Welcome back to the closing ceremonies… Part 2 of the 3rd Annual Gowhere NBA Awards! The after-party from Part 1 lasted through Opening Night, but I’m here today as we enter the season’s first full slate of games tonight.
The following is a deep dive into the league’s biggest storylines with commentary on what I think may come, and commentary on the biggest, or most slept on, storylines in music. Plus, add some new sounds to your playlist along the way. Without further ado…
The Gowhere NBA Awards conclude with:
– The ‘Nobody’s Smiling’ Award
– The ‘Hood Billionaire’ Award
– The Ladies ‘Dark R&B’ Award
– The Drake vs. Lil Wayne Tour Award
– The Chicago Independent Hip Hop Scene Award
The ‘Nobody’s Smiling’ Award goes to…
Allow me to pile onto the Kobe narratives with one that’s more of the same, yet a comparison that’s just the opposite. That’s because the parallels here are too clear NOT to smile. Easily my pick for the hip hop album of 2014, Common’s Nobody’s Smiling is also a perfect title for this forthcoming season from the Lakers. And I didn’t need last night’s disastrous first game that led to Julius Randle’s heart-wrenching injury, an overmatched Lakers team getting blown out, and Kobe jawing at Dwight, calling him “soft”, in said blowout to determine that this is going to be a sad season for L.A. Oh wait, that last part wasn’t disastrous, it was great.
Just following Kobe Bryant is going to be a fascinating, redeeming quality of this Lakers season. I’m totally OK that they have something like 45 of their games on national TV this year. Old man Kobe already proved in game 1 that he’ll be entertaining to watch — not just with the drama, but with his game. The Jordan fadeaways are in mid-season form and the best moment of the Lakers season will be when Kobe passes Jordan on the all-time scoring list.
That said, the season is very long. I’m intrigued to see if a healthy Kobe can maintain his patience when his hall-of-fame sidekick and rookie stud are already both out for the year and when his next best sidekicks can legitimately pull off a Rush Hour 4 sequel.
So even though Nobody’s Smiling, Kobe’s best hope is to create something from nothing. Hmm… perhaps “Blak Majik” should be the Black Mamba’s theme song this season. After all, that’s what it’s all about.
Perhaps I’m stretching at this point, but don’t Kobe & Common’s career trajectory mirror each other a little bit? Kobe, high school phenom, makes his first all-star game in his second year. Common, 20 years old, made his rap debut with Can I Borrow A Dollar? in 1992, and 2 years later, turned critical heads with Resurrection — featuring what many consider is one of the best hip hop songs of all time, “I Used To Love H.E.R.”.
Kobe, in his prime, wins 3 straight titles with Shaq from 2000-2002. Common links with Kanye West and the result is the only 2 albums nominated for the Best Rap Album Grammy with a win for “Southside” as Best Rap Performance by a Duo/Group.
Now, Kobe, at the twilight of his career, continues his quest as one of the game’s elite while Common just proved it with Nobody’s Smiling at age 42. However close you want to view them together, one thing’s for sure — let’s appreciate their excellence for as long as they choose to continue. #EverybodyUP!
The Ladies ‘Dark R&B’ Award goes to…
The Western Conference
Ok, so this award probably needs some explaining. What is ‘Dark R&B’? Why is seemingly everyone in the Western Conference shown above with their prestigious Gowhere NBA Award?
1. Dark R&B is a seldom used way to actually perfect describe a sub-genre of R&B. Dark moods, sounds, lyricism, and mysterious visuals to match. Think The Weeknd. Someone who I’d say is highly responsible for how much I’ve progressed in this genre since 2011.
This year, it has been the ladies who have frequented my playlist, a lot, yet they may not get as much consistent shine on Gowhere as the hip hoppers. Here’s your Cliff Notes on the artists and a kickstart for your playlist. In no particular order…
(also heard above on “Blak Majik”)
(She put a somber, serious twist on only the greatest song ever #JustKiddingButSeriously)
(Had to include the “Two Weeks” video to give you a sense of the visuals as a whole. An easy, cool pick, directed by Nabil, of Kanye fame.)
Tinashe and Teyana Taylor have solo albums just released or out next week, respectively, and both have some mood-altering dark sounds on what I’ve heard so far. Get up on any or all of the above; you really can’t go wrong, just like you can’t go wrong to predict any of the above teams to make a long playoff run.
2. As fun as the Western Conference was to follow last year, it should be even more exciting this season. When you look at the 8 teams that made the playoffs last season, there were 0 of them that took a large personnel step backwards. History says that the 8 teams won’t remain the same; it hasn’t happened since 1980 in the West (#TheStarters stat!).
So, that said, why are Goran Dragic and Anthony Davis in the photoshop? Because you can make the argument that their Suns or Pelicans, respectively, can improve enough to make the Playoffs this year. Counting the 3 locks not pictured (the Spurs, Thunder, and Clippers), that’s 10 teams for 8 spots. Every game will matter and, unfortunately, every injury will matter.
It’s the constant, ugly duckling that thwarts preseason predictions every year because they’re impossible to predict. The incumbent playoff teams pictured above (Blazers, Grizzlies, Warriors, Mavs, Rockets) are my non-locks as they are more susceptible to be a .500 team if one of their major rotation players falls to injury for an extended amount of time.
For example, what happens to Dallas’ defense if Tyson Chandler misses 20 games? What about the Rockets if James Harden or Dwight Howard miss some time? In fact, the Rockets are my team, if I had to pick one of the incumbents, that misses the playoffs. I just think they’re too thin on offensive creators and the least balanced amongst the rest of the playoff teams.
Call it a hunch more than anything, as you can also call my 2015 new playoff team: the New Orleans Pelicans. I feel they’re due for good health after a damaging season last year, and, let’s just say I’m with the rest of the population in saying that Anthony Davis is going to be the league’s next big superstar.
The ‘Hood Billionaire’ Award goes to…
I suppose this hunch is going to take some explaining as well. As you may or may not know, Rick Ross is prepping a new album, Hood Billionaire, for a Black Friday release next month. His newest single “Keep Doin That” is his latest materialistic affair that admittedly gets a fun assist from R. Kelly but also continues to promote more of the same. You don’t even have to watch the video, just look at the picture.
My question: why aren’t we collectively tired of Rozay yet? The corrections officer killed his credibility to me from the start and I just haven’t been able to vibe with his rough voice and delivery like the masses over the years. At this point, the only reasons I’d watch his video is if Kanye West was in it or DJ Khaled’s acting was in it (this is really a must-watch, guys.)
So to me, Hood Billionaire is shaping up to be more of the same. My NBA connection: Paul Pierce.
Not in a sense of, “Go away Paul Pierce,” but is this the year he falls off a little bit? He averaged a respectable 13.7 PPG last year with the Nets, but I question his fit with the Wizards.
Won’t he take away from Wall and Beal’s faster paced games? Remember, he fit in well with Joe Johnson and Deron Williams who play more his speed last season. Trevor Ariza was last year’s Wizards best perimeter wing defender. I’m sure Pierce will see some minutes on the other team’s best guy, but he can’t do it for the full 30 over a full season like Ariza could. In an ideal world, I feel he comes in off the bench and plays crunch time (especially in the playoffs), but I don’t know about an everyday starter anymore.
Again, call it a hunch, but I feel the Pierce addition to the Wiz is, at best, a wash with Ariza and see the Wizards winning the same amount of games this season. Come playoffs though, they’ll again be more dangerous than their regular season indicates.
The Drake vs. Lil Wayne Tour Award
for Best New Rivalry goes to…
Bulls vs. Cavs
No, Drake and Lil Wayne aren’t beefing.
I’m referring to their summer tour that pitted the two superstars against each other in a creative, Capcom inspired nightly battle across the country. Fans got to vote on an app what song they wanted to hear from Drake or Wayne next, then at the end of the show, vote on who wins.
One of the highly debated topics of preseason previews is who comes out of the East this year. After consuming much of the previews on the web or TV in the past month, I feel like it’s literally 50/50 amongst the experts. But 2 things jump out to comfort me that this is not a homer award.
1. Open Court previewed the season last week and the conversation turned towards the Bulls vs. the Cavs quicker than Derrick Rose on the fast break. Seriously, they wasted no time going on a tangent to Bulls/Cavs. It was sudden and phenomenal.
2. Bulls vs. Cavs in the preseason showed the potential of how fun this rivalry will be. Derrick Rose scored 30 points in 24 minutes; Kyrie nearly matched him with 28 points. The experts above, the national reporters who flew to Columbus, OH to cover the game, and of course, fans of the league are simply hyped for Rose vs. LeBron, Rose vs. Kyrie, Joakim vs. Love. Thibs vs. Blatt. Even Aaron Brooks vs. Matthew Dellavedova. (Ok, maybe not that last one.)
Appropriately enough, it’s not readily public knowledge who ended up winning between Drake and Lil Wayne. With each team at full strength, one can make the argument for either the Bulls or the Cavs to represent the East this year. I waver back and forth like I waver back and forth between which Carter V Wayne & Drake collab I like more. You really can’t go wrong with any pick. And above all, I just want to see (and hear) more for this year (and years to come).
The Chicago Independent Hip Hop Scene Award goes to…
San Antonio Spurs
Last season in this space, I compared the Chicago independent hip hop scene to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
I apologize, Chicago.
Let me redeem myself with this pick — comparing the still-growing Chicago scene to the champion San Antonio Spurs.
What jumps out to me about the Spurs is their variety of individual styles and versatility to play at any pace as a whole. They have specialists, role players, and don’t rely on any one star to carry them every night.
From a broader perspective, the Chicago independent hip hop scene is much the same. Sure, we may have one breakout star on the national level in Chance The Rapper, but not too long before that it was Chief Keef. And save for some random releases and features this year, Chance hasn’t really put out music and yet the Chicago music scene is still being nationally recognized through other artists like Lil Bibby, Lil Herb, Vic Mensa, Add-2, The Boy Illinois, just to name a handful in addition to groups like the Closed Sessions label and the Treated Crew. I know I’m missing a ton of artists who are doing their own thing; after all, the list was off the top of my head and the full list could be another 3000 words.
I’d argue that, when it comes to cities, Chicago has the highest quantity of ‘relevant’ artists in the independent scene. ‘Relevant’ in quotes is an airy way of saying artists who are getting posts on national blogs and other big-name co-signs. If you want to verify for yourself, just study a national blog like 2DopeBoyz who posts a similar mix of mainstream and independent music as us, per their own unique tastes. Another example: Complex. Chicago artists have been popping up on one of the largest platforms of hip hop culture more often in 2014. All of whom, in their own way, represent the melting pot of Chicago with their own style of hip hop that fits in sub-genres from drill to soulful to backpack, and more.
Need some examples? Simply put, stay in tune with us. Everyday we have new Chicago hip hop on the homepage. Special shoutout to 5ABIOmatic and Ant, too. Click those red links for their unique tastes spotlighting all Chicago artists.
Much like the Ladies ‘Dark R&B’ Award for the Western Conference above, there is no Chicago rapper that I’m going to directly compare to, say, Patty Mills. The light bulb turned on when thinking about the Spurs’ melting pot of players, who when combined together, provide a swiss-army-knife style that can do it all. That’s why they were able to survive the Mavs, Blazers, and Thunder in the Western Conference and then redeem the worst Finals loss ever over the Miami Heat.
The Spurs are running it back this year. And I’ve learned to just not pick against Duncan, Ginobili, Parker, and Pop until they lose or retire, whatever comes first. What’s amazing about this season is that you can easily make a case for over a handful of title winners, in just the West alone, in fact. What we do know is that each team, each composition of young and veteran players, are having their “Fight or Flight” start this week…
Final 4: Spurs, Clippers, Thunder, Warriors
Surprise Playoff Team: Pelicans
Final 4: Bulls, Cavs, Raptors, Wizards
Surprise Playoff Team: Pistons
What are your predictions? Once again, weigh in with a quick sign-up/comment on our Gowhere Community.
ICYMI: Part 1 of the Gowhere NBA Awards
(featuring the Kendrick Lamar “I Love Myself” Award, the Drake “I’m not new to this” Award, and more)