Why is ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ So Important?

To Pimp A Butterfly @ www.JPLimeProductions.comIt’s been nearly two full weeks and most of us Hip Hop Heads have had a chance to at least ingest if not fully digest Kendrick Lamar’s newest output, an expansive, cinematic concept album of sorts entitled To Pimp a Butterfly. With its sonic influences and styles, its deep (yet accessible) subject matter, and a minimum of veritable “bangers” (though I’ve already been caught on repeat with i, King Kunta and Alright), there are those who are able to find disappointment with this as the follow-up to the Grammy-nominated debut good Kid, m.A.A.d City. For many of us, though, it’s sheer brilliance, an instant classic unlike anything that’s emerged in the last 15 years. So let’s take a look at just what makes it such an important Hip Hop album, work of art, and cultural statement in this review of To Pimp a Butterfly.

What exactly is …Butterfly?
Some have described it like a movie, others like a novel and while detractors decry its abundance of funk and jazz, it is most definitely Hip Hop.
It is unabashedly, explorationally and absolutely intentionally Black.
It is Big. As evidenced on GKMC K.Dot really knows how to craft a story arc and though the readings of TPAB are bound to be less literal, there is a depth in its abstraction that makes it larger in scope than his debut.
On that same note, it is a concept album, one that seems to grow from the inside out, though the concept is not entirely clear yet. He has composed a specific story, with motivation, character, and nuance but as he said in his RollingStone interview in reference to the title’s meaning, it’ll be up to students and professors in future college classes to determine what it really means.

There is also the question to be asked in terms of the two metaphors linked to the album’s title, what/who exactly is the Butterfly?
There is the metaphor in the final piece Kendrick reads on “Mortal Man”, describing the caterpillar and the butterfly. There is also the metaphor inherent in phrasing the album’s title to match Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. These two metaphors are certainly related but are they the same? What does each contribute to the narrative?

At a passing glance TPAB might appear to be denouncing the larger society be it government/police/record labels/white authority, seeking to pimp the young black American male for his beauty and talent, coopting the urban black experience while simultaneously fearing and demonizing it. And while the album doesn’t shy away from this narrative, delving into it on the opening two tracks, it’s really just a precursor (or a bait-and-switch, as on “The Blacker the Berry”) to the lesson that the greatest enemy lies within. Before being able to take on larger, external enemies, the argument goes, America’s black community must first learn the Respect described on “Mortal Man” and the elimination of the hypocrisy that is the backbone of “The Blacker the Berry”. It is the cornerstone of Lamar’s controversial and over-blown twitter comments during the Ferguson, MO protests. It is what we learn in the final piece, that the caterpillar is the one blindly pimping the butterfly, not knowing that by tearing into the cocoon that is his community he destroys a piece of himself. In pimping the butterfly, symbolizing African-American beauty, strength and power (his antennas), the caterpillar misrepresents his own culture for short-term gain, a move he perceives as necessary for survival. It is where one metaphor meets the other, in the destruction of innocence and beauty by the overarching forces of greed and fear. TPAB adds to the conversation with statements about combatting this cycle, beginning from within. In the final part of the conversation with Tupac, Kendrick seems to be taking the next step forward for Pac’s work as well. With the final reading of the caterpillar/butterfly piece Pac disappears and it leaves me with the notion that Pac has nothing further to add at the moment because he can see that K.Dot is carrying on his work.

The album opens with a sample of Boris Gardner’s “Every ni**er is a star” that fades up and opens beautifully from we know not whence, gentle and off-putting at the same time. It breaks on a James Brown-esque “Hit me!” before switching to a sound reminiscent of Snoop circa 2000, complete with West Coast beat, high-pitched singing and George Clinton voice-over. It’s “Wesley’s Theory”, describing the elements that make many rapper’s rise to success so cliché and often foolhardy. The catch, of course, is that while Uncle Sam wants to see you pile that debt high he will always come to collect. It’s the start of a three-song opening Act, a prologue even, catching the listener up to the beginning of the journey about to be undertaken. As the song ends we get our first taste of what makes this feel like an Outkast record (a not uncommon comparison). As we hear “taxman coming!” from the two unreferenced female “background singers”, itself a stylistic impulse of the Andre and Big Boi, the song stops on a dime to be contrasted by the squeaks of a saxophone. “For Free?”, technically labelled an interlude, sees Kendrick go full slam poet over the jazz piano of Robert Glasper. He returns to the refrain “this dick ain’t free” throughout the single verse in answer to “America, [the] bad bitch” with a quick pace and sharp tongue. It is sonically jarring and captivating, a proper preview of what lies ahead before we conclude the prologue with what might be the album’s best track. “King Kunta” is like an audio version of ‘Shaft’ starring James Brown where Kendrick asserts his rap royalty over an infectious swing beat. Nuanced with the unreferenced female background singers as well as male ones such as on “something’s in the water”, it’s a strutting song adorned with JB and P-Funk references both sonic and literal.

I remember you were conflicted,
Misusing your influence…

Is he interviewing the ghost of 2pac?? READ ON…

Jagged Thoughts #68: Watching The Cameraman Leave The Set

oddball_jagged_thoughts_train_middle (1)

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Jason Wright sounds like he’s getting something off his chest on his latest Jagged Thoughts. “When you place hate in your mind, or on the shit that you write, then you are living differently than the poet way of life.” Take heed angry poets, Oddball Magazine‘s got something to say.

I realized something as the cameraman left the set
An older man, with not a lot left,
A skeptic of sorts, who missed breakfast
But why he said, what he said
I get but don’t get.

I imagine he had the best intentions
After he left I’m still thinking about what he said
And why he said it.
And I think what he said he meant it, but maybe in a different way
As the poet got off the stage,
The poet said respect the game, and respect the age.
Read and write poetry for its healing vibes, to heal communities
To Change our lives,
And what I think the camera man meant to say in response
Was to remind us to show respect to each and everyone
And I get that,
Because the right leg and the left leg
Walk the same body
And we are all poets,
some flows are slow and low and some are the nicest
And then there are flows that are villanelles and sonnets
But as the eighty-year old,
Said what he said, something sunk in long after he left

After he left.
People started talking
We all agreed, that what he said
Was wrong, and I thought totally f’d
But for real, I understand what he meant

Respect. Everyone.
No matter, skin tone.
Home or no home,
Lost and alone, or watching the throne
The stoned, the sober, the drunk and the rest
All tribes are on quests
The beasties, and the westies, lefties, righties, easties
Man, as poets we got to learn, learn and teach the people
That poetry is unifying but can divide,
it can Elevate or Deflate, it can bust your ego in the third eye
Or it can define you, it can form a legacy before you die.
Your words are forever, they remain after the game.
Unite Poets, Wordgamers, Artists, Musicians
Those with the dying wish to live within the bruises.
Those obtuse, rude, confused, dudes and ladies
Remember this
When you throw shade on shadows, light never gets in
And when you place hate in your mind, or on the shit that you write
Then you are living differently than the poet way of life.

So 80 years or 60 Years there is a similar perspective
But the cats in the game now,
we left bigotry, and hate at the door,
before we wiped our feet
And took seats on the stage or the 13th floor.
But you want to know what the truth is?
There is nothing more stupid and useless then fighting about race and the color of our faces,
We all share the same space.
And so that’s what I learned as the camera man left,
And want to say big ups to the poets who read, and much respect.
And to the speaker, the feature, man he brought down the building,
And showed us that life is really for living. And that poetry is to uplift
To teach the people, there is no good and evil, there is no second sequel
Real talk poets.
We got one life,
So let’s unite, and uplift.
Instead of denigrate and deny.
Take this life’s punches standing, and eventually we’ll all be landing
On the same moon, the same tomb, 6 feet where were standing.
Don’t waste your time throwing shade, or promoting hatred
Cause we all one day
Are going to
Exit
The stage we created.

Real talk

Jason Wright is the founder and Editor of Oddball Magazine. His column appears weekly.

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Hip Hop’s All-Time Top 5 – A Case for Kendrick Lamar

King KendrickLast week, Kendrick Lamar released To Pimp A Butterfly, the highly anticipated follow-up to his 2012 Grammy nominated and certified classic major label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts and was universally well received by critics, fellow artists, and pretty much anyone I’ve spoken to about it. The worst things I’ve heard so far have been, to paraphrase, “it’s great, but it’s not the instant classic like good kid, m.A.A.d city was and “I think it’s good, but Kendrick didn’t go hard enough, it’s too jazzy.” That’s it. Not yet a classic to some, and a little too smooth and mellow musically to others. I loved To Pimp A Butterfly. I also loved good kid, m.A.A.d city.

Taking nothing away from any of the big albums from the last few years (Yeezus, Nothing Was The Same, My Name Is My Name, and My Krazy Life to name a few), Kendrick’s first two major label releases are the only two I would actually consider to be classic records. I’m also a big fan of his pre-Aftermath Records release, 2011’s Section .80. I typically like him on features. His presence on tracks makes them a better overall listen, and often he steals the show, most notably on his now infamous “Control” verse, which we’ll get back to in a bit.

His discography includes a sizable mixtape catalog of which I’ve heard a few tracks, but admittedly not all of them. I mention that in the interest of fairness for my next few statements. I haven’t heard all of his music, but I’ve certainly heard quite a bit. With the understanding that there may be songs with which I’m not familiar and therefore may not necessarily fall in line with I’m about to say, thus far I’ve yet to come across a Kendrick Lamar track, whether it’s his own or one he’s featured on, that has been a dud. In fact, at worst everything I’ve heard has been better than average. He’s consistently solid, often outstanding, and every once in a while, transcendent.

He’s an exceptional emcee. Not just a true artist, but one of the best of his time. In fact, as controversial as this may To Pimp A Butter Flycome across initially, he’s in my Top 5. You may think to self, “of course he’s Top 5 of this generation, up there with Drake, Nicki Minaj, and a few others.” But that’s not what I’m saying. Kendrick Lamar is already Top 5 all time. I can already hear the clamor from the Biggie, Jay-Z, and LL Cool J camps. I know Nas, ‘Pac , and Scarface enthusiasts are likely taken aback by this sentiment and there’s a 40 year old out there thinking I don’t know the first thing about Kool Moe Dee and Big Daddy Kane. But whether Andre 3000, Talib Kweli, Lil’ Wayne, or Slick Rick are your favorite emcees, can you really deny Kendrick’s brilliance?

With all due respect to all of these great emcees, how many of them have two classic albums? Discussing classic records, just like discussing Top 5s is a largely subjective, often frustrating exercise. I recognize that. Everyone’s criteria for a classic album is different. Some use the term too freely, deeming pretty much any album from the mid-90s a classic. Mobb Deep’s The Infamous for example is from this time-frame and is a great album, but not quite a classic in my book. Is it really on the same plane as Illmatic, The Chronic, and Ready To Die? Again, that’s not to dis the album or Mobb Deep. I’m a fan of the record and have nothing but the utmost respect for Prodigy and Havoc, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

Some people are such huge fans of certain artists that they deem any solid record said artist drops a classic. Jay-Z and Kanye West fans come to mind and truth be told there’s a lot of classic material among the two. Jay-Z arguably has four, with Reasonable Doubt, and Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life being my definite entries and both The Black Album and The Blueprint receiving strong consideration. The other two Blueprint or Hard Knock Life projects? Not classics. Magna Carta Holy Grail? Not a classic either. Kanye? I’ll give him College Dropout and Graduation. I take a lot of heat for saying that Graduation is Kanye’s best album, but pop it in, let it play in its entirety, then tell me how you feel about it. Yeezus and 808s and Heartbreaks though? Not classics. Jay and Ye’s collaborative record, Watch The Throne? No way.

KendrickGKMCDeluxeOthers focus on strictly record sales or cultural impact when considering classic records. By that logic (or lack thereof) any Eminem and/or Tupac album is deemed a classic. I’d argue that between the two artists’ vast bodies of work, there are two classics minimum, four tops. Me Against The World and The Marshall Mathers LP are the definite entries. All Eyez On Me and The Slim Shady LP are damn close on some days and actually classics on others, depending on how stringently I’m setting my criteria.

So yes, admittedly I even struggle with my own all time rankings, further emphasizing the point that this is not an exact science. Even if you’re not too strict on your own classic ranking criteria however, the list of emcees or groups with 2+ classics (or one undisputed classic along with other great albums that may be classics) isn’t too long. We’re talking Dr. Dre, Biggie, Eminem, Jay-Z, Tupac, Outkast, Run DMC, The Beastie Boys, Nas, Kanye West, and LL Cool J. And Kendrick Lamar.

Think about that. Read that list back. That’s the company that K. Dot has put himself in with To Pimp A Butterfly.

He’s amongst the all time greats. There are so many attributes that make him today’s premier emcee, and one of Hip Hop’s standout artists. For one thing, he’s very versatile. Conscious songs are one of his stronger points. Throughout his career he’s put out thought-provoking, inspiring music, with a strong pro-Black focus. A track like “Black Boy Fly” from good kid, m.A.A.d city where Kendrick raps about different avenues out of poverty, citing childhood examples from his hometown of Compton along with his own experiences, showcases his ability to put together an empowering, uplifting track that’s rooted in truth. “HiiiPoWeR” from Section .80 is a prime example of Kendrick waxing political from an intelligent, young, Black male perspective, highlighted by lyrics such as:

Who said a black man in Illuminati?
Last time I checked that was the biggest racist party
Last time I checked, we was racing with Marcus Garvey
on the freeway to Africa till I wreck my Audi
And I want everybody to view my autopsy
So you can see exactly where the government had shot me
No conspiracy, my fate is inevitable
They play musical chairs once I’m on that pedestal

Conscious Rap isn’t the only lane Kendrick can navigate however. With “Poetic Justice” he showed us he can rap for the ladies. On “Backseat Freestyle” he gets super-lyrical. For another great example of K. Dot displaying his dexterity as a lyricist along with a fantastic ability to transform his style to best fit the track he’s been asked to feature, check out “Love Game” from Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP 2. He pretty much morphs into his own version of Slim Shady and delivers an extraordinary, witty, lyrically potent performance that complements Eminem’s subject matter and delivery perfectly. On “m.A.A.d City”, he joined forces with West Coast legend MC Eight for an organic sounding 90s feel gangsta rap track. And of course, on his “Control” verse, he showed us that he can literally shake up the entire game with what ultimately amounted to a pre-preemptive battle rap. It’s worth noting that not one of the multitude of replies to his warning shots were anywhere near as impactful as his one verse. Score another win for Kendrick. On top of all that, the guy’s pretty good at freestyling too. And don’t get it twisted; we mean actual, off the top of the head, unprepared freestyles, not the scripted verses that are too often presented as a true freestyle. He’s got that covered too.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON WHY KENDRICK IS ALREADY A TOP 5 ALL TIME EMCEE

‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ Early Release – Error or Tactic?

dangeroo tweet

As we discuss in other posts, an instant modern Hip Hop classic dropped last week in Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Though it had been set for a March 23rd release date, fans everywhere were surprised when at midnight Sunday the 15th the album became available on iTunes and Spotify. Presently it’s still unclear whether this early release was an intended “surprise” tactic, in line with Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and Beyonce’s 2013 self-titled album, or some kind of error on the part of someone at Interscope Records. The record company wants us all to believe that it was completely intentional, that it was a stunt rather than a mistake. But in following the Twitter feeds of that Sunday night, it didn’t necessarily seem that way. Anthony Tiffith aka “Top”, CEO of Top Dawg Entertainment, the label to which Lamar is signed, reacted with surprise and anger with the above tweet that has since been deleted.  This was about 20 minutes after the clean version’s release and 40 mins before the explicit copy was made available.  In response to Top’s anger there was even a wave of support from fans saying they wouldn’t buy the album until its “intended” release date on the 23rd . The story gets stranger as we go back a few hours into March 15th, when at around 6 pm Tiffith tweets:

This post had a string of replies which eventually turned to confusion once the “leak” had been realized. At 12:33 am he tweeted that “This is the kraziest shit ever” and an hour later there were a host of fans having problems with the iTunes pre-order. By morning, though, Top’s twitter feed was filled with messages from fans and fellow musicians, praising the work as an instant classic.

Given the less-than-seamless rollout and Top’s lengthy expression of surprise, the argument for it being an error would seem reasonable. But K. Dot’s own underused Twitter account also adds some cloudiness to the picture. Who did it and why?? K.Dot? Top? Interscope? READ ON…

“April Cool’s Day” by Vernon C. Robinson

VCR @ www.JPLimeProductions.comIn honor of #WorldPoetryDay we bring you a piece by Boston artist Vernon C. Robinson, who will be the feature for this upcoming Monday’s Stone Soup Open Mic.  Learn more at OddballMagazine.com.

April Cool’s Day
an ode to Gil Scott-Heron

Born in Chi-Town with a third eye sound
Moved with his mama in the boogie-down Bronx
Haven’t you heard this, spoken wordsmith
Representing afros instead of conks
Catch his street lyrics if you can really hear it
Iller than patients at your local health clinic
Spittin’ classic tunes like “Whitey On The Moon”
Just a sample of small talk at 125th and Lenox
Who’ll pay reparations for his soul and creation?
That open up ears and widen up eyes
Understand if you can several pieces of this man
Informing that the revolution will not be televised
Inspired me still at my own free will
To write and recite in order to save the children
He speaks louder with action, collab with Brian Jackson
Compositions that’ll shatter red bricks off a building
Calling on the names of Lady Day and Coltrane
With influences like Havens, Redding and Langston Hughes
One can go far when you are who you are
With the “Get Out The Ghetto” and “H2O-Gate” blues
Ain’t no new thing when whites labeled Elvis “the King”
Proof there’s winter in America
Home is where the hatred is and never sacred
Though we gotta move on and on like Erykah
See that Black boy over there, running scared
His heart’s in full throttle
But this poet’s been here many years without fear
Send conscious messages in bottles
Chase gray clouds away in the middle of your day
Thanks to this brother, I think I’ll call it morning
It’s his world as the truth unfurls
Illustrated onstage every time he’s performing
The needle’s eye with a thread, did you hear what they said
He sings the blues of the Bicentennial
Smacking Agnew and Tricky Dick too
With modern day slavery that seems identical
At home I thought I felt the sting of apartheid
From South Africa to South Carolina
And yes in South Boston with racial exhaustion
His words keep you focused as a daily reminder
What an icon so let’s turn his mic on
He’s a moving target for those who oppose
So realize the real lies, visualized from his real eyes
With electric piano and flute that bless shows
In 2011 a new year, he’s new here
He do care for Hip-Hop heads and all others
Even after his passing, his work remains everlasting
In closing I say, “peace go with you, brother!”

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NFL Free Agency Frenzy

free agency frenzy @ www.JPLimeProductions.comSo I know baseball is kicking off soon and both basketball and hockey are at the season’s peak but last week also marked a significant event in my favorite sport, the opening of NFL free agency. And what a week it was! It was definitely the most active FA opening I can remember especially in terms of big-name players. Running backs were shuffled, the Eagles changed their entire team, and our hometown Pats have many questioning their plan of action (not me, though, In Bill We Trust). Now that some of the dust has settled, let’s take a look at the NFL Free Agent Frenzy.

Running Back Shuffle

The biggest impact in the free agent market was made as several of the league’s running backs found new homes. Seattle extended the services of one Beast Mode Lynch for two years to the tune of $12M/yr but he was one of the few that opted for a return to his 2014 team. LeSean McCoy, last season’s biggest RB bust, found himself not in control of his own fate as he was jettisoned to northern New York in exchange for recently ACL-less middle linebacker Kiko Alonso. That trade would prove to be the first step in Chip Kelly’s Eagle Overhaul, signing Demarco Murray and Ryan Mathews to fill/outgrow/completely eviscerate Shady’s shoes. demarco-murray-jersey @ www.JPLimeProductions.comThe Cowboys missed out on bringing back Murray by offering a paultry sum, the refusal of which seemed to leave them genuinely surprised. Did the Cowboys pull a stupid by letting the league’s leading rusher just walk out the door after offering him $6M/yr with bad guarantees? I think so and to me this is the single biggest personnel loss of the offseason thus far, one that will dramatically alter Dallas’s future. Murray was clearly the heart of the Cowboys offense in 2014, (13 td’s, 1800+ yds) and with a feeble Tony Romo only growing feebler, 2015 is not looking promising for America’s Team. In the wake of McCoy becoming a Buffalo Bill, 6th-year player CJ Spiller found himself the odd man out. His best days may yet be before him, though, as a move from far north to deep south pairs him an elite quarterback for the first time in his career in Drew Brees.

Frank Gore, a career 49er, initially looked to be joining Kelly’s new squad before being diverted by the chance to play with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, recently rid of their Trent Richardson clusterfuck. The Colts also added also-aging Andre Johnson, making a few new interesting weapons for the Luck Dragon to join with one of the league’s best young receivers in T.Y. Hilton (82 receptions, 1000+ yards in each of the last two seasons). To fill Gore’s place, San Fran will be leaning heavily on 2014 2nd-rd draft pick Carlos Hyde, as well as tacking on journeyman Reggie Bush to a one-year deal.

Justin Forsett re-signed with the Ravens while Bernard Pierce was cut following a DUI arrest and immediately claimed by Jacksonville. Deangelo Williams moves from Carolina to Pittsburgh while Redskins’ #2 Roy Helu goes to Oakland along with Trent Richardson. The Cowboys elect to throw good money after bad by bringing in McFadden after wiffing on Murray. The Giants saw something in Shane Vereen they liked for $4M/yr. It’s just a shame the damn fool doesn’t know the career decline he just took… Oh yeah, and MGD finally retired. Got all that? A host of other lower tier running backs still await a 2015 home including but not limited to DuJuan Harris, Knowshon Moreno, Pierre Thomas, Stevan Ridley and Ben Tate. And as for the best running back that didn’t play in 2014, Adrian Peterson’s future (was slightly more solidified) yesterday as the Vikings announced they would not be releasing the star tailback whose child discipline case last year is said to have soured his relationship with the only team he has known for his 8 NFL seasons. Trade speculation is high, especially as it concerns Cardinals’ receiver Larry Fitzgerald but the Vikings organization has maintained a hard line of wanting Peterson back.

Other big players

Tight Ends seemed to be a big commodity early on with Julius Thomas taking a nosedive into Jacksonville and Owen Daniels moving from Baltimore to Denver to take his place. Jordan Cameron’s 2yr/$15M Miami deal represents a renewed commitment to their offense and caused a ripple among AFC East TE’s with Scott Chandler coming to the Pats and former Dolphin Charles Clay headed to Buffalo. The Bills are the immediate loser in this trio with Chandler’s “Pats killer” history now co-opted while Miami swaps in an elite talent at the position for an inconsistent one in Clay.

Among wideouts Jeremy Maclin heading to Kansas City was the biggest early news, but I suspect that the move will deflate the career momentum the receiver gained last season. The once great Dwayne Bowe traded one flawed offensive system for another as he signed a 2-yr deal with Cleveland, while Cecil Shorts headed to Houston and former Falcon Harry Douglas became arguably the #1 in Tennessee. Torrey Smith made the decision to follow former teammate Anquan Boldin from the Ravens to the 49ers leaving many to wonder what will happen with Michael Crabtree. Just before the free agency period began Chicago made a head-scratcher of a trade, sending Brandon Marshall to the Jets in exchange for a draft upgrade from 7th to 5th round. In the wake of that trade, boom-or-bust receiver Percy Harvin became expendable and was immediately picked up by former Jets coach Rex Ryan in Buffalo.

CLICK HERE FOR ANALYSIS ON THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES AND DARRELLE REVIS

Rap Flashback, March Edition

It’s time once again for another dose of Hip Hop History, with the one-of-a-kind Rap Flashback.  Featured this month are Run-DMC’s self-titled debut, Pac’s ‘Me Against the World’, and BDP’s ‘Criminal Minded’, as well as a word of remembrance for those we’ve lost and birthday shout-outs for Queen Latifah, MC Hammer and others.
You must learn!

CLICK HERE for past editions of the Rap Flashback

CLICK HERE for past editions of the Rap Flashback

Seven Times 37: Music Lust

seven times @ www.JPLimeProductions.comFrom our friends at Oddball Magazine, here’s the latest from poet Andrew Borne’s ‘Seven Times‘ column, entitled “Music Lust”.  Find much more from the Bean’s best poetry magazine, including work from members of the Lime at OddballMagazine.com.

 

Music Lust

The soldiers come over the hill with the rising sun
An out-of-tune trumpeter leads the way
Sorrowful notes expelled from the rusty horn
An invisible elephant swings his trunk low
Marching behind his company

The geisha dances slowly for her customers
The koto fills the space between the charming chant
Notes fall soft like bold dying leaves
The taiko moves like a cargo ship
Docking at the port in San Pedro

A sleepy queen bumble bee fills up on nectar
Burrowing into the roots of an ancient oak for the imminent winter
The brass skeleton key rattles in the locked door
The piano player puts his head to the window pane
Feeling the draft against his skin as he watches another snow

A wolf’s portrait in distinct lines
Electric brown tinged with cream
Inspired predator of monochrome
The eyes staring down at me
In flawless gray

Venus Di Mannequin
Bathes in the pond
The pine pollen paints the surface a cautious yellow
The blossoming blue lotuses
Brush against her virgin breasts

Music lust, wish you could hear with my ears for once
The thirsty woman drinking her glass of summer wine
At the luncheon of the boating party
Between the men in top hats and the ones in sleeveless shirts
Aline plays with her puppy as the sun turns into a tea rose

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2015 NBA MVP Candidates Explored Through Rap Lyrics

NBA-MVPAs the NBA season enters its final month, we’re going to take a look at four players we consider to be at the top of the list of MVP candidates. First off, let’s acknowledge guys like Lamarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard in Portland and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in Los Angeles, all having stellar seasons, but all lose some MVP points due to the admittedly unfair fact that they’re playing alongside another All-Star having a great season. Same goes for about five of the Atlanta Hawks, who we’ll discuss more in a bit. As for a fifth candidate who didn’t crack out top four; Anthony Davis, the youngster out in New Orleans averaging a 25 a game while grabbing 10 boards and blocking 3 shots. So kudos to all these guys for the great years they’re having, but they didn’t crack our top four.

That said, simply listing our top 4 and their corresponding claims to the MVP trophy isn’t our style. Along with each write-up we’ll also be providing a Rap lyric that in one way or another speaks to that player and his MVP run. To keep the post PG, we’ve taken some liberties in editing out the swear words from our MVP lyrics of choice where applicable. Also, all quoted core statistics are per game and were pulled from http://www.basketball-reference.com. They are accurate as of the date of this post. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the NBA’s top candidates for the 2015 MVP title.

Lebron James – 26 points / 5.8 rebounds / 7.4 assists / 1.6 steals

MVP Lyric

And I am one, of one. Can’t you see just how long my run?” / “They come, they go. Some real, some faux. Some friends, some [pros]. But no I, goes nowhere, it’s Hov.” — Jay-Z from “A Star Is Born

Despite missing 9 games due to nagging knee injuries, Lebron James once again has his team near the top of the Eastern Conference as the Cleveland Cavaliers currently hold the 2 seed, though it’s worth mentioning that they’re a sizable 10 games back of the Atlanta Hawks. That said, save for a slight dip in rebounds per game (his 5.8 per game this season are his lowest since 5.5 per game during his rookie year), Lebron’s 2015 core stats are right on pace with his career numbers, including his output from his four MVP seasons. That said, perhaps in part due to those nagging injuries and/or adjusting to a new cast of characters in Cleveland, his shooting percentages are down a bit this year. From the stripe he’s down from roughly 75% over the previous six years to a hair under 72% this year. His field goal percentage from two point range currently stands at just under 55%, a stellar number, but 6% lower than his previous 2 year average of 61%, and from three-point range he’s under 35% for the first time since the 2011 season.

2012-2013 NBA Most Valuable Player AwardAre we nit-picking as far as statistics go? Absolutely, but when the bar is as high as Lebron’s raised it for himself, you almost have to. The main argument against Lebron James’ MVP candidacy this year seems to be that his production has dropped off slightly and therefore he can’t win it again. If he’s not producing at the same rate as his previous MVP years, how can we justify him winning it again? It’s almost like we’re so bored with putting Lebron at the top of the MVP discussion that we’re using his minor productivity drop to justify not doing so again this year. The flaw in that argument is that he’s not competing with himself and his past seasons, but rather his peers and their productions this year. And that brings us to our MVP lyric. Given that Lebron James and Jay-Z are fans of each other, it’s fitting the choice bars would come from Hov.

On his Blueprint III, Jay-Z speaks to his longevity as a prime time player in the Rap game. Given his track record, Jay can confidently declare that he is “one of one” (i.e. no other emcee is even comparable). He goes on to rap about how many come and go in Hip Hop, but not only is he still relevant today, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. This is exactly how we feel about Lebron’s MVP candidacy. Sure, his numbers are slightly down, but major injuries notwithstanding, is there any basketball player in the world who you would take over Lebron today if you had to build a team to win a Championship this season? If your answer is anything but “no,” you are crazy and you’re vastly undervaluing the best player in the world. Lebron is not only still a monster on the court, he’s still in the prime of his career, and as such, his MVP candidacy is alive and well, just like Jay-Z’s claim to the Throne.

Stephen Curry – 23.6 points / 4.4 rebounds / 7.8 assists / 2.2 steals

MVP Lyric

This [here’s really like] a lay up. I been Steph Curry with the shot. Been cookin’ with the sauce, chef, curry with the pot.” — Drake from “0-100 / The Catch Up

Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors have been going back and forth all season with the Atlanta Hawks for best record in the NBA. The Warriors are playing .800 ball this season thanks in large part to a deep roster built around Stephen Curry. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green provide fire power on the starting unit while Andrew Bogut gives them a strong low-post presence on both offense and defense. Andre Igoudala and Shaun Livingston are talented role players who solidify Golden State’s bench. It’s undeniable however that Stephen Curry has been their best player. If we adhere to the long-standing NBA rhetoric that the best player on the best team should be at the top of the MVP hierarchy, then Stephen Curry is a shoe-in.

This is an appropriate time to apologize to the entire Atlanta Hawk’s fan base for not including any of the Hawks on this list. The truth is that with five players averaging between 12 and 17 points per game, including both Al Horford and Paul Millsap who also average just shy of 7.5 rebounds as well as Jeff Teague who leads the team with 7.2 assists, the Hawks are so well-balanced that it’s difficult to pick one guy as a standout MVP candidate. Also, and this next statement is in no way meant to discredit any of the Hawks, but despite their fantastic results utilizing a balanced team approach, no one on that team is as good as our top four candidates. We can’t justify picking Jeff Teague over Stephen Curry, or Al Horford over Lebron James for example, and as such the Hawks’ top players all find themselves on the short end of the MVP stick. That’s not to say we don’t like what Atlanta’s doing. If you held a gun to my head right now, I’d pick Cleveland to come out of the East, but I’d very much like to see the Hawks in the NBA Finals.

That brings us back to Stephen Curry and our choice MVP lyric from Drake’s “0-100″. Steph Curry’s shot is so pretty and so effective that even a long-range jumper may as well be a lay-up for him. He’s still relatively young and barring injuries will remain a force in this league for years to come. With career two-point, three-point, and free-throw shooting percentages that thus far top Ray Allen’s however, he’s already widely considered as one of the best pure shooters the game’s ever known. Drake goes on to make a cooking analogy in our lyric of choice, fitting as Stephen Curry has a way of concocting the right recipe to get his shot off at any given moment, often in the face of heavy defense. Just watch the magnificent play shown below for a quick glance at what makes him such a special player. Simply put, Stephen Curry is the leader of the best team in the NBA and has contributed greatly on both offense and defense. His MVP candidacy is as strong as anyone’s on this list.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT WHO WE PICK FOR 2015 NBA MVP

St. Patrick’s Day in Boston

Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade took place on Sunday and the celebration continued straight through Tuesday. For last night’s revelry the Beantown faithful would be battling freezing temps and 20+ MPH winds but would that dampen their Irish-inspired spirits? Hell no- Erin Go Bragh! This is St. Patty’s Day 2015, Boston.

Check out these snapshots from one of the only places where it’s an official holiday and follow The Lime on Twitter and Instagram @jplime.

 

This year Mayor Marty Walsh participated in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade for the first time since 1993:

 

 

 

Meanwhile on Monday night, Boston’s Irish rockers performed a surprise concert at an odd place, Gate E4 at Logan Airport:

 

Sometimes it just takes a certain something to make the holiday complete:

CLICK HERE for more from inside Beantown’s Big Green Holiday…