“Sremmlife” Album Review

The youth movement in today’s hip hop has come under heavy scrutiny.  Most of it is unfair though.  “Old School vs New School” is a topic that will never go away in any genre of music.  Depending when you grew up and the sound that was popular during your adolescence all the way through your adult hood – that’s your bar for gauging what is and what is not good music.  Hip hop though has found itself in a weird place.  For most of it’s beginnings it was labeled as a “fad” and something that would “die out,” but quite the opposite has occurred.  Hip Hop is actually in some ways the new “pop” sound.   For an art form that is heralded for it’s “craft” of lyricism, flow and feel – lately there has been a flux of lazy, uninventive patterns presented by those in the hip hop forum.

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Rae Sremmrud is the hip hop duo made up of two brothers from Mississippi, Slim Jimmy and Swae Lee.  They signed to producer Mike Will’s production company EarDrummers Entertainment.  The name Rae Sremmrud is Ear Drummers spelled backwards, and that’s where this weird journey through Stremmlife begins.

The album opens with “Lit Like Bic” which delivers a smooth intro to the rough ride which lays ahead.  There is a word called “articulation,” which the young duo needs to look up.  Articulation is the act of vocal expression; utterance or enunciation – and more times than not – Rae Srummrud sound as if they have  a mouthful of jawbreakers while speaking – or just like some young winos.  When the listener gets through their rough delivery, they hear gems like : “News life sh*t, test this cup / test this cup, do it for us / Four eyed, damn, I’m twisted bad, I can feel it / Aquafina water, go ahead and peel it.”  

It does not get much better with songs like “Unlock the Swag” which opens with it’s uneventful hook that repeats the title of the song 14 times.  This track along with the rest of the album, shows a heavy influence of the flow that Atlanta rapper Future has made famous.  Lyrics like “I blow, I lie, I chill, I swag / How much, cash do, I make, a day/ enough, to pray, enough for tax” make the feature by a mostly unknown Jace seem like a heaven send.

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Rae Sremmund if anything is relatable to their young fan base with song concepts like “My X”  and “This Could Be Us.”  They play off the popular social media hashtag and meme of “This Could Be Us” in a playful manner, with piano stabs and a catchy melody in the chorus.   “My X” pits the two artist in a familiar and relatable juvenile predicament of throwing your success in the face of an ex-girlfriend.   Their obnoxious tone, actually works out well on that one.  The album’s best production and chorus appear on the track “Come Get Her.”  It has an R.Kelly-feel to the song and Swae Lee actually finishes the song on point: “Baby girl, what you think that we’re doin? / you gettin on my nerves with them questions, girl you know I’m tryna start a movement . . . out the blue, you actin’ brand new / Washington’s mean nothing to you / same way with us. . .” 

Unfortunately the three songs worth listening to play consecutively leaving a lot of opportunities for the listener to get bored or frustrated while viewing the album.

The single “No Type” makes no sense what-so-ever because the first two lines in the hook contradict the concept of the song: “I ain’t got no type / Bad b*tches is the only thing I like.” 

“Up Like Trump” and the album’s lead single “No Flex Zone” are more examples uneventful trash.  Even MikeWill Made It’s production becomes stale and predictable.   After the listener distinguishes the difference between Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy – it’s evident that Swae is more of the focal point.  He has the louder of the personalities, and handles most of the hooks and bridges.

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A lot of what is wrong in hip hop today is found in Rae Sremmurd’s debut album.  It’s evident they’re all about girls and having fun – which at their age should be the topics – but that doesn’t mean it has to sound like total garbage.  Listening to “Sremmlife” is the equivalent of driving cross country while being forced to chew on tin foil.

Rating 2 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Cam Newton’s Future: Your Move Panthers

In 2011 Cam Newton was drafted with the first overall pick by the Carolina Panthers and was given  a four year contract worth $22 million (with a signing bonus of $14 million).    In his rookie season, he made the Panthers “must watch TV” as he became the single most entertaining player in the league.  His larger than life personality, rare athletic attributes for someone his size and his versatility captivated fans young and old.   His sophomore season came with the ever infamous “slump” word propped at the back-end of it and even more than that, Cam was developing a reputation for being a diva, who cared more about SuperMan poses and advertisements than things that mattered in the game of football.

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In his final two seasons though, Cam has worked more in the film room, reads defenses better and has become more of a leader on this Panthers team.  He has been under center for the Panthers for two consecutive division titles and playoff runs.  Sure, he still loves the camera and at times flashes some obnoxious antics on the field but the guy just enjoys what he’s doing.  That shouldn’t be a problem. Right?

The Carolina Panthers have never said outright that Cam was their “future” or their “franchise” quarterback.  Rumor mills start up every so often that management and / or coaches don’t see Cam as the guy who can elevate his play or be deserving of franchise QB money.

The pay scale for quarterbacks today is out of control.  Even nonsensical at times, but one thing is certain : If you want to build an offense – you better make sure you have a quarterback that fits it.  Cam brings a unique skill set, but has shown development in the departments that are needed in being a starting quarterback in the NFL.   Some teams have been looking for their quarterback forever – Carolina has a guy who can play another 6 or 7 years in this league and at best be a top-10 talent.

With one more year on his rookie contract, a year that will be up in the $14 million range – time is ticking for Carolina and Cam Newton.  Decisions have to be made.

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If Carolina truly doesn’t believe that Cam Newton is their guy, they’d be smart to find a suitor for him, instead of letting him just walk away.  Here are three teams that might find it in their best interest to acquire Cam’s services.

1. New York Jets:  The Jets have a knack for having a top pick in a draft full of uncertainty in the first round.  With the sixth overall pick this year, the Jets have the option of being one of the teams in play for either Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston.  Here we go again.  If recent history has showed us anything, it’s that the Jets have not been lucky when drafting their “quarterback of the future.”  Instead of taking another blind gamble, why not acquire the services of a playoff quarterback like Cam Newton.   Even trading the sixth overall pick for Cam (as long as he intends on signing long term with the Jets) is a smarter move than the aforementioned gamble.   If Cam is Super-Man, New York would definitely serve as his Metropolis.  After losing a personality like Rex Ryan’s, Cam Newton can fill the void and be the face of a franchise that desperately needs one.

2. Houston Texans: Maybe what Cam needs is a little southern comfort.  The Texans roster as a whole is better than the Indianapolis Colts’ yet what the Colts have that the Texans don’t is a quarterback. That’s the difference between first place and second in the AFC South right now.  The Texans are coached by Bill O’Brien who was so good in Penn State, even under heavy sanctions and a limited roster – he made quarterback Matt McGloin serviceable – and even developed him to be a back up QB in the NFL.  O’Brien works an offense that is run heavy to set up the big play – which fits right into Cam’s bag of tricks.  O’Brien is a disciplinary type of coach though and who knows if Cam is ready to shed his child-like antics yet. . .

3. St. Louis Rams:  Jeff Fisher can talk all he wants about Sam Bradford being his guy, but the truth is : Enough is enough with Sam Bradford.  Four years of being a starter has shown two seasons shortened by injury and two full seasons of a guy putting up average to okay numbers.  Bless the Rams souls for trying to work through Shaun Hill and Austin Davis as starting quarterbacks but the truth is, they need someone now.  Their defense is ready to go, they have Cam’s old Auburn teammate Tre Mason as the clear #1 running back on the depth chart and an offensive line that is far from the makeshift line in Carolina.  With the right quarterback this team can be a wildcard or division contender by next year.

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Other teams that come to mind but with doubt are the Tampa Bay Bucs and the Chicago Bears.  These two make sense – football wise –  but won’t happen simply because Carolina wouldn’t trade Cam within their division; and Chicago simply has catastrophic cap issues especially when dealing with the contract of their own quarterback Jay Cutler. Even if Chicago found a trade partner – they would definitely not be able to wash their hands free of the whole contract.

Cam Newton’s future should be in Carolina – no where else.  Maybe if Carolina added to the pieces like Kelvin Benjamin and Gregg Olson – the development will come easier.  He’s got all the tools, it’s just time for Carolina to go “all-in” on Cam.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“Title” Album Review

When Doo-Wop music hit the mainstream in the 1950’s, it displayed mostly teenage love and heartbreak to the tune of vocal harmonies and melodies that are still marveled at today.  Doo-Wop is unquestionably one of the finest eras in music history.  Back when studios couldn’t fix a voice to sound a certain way – these artists practiced and refined their craft non-stop and sounded better live than they did recorded.  It’s always fun to think of how much more complete the sound might’ve been if recorded with today’s technology. . .  Female artists like  The Chantels  and Kathy Young made a niche for themselves in the Doo-Wop era – but being women at that time – limited them in what they could sing about.  Keep in mind, “heartbreak and love” were pretty much the only topics allowed for a woman to sing.  It was unheard of back then for women to speak of promiscuity or have any sexual undertone in their lyrics.

In 2015, that is far from what’s going on.   Women are outspoken, speak their minds freely and leave nothing to the imagination.   With “Title,” Meghan Trainor takes Doo-Wop nearly sixty years passed it’s prime into the age of texting and facetime.

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Meghan Trainor opens the album with her #1 hit single “All About That Bass” which made waves because of the playful honesty the song displayed.  Trainor is a girl with curves and is proud of every inch of herself – as she should be.  She displays this confidence in herself at every turn in this album and truly speaks to the female listeners with the song “Close Your Eyes.” It’s here where Meghan says: “Everybody’s born to be different / That’s the one thing that makes us the same / So don’t you let their words try to change you / Don’t let them make you into something you ain’t.”  The song itself effortlessly combines the three worlds of hip hop, doo wop and country in smooth fashion.  The musical marriage of Meghan Trainor and producer Kevin Kadish are a perfect fit for this project.

Kadish gives Trainor the “Doo-Wop meets Pop Music” backdrop that is technically sound and catchy, which goes along great with Megan Trainor’s big personality and character.

Trainor’s story-telling is at times brazen and witty as it is on the track “Credit,” where she let’s it be known that she made her ex-boyfriend what he is, and although she doesn’t want him back – she would like a “thank you” from the current girlfriend.  Her melody is in classic Doo-Wop sound – even equips it with a “shooby-doo-wop.”  Meghan combines this sound with today’s lyrics with: “It’s not that I want him back, ain’t tryin’ to be mean / But I bought him brand new clothes and burned the skinny jeans. . . . she should be thanking me and sending me some flowers / I taught him everything, now he can last for hours.” 

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Meghan even admits to her insecurities with  “3 AM,” where she talks about drunk texting a dude in the late hours of the night because she wants his “attention.”   She even deals with the task of trying to talk to a friend of hers who’s involved with someone that she says is “No Good For You.” Once again, the production laced with stabbing horns in the chorus and simple guitar chords accompanied by snapping fingers in the verses  are a genius touch by Kadish.

Trainor and Kadish really try to out-do each other on one of the album’s standout tracks “Walkashame.”  Here Trainor details the confusion of the morning after a one night stand, but in true “Meghan Trainor Fashion” she owns up to it by strutting herself out of her partner’s house with a wave of her hair and confidence.  This track is simply infectious.  Meghan can play the role of “the bad girl” and it still comes off “innocent” during the chorus thanks to the piano keys and harmonies that she rides perfectly “Don’t act like you haven’t been there / 7 A.M. with the bed head / Everyone knows it’s the walkashame / My daddy knows I’m a good girl / We all make mistakes in the drunk world.”

“What If I” and her duet with John Legend “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” displays Meghan at her most vulnerable.  “What If I” feels like the classic “Great Pretender” by the Platters and Meghan delivers a soulful ballad.  She doesn’t have the strongest voice out in the industry but stays in her pocket and delivers a genuine tone.  The chorus of “I’m gonna love you, like I’m gonna lose you / And I’m gonna hold you like I’m saying goodbye” in “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” – shows a great touch of song writing here as one proclaims to the other to never take them for granted.

The album’s few hiccups come in the form of a rap feature by Shy-Carter, who sounds like a really bad version of B.O.B on the track “Almost.”  The song was flowing fine until he comes along and basically ruins it.  There are times when Meghan herself adds her rapping “skills” to the music, as she does this on her newest single “Lips Are Movin’.”   It’s not that she’s terrible when she does it, but it’s mostly unnecessary and messes up the flow she has going on some of the records.  “Bang Dem Sticks” is a forgettable track and “Dear Future Husband” is a track that is silly but is carried by the production.

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Meghan exhibits a confident, young and strong personality that isn’t afraid of straying away from the norm or being the center of attention.  Unlike her female Doo-Wop predecessors, Meghan’s opinions and voice are not shackled by society – and in today’s world it’s appreciated and accepted.  She might push the envelope a little too much to make her “kid-friendly” and although this album definitely opens up 2015 with a pleasant surprise – this album does not give much for looking into Meghan Trainor’s longevity.  But for a girl who’s all about that bass, she bangs into the industry with a debut album that brings a fresh take on a classic musical era.

Rating 8 out of 10.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Ohio State vs Oregon Preview

Thanks to the first inaugural college football playoff, the College Football National Championship stage is now set.   The tradition of the Ohio Buckeyes led by coach Urban Meyer will face off against a newcomer to the college heavy-weights, the Oregon Ducks, led by coach Mark Helfrich.

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The head coach match up is an intriguing one.   Urban Meyer has seen success everywhere he’s coached and is – without a doubt – one of the best two coaches in college football today (the other obviously being Nick Saban of Alabama).  Before Ohio State, he was at Bowling Green, Utah and of course the University of Florida where he won two national championships (2006 and 2008).  Even with all that comes with his resume, this season was probably his best coaching job to date.   He lost his starting quarterback Braxton Miller at the beginning of the season but he didn’t skip a beat with back up quarterback J.T. Barrett.  As we all know by now, Barrett was injured before the Big 10 title game which led to the third string quarterback Cardale Jones taking the position under center – and now, here we are – the National Championship game.

Mark Helfrich’s road is vastly different and doesn’t come with all the flare and hardware that Meyer’s does.  Helfrich has been in the coaching ranks since 1998 when he started as Boise State’s quarterback’s coach.  He held the same position at Arizona State – and in both spots the offenses he helped coach up were very formidable.  In Colorado he didn’t see the same success as offensive coordinator, but ended up on Oregon’s coaching staff in 2009 nonetheless.  After Chip Kelly left Oregon in 2013 for the NFL, Helfrich was promoted to head coach.  Oregon’s offense has remained elite under Helfrich’s guidance, but there are still some skeptics who doubt how much impact he has had in their success – many believe he is just continuing the “Chip Kelly Formula.”

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Although Ohio State may have the experience and resume at head coach over Oregon – Oregon clearly has the advantage at quarterback . . . one would think.   It’s easy to assume so, considering Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is this year’s Heisman trophy winner after putting up “video game like statistics.”  Mariota has now thrown for 4121 yards, 40 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions.  The junior has a touchdown to interception ratio of just about 10:1 over his career and is projected to be an early first round pick in this year’s NFL draft. Mariota takes care of the ball and knows this Oregon offense probably better than anyone ever has at the university.  For Ohio State, their quarterback Cardale Jones is now starting his third game – and oh yeah, it’s only the Championship game.  No biggie.  It’s hard to gauge  just how good Patterson is though, considering we only seen a two game sample.   Sure, he had three touchdown passes and threw for over 250 yards against Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship game, but many of us are still wondering if that was really Wisconsin, or some elementary school flag football team, the Big 10 paid to lose 59-0 to the Buckeyes.   Against Alabama, the walls around Jones closed in a little more, as he threw at a completion percentage a little above 50% with one touchdown and one interception.  Jones has the arm talent for big games and the athleticism to run an Urban Meyer spread offense – but is this stage too much too soon for Jones?

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Defensively, these teams are separated by 1.3 points in terms of how many points they give up (Ohio State 21.2 / Oregon 22.5) but looking deeper into the numbers it appears Ohio State has the clear advantage.  Ohio State has 24 interceptions to their credit while allowing 328 yards a game.  Oregon gives up 413 yards a game and has given up 3374 yards in the air – nearly 900 more than Ohio State has allowed to aerial assaults.   To be fair though – Ohio State did not go against offenses that the Ducks had to face.  In the Pac 12 the level of competition and number of complicated offensive schemes outweigh the Big 10’s by a long-shot.   What is confusing about Ohio State defensively,  is that they completely shut down Wisconsin’s running attack, led by the nation’s best running back in Melvin Gordon yet gave up 230 yards on the ground to Alabama’s running back Ezekiel Elliot.  Nobody’s trying to knock the talent of Elliot, but nobody saw him in New York as a Heisman finalist either. . .

This game will come down to Oregon’s track-star like speed vs Ohio State’s four and five star recruit like speed.  A lot of Oregon’s passing yards come from after the catch – it would be hard to believe that these Oregon receiver’s will see much day light against the athletes on Ohio State’s defensive side.   Oregon’s passing attack was able to deliver all day in the middle of Florida State’s defense last week and that won’t be the case against Ohio State.  Urban Meyer, is not one of the best college football coaches in the world for nothing.  Meyer is a master at game-planning and nearly a magician in the way he makes opposing teams play to his strengths.  Something that needs to be taken away from the Florida State blow-out loss to Oregon is that Florida State was moving the ball against Oregon, it was the fumbles that sealed their fate.

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As of right now, Las Vegas has Oregon as a -6.5 point favorite with an over/under of 75.  The over looks like the fun thing to do and although the number is ridiculously high, nobody will be shocked to see these teams rack up points by the bus loads.  Urban Meyer is an underdog for two weeks in a row – last week was a little easier to understand – but against Mark Helfrich – one has to believe Meyer is thoroughly insulted.  Ohio State has the speed, size and athletes to match up with Oregon’s offense and to over-power Oregon’s defense. Take Ohio State with the points.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Young O.G. Project Album Review

Fabolous has been on the rap scene since the late 90’s when mixtapes were still a big deal and sold on the streets in ninety-minute cassette tape form.   Fabolous came in at a time were most of the OG’s in the rap game were still in their prime – like Jay-Z and Nas.   Fab was able to set himself apart from the rest because he emerged as one that played the fine line of being street and commercial better than most before or after him.   On The Young O.G. Project, Fab had said he wanted a 90’s feel to the album which was released on Christmas of 2014.   With this being his sixth studio album, Fab makes his mark amongst the new wave of hip hop while trying to add that touch of “loso” which has made him a force in the music industry his whole career.

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The album opens up with “Lituation” which is a classic Fabolous sound.  For fans of his classic “Breathe” they might like the hard kicks and the way Fab runs through the track defiantly withpunch lines bar after bar: “This is stuntin at the baby shower / Yeah, and it all came from baby powder / I buy her Rosé you buy your lady flowers / special thanks goes to the haze and sour / respect brought the money and it gave me power / Sneak dissin’ always been a fav’ of cowards.” 

“All Good”  which is produced by The Superiorz, uses the late Notorious B.I.G’s classic spoken intro to “Juicy” and the song itself has Fab describing the plight of today’s woman who can’t find a good man although she feels she puts in the work.  Fab continues with O.G. -type of knowledge on the track “You Made Me.”  It’s here where Fabolous details how betrayal by ones close to you eventually mold you into the person you become –  for better or worse.

If by mistake or not, Fabolous has two tracks on this album which pay a sort of homage to Nas.  The beats to Nas’ “Oochie Wally” and “Respect” are used on the tracks “She Wildin'” and “Gone For the Winter” respectively.  Chris Brown is featured on the hook for “She Wildin'” which is probably the most radio friendly track on the album where Fab’s wordplay and undeniable character shine :” Lames get shot down, she do a bang bang/ she attract rappers and the ones who do the same thang / playas in the league and dope boys who slang thangs / all tryna pull up on her, all she do is lane change / tryin to lock her down, she ain’t with the chain gang / wanna make her wifey but no name change.” 

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On “Gone For the Winter” Fabolous continues with his onslaught of clever rhyme scheme and flow.  The high point of this song, and maybe the best verse on the album goes to the end of this song when Fab rattles off bars for the last two minutes as if he’s still looking for a deal and it’s 1998.  He also seems a little upset at the fact that he kind of started a  style that a lot of folks ran with: “I handle my business, never let my business handle me / saying your name could do more for you than it can for me / you give n*ggas and they forget your philanthropy. . . don’t ever bite the hand that feed you and then stick your hand for me. . . . we throw n*ggas out the truck for real / chase you out the hood, make you live with Uncle Phil.”

Where things go wrong on this album is on tracks like “Rap & Sex” where Fab goes into the over-done metaphoric use that links “rocking a mic” with oral-sex.  Fab is above these child-like puns but this is where his struggle is evident.  “Cinnamon Apple”  quickly becomes the track most listeners love to skip as it supplies the weakest hook on the album and once again tells an over-done story of a young love that went foul.  “We Good”  features Rich Homie Quan and is the second track on the album – it’s so ultimately boring that it almost makes you not want to hear what comes on after.

Fabolous and his production team show they have a certain affinity for the chopped and screwed sound because half the songs on the album seem to transition to that and the novelty wears off early – and becomes annoying.  “Bish Bounce” actually gets ruined because of it.

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Fab ends the album on a good note at least with “Young OG II.” It’s here where  Fabolous really displays the knowledge one expects from their neighborhood O.G.  For the first time Fab reveals himself as one who is fighting off things that would get him in trouble when he was younger because he has bigger plans.  His bigger plans involve his son : “I wanna show him stuff, teach him how to do things / how to ride a bike, tie his shoe strings / how to be a man, how to treat his boo thing. . . did a lot but I know I ain’t done yet / Before it goes down, I make sure that my son is set / you made me so strong, you made this whole song / you made me Young O.G., I love you Johan.” 

Maybe if there was more of that Fab, there could’ve been a stronger imprint left with “the Young O.G. Project,” but Fab might be caught in  a tough spot.   He’s not quite as old as those who are his contemporaries and he definitely isn’t in the same age-bracket as those in this new school. But as he once said himself “I’m old enough to know better but young enough to not give a f—.”  Although we love that fun and witty Fab, it’d be nice to see more growth at this point in his career.

Rating 6 out of 10

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Is Rex the Man for Chicago?

Everything that made Rex Ryan a splash in New York, ultimately led to his demise in the Big Apple.   After seeing early success with the New York Jets, Ryan found himself on the back page of the papers for a number of reasons.  Weird tattoos, a foot fetish, foolish proclamations, embarrassing losses – you name it, Rex did it.  In his six years as head coach of the Jets he put up a 46-50 record.  Rex finished no higher than second in the AFC East and he committed that feat four times.

To some, Rex Ryan is a loud mouth obnoxious type – to others, he’s just a fun guy, with an unmatched competitive spirit.  His defensive prowess is amongst the best in the NFL.  Within his defensive scheme he’s proven he can max out a players potential – but his ineptitude on the offensive side of the ball is what got him in trouble.  Even then, is that really all his fault?  The Jets organization kept throwing a different offensive coordinator at him every two years or so and it just never worked out.

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After a competitively abysmal 4-12 season, Rex Ryan was relieved of his duties as head coach of the New York Jets.  The term competitively-abysmal is used because although 12 losses are more than “a lot” – the Jets lost by 7 or less points in 6 of those losses (including  one and two point losses to the New England Patriots).   Look at the roster Rex was given on offense though: a capable receiver in Eric Decker, a some-what jaded Percy Harvin, a dumpster fire at quarterback and a rookie tight end who’s hands were suspect.  Regardless of what he was handed, Rex  Ryan’s players never gave up on him during the year.

Enter, the Chicago Bears.

Hours after the Jets fired their head coach and general manager, the Bears did the same.  Parting ways with Marc Trestman was a no-brainer for the McCaskey family, who was said to be “furious” with and “embarrassed” by the product that was put out on the field.  In the last two months of the season, the Bears became a laughing stock and for what it’s worth, the hardest team to watch in the league.  What made matters worse for the Chicago Bears faithful was that there were actual expectations when the season began – and not those “pipe dream” or “blind fan” type of expectations – real expectations.  Needless to say, week to week of lack luster football led to the end of coach Marc Trestman.

It was obvious to anybody watching, the Bears’ team as a whole just seem uninterested in playing football or fighting for their coaches’ job.

This is why the table is set for Rex Ryan.

Rex Ryan coming to Chicago and being the man who brings the Bears back to respectability is the stuff movies are made of.  Rex’s father Buddy Ryan, of course was the defensive coordinator during the Super Bowl Shuffle Bears days and that defense has set the bar for others like the 2000 Ravens or last year’s Seahawks to match or surpass.

Rex can bring back the “nasty” that this defense has lacked for years and he can also be the guy who these players would never quit on.  Rex needs a big city for his big personality and he wouldn’t have to worry about trying to steal headlines from an inner city rival.

While in New York, Rex Ryan embraced the rivalry that existed between the Jets and the Patriots.  He loved the animosity and to some degree loved the chess match that existed between him and Bill Belichick.   Now imagine how much Rex would embrace being in the middle of the NFL’s longest running rivalry: Bears vs Packers.

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There will no doubt be a thorough process the Chicago Bears will undertake in hiring a new coach.  Coordinators like Todd Bowles, Dan Quinn and Adam Gase are the popular names being thrown out as possible head coaching candidates in the NFL – but Ryan is the guy for Chicago.  The Bears thought an out of the box, quiet hire like Trestman would be the answer – but the truth is, Trestman was never head coach material.  He could not lead men onto the field, give direction or handle the chaos that might come with the job.  Ryan has endured and embraced the New York media and has been able to rally his troops to victory in a meaningless week 17 game that would be the difference of ending the season with 3 wins or 4.

A culture change is needed in Chicago.  The funny thing is, the culture changed two years ago – now it’s time to get it back to basics.  It can start with Buddy’s son, Rex – the loud-boisterous spawn which stems from a family tree rooted in defensive genius.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

College Bowl Game Predictions, Pt. 2

Liberty Bowl – West Virginia Mountaineers vs Texas A&M Aggies

Texas A&M made all of us scratch our heads this year.  A year removed from “Johnny Football” we all thought a new sun had risen in Texas with quarterback Kenny Hill.  After Hill found himself benched they turned to Kyle Allen and after starting out 5-0 they finished 7-5.  West Virginia is a good team who was dealt a tough hand with their schedule.  Quarterback Clint Trickett is questionable, and no disrespect to his fantastic season but his back up Skyler Howard looked tremendous against (albeit) Iowa State.  Texas A&M is pass happy and going against a very good pass defense.  The pick here is West Virginia -3.

Russell Athletic Bowl – Clemson Tigers vs Oklahoma Sooners

I kind of thought I was the only one who knew Russell Athletic was still around. Good for them they have their own bowl game.  It’s amazing they’ve stood the test of time with athletic apparel companies like Nike and Under Armour clearly holding weight in not just college athletics but all areas of sporting.  Oh, this game?  Both of these teams disappoint their fan bases every year – never take the favorite when it comes to Clemson or Oklahoma.  The pick here is Clemson +3 (but I might just take the over at 54).

Texas Bowl – Texas Longhorns vs Arkansas Razorbacks 

It was an up and down season for Texas’ first year head coach Charlie Strong, but that was expected.  Making any bowl game was a success to be honest and a win in the national spot light in their home state can be huge for recruiting.  Arkansas is a team who’s offensive line is massive.  They can control games at their own pace and although losing to Missouri was tough, this is a program on the rise.  The pick here: Texas +6.

Music City Fiesta Bowl – Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs LSU Tigers

This game has the potential to be very long and sloppy.  Coach Brian Kelly of Notre Dame was visibly frustrated towards the end of the season with the play of his defense and the carelessness of his quarterback Everett Golson.  LSU has a good running game and doesn’t try throwing the ball at all because they flat out can’t.  The pick here is REALLY the under at 52.5

Belk Bowl – Louisville Cardinals vs Georgia Bulldogs

Once again Georgia coach Mark Richt proved that he can recruit and make his team look good on paper – but he can’t win when it matters.  On the other side of things Bobby Petrino proved that it doesn’t matter the character of the man, he can flat out coach a winner.  No reason why Georgia should be a -7 favorite against a pretty well balanced Louisville team.  The pick here is Louisville +7.

Foster Farms San Francisco Bowl – Maryland Terrapins vs Stanford Cardinal

This game is interesting because the Terps think they’re on a program on the come-up, when in truth they are pretty terrible and Stanford is a team that has looked disinterested in playing football for most of this season.  Stanford will squeak by in one that – on paper – should be a walk in the park.  The pick here is Maryland +14.

Chick-Fil_A Peach Bowl – Ole Miss Rebels vs TCU Horned Frogs 

In what should be one of the more exciting match ups of this bowl season.  Ole Miss took a shot to the gut after losing to LSU and Auburn and TCU took the massive head shot after getting bumped from  the college football playoffs.  Both teams are coached well and will play up to the level of it’s competition.  As good as TCU’s offense is, this is an Ole Miss defense that has the speed to keep up.  Both quarterbacks, TCU’s Trevor Boykin and Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace will have to be careful with the football in what will be one of the most watched bowl games of the year.  The pick here is Ole Miss +3.

Bo+Wallace+Mississippi+v+Texas+yye48UrPhTVl

Fiesta Bowl – Boise State Broncos vs Arizona Wildcats

Arizona really wet the bed against Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship game.  Linebacker Scooby Wright is one of those players who is everywhere all the time, and has helped make this Wildcats defense tougher.  Boise though can score at will it seems and is back to their home away from home the Fiesta Bowl.  The pick here is Boise State +3.5.

Orange Bowl – Georgia Tech Yellowjackets vs Mississippi State Bulldogs

What’s the record for the number of teams called “the bulldogs” in bowl games?  Because this year, there’s been a bunch.  This game is for those that love smash mouth football.  The over/under in total pass attempts should be around 20 combined by both teams.  Even when Mississippi was ranked #1 they weren’t blowing people out by 50.  The pick here is Georgia Tech +7.

Outback Bowl – Wisconsin Badgers vs Auburn Tigers

Wisconsin is still licking their wounds after being thoroughly embarrassed by Ohio State in the Big 10 championship game.  That game made us forget how amazing Melvin Gordon ran the ball this year.  Auburn has failed to cover in six of their last seven games and Vegas has the spread shrinking more and more. The pick here is Auburn -6.5.

Melvin+Gordon+Minnesota+v+Wisconsin+yrkAA1XKStPl

Cotton Bowl – Michigan State Spartans vs Baylor Bears

The hope here is that neither team comes Arlington, Texas in “let down” mode.  Regardless, this will be the game that shows how the committee was correct in keeping out the Baylor Bears and how Michigan State is one of the most balanced teams in college football today.  The pick here is Michigan State +3.

Citrus Bowl – Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Missouri Tigers 

Missouri has proved that the jump from Big 12 to SEC was nothing for this program but they ultimately can’t wear the SEC crown. . . yet.  Minnesota is coming into this one as a considerable underdog for a team that was ranked nationally late in the season.  “Respect” for the Gophers and “disappointment” for the Tigers will play the biggest roles in this game.  The pick here is Minnesota +5.

Armed Forces Bowl – Pittsburgh Panthers vs Houston Cougars

Nobody knows how the Panthers beat Miami after for the most part having a pretty non-eventful season, but running back James Connor is going to touch the ball about 30 times in this game and help wear down a Cougars team that isn’t like the ones we’ve seen in recent history.  The pick here is Pittsburgh -3.

Taxslayer Bowl – Iowa Hawkeyes vs Tennessee Volunteers 

Nobody expected coach Butch Jones to have a 10 win season at Tennessee but 6-6 is a disappointment so having the chance to finish above .500 will keep them engaged for all four quarters.  The Hawkeyes bring a very experienced bunch to the table, most who will be playing their last game here.  The pick here is: Tennessee -3.

Alamo Bowl – UCLA Bruins vs Kansas State Wildcats

This will be the last time for UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley to try to impress on a big stage.  As he enters the draft this year he brings along his 29 total touchdowns but all in all a disappointing season for the Bruins.  The Bruins are capable of beating good teams, and Kansas State is very well balanced team.  Wideout Tyler Lockett of Kansas State will certainly get his against a UCLA defense who’s secondary has been shown out of position time and time again.  The pick here is Kansas State (Vegas currently has this game as a “pick ’em.”

Cactus Bowl – Oklahoma State Cowboys vs Washington Huskies

Who knows where Oklahoma State pulled that win against Oklahoma from to end the season.  It was the sharpest they’ve looked all season but it took them to play their hated rival to do it.  Washington “ain’t got no beef” with the Cowboys but they do bring to the table a very good defense to keep this game close for a while.  The pick here is Oklahoma State +5.5.

Birmingham Bowl – East Carolina Pirates vs Florida Gators

Watching the Gators this year was straight torture.  Yes they have a good defense but they can’t score at all.  Ever.  They’ll get a couple of stops against this Pirate offense, but won’t be able to contain them for four quarters.  Field position will be key for the Pirates.  The pick here is East Carolina +7.

Go Daddy.Com Bowl – Toledo Rockets vs Arkansas State Red Wolves

The best part of any GoDaddy.Com bowl is seeing the numerous adds that feature Danica Patrick all dolled up and looking adorable with other dolled up and adorable females who are appealing to the eye.  I won’t even pretend as if I know anything about Toledo and Arkansas State.  The pick here is the over at 67.

Rose Bowl (Playoff Semifinal) – Florida State Seminoles vs Oregon Ducks

Last year’s Heisman trophy winning quarterback verses this year’s Heisman trophy quarterback.  This can be the game that separates the gap between Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariotta when it comes to the upcoming pro draft.  Florida State has been living off second half comebacks this season but try giving Oregon a 14 or 21 point lead and coming back. . .  This game ends the reigning champs undefeated streak.  The pick here is Oregon -9.5.

SEC+Football+Championship+Florida+v+Alabama+UkUBcn5kn07l

Sugar Bowl (Playoff Semifinal) – Ohio State Buckeyes vs Alabama Crimson Tide

The best two coaches in the last 10 years of college football square off as it’s Urban Meyer against Nick Saban.  Nick Saban kept his cool throughout the season and has found himself ranked number one in the final polls.  Ohio State is one of the few teams that can match up with Alabama both physically and athletically – Urban Meyer may coach in the Big 10 conference, but he’s been recruiting SEC talented players.  Having a third string quarterback against a Nick Saban run defense is a tall task to over-come.  Whoever wins this game, ultimately becomes the National Champion because these two teams are just better than the teams in the Rose Bowl.  The pick here is Ohio State +9.5.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

 

College Bowl Game Predictions, Pt. 1

New Orleans Bowl – Nevada Wolfpack vs Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns:

This game has obviously everything you want.  Two teams with pretty cool nicknames that will score a lot.  The New Orleans Bowl is usually a game that goes “over” in total points, but this is a home-bowl-game for the Cajuns.  The pick here is the Cajuns -1.

New Mexico Bowl – Utep Miners vs Utah State Aggies:

Utah State is one of those teams that you kind of love them as underdogs but not much as favorites.  This isn’t a sexy game at all, but  a final score of 21-13 favoring the Aggies isn’t too far fetched considered their isn’t much offense to be seen from both sides.  The pick here is Utep +10.5.

Las Vegas Bowl – Utah Utes vs Colorado State Rams

Utah started losing steam late in the year and Colorado State was ‘under the radar’ for most of the season.   Both defenses cause turnovers but Colorado State’s offense is a little more versatile.  Utah might be in ‘let down mode’ for this game.  The pick here is Colorado State +3.5.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – Western Michigan Broncos vs Air Force Falcons:

The Broncos defense is a little more opportunistic than the Falcons’ but the Falcons are pretty careful with the ball and focus on the ground game more than anything else.  The pick here is Western Michigan +1.5.

Camellia Bowl – South Alabama Jaguars vs Bowling Green Falcons

Both teams looked better in the first half of the season than the second half – but it doesn’t matter because it’s brought both teams here to the Camellia Bowl (sponsored by a company called Raycom Media. . .?)  For the Jags it’s their first bowl game ever, and for the Falcons it’s their first since early 2000.  There is something to like about quarterback James Knapke of the Falcons, that his stats don’t show, but he’s been in some battles this year and should come away with one of his better games against the Jaguars defense. The pick here is Bowling Green +3.

James+Knapke+Bowling+Green+v+Northern+Illinois+lW0TN0Tng0Jl

Miami Beach Bowl – BYU Cougars vs Memphis Tigers 

This a game that matches up two teams that love to run the ball.  BYU might be the stronger of the two teams, but Memphis, at least to the naked eye, just seems faster – Memphis has one or two big plays in them that make the difference in this one.  The pick here is Memphis PK.

Boca Raton Bowl – Marshall Herd vs Northern Illinois Huskies

In the BCS way of thinking – Marshall Herd would’ve been a BCS buster type of team until they stumbled against Western Kentucky.   Northern Illinois was the talk of the “BCS buster” town last season and many thought they would fall off but they put together a nice season.  Marshall seemed to be running out of steam late in the year, Northern Illinois has been in this spot and is well coached.  The pick here is Northern Illinois +10.

Rakeem+Cato+CUSA+Championship+Marshall+v+Rice+8qT84Cpy9-Nl

Poinsettia Bowl – Navy Midshipmen vs San Diego State Aztecs

This is one of those games where your heart tells you to go with Navy but this is one of those games where that one dimensional offense loses steam late. This is a home game for the Aztecs and in bowl games, if you have the chance to take a home team, take it.   The pick here is San Diego State +3.

Bahamas Bowl – Central Michigan Chippewas vs Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

The Chips enter the inaugural Bahamas Bowl with the NCAA’s 16th ranked defense going up against Western Kentucky’s quarterback Brandon Doughty who threw for over 4000 yards and 44 touchdowns this season.  The Chips and Hilltoppers both beat the champions of their respective conferences and are both coached up well for big games.  Western Kentucky upsetting Marshall 67-66 leaves a memory in a lot of folks’ minds meaning that’s where most of the money will lean.  The pick here is Central Michigan +4.

Hawaii Bowl – Fresno State Bulldogs vs Rice Owls 

The expectation for Rice was that with a lot of returning starters, they’d have at least an 8 or 9 win season. They ultimately finished with 7 wins  and now get a free trip to Hawaii for it.  Fresno had a disappointing season after losing high profile offensive players to the NFL draft.  Fresno can handle the atmosphere at Hawaii, but these kids from Rice will be more in awe of their surroundings then the actual game.  The pick here is Fresno State +2.5.

Heart of Dallas Bowl – Illinois Fighting Illini vs Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Louisiana Tech put on quite a display against Rice racking up 76 points but followed that up losing by three to the Marshall Herd the following week.  Tech will be missing three defensive starters in this game which will something to watch with this usually good Tech defense.  Illinois may be a “power conference” team, but they’ve limped all season long.  The pick here is Louisiana Tech -6.

Quick Lane Bowl – Rutgers Scarlet Knights  vs North Carolina Tar Heels

In Rutgers’ first season in the Big 10 it was clear they didn’t belong – where they should’ve played is the ACC – so playing against UNC should be more of an even game for Rutgers. Rutgers is a team that all season long, lost to good teams and won against bottom feeders.  UNC is neither bad nor good and are led by the dual threat quarterback Marquise Williams who ran for over 700 yards and threw for over 2800 yards.  With the drama that’s going on with the university, who knows when the next time we’ll see UNC in a bowl game – these players know that as well.  The pick here is UNC -3.

St. Petersburg Bowl – North Carolina State Wolfpack vs Central Florida Knights

For UCF this is a home game and although the trend here has been “take the home bowl team” this one is trickier.  Central Florida was expected to drop off a lot without Blake Bortles under center but they kept themselves relevant all year long.  N.C State is never really relevant as their is nothing that pops off the screen about them.  Central Florida lost to UConn, and I’m basing this prediction off that head scratching moment more than anything.  The pick here is NC State  +2.

Military Bowl – Virginia Tech Hookies vs Cincinnati Bearcats

The player to watch in this game is Gunner Kiel, the quarterback of the Bearcats.  If he plays well in this national stage, he might have “all eyes on him” next season to see if his game can project to the next level.  Virginia Tech has been hanging onto the fact that they beat Ohio State all year long but seriously they are just okay on defense and as usual, struggle to get points on the board.  Cincy does “just enough” in this game.  The pick here is Cincinnati -3.

Sun Bowl – Duke Blue Devils vs Arizona State Sun Devils

Pretty interesting match up of two teams that came in with higher expectations but ultimately find themselves in the Sun Bowl.  Arizona State late in the year had a slight (slight) chance of taking the Pac 12 conference, but ran flat to end the season.  Duke didn’t finish strong either, but this is more of a “let down” for Arizona State who is clearly the better squad.  Duke sees this more as a chance to prove itself as a legit football program against a strong Pac 12 team.  The pick here is Duke +7.5.

Independence Bowl – Miami Hurricanes vs South Carolina Gamecocks

Miami had their chances this year but couldn’t come through in big games.  The four point loss to Florida State resulted in them ending the season with a three game losing streak.  South Carolina showed that they lost a lot to graduation or the NFL draft as their only wins came against bad teams.   People are dumb and will watch reruns of ESPN documentaries about the Hurricane and feel that they’re back.  Vegas has the line right with this one.  The Pick here is South Carolina +4.

Pinstripe Bowl – Penn State Nittany Lions vs Boston College Eagles

The Bronx sets the back drop for the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium and both teams will have their fair share of fan support in New York.   Both teams are “grind it out teams” but Penn State entered this season thinking they’d be more balanced.  Quarterback Christian Hackenberg is supposed to be the kid with a nice future ahead of him, but 15 interceptions and bad decision making has made people think maybe the pressure has gotten to him.  Boston College has had close losses and nice wins against good teams – Penn State’s best try was a triple over-time loss to Ohio State.  The pick here is Boston College -3.

Holiday Bowl – Nebraska Cornhuskers vs USC Trojans

Cody+Kessler+Notre+Dame+v+USC+mZh9m6aDK5wl

It’s hard to compare the two considering the Cornhuskers come from more of a running offensive conference and the Trojans are coming out of a more pass-happy conference.  With that said, the Trojans might be coming back to prominence and expect to compete for the Pac 12 crown next season – they are going to approach this game as an insult and look to embarrass a Nebraska team, who has already shown disappointment in their team by firing their head coach.  The pick here is USC -6.5.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

 

 

Some Love Lost Album Review

Joe Budden has been called a lot of things.  “Emo,” “One Hit Wonder,” “Crybaby” and even at times “soft.”  Although the latter is more of an insult than an actual analyzation – the other titles he’s been given have some kind of validity.  Lyrically, Budden cannot be denied.  He is beyond the punch lines and a “hot 16” – he’s learned how to carefully create short stories and bear his heart on his sleeve in the process.  Budden’s popularity is always a theory for debate as it seems although he has his own fan-base there are also a large group of hip hop fans who aren’t necessarily “fans” but are just intrigued by Joe Budden, the person. Continue reading Some Love Lost Album Review

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