A Rose In Chicago’s Concrete

It’s been since 2011 when Derrick Rose was crowned America’s Basketball Sweetheart.  Of course, that isn’t an official title, but that’s how it felt.  Folks in Chicago had been waiting forever for their new savior, since Jordan – their messiah – departed from the game.   After that 2010-2011 season where Rose one MVP of the league and the Bulls lost to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, the story became the same for two years with the Bulls.  The story in 2012 was “If Rose didn’t get hurt in the playoffs, the Bulls could’ve gotten out of the East.”  Then in 2013, the story was “If Rose didn’t get hurt, the Bulls could’ve gotten out of the East.”


Nobody is knocking Rose for his injuries; an ACL tear and a torn meniscus to be fair – but at full health and with seemingly a better supporting cast around him then he’s had in the past, there should be no more “should’ve” “could’ve” “would’ve” – things need to happen. 

The addition of Pau Gasol to the Bulls has seemingly come just in time as Joakim Noah,  after years of banging low,  seems to not be as explosive as in years passed.  Gasol is leading the team in field goal percentage, blocks and rebounds per game, while Jimmy Butler has stepped up and become the team’s star player.  Yes, Jimmy Butler – not Derrick Rose.  Butler leads the Bulls in points per game (20.3) and steals per game (1.8).  Rose is the teams second leading scorer, but he still takes the most shots per game than any other player on the roster (17 to Butler’s 14.5) and is explosive to the hoop, at times. 

In his last three games, Rose has shot 8 of 34.  In two of those three games he scored only 8 points and in those two games half or more than half of those points came from the free throw line.

Even without Derrick Rose, coach Tom Thibodeau has gotten this Bulls team to the playoffs.  Mostly on defense and ball movement.  He relied on Nate Robinson when Derrick Rose wasn’t around.  Nate Robinson isn’t even on an NBA roster this year (for some odd reason).   During NBA free agency tours, where the power shifts become evident – Derrick Rose stays pretty reclusive about it.  He isn’t one of the those guys to get all giddy about a new star coming into town, he wants to be all the star this team needs.  Maybe he doesn’t think that’s selfish, he maybe thinks he’s being admirable, but in more obvious ways, that hurts the Chicago Bulls.


Maybe if he truly was the new savior of Chicago, it would be a different story.

The Eastern Conference is still a lot easier to come out of then the Western Conference, but what are the Bulls chances, realistically?

If we are all being honest with ourselves, the belief is that the Cavaliers will end up as the 2 or 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.  It would take one hell of a losing streak for Atlanta to not be number 1 – which leaves the Bulls to fight for a number 4 or 5 spot with the likes of Toronto, Washington and (eh) Milwaukee.  Toronto is legit in many people’s eyes and will fight to the end of the season for that two spot.  It isn’t far fetched to see the Bulls come out of the first round, but it’s that second round that gets tricky.

The Bulls calling card is their defense and their star Derrick Rose, plays close to non-existent defense.  Derrick Rose’s offense is explosive and exciting – but is rarely consistent.  Tom Thibodeau doesn’t need anything flashy on offense to win, but he does need consistency.


If/when the Bulls make a second round exit this season, with a perfectly healthy Derrick Rose – what’s the excuse then?  Maybe the way Derrick Rose helps bring the championship back to Chicago is via him getting traded.  Derrick Rose can be Derrick Rose somewhere else, while the Bulls get more consistent play that can bring them closer to the championship their fans think is so close to attaining.

Editor’s Note:  This article was posted a few hours before Derrick Rose suffered a torn meniscus.  In doing so, Rose is out for the remainder of the season and according to what I just wrote – one could say one of three things: A) It’s a blessing in disguise (although that’s mean); B) I kind-of called it and C) It’s time to get Nate Robinson on the phone.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“Fan of a Fan” Album Review

When talk of this album came about it made a lot of people scratch their heads.  A collaboration album between Chris Brown and Tyga was something nobody expected, asked for – or wanted.  Tyga is in the process of being released from Lil’ Wayne’s “Young Money” record label.  Tyga has made comments about Nicki Minaj and Drake not being “fake”- and from that he has sparked a “beef” with Drake.  Tyga has found  solo success with  his song “Rack City” and has made good from his feature on the song “Loyal.”


Chris Brown’s career is a long, up and down and much talked over story which is too long to get into. . . what everyone can agree on is that Chris Brown once upon a time was looked upon as one of the more naturally gifted R&B artists we’ve seen in a while.  He incorporated all that music fans loved of Michael Jackson, with a spunk and honesty that was all his own.  After “the Rihanna” incident, things have spiraled out of control for the young singer though.  He has been in ways black-listed and his album sales have dropped from the incredible heights they once stood.

So, the question is – who, needs who more in this collaboration?  Many would still say, Chris Brown’s name hold’s significantly more weight than Tyga – but in truth, they both need a string of hits from this album in order for this mash-up to work.

Chris Brown will always deliver a memorable hook and deliver nearly flawless harmonies on a track.  That’s a given.  There’s a reason why, even while being “black-listed” he still finds a way to get on the radio.  There is just no denying his talent – and there’s no denying that he still has a heavy fan base.  Tyga’s fan base stems on some features on popular songs and his association with Young Money / Cash Money records.  Tyga will have to stand out on this record for it to work.  Unfortunately, Tyga is one of the rappers that can “rhyme words” but doesn’t say much of anything.  He opens up the album with the first verse on “Westside” but Chris Brown carries the song with his chorus and bridge – oh and also has a flow when it’s his turn to rap on the second verse.


The DJ Mustard produced “Nothin’ Like Me” doesn’t break away from the producer’s trend of simplistic bass heavy beats and once again Chris Brown carries the weight of the song (the trend begins early and noticeably).  The song itself has the duo along with Ty Dolla Sign, telling their girls of interest that they can do and can afford things their ex boyfriends couldn’t even dream.  The song works with Chris Brown’s hook: “She don’t think that I can change/ So I switched from a Benz to a Range / First class to the jet / Got more money than her ex / Way more money than her ex. . .”

Even on “Ayo” which is their lead single off the album, Tyga’s attempts at being clever are just laughable : “Aye babe this my new sh*t / I’m the black Richie Rich with the roof missin’ / If it don’t make dollars it don’t make sense . . . I get money three ways, f*cking b*tches three ways / 7 different foreigns pluse she no hable.”  The two decided to go line for line and Chris Brown embarrasses Tyga on it as well.

Every featured rapper on this album outshines Tyga effortlessly.  Even 50 Cent, who lately many can say hasn’t had his “heart in music” – even Fiddy comes on the track “I Bet” and it makes you want more of him and  Chris Brown and less of Tyga.  Lil’ Boosie makes an appearance on “Real One” and his raspy voice and delivery fit the track better than Tyga who opened the song miserably with “Aye baby, you baby / Thats some good p*ssy we can make a new baby / F you in the Mayback, F a room baby / I use my tongue, use your mouth, watch your tooth baby.”


Tyga’s average-at-best-talent is exhibited best on “D.G.I.F.U” which features Pusha T and pays tribute (in someway) to the track “Forgot About Dre” by Dr. Dre and Eminem.  Chris Brown raps on this track and in rapid fire fashion delivers some killer lines like: “So don’t get it F*cked up / I got a handful of matches, f*ckin’ with a bad bitch / All my n*gg@s is savages, better loc up / Damn it’s a tragedy all of these casualties / Metal through his body, n*gg@ check his anatomy, oh sh*t / Why you pillow talkin? That’s ho sh*t / N*gg@, you a geek still talkin’ ’bout me f*cking yo’ b*tch.”

At least the Schoolboy Q feature on “B*tches and Marijuana” makes Tyga stand out more as an artist, unfortunately it’s the worst song on the album.

The truth is with “Fan of A Fan” the song concepts and beats all basically sound the same.  This album would’ve been better suited as a Chris Brown “Duets” album of some kind.  Putting Chris Brown with nearly anybody is usually the formula for a hit record. . . Tyga and Chris Brown may be close friends, but there are more negatives than positives when combining business with loved ones. . .

For fans waiting on Chris Brown’s triumphant come back – this unfortunately isn’t it.  For fans waiting on a breakthrough album from Tyga . . . that was never going to happen.

Rating 4 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“Dark Sky Paradise” Album Review

Detroit native  Big Sean’s third album “Dark Sky Paradise” is a take on his fame and all that comes with it.  The good and the bad.   Talent wise, Big Sean has all the goods and he’s shown that in appearances leading up to this album.   Big Sean has proven that he can hang with the best the game has to offer, doing tracks like “Clique” with Kanye West and Jay-Z; “Diamonds” in which he pretty much steals the song from Common and “Detroit VS Everybody” where he stood on his own on a posse cut that featured Royce Da 5’9″ and Eminem.


Big Sean  has a way of keeping his cool on a track until he turns it up rapidly.  His rapid delivery is chaotic by design and contains short rhyme schemes that match up sometimes three times within a bar – but he never sacrifices the legitimacy of what he’s saying for the sake of rhyme-scheme.   Big Sean has a playful personality which he puts on full display on this album, but he also shares a side that he doesn’t share on those features.  A side that his fans, new and old will surely welcome.

Big Sean comes out swinging with the first four tracks of this album, opening with “Dark Sky.”  Sean keeps his song writing mentality as if he never made it and that’s what keeps his delivery and tone sounding hungry throughout this album: “And they say it happened for me overnight, sh*t, yeah I guess / I guess it took ten years for me to be an overnight success. . . I’m from where crime breeds, her t*tt*es out like ‘sign these’ / I knew I lived this life back when I was young and used to climb trees / I should’ve known back then, I wasn’t gonna stop / Cause even then I was infatuated with just sittin’ at the top.” 


Big Sean’s confidence shows, as he doesn’t shy away from big name features on the album.  Drake makes an appearance on “Blessings” which is produced by Vinylz.  The track has an eerie horror-film-feel to it as the two artists do what they do best on a track – brag.  “All Your Fault” not only features a hyped-up Kanye West, but also features the soulful production from Kanye that many of us have missed.   Mr. West samples Ambrosia’s “How Much I Feel” to perfection, equipping it with triple-timed snares and screwed up vocals in the hook.  Big Sean’s flow is on point as he delivers: “Oh boy, I’m madder until these records gettin’ shattered / Til I’m MJ or Magic, oh she just want the status / So you the man she got, but I’m the man she been after / She dones sent so many naked pics my phone ain’t got no data.”  Sean and Kanye finish the song by bouncing off of each other line for line, showing a great chemistry between the two.

Sean’s hit single has been “I Don’t F With You.”  For such an explicit song, credit has to be given to Big Sean for getting this so much airplay (currently on Billboards Top 10).   The track is co-produced by Kanye West and DJ Mustard, who is pumping out more hit records than anyone at the moment.   Unfortunately, DJ Mustard throws a dud at Big Sean with “I Know” which ends up having a nice baseline, but the song itself goes no where and has the listener losing interest quickly.   “Play No Games” features Chris Brown and Ty Dolla Sign but sounds too much like too many other things out right now.   The song isn’t a terrible listen, but it’s been done  a million times before.

Aside from those bumps in the road, the album itself entertains the whole way through.  “Paradise” was a song leaked weeks before the album came out and is another dark sound, with horns guiding the Mike Will Made It produced track.  Big Sean shines the hardest as an MC on the second verse of this song with back to back one liners like : “I’m from the D, F*ck your  A-list / I been working 8 days a week / I don’t even know what today is / I hit the booth and I just went super saiyan / I run with the purp like i play with the Ravens / These b#tches rant and raven / I hope I never have to go back to watching Everybody Loves Raymond / Eaten ramen, n*gg@ this is paradise.”


Big Sean stops with the playful-show-off antics and breaks down on tracks like “Win Some Lose Some” and “Deep.”   Sean makes reference to his success in terms of it separating it from his friends and family.  He seems to be honest in saying he’s struggling with what’s right and wrong at the moment and he questions if people are loyal to him because of his fame.  “I got four aunties, two uncles, one dad / One mom, two brothers, and 200 n*gg@s mad / And it’s only one me, divide it and do that math.”  Lil’ Wayne’s feature on “Deep” was a nice surprise because now-a-days you just don’t know what kind of Wayne you’ll get on a track.  This time around though, Wayne matched the emotion of Big Sean who’s hook was as honest as he could be : “Man, I look up to God, I wonder if I fell from the sky / Will I hit the ground or will I learn how to fly? / I’m pretty sure you see it in my eyes / Sometimes I wonder if I already died / That shit get deep. . .” 

“One Man Can Change the World” is the kind of honesty hip hop should offer more of, but unfortunately we see it in few artist. In an interview with MTV  Big Sean spoke about his grandmother’s passing before this album was done – which is why the album has such a dark undertone to it.  His dedication to her can ignite goosebumps to the listener: “. . .Right there on Outer Drive, and she taught me how to drive /She raised the kids, then the kids’ kids and she did it right / Taught me how to love, taught me not to cry / When i die, I hope you teach me how to fly.”

Big Sean is 26 years old and may have released his best project yet.  He’s grown as an artist and seems to be comfortable experimenting with different sounds and emotions.  Hopefully this isn’t the best we’ll hear from him in his career because it would be nice to see this talent of his only grow.

Rating 8  out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio


GeeSteelio Sports Hour 2-18

This week The Heartthrob welcomes Twan Staley (@antwanstaley)  to discuss Hip Hop and the All Star Weekend as well as Joe Wedra (@joewedra)who gives insight on which NFL prospects will be hurt or helped by participating in the combine this weekend.

“If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” Review

During the hype surrounding NBA All Star weekend in New York City, the Toronto Raptors’ celebrity ambassador, Drake, decided to drop a mixtape.  “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” is supposedly a collection of “throw away tracks” that Drake has compiled onto one project.   Drake’s success has come with a lot of controversy amongst his own peers.  He has had twitter/music feuds with Pusha T, Tyga and Common while getting into actual physical altercations with the likes of Chris Brown and Diddy.   Drake to many, epitomizes what hip hop has become – for better or worse.  His style is mimicked amongst most of his contemporaries and newbies, while all the while he still seems to fight for respect.


Some say Drake is “too soft” and it seems all of that talk seems to be working his nerves.  On his last album “Nothing Was the Same,” Drake dealt with his trademark “relationship songs” but there was a real undertone in which he reveals his frustrations of being in the shadows of other rappers and having to deal with “haters” who he feels are not on his level.   It seems on “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” Drake revisits that undertone.

On the opening track, “Legend,” Drake proclaims on the hook “Oh my God, oh my God, if I die, I’m a legend.”   This pretty much sets the tone going forward as Drake uses a lazy-like flow on the track, in which he seems more surprised than anyone when his flow lands on the beat correctly.  “Energy” sounds like (and is) a slower version of Drake’s hit song “0-100.”  Just like it’s predecessor, “Energy” is a stripped down beat relying on Drake’s catchy flow and quick wit to carry the record.  “Energy” lacks the over-all feel of “0-100,” but still manages to get the job done with lines like: “I got two mortgages, thirty million in total / I got n*gg*s that’re still tryin’ f*ck me over/ I got rap n*gg@s that I gotta act like I like / But my actin’ days are over, f*ck them n*gg@s for life.” 


Drake has strayed away from his lover’s lament and pillow-talk type of songs and has seemingly focused on just spitting bars.  On “Madonna” he pretty much tells girls he comes across that he can make them a star by being seen with him.  He pays tribute to Toronto by referring it to the “6” in annoying fashion on the tracks “6 God,” “6 Man” and “You and the 6.”  Not to be left off this list are the tracks 6PM in New York and “Star 67.”  It’s not clever, it’s confusing – especially when these tracks show no distinction from each other.

“6 God” is Drake going after his non-believers and continuously does so with his smart-aleck approach: “I got one girl, and she my girl, and nobody else can hit it / she’ll admit it, she’ll admit it / she ain’t f*ckin’ with you n*gg@s / And just like every single other thing in my life / You can have her when I’m finished.”  The “girl” in these bars can easily mean his spot in the rap game.  Drake comes off really ingenious when representing “the 6” though and his tough guy talk is just forced, uncomfortably repetitive and unrealistic: “Phone call back home, sh*t is hot up in the 6 boy / sh*t hot up in the 6 right now sh*t hot up in the 6 boy / sh*t is hot up in the 6 right now / come see us and get it fixed boy.” 

“6 Man” finds Drake getting lyrically exhausted and with a very pre-school flow, the song like most of this album is a task to get through: “Young but I’m gettin’ every single motherf*ckin thing I’m owed / You gotta know / I’m here to f*ck with n*gg@s souls, my heart is cold / It’s prolly cause I’m from the snow, with all my woes / I know they wanna see me go, I’m on a roll. . .” That seriously sounds like something a six year old would’ve written.


Drake does have his moments where the artist in him and the truth he does represent comes about.  “You and The 6” is a track which finds Drake talking to his mother over the phone about his trials and tribulations.  Drake has an issue that one noticed from his last album and it continues on to this one:  He says he doesn’t care about what people say about him, yet this is all he wants to talk about.    “You and the 6” is Drake’s way of telling his mother and his hometown that he can overcome the hate thrown in his direction because they helped to mold him into a being that can take it: “I got no friends in this momma, I don’t pretend with this momma / I’m no joke with this momma / I’ll pull the knife out my back and cut they throats with it momma. . . I just. . . I can’t be out here being vulnerable momma / I mean I kill ’em everytime they do a song with me momma / I sing a hook, they sing along with me momma / What more they want from me momma!?”  Drake could be talking about his strained relationship with his label, he could be talking about other rappers he’s worked with – bottom line is, Drake seems like a lonely man out here in the rap game.

One thing is for sure, he made no shorts of who he was going at on “6PM in New York.” He went at former Cash Money Records label-mate Tyga: “I heard lil’ homie talking reckless in Vibe / That’s quite a platform you chose, you shoulda kept it inside / oh you tried / It’s so childish calling my name on the world stage / you need to act your age and not your girl’s age.”  The girl in reference is Tyga’s girlfriend, Kylie Jenner who is 17 years old.

Drake’s potential is evident.  He can be clever, he can be melodic even.  His tone at times is a bit drowsy and his choice of beats is down-right boring.  He needs to understand if he is going to be different, people will judge him and call him out – it’s hip hop.   It’s built on being challenged by your peers.  How you perceive and handle the challenge helps you grow, but right now Drake’s artistic growth seems stunted.

Rating 4.5 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Brooklyn, We Go. . . Hard?

If it wasn’t for Mason Plumlee and Bojan Bogdanovic  representing the Brooklyn Nets in the Rising Stars game during All Star Weekend, the Nets would have absolutely nobody representing them.  They were a far cry from having any of their players in the actual All Star Game and with Mirza Teletovic out for the season, that pretty much ended their chance of having someone in the three point contest as well.   Brooklyn supposedly goes hard, but it seems like they’re also going the wrong way in terms of success.


When Russain billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov bought the Nets in 2010 he was sure success would come and he would use all his money (and muscle) to make it come true.  Hard times have fallen on the Nets who are now an underwhelming 21-31.   This is a team who last year made it to the second round of the playoffs and now it looks like they will  struggle getting in through the door.

The problems are evident.  The gamble the Nets took on their big money players: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett is not paying off.  Deron Williams and Brook Lopez are now coming off the bench, Joe Johnson is unmotivated and at times just seems frustrated; while Kevin Garnett, with all due-respect to the future hall of famer, is getting old, and doesn’t intimidate anybody anymore.  All four have had their names thrown around in trade rumors, but as of now, they all remain in Brooklyn – but, why?

The Nets are in a “can’t win” situation.   Literally and figuratively.  As it stands now, the Nets are floating around being the 9th seed in the Eastern Conference, which has them on the outside looking in, from a playoff perspective.  The teams they’ll be competing with for that 8th seed are Detroit, Miami and Charlotte.  Detroit and Charlotte are unpredictable, while the Miami Heat are a well coached team with a lot of pride.   The Nets are painfully predictable, lack any pride and at this stage you can question the legitimacy of  head coach Lionel Hollins, who does not hide his frustrations well on the sidelines of games.


If the Nets make it in, they get to face an early first round exit against teams like Toronto, who’d like revenge on the Nets for losing to them in the first round last year – or Atlanta.   The Atlanta Hawks are interesting in terms of the Nets and not because of a possible first round playoff match-up, but because the Hawks have the option of switching draft picks with the Nets after this season is over.   This option came to be because of the trade between the two teams which sent Joe Johnson to Brooklyn in 2012.  At their current pace, the Hawks will finish the season with the NBA’s best record, or pretty close to it, so the swap of first round picks is inevitable.

Even tanking the season, would not do the Nets any good.  That’s why it’s a no-win situation.


For all things considered, the Nets should try to find some inspiration from somewhere in the second half of the year and make a run at the playoffs.  If for no other reason it would be to boost the value of the players on their roster so a trade can be done after this season.   Parts are going to move, but moving them now actually makes no sense.  It would only give Atlanta a better draft pick and would hurt the brand of a team that was trying to erase the memory of what it once was.

Relatively-harmless is how hard Brooklyn apparently goes now-a-days.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

What Happened to the Slam Dunk Contest?

Once upon a time, the NBA Slam Dunk contest was the highlight of the NBA All Star Weekend.   The slam-dunk, might be one of the most electric, exciting and exhilarating actions in all of sports.   It doesn’t matter how much a team is ahead or behind by, a dunk always gets the crowd excited.  So of course when the ABA introduced the first slam dunk contest in 1976, it was a huge success.   Julius Erving was crowned the winner of the first contest, over other hall of famers like David Thompson and George Gervin.


After the ABA was over and done with, the NBA brought the Slam Dunk Contest back to life in 1984.  Fans went crazy seeing their favorite high flyers take off and try to dazzle the judges with their aerial artistry.   Fans were presented one of the best ever  slam dunk competitions in 1988  when Dominique Wilkins of the Atlanta Hawks  and Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, squared off in a duel that led to Jordan wearing the crown.  It was something to see to men, who were of Hall of Fame destiny, to compete so hard against each other – all the while smiling – in trying to impress, judges, the crowd and their peers.  It meant something for these men to not only compete, but to win.

When the the Dunk Contest went through the 90’s it became more of a marketing tool for stars on the come-up.  It was pretty much a sure thing that if you won the Slam Dunk contest, you would be achieving some sort of fame – a standard had been set in the Slam Dunk contest,  and now if you won – you were put in this class of athlete.  You would at least get a sneaker-deal out of it.  Dee Brown, Isaiah Rider, Harold Miner – all of them gained fame through the dunk contest.  They sold jerseys and weren’t terrible ball players – just not All Stars.

After the Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter Slam Dunk wins in the late 90’s and early 2000’s the contest became lame.

Secondary players started to fill in the ranks: Jason Richardson, Josh Smith, Terrance Ross. . . Sure we had Dwight Howard (when the world loved him) and that one year Blake Griffin had to jump over a car to win the contest (literally) – but for the most part, people have lost interest in competing and watching the Dunk Contest.


As fans, we’ve seen all the dunks already.  Off the glass, behind the back, under the legs, the alley oops from team-mates, high-self-bounce-pass, jumping over another player’s head – oh, and did we already mention jumping over a car!    There’s not much left to do that hasn’t been seen.   Maybe as fans we’re just spoiled.  You can watch a sports show that will re-cap the best dunks of the night.  You can YouTube the And-1 Mixtape players doing ridiculous dunks just to show off their talents.

Mostly, though it’s just lost it’s star power.  Nobody who is important cares about being the Slam-Dunk Champion.   This could be an instance in which us as fans, have have built up these players so much that they don’t think it’s important to entertain us anymore.  Competing with someone for a trophy that says “SPRITE” on it, means nothing to them.  Not even for the sake of competitive spirit.  Last year feature two All Stars John Wall (who won) and Paul George – it was great to see them compete, but it would’ve been great to see them be competitive, instead of seeing them with the “Ugh, okay. . . let’s see how this one goes” face. . .


To be honest,  fans are more interested in the Three Point Contest and the Skills Competition more than the Slam Dunk contest.  Keep this in mind:  Instead of watching athletes fly in the air and deliver thunderous slam dunks, they’d rather watch guys shoot open jump shots, dribble around a cone and attempt a bounce pass threw a car tire.  The stars will show up for the other two events, but not for the Slam Dunk Contest.  For example, this year’s Skills Challenge features names like Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague and John Wall – All Stars.   The Three-Point Shoot Contest features All Stars, Kyrie Irving, Stephon Curry, James Harden and Klay Thompson.  Who does the dunk contest have this year?  Thought you’d never ask: Victor Oladipo, Zach LaVine, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Mason Plumlee.   These names don’t exactly scream “slam-dunk-contest,” but more so sounds like the “who’s last name is harder to spell contest.”

Antetokounmpo is labeled “the Greek Freak” for a reason, he’s a young tremendous athlete with tremendous size (6’11”, 217) but he’s not a household name yet, mainly because he plays in Milwaukee and his last name is Antetokounmpo. Victor Oladipo was a great college player who looks like he’ll be a nice NBA player and that’s about it.  The Orlando Magic don’t have much to be proud about at the moment so this might be their big shot this weekend. . . Mason Plumlee of the Brooklyn Nets was a member of last year’s Team USA and has worked himself into the starting lineup of a disappointing Nets team this year.  Plumlee is a good player, but much like his association with his college coach Mike Krzyzewski may have gotten him on the USA team, it looks like his association with Brooklyn (NBA All Star weekend being in New York) has helped earn him a spot in this competition.  The last name is Zach LaVine. . . yeah, let’s not even pretend as if we know anything about him.

Obviously all four competitors are high flyers and great athletes – it’s also obvious they all play for teams that nobody generally cares about.  Plumlee may be the fan favorite because of his college days at Duke and he is the hometown guy in this year’s event but the truth is, after a long night of All Star festivities, the last thing fans want to see are three un-relatable players doing dunks we’ve seen a million times over.

Nobody wants to see the dunk contest go away and nobody would ever suggest that.  It would be nice to see players that we as fans actually  give a damn about competing in it – and in turn, it’d be nice to see those players give a damn about the competition once again.


G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“Rebel Heart” Album Review

Madonna is a pop music icon.    Without Madonna, there is no Britney Spears, no Lady Gaga and you can make the argument there is no Rihanna either.    Madonna is known for her brash and unapologetic ways.  She has never been shy about her sexuality or her vulnerabilities – and has made hit records while being notoriously blasphemous.  Madonna has been fearless her whole career and now with “Rebel Heart” she test the waters of being “timeless.”


Madonna kicks off the thirteenth album of her career with the club-friendly “Living For Love.”  This is Madonna where she is at her most comfortable – giving people an infectious dance record and the production by Diplo gives it that house feel which makes this one of those catchy piano and bass line beats.  On “Bitch I’m Madonna” she keeps the club feel going and even has a feature by Nicki Minaj – which seems fitting because the track has beat breaks and energy similar to Minaj’s hit “Starships.”

Things get a little head-scratching with Madonna during the album though.  She seems to be in her “remember it’s me who paved the way for you little girls” mode at times – and even recites some of her own lyrics from past songs.  She recites lyrics from her hit record “Vogue” during the track “Holy Water” where she revisits her comfortability in making others uncomfortable as she refers to her feminine liquids  as holy water: “I can let you in heaven’s door / I promise you it’s not a sin / Find salvation deep within / We can do it here on the floor.”  On “S.E.X,” the song title is pretty self-telling on what the topic at hand is and she still has a knack for being blunt : “When you read my mind, get down and discover me / I’m an open book, let you cum inside of me. . . let me clean your room, I can be your nurse / Got the antidote, please show me where it hurts.”  She pushes the sexual innuendo game on “Body Shop” which is a juvenile play on words, equating sex to working on a car.  Songs like this are way below icon status, and so much in-your-face sex talk coming from a 56 year old woman isn’t really a turn on . . . after a while. . .


The Kanye West produced “Illuminati” is a confusing song, where one minute you think she’s mocking those who live off the media-infused illuminati craze and the next minute she sounds as if she knows something about it and won’t say. . .  The song “Iconic” is anything but.  . . the corny spoken word intro by Mike Tyson and a feature from a guy who feels the need to remind us of his profession within his name, Chance the Rapper make an appearance on a track that’s just a sloppy mess.  “Iconic” is not alone when it comes to being a track with bad lyrics and confusing production, “Devil Pray” is another attempt by Madonna to use the religious angle again.  At least this time around she seems to be asking for help from above as one who has fallen prey to the Devil’s temptations.

Madonna sings in two tones throughout the whole album so the high points or beat escalations on each record are usually met with the same energy and enthusiasm.   “HeartBreakCity” could’ve been a gem but instead of feeling the heartbreak of the song, Madonna sounds more like she’s just going through the emotions of it all.    The production on “Wash All Over Me” is magnificent, the use of strings and piano never loses it’s sad tones even during the drop of the beat which brings in marching band like drums.   “Wash All Over Me” is kind of what the intro to “Like A Prayer” would sound like if it lasted four minutes long.

The best song on the album is the most unlikely of collaborations as Nas joins Madonna on the track “Veni Vidi Vici.”  Madonna once again gives herself credit for being herself but does so effectively “I justified my love, I made you say a little prayer / they had me crucified, you know I had to take it there / I opened up my heart, I learned the power of good-bye / I saw a Ray of Light, music saved my life.”   Nas lets his presence be known on the record, working against horns and a jumping bass drum: “My life cannot be compared to anybody / Any trapsters or rappers, any politicians, beauticians / A musician, anybody. / Saw many bodies / many coffins, heads or tails / Penny tosses, we either dead or in jail.”


“Rebel Heart” doesn’t tell us anything about Madonna that we don’t already know.  She likes sex, she likes to curse and she doesn’t care what you think.   There is just something lacking in this project that shouldn’t be missing from the talents of a pop icon.   Madonna at times comes off as a mother who tries too hard to be liked by her daughter’s friends like “I’m a cool mom, you can drink and smoke at my house.”  Fans of Madonna will still sell out around the world to see her, but mostly for her resume, not her most recent accomplishments.

Rating: 5 out of 10

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

The Atlanta Hawks: Unlikely Contenders

The Atlanta Hawks have not been on the radar of NBA fans since the days of Dominque Wilkins. Even then most, if not all of their recognition was due to the man they called “The Human Highlight Reel.”   There has never been much to get excited about when in comes to Atlanta Hawks basketball. At their best, they are mediocre. Today though, their ascension to the top of the NBA is far from mediocre. It’s more like meteoric.


The Hawks currently hold the NBA’s best record at 40-9 and maybe a lot of the credit should go to second year head coach, Mike Budenholzer. From 1996-2013, Budenholzer was an assistant coach on a Spurs team coached by Gregg Popovich, who is without question, one of the best coaches this game has ever seen.


When asked about the Atlanta Hawks success, Bleacher Report and NGSC writer Antwan Staley said: “Coach Mike Budenholzer is using the Spurs blueprint to make the Hawks one of the league’s best teams. Atlanta is playing unselfish basketball and playing well defensively.” In San Antonio, Budenholzer became used to a tradition that consisted of winning – in terms of -winning their division, conference and most importantly multiple championships. When accepting the job in Atlanta, Budenholzer inherited a franchise who last won it’s division in 1994. That’s an unacceptable reality for Budenholzer.


The players on the Hawks roster all “fit” very well together. The Hawks will be represented by three players in this years All Star Game: Paul Milsap, Jeff Teague and Al Horford.   If that weren’t enough, basketball fans went to Twitter to speak in outrage of how Hawks’ sharp-shooter Kyle Korver got the “snub” and would not be going to the All Star Game. The amazing thing is, none of those four players who were mentioned are averaging over 20 points a game. The Hawks may have All-Stars but they lack the superstar that many people believe a team would need in order to be a championship contender. Rey Moralde of TheNoLookPass.Com spoke on the winning ways of the Hawks: “The Hawks are decimating everyone with total team ball and without a much-heralded star. The Spurs did it the same way last season. Maybe the era of the “Big 3” stars is no longer the formula for success?”


Last season we saw the end of Miami’s “Big 3” due to the Spurs playing “team-basketball.” The Cleveland Cavaliers have their Big 3 this year and although it looks like it may be coming together, there are still huge questions about that team’s chemistry. The Clippers, Nets and to some extent the Rockets have used the basic blueprint of the “Big 3” to get to the promised land and so far, nothing. Even looking at that Miami team, they had enough role players and veteran leadership on those teams to get guys all on the same page. To make a “Big 3” happen, everything has to fall into place perfectly. That isn’t easy.


What is easy, is rooting for a team like the Atlanta Hawks. The perennial underdog who everyone pushed to the side is now making a stand.   In recent history, Atlanta was the team that could make the playoffs and also make an early exit but this year, the city is thinking way beyond the first round. This is a team that does away with those franchises that flash around money trying to “buy” a championship. This is a team that will grind it’s way through four quarters to get the “W.”


The NBA’s Eastern Conference seems to have flipped itself on it’s head, when teams like the Hawks, Toronto Raptors and the Washington Wizards have all turned into seemingly legit teams. Just as baseball has taught us with the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals, it’s not about the star power, it’s about the team chemistry and leadership. Right now, coach Mike Budenholzer has his team doing things the right way, the San Antonio Spurs way. . . oops, sorry – the Atlanta Hawks way.


G.W. Gras

Twitter @geesteelio


Follow Antwan Staley at @BlackRedSoxFan and Rey Moralde at @TheNoLookPass

GeeSteelio Sports Hour (Feb. 5th)

G.W. Gras talks all about the aftermath of the Super Bowl and why the Seahawks play-calling did what it did at the end of that game.   Special Guest Rosalyn R. Ross of LadySingsTheSports.Com and TheSportsFansJournal.com joins to give her take on the SuperBowl and also to discuss how the NBA’s love of the “Big 3” should come to an end!