Saturday, December 19, 2009

Beats of the Decade

Let's clear a thing or two up before I start. These are certainly NOT my favorite songs of the decade, just the best rap instrumentals since the year 2000... in one man's eyes. Debate is welcome - encouraged, in fact. Also, I should point out that this was an incredibly difficult task. I could have listed 200 and been content. I went with 10 though... first, the honorable mentions:

Dirt Off Ya Shoulder - Timbaland (Jay-Z) - 2004
I Got My Locs On - JR Rotem (Ice Cube and Young Jeezy) - 2008
'Till I Collapse - Eminem (Eminem) - 2001
Chevy Ridin' High - Dre (Rick Ross, The Game) - 2005
Draped Up - Messy Marv (Bun B) - 2004
Higher - Dr. Dre (The Game) - 2004
Brooklyn (We Go Hard) - Kanye West (Jay-Z and Santogold) - 2008
Swagger Like Us - Kanye West (T.I., Kanye West, Jay-Z, Lil' Wayne) - 2007
Dreams - Kanye West (The Game) - 2004
We Major - Kanye West (Kanye West, Nas) - 2005
Black Republican - L.E.S. (Nas, Jay-Z) - 2005
So Fresh, So Clean - Organized Noize (OutKast) - 2000
Won't Let You Down - Kane Beatz (Chamillionaire) - 2007
Gone - Kanye West (Kanye West, Cam'Ron and Consequence) - 2005
What Up, What's Haapnin' - Drumma Boy (T.I.) - 2008
My Block - Nashiem Myrick and Lee Stone (Scarface) - 2003
Get You Some - Dr. Dre (Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip, Marsha Ambrosius) - 2006
Dope Boys - 1500 or Nothin', DJ Quik (Game and Travis Barker) - 2008

Now, the top 10:

10. B.O.B. - Earthtone III (OutKast) - 2000
Dear God,

Please let there be another OutKast album. Soon. Please. It's probably the greatest shit ever. Seriously. Thanks.


9. 99 Problems - Rick Rubin (Jay-Z) 2004
The guitar riff is unbelievable, and 500 times better in concert, when Jay does his big boy shows with a real band, than in digital/disc form. The scratching is a perfect accent to the drums and guitar riff, making this a beat you'll hear for 50 years.

8. Jesus Walks - Kanye West (Kanye West) - 2004
It might be the best rap song of all-time. If you can make a song questioning the philosophical approach to religion... and have PEOPLE PLAY IT IN CLUBS... you've made a fucking incredible song. The choral backdrop is perfectly executed, the drums aren't so fierce that they overpower the lyrics, and the layered secondary drum loop accents the entire track perfectly.

7. Cannon - Don Cannon (T.I. and Lil' Wayne) - 2006
Don Cannon's beats have giant titanium balls that graze the pavement when they walk through the gates of Hell. This song samples Tecmo Super Bowl for God's sake. How fucking awesome is that?

6. Made You Look - Salaam Remi (Nas) - 2002
BOOM! A gunshot, and you're off. The echoing "Bravehearts" grows into a roar before Nasir Jones destroys this ridiculous beat. Once again, an echo on a synth used to perfection. The nuances of sound are accentuated perfectly by Salaam Remi on this beat -- the scratches that have a gradually ascending volume are awesome, the reverse-action after the gunshots in the hook, etc. Timeless hip-hop.

5. Breathe - Just Blaze (Fabolous) - 2004
Just Blaze continues to have some of the sickest keys in the world, and this may be the best example of that. The echo of the vocal sample is flawless, and provides an eerie depth that gives the MC an accent to his lyrics, but not a dominating voice he has to work to overcome. The first time I heard this song, I think I listened to it a dozen times. And I can't stand Fabolous.

4. What You Know - Wonder (T.I.) - 2006
This song is fucking brilliant. There's a reason why it was played to death - the combination of the rumbling bass that reverberates throughout the track, flawless synths and sick hook made it one of my favorite rap singles of all-time. This song also reminds me of about 75 fantastic, friend-and-female-filled, inebriated nights in college.

3. Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix) - Kanye West (Kanye West, Jay-Z) - 2005
The first time I heard the OG version of this, I think I hit repeat a dozen times. The sample at the beginning is the perfect tease for the horns and synths that 'Ye drops before letting the drums do their work. The song sounds fit for a concert hall in a genre of strip club producers. The "Hold One Up" sample cut into the verses is brilliantly executed, as well. Lupe Fiasco's version of this song is one of my favorite songs of all-time.

2. It's Okay (One Blood) - Reefa (The Game) - 2005
The best sample of the decade, HANDS DOWN. Maybe the best bass line, too. This shit was so gruesome, it made your speakers bleed melted plastic, and you didn't mind the smell. Anytime a beat doesn't need a hook because the sample is so vicious, it really doesn't matter what is rapped over it. And Game didn't disrespect it, either - it's probably his best song.

1. Grindin' - The Neptunes (Clipse) - 2002
The sheer brilliance... is in its simplicity. The crispness of the drums, simple bass pattern, and incessant resonating clap provide the quintessential backdrop for a verse. The basic instrumental addition in the hook is just enough to put it over the top. It's the rare beat that gets rapped over 10 million times by 10 million different emcees, and one never gets sick of hearing it. My number 1.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Who's the Best to Never Win a Major?

Update: This was updated and put on

Underneath yesterday’s most prominent storyline at Turnberry, another was brewing. Several players who had never won a Major – Lee Westwood included – circled the top of the leaderboard with chances to take home the Claret Jug. Stewart Cink, though probably not at the top of that list yesterday morning, eliminated that possible label for good Sunday. The answer to the question “Who’s the best without a major?” has seemingly been Sergio Garcia for the past several years, but several players have thrown their names into this unenviable ring. So let’s statistically assess this question, and try to come up with an answer.

I’ve come up with a formula that combines PGA TOUR wins, European Tour wins, Top 10 percentage on each tour, Top 10 percentage in Majors as a professional, and assesses a different amount of points for each top-10 finish in a Major championship. For transparency purposes, here’s how my formula shakes out:

(2 + (PGA TOUR top 10 pct)) + (1 + (European Tour top 10 pct)) + PGA TOUR wins + (Euro Tour wins x .5) + (Top 10 pct in Majors x 100) x .25) + (Major points x .1) = Almost Index

Major points are collected like this: players are given points in every Major in which they finished in the top 10, on a scale from 1 to 9. A 2nd place finish is a 9, a T-2nd 8.5, a 3rd gets 8, and so on – with the scale ending at T-10 (.5 points).

Your list of nominees:

Sergio Garcia
OWGR: 5th
PGA TOUR wins: 7
Almost Index: 30.965

Sergio’s staggering list of near-misses in Major championships makes him an easy choice for the label. He may have never finished as the runner-up in a major since Medinah in 1999, but he’s finished in the top 10 on golf’s biggest stage 12 times (29.3 percent of the majors he’s started as a pro). Garcia has made the most of his European Tour appearances, too, finishing in the top ten 45.8 percent of the time he’s teed it up. Garcia has won 7 times on the PGA TOUR, including last year at golf’s ‘fifth major.’ It’s telling though, that the first person he thanked when he won the PLAYERS in 2008 was Tiger Woods – for not being there.

Kenny Perry
OWGR: 4th
PGA TOUR wins: 14
Almost Index: 23.513

Perry’s late career renaissance has made him a compelling figure on the PGA TOUR the last few years. Despite turning pro in 1982, 10 of his 14 wins have come since 2003. Overall, his PGA TOUR top 10 percentage is 17.58, but since 2003, it’s 25.93 percent. We’re taking the whole picture into consideration for our arguments, though. Perry has finished in the top 10 in majors 6 times in his career (13.95 percent of his starts). Everything you may need to know about Perry’s perspective on never winning the big one may come from what he elected to do last year – skip the Open Championship in a strategic move that gave him a better shot at playing for the U.S. Ryder Cup team in his native Kentucky.

Lee Westwood
OWGR: 14th
PGA TOUR wins: 1
Almost Index: 20.898

Another Sunday in the spotlight for Westwood – another disappointing finish. Twice in the last 2 years now he’s been on golf’s biggest stage: he played in the final group with Tiger Woods at the ’08 U.S. Open, missing a putt on the 72nd hole that would have made him the third member of that memorable Monday playoff; and yesterday, when he found himself on top of the leaderboard at Turnberry, only to falter down the stretch. Westwood now has 7 top-10 finishes in Majors, good enough for 36.5 major points on our scale. He has 18 career European tour wins, and has finished in the top 10 in nearly 40 percent of his starts. On the Almost Index, though, he’s not quite on the level of Mr. Garcia.

Steve Stricker
OWGR: 6th
PGA TOUR wins: 6
Almost Index: 18.255

Steve Stricker is another testament to the value of grinding. He’s enjoying his second career multi-win season this year on TOUR, with the other coming in 1996. After finishing in the top 10 just 3 times from 2002-2005, he’s done it 29 times in the last 4 years. In majors, he’s finished in the top ten 5 times since the 2006 U.S. Open, but never better than T-6th in that span. Despite finishing T-52nd at the Open this year, he’s your new leader atop the FedExCup standings. Stricker’s mid-career lull hurts his Almost Index number, but the fact that he’s ascended as high as 3rd in the OWGR says his ‘comeback’ has evolved into staying power in golf’s top tier.

Paul Casey
OWGR: 3rd
PGA TOUR wins: 1
Almost Index: 13.827

His resume isn’t as long as the other names on this list, but I’d be remiss if I did not mention the 3rd ranked player on earth. Casey picked up his first career PGA TOUR win in Houston this year, and has finished in the top ten 3 times, including at the WGC Match Play, where he was runner-up to Geoff Ogilvy. He’s got 48 European Tour top 10 finishes, and 9 wins across the pond. However, Casey’s best finish in a major is T-6th a the 2004 Masters, and he’s only finished in the top 10 in majors 4 times (15.38 percent of his starts as a pro).

So the verdict is in, and it remains Sergio Garcia. The formula says Kenny Perry may be closer to Garcia than people think. However, I don’t think Perry is disappointed to finish runner-up here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

When a Public Figure Dies

No one wants to speak ill of those who are deceased, yet I always find the same consistently bizarre development when someone in the public eye passes away. Bizarre to me, anyway.

Human beings immediately develop a sense of fond remembrance for people when they die. No one wants to remember negative aspects of someones life. It's one of the few endearing parts about human nature that never gets noticed.

This act is consistent with the immediate legacy of someone in the public eye. In the last few hours, this has been readily apparent to me with the death of Michael Jackson. Here is a man who's persona has literally been possessed by the public for in excess of 30 years. Everything he's done since adolescence has been analyzed by people. Shotty check-out line publications funded their entire payroll off hearsay regarding him.

For my entire time on Earth as a thinking, functioning person, Michael Jackson has been dubbed grade-A, bat shit insane by most people. I'm 24. I wasn't around for the peak of Thriller, or the Jackson 5. Obviously, I'm well aware of his musical catalog, but for my entire life, he's just been an aging entertainer tied up in legal battles regarding child molestation. THAT'S my overwhelming impression of him.

To hear people's reaction to this news, though, you would think he was a Verile, mid-twenties superstar, with his hand on the pulse of music. "Shock?" "Surreal?" Seriously, how is this a shock? The man has looked like a zombie for a decade. I feel for any loved ones when they lose someone who passes away, but how can the public express shock at this news?

My point is not to berate Michael Jackson. It's that I can't help but be fascinated every time a public figure passes away, people share this unified sense of humanity. This invariably leads to people narrowing their view of a person's life into a myopic, flowery image that best suits whatever glowing impression the deceased DID make on their lives.

When Tupac Shakur passed away I was 11, and he was my favorite musician. I of course paid no mind to his assault charges, nefarious actions, etc. I was 1) sad my favorite rapper was gone, and 2) invariably thought about my own death, which unfortunately I did way too much as a kid. I say this because he was probably the most personal example I can recall of a public figure dying that I was most saddened by.

People will wax poetic for several days and weeks about Michael Jackson. His musical legacy is obviously impossible to deny. But as is the case with everyone who dies, the public perspective on them glistens less as time goes on. The haze of human emotion that clouds their immediate legacy drifts away in time.

Just something I find interesting anytime the world loses a public figure.