Cleveland Cavaliers season preview. Over on Grantland, Simmons and Rose broke down the season outlook for every NBA team, and I watched in somber amazement at just how little useful analysis Simmons actually offered. His analysis is clever but not insightful.
0:00 – 1:00 A long introduction to Cleveland’s season is a walk down memory lane with an LL Cool J video, followed by Simmons asking a question about the future of LeBron James. We’re talking about Cleveland, right? King James will enter an optional free agency period after this season, but why is Simmons bringing this up? James has been in Miami for three years now, and will likely collect his third championship next summer. Cleveland hasn’t been a part of the LeBron James equation for a long time, and this is an example of Simmons speculating about something that makes absolutely no sense from a basketball perspective.
1:01 – 1:45 Simmons continues to discuss “LeBron’s legacy,” and what that could entail. In doing so, he disparages Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
“Chris Bosh isn’t as good at he was two years ago.” Sure, Bosh ages like everyone else, but I think he’s being exactly the player he needs to be. His statistics will invariably always be made with a mental asterisk, because he chose leave Toronto in order to defer his scoring role to others. Scoring aside, the crux of Bosh’s game has nothing to do with his ability to score, or even rebound. The hybrid power forward/photo-bomb champion is the best pick and roll defender in the NBA. His quickness at the top of the key, and the precision perfect switching, make him the most valuable player you never hear about.
“Wade is breaking down.” Not much argument from me, but I feel the context is missed with regards to “why” his body was breaking down. At some point last season, Wade should have sat down and rested his knees. Unfortunately for Wade, Miami started an historic winning streak and Wade ended up not resting when Miami should have been coasting down the stretch.
Simmons then makes a conjecture that is beyond silly: LeBron James would consider signing with the Los Angeles Lakers. Rose laughs it off, dismissing it immediately. It’s classic Simmons: An entertaining, cerebral exercise that has no basis at all in reality.
1:46- 4:34 Finally, Simmons and Rose discuss the current state of the Cavaliers. Simmons brings up the acquisition of Jarrett Jack, and calls him “slightly overpaid,” to which Rose immediately takes issue. Rose explains that Jack compliments Kyrie Irving as a shooting point guard. This is consistent with Rose’s understanding of point guard scoring-based offenses, and that scoring point guards are the nature of Mike Brown’s offense. This rational reasoning misses Simmons completely, so he responds with an anecdote about Jack being “the best losing guy in an 11-10 pickup game that loses the game for everyone because he thinks he’s Michael Jordan.” I don’t know what the pickup ball analogy has to do with basketball in the NBA, but Simmons thinks it means something.
What really comes to light here, especially with the entire team breakdown, is just how little Simmons understands what’s happening on the court. Simmons insinuates Brown’s offense doesn’t have plays called, and that Irving is somehow a one-man offense. Then, Simmons fails to understand the acquisition of Andrew Bynum, implicates Bynum as Rudy Gay trade bait, and thinks that Bynum is completely done. Simmons fails to mention Cleveland’s number one overall pick in this summer’s draft, Anthony Bennett.
4:35 – 6:39 I’ll call this the “Hey is that drive thru open?” segment. This is where Simmons stumps that the Cavaliers might attempt trading for Pau Gasol if perhaps Kobe Bryant doesn’t return to the form we’re used to seeing. He also contends that Bynum won’t play more than 15 games because of a poor work ethic.
Where I really got disturbed was from about the 6:40 mark, when Simmons brought up Irving’s shot chart.
At this point Simmons expounds upon his own nonsense, declaring that he fundamentally does not understand how basketball players interact on the floor. His attempted takedown of Irving goes on to justify Irving’s high percentage at the top of the key for reasons that just don’t make sense given the personnel. To top it all off, he segues into inane comparisons that could translate if he wanted to them to, but doesn’t make the connection because once again, Simmons whiffs. Instead of giving us real insight into how the game works, and how players interact, viewers are treated with another LeBron James overture, followed by some unhealthy comparisons.
Dear Mr. Simmons,
I was in the middle of watching a 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers preview, but you felt the need to interject once again about LeBron James. Kyrie Irving and LeBron James are both players who need the ball in order to facilitate an offense. James is just unique because he’s the size of a power forward, but chooses to use his size as a space making tool for distribution. Kyrie Irving is an isolation and volume shooter, and he would need to occupy the same space in the lane as LeBron James during most offensive sequences.
Additionally, Irving compliments James poorly on defense. Wade may not be the same explosive point guard he used to be, but the energy he isn’t expending on offense is utilized on defense, where even with decrepit knees, he’s a top five defender. Cleveland recruited Jarrett Jack because their guards don’t defend well, and they’re going all in on Irving, Dion Waiters, and Jack as a platoon offensive force. The fact that Waiters looks to have lost 10-15 pounds only further reinforces this notion.
Simmons then implores Rose to entertain the notion that Irving’s second year is sub par compared with his “second year doppelganger” Kevin Johnson, and to a lesser extent Tim Hardaway. At this juncture, any rational basketball fan with even a cursory knowledge of the game would look at these comparisons and softly murmur, “What the fuck?”
Let’s think about this critically for a moment, because this is where Simmons buries himself. During the 1988-89 season, Kevin Johnson had a spectacular season for the Phoenix Suns, putting up 20.4 PPG to go with 12.2 assists–pretty damn impressive for a second year player. Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving was a total chump, getting 22.5 PPG, but only managing 5.9 assists. In the fantasy land where Simmons lives, Irving is selfish, and that’s why Cleveland sucks. In reality, Johnson was the third-highest scoring player on the ’88-’89 Suns, while Irving was the highest scoring player on the ’12-’13 Cavaliers.
Johnson put up double the assists and a had a higher shooting percentage because Eddie Johnson shot a career high in 3-point percentage, field goal percentage, and contributed 21.5 PPG. Additionally, Tom Chambers was a dominant power forward/center contributing 25.7 PPG, and grabbing a career high 8.4 rebounds. Kevin Johnson had two players scoring inside, to pair with his perimeter skills. The worst case scenario for Johnson was getting bogged down up top, and having to dish the ball to Jeff Hornacek, who put up a healthy 17.6 PPG.
For fuck’s sake, the 1988-89 Phoenix suns were a 55-win team, and they made it to the Western Conference Finals, acquitting themselves in four games against Magic’s Lakers. 2
Let’s move on to how Kyrie Irving is also nothing like Tim Hardaway.
I’m starting to sense a trend here, and it has something to do with not really understanding team dynamics. In Tim Hardaway’s second season, he played a similar role to Kevin Johnson, and was also the third-highest scoring player on his team. (Just a quick refresher, Irving was the highest scoring player for the Cavaliers). Hardaway played alongside Chris Mullin averaging 25.7 PPG, and Mitch Richmond averaging 23.9 PPG. The Warriors only won 45 games and barely made the playoffs, but did manage to upset David Robinson’s Spurs in the first round, before losing to Los Angeles.
In a shocking turn of events, basketball is a team game, and the statistics and analysis Simmons provided as some sort of insight don’t come across as uninformed–they’re just really stupid. If someone at a sports bar were to make a conjecture like Simmons did, I would openly laugh at them, attempting to explain what a pure shooter Chris Mullin was, or perhaps waxing poetic about Jeff Hornacek’s pure shooting motion.
I think it’s important to understand that last season’s Cavaliers only won 24 games, and Irving was the only player who averaged above 20 PPG. He didn’t have two veterans down low to put up around 25 each per night, and his only perimeter option was Waiters (then a rookie). So perhaps I’m not softly murmuring “What the fuck?” This is tad more direct. “Yo dude. What in the fuck are you talking about?”
Simmons isn’t uninformed in a way that’s obvious, because he simply rehashes the narratives we’re used to seeing in the basketball media. We’re simply observing the mental wanderings of a writer trying to create a narrative where narratives don’t exist. The inherent flaw is how basketball media sells itself, and how the NBA sells its players. The way traditional sports media relates basketball to us is at odds with the way the game happens on the floor. The NBA might be interested in selling you individual players, but basketball is still a team game, and that doesn’t change no matter who is sitting down for the postgame news conference.
That’s precisely why Simmons arrives at his uninformed conclusion, and Rose vehemently disagrees.
Simmons doesn’t think the Cavaliers will make the playoffs, because he chooses to believe player stories about Irving, Bynum, and Jack. Rose sees beyond the media narrative, and proposes Cleveland is a middle tier playoff team. Simmons cannot process it, because his brain isn’t wired for how basketball works. It’s wired for basketball narratives he would like to compose.
The 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers will win 49 games, and be the fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference.
That sounds insane, until you analyze what’s going on with this franchise, and look outside individual player narratives. Mike Brown is back at the helm, and he’s directing a team stocked with lottery picks under the age of 25. It’s worth nothing that I wrote this entire column in October, then sat on it for two months because I was being a lazy dickhead. Now that we’re in the season, my prediction looks to be shockingly accurate. Aside from a few verbiage alterations to reflect 23 played games, Ramon and Katherine can co-sign that I didn’t need to change anything here.
The solution(s) at center
The most obvious acquisition and “media talking point” isn’t as much a factor as he’s being portrayed as. Andrew Bynum isn’t being asked to be the backbone of this franchise like he was in Philadelphia. It was completely stupid to even think that he could be a franchise player like that anyway. In fact, I’ll predict that Brown platoons Bynum with Anderson Varejao, with Bynum averaging 26-28 minutes per game at most. His 2011-12 Lakers campaign exposed a weakness in his large frame: Playing Bynum 35 minutes per game just won’t work out. In Cleveland, he’ll be able to keep a manageable load on his knees.
Taking a look back at the Lakers 2011-12 season reveals some interesting data: Bynum averaged a career high in PPG (18.7), but he also did so playing more MPG than he ever had (35.2). I’m of the opinion the Lakers wanted Bynum to be something that he would never be, and pushed him beyond his limits. The Buss family fished high for him in the 2005 draft with the hopes he’d be the center of the future, but were disappointed by his durability. Playing a big man with historically bad knees 35+ MPG, coming off three consecutive knee surgeries seems like an ill-advised move, because it is.
The is the second stage of Bynum’s career, which is odd, because he’s only 25 years old. In Mike Brown’s offense, he won’t be a featured offensive player, and will see a vastly reduced role. Platooning with Varejao means keeping their minutes to a minimum, while still keeping a prototypical center on the floor. Simmons is right that the Cavaliers can’t hinge their future on him, but I don’t think it was ever their intent to. That’s why they have so many opt-out periods in his contract. If Bynum stays healthy, he’s worth about 25 minutes, 12 points, and 9 rebounds an evening. If Bynum doesn’t stay healthy, the Cavaliers will cut bait and look for another big man capable of filling the 25/12/9 role.
Varejao is actually in a similar boat to Bynum, albeit being six years older. In 2012-13, Varejao had a record high PPG (14.1), but also saw a record high MPG (36.0). Unlike Bynum, his problems aren’t all about his knees. Last season Varejao sat out most of the season due to a blood clot in his lung. Two years prior it was a broken wrist. The year before that it was an ankle issue. With Varejao seeing fewer minutes, fatigue and injury should be less prevalent. If Varejao can put together 20-ish MPG, along with a 9/7 /1 PRB line, the Cavaliers will look like geniuses. If either player goes down with an injury, the Cavaliers can look to their bench and Tyler Zeller for a reliable 8-12 minutes per game.
If you don’t respect Tristan Thompson yet, you soon will. He’s a defense first, tall, long forward. Think “Chris Bosh, without as much perimeter shooting capability.” As of this writing, he leads the team in rebounding, and is averaging 11 PPG, checking in behind Waiters and Irving. Right now, the only downfall to Thompson’s game isn’t really so much Thompson, as it is Anthony Bennett. If Cleveland has one, glaring problem, it’s number one overall pick Bennett. He’s fat, looks unmotivated, and plays confused. He has played 115 minutes this season, which is in sharp contrast to the 720 played by number two overall pick Victor Oladipo with the Magic. Mike Brown doesn’t trust Bennett, and rightfully so. Bennett was supposed to provide some mid-range wing play, and be the first-scoring option outside Waiters, and perhaps Thompson. Showing up to training camp at 245 pounds (cough cough motherfucking cough, TRY 265) didn’t help anything.
If Bennett can get his act together, this team could break 50 wins. The Eastern Conference is playing at just a notch above D-League level right now, and their only competition for a three or four seed is Atlanta.
Will someone please tell Kyrie Irving how sorry I am? He’s now being platooned with Dion Waiters, because putting them both on the floor at the same time means that Jarrett Jack would have to often run the offense alone, and that’s not something that can ever happen, considering Irving truly is a score first point guard without any real other offensive weapons, aside from Waiters. Irving’s assist numbers look horrible, because the only person capable of padding that stat line for him isn’t usually on the floor at the same time. Hashtag: Cleveland, nah’mean?
The bigger picture Simmons just doesn’t understand
Basketball is different than when he was watching the Celtics in the 1980s. It’s not just the players either. The rules themselves have fundamentally changed, and that means different players with different skill sets are going to succeed in ways they haven’t before. This happened because of the the hand-check rules.
When I was learning to play basketball in the ’90s, we were taught about defense being a participatory thing. The offensive player wanted to get by you, but you could use your hands to influence his motion in certain situations. The relationship between offense and defense was a dance, and the greatest defensive players knew how to use their hands to limit their opponent. You couldn’t grab a player, but open hands were mostly OK, unless someone was driving by you, and you obviously reached out an arm-bar to impede motion.
In 2004, everything changed. The Los Angeles Lakers, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant , were unable to beat a skilled defense of no-name players. It was a travesty for the NBA, because their golden team had been upset by something not flashy, and not good for television. Something had to be done. In retaliation, David Stern and the powers that be started slowly phasing out hand-checking. The numbers speak for themselves.
In the year before the hand-checking rule was altered, only Tracy McGrady averaged more than 25 points per game.
In the year after the hand checking rule was altered, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tracy McGrady, and Gilbert Arenas all topped 25 points per game.
One year later, the list went from the seven aforementioned players, to 10.
The loss of hand-checking means the best defensive players aren’t built upon strength, but rather length and quickness. Shaquille O’Neal could use his hands to influence motion, but the same cannot be said for Roy Hibbert of the Pacers. Defensively, you’ll often see him throw his hands up as a symbol of, “There is no way this is a foul. I’m letting him go right by me.” You never saw Shaq doing that, because the rules were different.
That’s why when we’re talking about the teams that can control a game, names like San Antonio, Miami, and Indiana continually pop up. If Jerry Sloan were still coaching, we’d be talking about his team here as well. Coaches who can teach a defense, and players who understand exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, all win games. Basketball is no longer about hand-checking and upper body strength as a means of defense. Everything is about footwork. That’s why Kawhi Leonard is perhaps the most valuable small forward in the league. If any small forward has faster feet than Leonard, please let me know.
But wait, there’s more. Before 2002, there was no three-second rule for defensive players. Centers were free to hang out in the lane for as long as they wanted. An opposing point guard was welcome to drive the lane, but they would do so with the knowledge a seven-footer would be waiting, ready to step into them. After 2002, Stern changed the rules “to open up the game.” His words, exactly.
We’re not done yet. When I was playing basketball, you used to be able to take a charge from near where many point guards would be finishing their drives. They now call this area “the restricted area,” and you cannot draw a charge from a four foot semi-circle outside the base line. It’s the NBA’s way of saying, “No. Seriously. We do not want you playing anything resembling defense. Please allow spectacular dunks to proceed as planned.”
What I’m trying to say here is that Bill Simmons judges basketball teams like a guy who watched a ton of basketball in the ’80s and ’90s. It’s probably just a conditioned thing, where he sees player attributes, and translates those attributes into ideas that only work in a bubble circa 1992. Simmons needs to hop back in his time machine and return to the modern era.
I owe a great deal of my sports writing credibility to Bill Simmons. In fact, Bro Jackson as a whole only exists because of an exodus from Grantland. After writing about the 2012 fantasy football season, I found myself in a boat with nine other reality star castaways, adrift in a sports news void. A couple weeks after the contest, we coalesced into the site you’re now reading. So before I go any further, I just want to state that I’m not bitter about my experience with Grantland. ↩
Admirably, I might add. They weren’t getting blown out. All of their losses were between three and eight points. ↩