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Atlanta: “The Streisand Effect” recap

Atlanta: “The Streisand Effect” recap

Shaun and Michael H. are back with your weekly look at Atlanta, which airs on Tuesdays at 10pm ET on FX. The title of this week’s episode is “The Streisand Effect.”

“Everything’s made up…stay woke.” – Darius

Paper’s Got Haters


Shaun: The fourth episode of Atlanta was one of those television episodes that did not exactly move the plot forward, per se, but it certainly was entertaining nonetheless.  While last week’s installment highlighted Paper and Darius making a pick up for their “other” business (hint: drugs), and Michael and I highlighted how it was the first episode that did not feature Paper’s quick-rising fame, this week made up for it by seemingly skipping over some continued career progression in between episodes.

Each episode of Atlanta, as a matter of fact, has seemed to skip some time in the plot line between episodes, as opposed to picking right up where the last week left off, and it helps move the plot along, despite the half-hour time slot of the show taking its sweet time with attention to detail and slow, deliberate scenes.

So with that in mind, last night jumped right in on Paper’s rap career again, where he is now at the point that he has Internet bullies!  This sounds like such a minute indicator of success, but in the 21st-century, the fact that the Internet buzz has picked up actually does make a statement about his career arc.

We are introduced to Zan, the Asian/Dominican/half-Black (no one knows his ethnicity) photographer and t-shirt salesman who treats Paper like a long-lost best friend when they meet outside a recording studio.  After Zan gets a picture with the local rapper, Paper thinks he has found a new, albeit weird, fan.  But what he gets instead is an Internet nightmare that would embarrass the hell out of 16-year old me.

Zan starts roasting him online!  YouTube reviews of Paper’s mixtapes (with an awfully transparent homage to Anthony Fantano – the squid that actually reviews hip hop albums on YouTube in real life), Instagram posts, and tweets alike are all aimed at taking down Paper and treating him like a corny-ass rapper.  Paper can’t have that – so he goes into action and finds Zan working at a pizza delivery shop.

The ensuing scene with Zan and Paper takes an interesting turn, as the two dive into a weird (and kind of inaccurate) conversation about the exploitation of hip hop and who truly is taking advantage of the hip hop culture – is it the rapper that wants out of the streets, while talking about that life in his songs, or is it the Asian (I think?) culture vulture that stalks rappers and mocks them online in order to sell merchandise?

There might be valid points on either side.  I don’t know.

Either way, Paper experiences a weird afternoon with a pizza delivery man and his 8-year old “business partner” that makes viral Vine videos.  And who knows if it will truly stop Zan from roasting him on Twitter.  Paper has critics online, now, so at least he has that going for him.  The career continues to ascend.

The Art of the Deal

ATLANTA -- “The Streisand Effect” -- Episode 104 (Airs Tuesday, September 20, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: (l-r) Donald Glover as Earnest Marks, Keith Standfield as Darius. CR: Guy D'Alema/FX

Michael H: Earn needs money because Earn is broke and, apparently, is no longer trying sign people up for credit cards at the airport. The semi-philosophical and for sure low-key brilliant Darius takes Earn on a money-making journey, trading up on various items as they go.

What starts out as just a simple pawn store visit, with the stated objective of Earn swapping his phone for money, turns into a multi-stop lesson on inner-city bartering. The two swap the phone for a samurai sword at the pawn shop, then swap the sword for a dog at an underground hipster flea market warehouse, and, finally, they swap the dog for the future windfall to be generated from selling the puppies said dog will produce.

Along the way Darius, as we have come to expect, drops some absolute gems (like I dropped out of PE), which Earn reacts to in various levels of disbelief. Darius initially claims that AIDS was invented to stop Wilt Chamberlain from breaking Steve McQueen’s record of most women slept with. Then, referencing Van’s background, Darius claims that all Chinese people are short (D: “look it up in a book.” E: “the racism book?”) because they were conquered by Genghis Khan, who did not like tall people. “You don’t think that had an effect genetically?” asks Darius in reaction to Earn’s skepticism. Darius is the best character on TV by a pretty wide margin (at least until Jack Bauer’s new show starts, JK).

Money problems are about as universal as relationship problems; Atlanta, and creator and writer Donald Glover, have approached these commonalities not necessarily in completely different ways than we have seen before, but in ways that feel earned and hyper-relatable.

When the dread and anxiety takes hold of Earn’s face after the realization that he wouldn’t be seeing any of the dog money until September, it scores a direct hit with viewers – at least it did with me. You could almost see the flip-flopping of his stomach as his mind raced to concoct some sort of explanation for Van and his daughter as to why there would be no money for food.

Darius saves the day, offering Earn his phone to pawn for a few hundred bucks (“Don’t worry, I get a new one every month, make sure they ain’t tracking me”). Earn is visibly relieved and maybe starts to see his acquaintance in a different light. As if sensing this shift, Darius pauses before getting into the car and says, “We’re friends now.” Earn could certainly use more of those.

BONUS: Best surreal moment from “The Streisand Effect”: the random Asian dude sitting on the ground crying-yelling in a foreign language into his phone while just on the other side of a fence goats are grazing.

See you next week.

Atlanta: “Go For Broke” recap

Atlanta: “Go For Broke” recap

(Editor’s note: Shaun is joining Michael H for the remainder of the first season of Atlanta to bring a rap aficionado’s perspective to the recaps. Enjoy.)

There wasn’t much specifically about the rap game – besides a surprise cameo! – but “Go For Broke” was another exceptional episode of Atlanta, a television show on FX that you should be watching. There were two distinct storylines in the third episode; Shaun gets us going by taking a look at Paper Boi and Darius. Michael H. takes on the weird-ass Earn and Van relationship.

The Adventures of Paper Boi


Shaun: When we left Paper Boi and Darius last week, it looked as though their meteoric rise to fame was inevitable.  And it was happening fast.  So fast, actually, that I was curious as to where the rest of this season would go, with respect to Paper Boi’s career, because he went from a nobody to taking selfies with groupies in just one hour last week.

I was anxious about us getting an Entourage-level of stardom that just seemed forced and unrealistic. But episode three, “Go For Broke,” brought Paper and his sidekick, Darius, right back down to Earth.

This episode trailed Paper and Darius, not through their musical career, but rather through the other way that they make money – drug dealing.  As is always the case with Earn, he starts questioning Paper about money at the beginning of the episode, and asks how he earns an income, which introduces us to the other side of the up-and-coming rapper.  This leads to some lecturing from Earn about getting into trouble as a celebrity, but Paper ain’t listening, he’s trying to get that paper.

The entire episode features a trip to meet with the “Mexicans” to pick up a new stash, which includes an amazing cameo appearance from the rap group Migos, an eerie drug den out in the woods outside of Atlanta, and one weird Mexican who is certainly not a drug dealer.  The entire trip that Paper and Darius make is dark and, quite frankly, it seemed as though something bad was going to happen the entire time.

Perhaps this could be foreshadowing – Earn was right about Paper’s drug dealing life being a major threat to his rap career.  Additionally, the portrayal of Migos as these murderous drug dealers only adds to the fact that Paper could very well be their next victim.  It would be tragic to have this first season end in disaster for Paper because he is so lovable as a character.  But episode three set up the perfect potential downfall – selling marijuana.

Regardless, it was nice to get a look at Paper’s other side of life.  If this just turned into glitz and glamour all season, then Atlanta would lose some of its authenticity.  Instead, this slowed the pace of the show down, and gave us an entirely new plot line to follow.  It will be interesting to see how Earn reacts to continued drug dealing.  And also – Darius is a really bad drug dealer.  But he has his briefcase handcuffed to his wrist, so that’s at least professional.


Earn and Van

Michael H: We get a lot more time with the weirdest relationship ever in “Go For Broke” as Earn decides he wants to to take Van out to a nice dinner after the two have a spat about, well, their weird-ass relationship.

Most of the argument centers around Earn not making any money. Van comes home from work with their daughter to find Earn on the couch after the latter spent the day with Paper Boi getting high and playing video games. He wants to show he is making an effort re: the weird-ass relationship and promises Van a nice night out. As mentioned before, the biggest problem is that Earn has no money.

So he calls up his boy who tells Earn about a nice place that’s located in a bit a of sketchy area but has an all night happy hour for drinks and food. It looks like he can make his meager funds stretch enough to cover it. That is until they arrive and find out the place no longer does the happy hour. Dun dun.

One of the funniest Earn/Van moments happens just before they arrive, as they are looking for a place to park. What looks to be a parking attendant waves them over and says he will make sure their car isn’t towed while they are inside. Van isn’t having any of it: “This is janky as hell.” Earn: “Six bucks isn’t bad.” The guy then reveals he found the vest in the dumpster and his light baton is actually a broken off toy lightsaber.

And but so Earn gets more visibly anxious as the waitress delivers the bad news about happy hour and proceeds to upsell every aspect of dinner: appetizers, entree, drinks. Van thinks everything sounds sooooo good, especially the market price entrees. When Van points out the sad-boy look on his face, Earn replies with something along the lines of “This is my face. It has to look like this.”


In-between all the worry about money, the two try to hash out the status of their weird-ass relationship. When asked, Earn admits he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life, but he wants the time to figure it out; he thinks everyone deserves that. He adds that failure is part of figuring it out. Van doesn’t look all that convinced.

After ordering, Earn walks up to the bar to get the price of the “market price” entree. The bartender smirks and goes to check while saying, “You broke as fuck.” Yeah, I think we can all relate to this situation. And that’s one of the things this show does so well: taking moments of anxiety and dread that are common to most of us and depicting them in an honest way without being patronizing.

I’ll never forget the time my wife, who was then my girlfriend, came out to visit me while I lived in Colorado for a year (note: long distance relationships are the pits). I was working at Target at the time – the 4am to noon shift btw – and didn’t make diddly squat. I had $60 to pull of a nice dinner. I just barely made it. Donald Glover’s portrayal of pretty much the same situation felt extremely familiar, and true. Once again, the writing on this show is phenomenal.

After sneaking out to make a phone call to his cousin (who, as Shaun covered above, is in a pretty hairy situation of his own) for an emergency transfer of $20 to his banking account, Earn has a hilarious interaction with the waitress – who tries to force desert on him – while Van is in the bathroom. Earn cuts her off with: “You fucking killed me tonight.”

Earn manages to cover the bill (Van notices the meager tip and corrects it for him, which leads him to call his debit card company to report his card as stolen), but nothing has been resolved in the slightest. Upon returning home they continue to argue, leading Van to slam the bedroom door in Earn’s face. He lays on a syrupy plead to work things out that she answers by opening the door and saying, “That’s some dumb ass shit.”

I love this show.

Check out the latest episode of Vodka Soda Happy Hour in which Jake and Michael H discuss Atlanta among other very important topics.



(Mikey’s Note, this is long and I love roundtables and I haven’t been included in one in a while so I cut nothing. READ AWAY PEOPLE)


KNOXVILLE, TN - AUGUST 31, 2014 - Aerial wide shot from overhead of a full stadium during the Season opening game between the University of Tennessee Volunteers and the Utah State Aggies at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Matthew S. DeMaria/Tennessee Athletics

Michael H: In my very humble opinion, the atmosphere at a college football game – especially in the South – is as close as we get in American sports to the atmosphere of a big European club soccer match. Generation upon generation of folks root their guts out for their beloved college football team.

My wife’s family is from Tennessee and are gigantic Vols fans, natch. I have been in Neyland Stadium amongst over 100,000 Vols fans clad in yellow and white. No other sporting experience I have had comes close to the electricity and elation I witnessed their – I also was lucky enough to watch a come-from-behind overtime win against South Carolina a few years back. It was insane.

As for myself, I’m an Illinois Fighting Illini fan (smh). We have had little to be optimistic about recently (thanks Tim Beckman). Sure, we have had some decent players: Red Grange, Dick Butkus, Rashard Mendenhall, Brandon Lloyd, Vontae Davis, Jeff Allen…uh…Arrelious Benn? Anyway, yeah. But now Lovie Smith is here. He is the biggest football coach the Illini have probably ever had (apologies to Ron Zook, psyche). This year will most likely be a rough one, but hopefully future potential recruits will give Illinois another look simply because of the name recognition. He has to keep Illinois boys in-state, and own Chicago.

They open with Murray State (yay!), but don’t play Indiana somehow (insane), and end with a Michigan State-Wisconsin-Iowa-Northwestern trail of tears. Still, I am really pumped for college football Saturdays. I-L-L.


Shaun: I’m here to teach things people. Study up. – The Big XII Conference has represented itself as one of the power conferences in college football, boasting the motto: “One True Champion.”  During the 2014 season, the Big XII awarded conference championship trophies to the Baylor Bears and the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs.  ONE true champion; TWO champions.  And this decision to award two champions hurt big time.  Both Baylor and TCU were poised to make an appearance in the first official College Football Playoff, although the odds were admittedly slim that both would make it.  That would come down to the results of conference championships in the other power conferences in the final week of the regular season.  Then, when the final College Football Playoff seedings were released, both teams were stuck on the outside looking in.  Ohio State leapfrogged both Big XII schools, winning the Big Ten championship, and on the final weekend of the college football season, Baylor and TCU sat at home, with no opportunity to help themselves get into the inaugural CFP in any way.  Their conference failed them.

For ONLY ONE MORE SEASON WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH THIS.  As of 2017 (next season) the Big XII will once again implement a conference championship game, and we can no longer laugh at the Big XII for such a staggering level of ineptitude for handing out two trophies to two teams just a few years ago.  The Big XII has 10 teams in the conference.  This just keeps getting stranger, I know.  But nonetheless, there are two, five-team divisions, and the conference has announced that they will reinstate their championship game for the first time since Colorado and Nebraska left for other conferences in 2010.  Last season, Oklahoma made it into the final four-team playoff, despite not playing in a championship game.  Now that the NCAA allows conferences with less than 12 teams to host a championship game, the Big XII is the first conference to jump at the opportunity (why this was an NCAA rule in the first place, I have no idea). Hopefully there is no controversy at the top this season.

(Oh, and the millions of dollars that will come into the conference for hosting a championship game won’t be too shabby, either.)



Emily: This will be my first football season where I actually have a semi-grasp on what’s happening on the field. I’m not in a fully committed monogamous relationship with any given team – but am open to suggestions if you think one would be a good fit for me. What usually gets me going about football season is the fact you can Sunday Funday with a legitimate excuse and more than likely everyone in your office will be on the same page Monday morning. In a word (or three), what sums up football season for me is: buffalo chicken dip.


EricCollege football is back and I could not be happier. Is it because I am a Boston College fan and think this is their year? Definitely not but anything is better than last year for them. The real reason I am so excited: college football gambling. While I am not putting my rent money on the line each week, I do like to place some bets during these upcoming fall Saturdays. Gambling may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it can be quite the thrill even with smaller bets being placed. Most Saturdays you won’t get the big time games until later in the evening but why not enjoy every game a little bit.

Week 1 puts UMass up against Florida, obviously a mismatch that does not look like a win for UMass. How do you make it interesting? Well, UMass is a 37 point underdog so why not put down some money and give them a 37 point lead and make Florida score more than five touchdowns more than UMass. Another one of my favorite bets to place on most Saturdays is a multiple team parlay bet for a small amount. Basically I pick about ten or so teams with a spread and place like $5 on it. Depending on the odds, if all of those teams cover the spread, that $5 can turn into $500. If you win the first nine games though, the tenth game is not for the faint of heart even if it is only $5 on the line.

(Editor’s Note, Yes I know this is illegal, Yes I love Eric. No I won’t omit this.)


Matt:This season, college football has a massive opportunity to change some social conversations. For and foremost, I am hoping a new storyline comes out which will finally extinguish the Harambe memes. Dabo can help out by once again setting the internet ablaze with his OG dances moves. Secondly, I’m excited for the discussion on amateurism to take a step forward. Leonard Fournette is a human bowling ball who should be my flex option every Sunday this year. The usual pundits will be back on the scene to promote proper compensation for our athletes. This time has the potential to be different, however. Let’s add up some ingredients and see if a major sports story is in the making. Football is religion in the South. The American South is still dripping with racism. Major college football stars are African American. These stars do not get paid to perform for many white, bigoted fans. America is approaching another boiling point regarding racial tension. Stars are starting to protest on the field… You do the math.

Now for some actual football talk. Clemson is my team. My best friend went to college there and I have had the pleasure of piggybacking on his personal fandom. Plus, I went to see Clemson play Florida State in the Famous Jameis days and it was one of the wildest sporting events I have ever been to. Pencil them in for a playoff bid. Ohio State should get one too. I think Oklahoma returns as well. Finally, pencil out Alabama. Nick Saban wins too much and I just don’t like it. I respect his greatness but I’m rooting for him to lose every single game. If Pop and Belichick had a son it would be Nick Saban. I mean, do we all have to treat the media like they are annoying idiots only there to be a nuisance? No. So Nick Saban, I hope when you open your yogurt today it’s disgustingly watery and you decide it’s not even worth it. Roll damn Tigers, go Clemson.

` And one more thing. College football is back! Which means college basketball is right around the corner…


Mikey: For me, college sports trump the professional level if your measuring device is entertainment instead of quality. The sheer depth in the pool of plotlines to choose from allows you to select the most important, impactful stories instead of skimming the top for 7 stories about Dak Prescott. There are hundreds upon thousands of participants, and finding something you can root for and support is easy once you begin to understand the aspect of collegiate sports as a whole, and the fact that they are college kids at the end of the day.

The thing I am most excited for this season is a player by the name of James Conner, a Pitt running back who has battled cancer to take the field this season. He was a heisman hopeful, then became a cancer survivor, and now has a chance to rise back to the top.

I love sports. I love college football. I am happy it is back.

The Two-Bit Fantasy Advice Column – Who to Draft?: Chiefs and Panthers Edition

The Two-Bit Fantasy Advice Column – Who to Draft?: Chiefs and Panthers Edition

This is the Two-Bit Fantasy Advice Column.  I don’t have a better name for it, and frankly, I don’t offer solid fantasy advice.  I just needed a title to keep with the theme of discussing fantasy football.  I’m playing in four leagues this season (idiot) so I’ll be trying to pay attention to NFL news as much as possible.  This is today’s installment.  Don’t forget to check out other pieces on fantasy football on the site as well, including this recent article by Matt.

Drafting a player on your fantasy football team that is part of a “committee” effort on their actual NFL team can be a very frustrating experience.  Fantasy sports involves the proverbial roll of the dice every week, despite what DraftKings lawyers may tell you about “skilled” games.  But the risk of chance is even greater when one starts a player that shares the offensive load with a multitude of other players.

Player A averages a measly five carries per game over the course of a month – maybe found the end zone once in those four games.  He is a waste of a spot.  Looks like this team is rolling with Player B.  Time for Player A to take a seat on the bench.  First game on the bench: 25 touches, 130 yards, 2 touchdowns.  Every.  Damn.  Time.

So essentially, these two entries below are positions on teams that seem to be up in the air at the moment, and it could cause issues for you when it comes to draft day.  Kansas City and Carolina are both going to be very good football teams this year (may or may not have placed a wager on KC to win the AFC West.  +200 if you are so inclined, but remember that gambling is illegal and I am talking about Monopoly money).  Good teams, for the most part, typically have good fantasy players on offense.  There is no doubt that you will want a Chief or a Panther in your fantasy line up.  The question now becomes: which player?

These, of course, are only two platoons to keep an eye on.  Obviously there are other areas of concern for other teams in the league as well, such as New England’s back field (avoid at all costs) or how Arizona will implement Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington into their offensive attack (they won’t).  These are just some thoughts – not all.

Kansas City Chiefs – Running Back

Jamaal Charles (RB12, ADP: 24.6)

Charcandrick West (RB74, ADP: undrafted)

Spencer Ware (RB55, ADP: 145.8)

The Kansas City Chiefs won 11 straight games last season, including a playoff win, with a platoon of running backs that seemingly no one had ever heard of.  West, Ware, and fourth-stringer, Knile Davis, helped take on the load, following Jamaal Charles’ ACL-tear.  It was a success, relatively speaking, given that West and Ware combined for 1,037 yards and 10 touchdowns.

This sight has become all too familiar to trust Charles as a first-rounder anymore.

No one is questioning who the lead back is in Kansas City – Charles is arguably the most explosive back in the NFL in the open field (haha get it) when he is healthy.  But he is never healthy and it’s a damn shame for the league, and a damn shame for your fantasy team.  But when he is starting, obviously the reps will be his.  This is not a question of who starts, but it is a question of who to handcuff to Charles and also who might steal touchdowns away from the other backs.

Spencer Ware.

For example, West got 160 carries last season while Ware received 72.  This translated to about 50 more fantasy points for West on the season.  But Ware scored six rushing touchdowns, all of which came inside the 10-yard line, whereas West scored three from that distance.  West had longer scores, indicating some form of big-play capability, but again, he had the ball almost twice as much.  Spencer Ware, on the other hand, was far more efficient, in terms of fantasy.  Pro Football Focus reported that Ware scored approximately 0.70 points for fantasy opportunity, whereas West scored approximately 0.33.   Twice as effective for your fantasy line up when the ball is in his hand.  And as Ware’s reps continue to climb, so does his ADP – ESPN’s depth chart currently lists West as the second-string back, but the fantasy rankings tell a different story.  Ware seems to be the safest bet here.

Carolina Panthers – Wide Receiver

Kelvin Benjamin (WR18, ADP: 40.4)

Ted Ginn Jr. (WR78, ADP: 133.6)

Devin Funchess (WR50, ADP: 131.5)

The Carolina Panthers finished last season with a 15-1 record and were led in their passing game by Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn Jr.  Ted Ginn Jr.  Not a jokeSomeone needs to fill this void.

Kelvin Benjamin was one of two highly-touted wide outs drafted in 2015, and just like his fellow first-round wide out, Kevin White of the Chicago Bears, Benjamin sat out of the entire 2015 with an unfortunate knee injury.  We have yet to see Kelvin Benjamin play a single game in the NFL, yet he is currently being drafted in and amongst the likes of Keenan Allen, T.Y. Hilton, and Julian Edelman.  The reason being – he was an absolute monster in college.

Indeed, that does not always translate over to the NFL, but providing Cam Newton, who tends to almost always miss high or long when he throws a bad pass (76 of 94 “bad passes” were deemed “overthrown” in 2014, for example), with a 6’5”, 240 pound monster is one hell of an upgrade for the reigning NFL’s Most Valuable Player.  Frankly, it is downright scary.

Carolina feels as though a first-round draft pick is well worth catches like this.

Benjamin is not the only mammoth-sized wide out on this team, however.  Twenty-two year old Devin Funchess also boasts a 6’5”, 240 pound frame and moved to wide receiver from his tight end position that he played in college.  Funchess emerged last year as an impressive complement to Olsen and Ginn Jr., finishing the season with 473 yards and 5 touchdowns.  Three years a junior to Benjamin, who is 25-years old, and one season of experience ahead of Benjamin places Funchess in an interesting spot.  There is a definite chance that he becomes the WR1 on this team, at least in the short term, given Benjamin’s continued recovery from a knee injury.  And if all goes as planned for the Panthers, perhaps a Benjamin/Funchess/Olsen passing attack would dominate an already feeble NFC South division.

Funchess is rising on many draft boards (up an average of +20.6 spots this week alone in ESPN leagues), and Benjamin’s hype as yet to subside, despite missing an entire season with a knee injury.  Needless to say – you should be able to forget about Ted Ginn Jr. in Carolina.  Neither Benjamin nor Funchess would hurt you in a WR2 position.


Numbers vs. Rings – Is Philip Rivers a Hall of Fame Quarterback?

Numbers vs. Rings – Is Philip Rivers a Hall of Fame Quarterback?

In the Super Bowl era, only five quarterbacks have been enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame without winning a championship: Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Warren Moon, and Fran Tarkenton.  Marino lost one; Tarkenton lost three; and Kelly lost a remarkable four Super Bowls, four years in a row.  But the individual performances of these five quarterbacks were too great to deny.

It seems as though, more than any other individual position in sports, the “no ring” stigma that follows a quarterback throughout his career is the biggest knock on a final resumé – especially when it comes to evaluating whether said quarterback is a Hall-of-Famer.  It is nearly essential – hence why there are only five names that have gotten over that hump.  Esiason, McNabb, Cunningham, Testaverde, and Ken Anderson are among the very talented QBs still on the outside, looking in.  Those names do not strike me as Hall of Famers anyways but whatever.

Regardless, the point is that, for the most part, if you don’t get a ring, you don’t get in.  More so than any other major American professional sports hall of fame.

With that foundation set, let’s look at the modern NFL, in which the quarterback position has completely changed.  The once-legendary 4,000 passing-yards-in-a-season mark (which was surpassed for the first time by Dan Fouts), for example, was achieved by 12 quarterbacks last season alone – eight of which played for teams that finished the season with a .500 record or worse.  So this stat is not even a feat that is indicative of a successful year.  The game is wide open, running backs have become a dispensable commodity while teams throw 50+ times a game, and no longer are the days in which calling a quarterback a “game manager” serves as a compliment for one’s career (take a look at the career stat line of recently enshrined Ken Stabler and compare it to current quarterbacks).

What effect does the state of the current offensive onslaught have on how we evaluate a quarterback’s career in the future?  I have no idea – I cannot see into the future.  But it is a question worth pondering, considering a statistic like 4,000 passing yards in a season is now watered down.

So we have now laid out the Hall of Fame chances of non-winners and the inflated statistics of the modern-day quarterback.  Enter Philip Rivers, stage right.

What do we make of Rivers’ career?  It has been the highest of highs (well, except for that “no Super Bowl” thing I mentioned), and it has been the lowest of lows.  There have been five seasons of playoff appearances, and six seasons of having to listen to Norv Turner.  There was time spent with Antonio Gates, Ladanian Tomlinson, Malcom Floyd, and Vincent Jackson.  And there were times with… well with people that are not named those four names (and maybe add Keenan Allen).

Perhaps my favorite Philip Rivers statistic is the fact that throughout his tumultuous career, the man has never missed a start.  Literally, never.  He took over the starting job for San Diego in 2006 when Drew Brees left for New Orleans, and he has not sat down since.  Remarkable.  Also – fun fact that you learn when you research all of this stuff: the Miami Dolphins were competing with New Orleans to sign Drew Brees and they decided that Brees’ shoulder was a question mark, so they chose to sign Daunte Culpepper instead.  Yup, that happened.

But consecutive-start streaks do not reserve a place for a quarterback in the Hall of Fame.  It takes much more.  And here is where Philip Rivers has trouble.  I am all over the place in this piece but stick with me.  Let’s go back to the fact that the current NFL is stacked with talent at quarterback talent.

Tom Brady, (recently retired) Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning.  This is the current top-tier of quarterbacks, in terms of a Hall of Fame resumé.  They all belong.  If anyone disagrees with that statement, I live in Hartford, Connecticut and I bench like 5 reps of 185 pounds over 3 sets.   Come fight me.

Does Philip Rivers belong in this class?

Well, that depends on how voters treat that aforementioned influx in quarterback statistics.  But there is still the one thing that each of those quarterbacks I listed has that Philip Rivers does not.  Yup.  That damned ring.

What’s worse – Philip Rivers is arguably the third-best quarterback in his own draft class, let alone the third-best in the NFL.  But recently posted a piece this summer that showed that, despite those rings, Rivers actually surpasses Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger in passer rating, passing yards per season, completion percentage, and TD/interception ratio over the span of their career.  The only main statistic he trails behind these two in is career passing yards.  But again, he sat behind Drew Brees for two whole seasons.  The other two had a two-year head start.  Statistically, Rivers is a better quarterback than Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning.

Rivers is currently 14th all-time in passing yards, 11th in passing touchdowns, and 8th in quarterback rating.  And these numbers will only rise.  Rivers is 34-years old and is obviously durable, given the 160-game streak of consecutive starts.  He also recently signed a 4-year, $83 million contract extension with San Diego that also keeps his job secure, pending some sort of disaster.  Who knows – he could also go for a Brett Favre-type run of a million different teams in his 40s, although I doubt it.  Almost no one has dedicated themselves to such a losing team like Rivers has, other than maybe Tony Gwynn’s 19-year career with the Padres of the same city.  Wow, I’m so sorry, San Diego.  At least you get 75-degree days from January to December.

What helps Philip Rivers’ Hall of Fame case in my eyes, other than the solid career statistics, is simply just the way you watch Philip Rivers play football.  He just passes a Hall of Famer eye test.  I don’t know what it is.  He is the penultimate gamer.  Arguing for Rivers to be enshrined forever in Canton is an uphill battle, but I just cannot picture the NFL in the 21st century without the Baron in the Bolo Tie (just came up with that.  That is Shaun’s trademark).

All of those career rankings I previously mentioned place him just behind quarterbacks that are already in the Hall, or are in that class of current top-tier players.  The only names that Rivers trails who are not in the mix for a place in the Hall are names like Drew Bledsoe and Vinny Testaverde (passing yards) and Tony Romo and Russell Wilson (quarterback rating).

Essentially, the one title that Philip Rivers undoubtedly can carry with him is “Best quarterback in NFL history to never appear in a Super Bowl.”

But he probably needs more.  And with that sweet paycheck that he received with his contract extension, comes a team in disarray, in a division that includes three teams that are one, two, or maybe even three echelons above San Diego.  Rivers just cannot catch a break.

Rivers always manages to come through, individually, however.  Last year is a perfect example – a 4-12 record for the Chargers while Rivers finished second in the NFL in passing yards.  This is the paradox of his career.  How do you evaluate a quarterback in comparison to his team?  Sure, Roethlisberger won his first Super Bowl as a rookie, but it was on the back of his defense and he was part of the supporting cast.  But that does not discredit him one bit.  Rivers, on the other hand, exceeds expectations consistently while he plays on a terrible team and he gets thrown to the back of the pack.  Football is viewed as the ultimate “team game” so it has its pros and cons when a player is compared to the other 21 starters on his roster.

Sources (my Dad and brother) tell me that there is no way Rivers is a Hall of Famer.  They cannot get past the “no championship” stigma.  But those same sources (my Dad and brother) were quick to immediately admit that Rivers is certainly a better quarterback than Fouts, Kelly, Moon, and Tarkenton.  Marino is a different argument.  So once again, here we are, stuck in the middle: there is no way he should make it, but he is definitely better than those who made it without a ring.  My only response to that is a shrug of the shoulders.  Why not add Rivers to the conversation?

Watch the Throne, Five Years Later: Re-Examining the Album’s Most Important Song

Watch the Throne, Five Years Later: Re-Examining the Album’s Most Important Song

This is the week of Monday, August 8th and the date marks the fifth birthday of Watch The Throne – a beautiful, pulsating, gilded, collaborative musical effort by Jay and Ye. This is an important – near perfectly produced and enunciated album – that’s a biased opinion but regardless this thing deserves a lot of attention so we’re hosting the first annual Watch The Throne week here at The Open Field in honor of as much. A feature a day, maybe more, and fun stuff in between. na na na. 


If you asked me what Kanye West and Jay-Z’s 2011 album, Watch the Throne, encapsulated in one sentence, I would just have to point you to the 2:42 mark in the album’s tenth track, “Murder to Excellence,” because I cannot describe it any better than Jay-Z does.

It’s a celebration of Black excellence

Imagine the mantra that Biggie and Diddy (or P. Diddy, or Puff Daddy, or whatever he is called) gave us in 1997 – “mo’ money, mo’ problems” – and extend that for 12 tracks (16 if you’re on the Bonus version).  Ye and Jay gave us an hour’s worth of materialism, grandeur, excess, and all of the downfalls that come with it: feeling like an outsider as a Black man at the top, critics constantly trying to tear down the image of a superstar, and the values that change a person when the money comes rolling in.  I can’t say I understand where they are coming from, given my background, but the message is surely clear and very digestible.

That is an understated album cover…

Everything about the album was LARGE.  So large, in fact, that it was met with contempt by some in the hip hop community.

“There will be no reprieve for the thieves / There will be no respect for The Thrones”

Killer Mike of Run The Jewels, in the 2013 track, Sea Legs, off of their debut album.

Basically, some took this album as a departure from the “true art” of hip hop, or whatever holier-than-thou reason they had to diss this album.  These were two artists that made it in the game, and now they were going to go all commercial on us and brag.  Sort of a weird reason to complain, considering the foundation of hip hop is built on braggadocio like this.  But despite the critics, there is no denying Watch the Throne’s impact on the genre in the 21st century.

Shea Serrano’s 2015 book, The Rap Yearbook, is a tremendous read for any fan of the genre.  It is informative, hysterical, and sheds light on some of the more intimate stories behind the most influential songs in hip hop.  And his chapter on the year 2011 names “N***** in Paris” as the most important song of that year.  I cannot disagree.  That track was everywhere.  The song became such an anthem that the two went on a world tour following the album’s release and played it on repeat at every show – including a whopping 12 times in a row when they performed in Paris.

Serrano does an excellent job of diving into the near-perfect dichotomy of Jay and Kanye as a duo as well.  By labeling Kanye as the “loudmouth” (who knew?) and Jay as the “machine,” Serrano argues that nothing about that song, or really the album in general, would have delivered the message as effectively without these two points of view.  They were perfect to play off of each other, going line for line throughout the album.

Jay is the cold, calculated success story about setting yourself above the rap game by rapping about life in the streets that he is now so far removed from.  Kanye, on the other hand, is the boisterous, wild character that is going in his own direction, despite whether it places him above everyone in the rap game or not.  The two stories about their meteoric rise to fame is vastly different, but their close friendship and musical relationship ties them to each other like no other duo.  Their two different visions of being a successful Black man in modern pop culture gives the listener two paths they can take to reach the same conclusion – that they are above the fray and disconnected from the environment they grew up in, but they still cannot ignore that life altogether, nor can they ignore being Black at the same time.

An even greater testament to the impact of Watch the Throne might actually be the “Rebuttal” section of Serrano’s chapter on “N***** in Paris.”  The Rap Yearbook has a portion of the book where, at the end of each year, he has another writer offer a couple paragraphs on another song that came out in said year of the subject song, arguing why that song should have actually been labeled “Most Important.”  It allows a discussion to form about what else was going on in the rap game at the time when whatever song Serrano is writing about was released.

And sometimes, I find myself agreeing with the counter-arguments too.  2000’s debate between Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin’” and Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean,” or 1985’s debate between Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick’s “La Di Da Di” and Run DMC’s “King of Rock” allow the reader to audibly go “hmm” while thinking about differing opinions.  Side note: no mention of Nas’ “N.Y. State of Mind” in 1994 was blasphemy, although “Juicy” is probably the greatest rap song of all-time so I’ll accept it.

The 2011 chapter boasts a write-up on “Otis,” which was also on Watch the Throne.  So in order to find the most important song of 2011, one did not have to even leave this album in order to find a counter-argument.  It just took over everything.  Both songs, by the way, took him Grammy awards for “Best Rap Performance” in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

“Ball so hard, I’m shocked too / I’m supposed to be locked up too / If you escaped what I escaped / you’d be in Paris getting f***** up too.”

Jay, getting introspective on us, in a way that only Jay can.

Well, I am going to put those two tracks to the side for a second, and I am going to submit a new nominee off of Watch the Throne as a song that, while it may not be the “most important,” better encapsulates the introspective thinking and conscious understanding of where these two rappers were in their career in 2011.  That song, is the sixth track off of this platinum album, titled “New Day.”

A song that boasted production from the Wu Tang Clan’s mastermind, RZA, as well as the legend, Mike Dean, this track was four and a half minutes of Jay and Ye taking a step back from the hard-hitting “I’m rich” message this album carried and examined what this level of success was doing to their lives.  The structure of the song presented one verse from each artist, speaking directly to their hypothetical sons (for Kanye, there is no more hypothetical, given that he now has Saint).

Let’s start with Kanye.  The constant tabloid-headline-subject, perennial brazen jerk, that has become one of the most polarizing figures in music history.  Kanye’s son has to overcome the image of being the spawn of a human that has never learned to shut his mouth, and because of that, Kanye recognizes that there is a stigma that will automatically attach to him.  So Kanye decides to lay out a roadmap of what he will teach his kid in order to avoid the trouble that Kanye has gotten into himself.

And I’ll never let my son have an ego

He’ll be nice to everyone, wherever he go

I mean I might even make him be Republican

So everybody know he love white people

Okay, that is a good start.  I’m not exactly sure why he had to go right at Republicans, considering there are plenty of Democrats that despise him as well.

And I’ll never let him ever hit the telethon

I mean even if people dying and the world ends

Oh, that’s right.  Yeah, you did that stupid thing during a telethon one time.

Kanye proceeds to tell his son that he “never budged” on everything and that was his major drawback.  He is right, for sure.  Kanye’s verse hits many of his flaws, head on, and he doesn’t shy away from what he has done.  If there is one characteristic of Kanye that many casual fans (or haters) understand, it is that this guy is incredibly vulnerable.  He is basically constantly living in that sense of insecurity you feel when you text your friend at 4:59 on a Friday afternoon, asking “what are you up to this evening?” and you don’t get an answer back.

“They haven’t answered – why didn’t they answer? – what did I do to piss them off? – do they hate me? – screw them if they hate me – that’s their loss.”

Word to the wise, from Kanye, and from me too: don’t think like that.  It’s a waste of time and emotion.

Then Jay-Z comes in on the second verse.  Jay has always been a level above Kanye in the rap game, and most of it comes from the fact that he came before Kanye, essentially created Kanye, and quite frankly – because he is more talented than Kanye at rapping.

But Jay’s past escapades are far more nefarious than Kanye.  Remember when that wet-blanket-of-a-human-being, Tomi Lahren, wanted to remind us that Jay-Z sold drugs?

Yes, we all remember.  Jay-Z also took this sound bite and used it in a song this year with rapper, Pusha T, which was pretty bad ass.

But Jay does NOT shy away from where he came from – he can’t anymore, considering he built his image off of this past.

Sorry, Junior, I already ruined you

Yeah, kind of.

Teach you good values so you can cherish it

Took me 26 years just to find my path

I suppose it is worth mentioning Jay was 26 when he released his debut album, Reasonable Doubt.  He was much older when Watch the Throne dropped.  But Jay’s verse after this comes from a place of intense self-doubt and insecurity, given his upbringing.  For all his past faults, Jay just wants to be a good dad at the end of the day.  That’s really all we men really want.  Football on Sundays and being a good dad.  We are simple animals.

I just pray we was in love on the night that we conceived him

Promise never to leave him even if his Mama tweakin’

‘Cause my dad left me and I promise never repeat him

Never repeat him, never repeat him

Well, Jay, your wife is certainly not going to be tweaking anytime soon.  We all know that.  But this message has been something Jay has addressed in the past – not wanting to be his father, feeling bad for his mother for raising him solo, forgiving her faults because of her situation, etc.  This is the image of Black America that Jay and Kanye still try to address on Watch the Throne, right alongside the image of success and excess.  Their starting point is just different – it’s unfortunate, but it’s true.  And now that these two have positions of power unlike any of their childhood peers, they have no idea how to deal with it.

So, they might as well ball out a little bit, like “N***** in Paris” shows us, but then understand the potential for downfalls, like “New Day” does.  This is the most important song on this outstanding album, because it paints these two larger-than-life characters as mere men.  And they understand that men are mortal and have faults.

Schoolboy Q Comes for That “Album of the Year” Crown with This Summer’s Release, “Blank Face LP”

Schoolboy Q Comes for That “Album of the Year” Crown with This Summer’s Release, “Blank Face LP”

Here is the thing about releasing an album or a film in the summer – there only seems to be two extremes.  Either it (a) captivates the entire nation and becomes a cultural sensation; or (b) it falters and falls into oblivion.  Is that entirely a fact?  I have no idea.  Shout out to the I Am Rapaport Podcast with this quote: “we don’t fact check around here.”

But I think it’s true because during the summer people are crazy busy.  Everyone is out and about – there is no time to hit a movie theater or… wherever people buy music now… unless it is raining and you got to entertain the kids.  I know how it goes – I was that little punk that was going to eventually break something in the house if I wasn’t preoccupied immediately during bad weather.

So, my point is basically that, here I am one week after Schoolboy Q’s fourth release, Blank Face LP, and I am just getting around to listening to the album because I have been all over the map.  Had I waited any longer, I probably would have forgotten this album dropped.  But I am glad I didn’t do that.  Oh my goodness, this album.  Buckle up.

I finally gave the time to Blank Face LP while driving to a softball game the other night (is that the whitest thing I have ever said?  That’s probably the whitest thing I have ever said), and it started out much like other recent “New” West Coast albums have sounded.  TorcH comes on with the deep, lingering drum beat, while haunting piano riffs are layered on top.  It is the sound that Dr. Dre championed during the 90’s.  But in Dre’s 2015 album, Compton, he experimented with guitar solos over his old recipe for success, and it has caught on.  This seems to be the standard in West Coast hip hop at the moment.  I dig it.

Additionally, the artist that utters the first lyric on the album is Anderson .Paak (these are not typos. Anderson really puts a stupid period there, and Schoolboy really capitalizes all of his “H”s).  This only adds to the New West sound.  Beginning once again with Compton, Dr. Dre introduced the world to .Paak and he has skyrocketed to the top of the game.  Now you have to have Anderson .Paak on your album.  Funny how it always seems to be Dr. Dre that starts a massive musical movement.  Hmm.

But with what started off as a familiar sound turned into an hour and 13 minutes of one much different ride.  Schoolboy, who plays the role of the jester in one of hip hop’s premier quartets, Black Hippy (along with Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, and Ab-Soul), channeled some serious emotion throughout BF.  Indeed, Schoolboy has been introspective in the past when it came to his drug dealing and drug addicted past, but on this album it is much more mature and focused.  But here, whether he is addressing incarceration (Tookie Knows II), or past relationship troubles with his family and friends (Know Ya Wrong), or even slipping back into that life (Groovy Tony), the message he is sending doesn’t just sound like an angry young, black kid lashing out.

He can’t lash out anymore.  I mean, he probably could, but the guy is in a new stage of life.  Anyone who follows hoovaq on Snapchat knows this guy seems like dad of the year.  There are new priorities in his life, and he is certainly not afraid of addressing them.  This isn’t the same guy that rapped about his hands on the steering wheel with weed and brews back in 2012.

Let’s put the rags down and raise our kids
Let’s put the guns down and blaze a spliff
Let’s do it now, ain’t no buts or ifs

It took a Blood to get me Pringle chips
You can learn to fly or take the ladder
Real n**** shit, all lives matter, both sides

But when he does lash out, whoa boy.  In an unfortunate but extremely relevant situation, considering the album dropped right at the same time as some psycho took out five cops during a peaceful protest about race relations on July 8th,  Schoolboy takes on modern social issues as well.  Neva CHange, for example, has Q screaming about the racial struggles between black men in the streets and police officers.  The vivid pictures he paints are sobering, in one word.  And for Schoolboy, the bucket hat wearing, weed smoking goofball, this was a real mature step forward, artistically.

My lawyers stay on retainer
When white folks point the finger
Place my neck on that hanger
Shit, no wonder we riot

N****s still killin’ n****s
Child support killin’ n****s
Cops enslavin’ us n****s

The production also changed throughout the album as well.  BF doesn’t just thump out the Dre beats I mentioned earlier.  All the stars came out on this album, including Metro Boomin, Tyler, The Creator, The Alchemist, Swizz Beats, and of course Top Dawg Entertainment’s in-house production crew.  The diversity is perfect for the flow.  It was a perfect combination of West Coast influence with trombones and trumpets, boom bap drums here and there, and more modern-sounding styles.

Schoolboy Q’s 2014 album, Oxymoron, which exploded Q onto the scene and even got a nod with a Grammy nomination, seemed like a dozen radio singles.  Don’t get me wrong – I still listen to it often.  But those were individual songs that each blew up on their own.  The cohesiveness of Blank Face, however, is a completely different direction.  This feels the exact opposite.  Q was putting a project together with this album, rather than trying to get one song into everyone’s headphones.

Sure, there are still stars all over this album (Kanye West, Miguel, Vince Staples, SZA, Anderson .Paak, E-40, Jadakiss, etc.), but other than THat Part, the tracks feel like they are part of just a piece of a much bigger plan.  And what is even more interesting is who is not featured on this album.  No Kendrick, Jay Rock, or Ab-Soul.  There are hints of Kendrick’s voice in some of the background vocals here and there, but other than one song with SZA, Schoolboy’s record label mates are absent.  He went rogue on this one, and it paid off.  This wasn’t just more of the good old stuff – this was some new great stuff.


Schoolboy Q has also always had the talent to mix and match rhyme schemes with diverse deliveries on his songs, but on this album he takes it to the next level.  The first verse and third verse of Dope Dealer, for example, sound like two different people.  He is all over the spectrum with his delivery, sometimes riding the beat as smooth as silk, and other times plowing through the rhythm with his growling, choppy style, with no regard for the production.


Blank Face LP better turn into a smash hit, because Q deserves that with this one.  I can’t give a favorite song yet, because I don’t have one.  But I also can’t give you a least favorite song yet, either, because they are all tremendous.  I’m glad Q took his time with this one, rather than ride his Grammy Awards wave into some C+ follow-up to Oxymoron.  This was way above my expectations.

I was thoroughly impressed.  This album has the chance to raise Schoolboy up to a new tier in the current rap game.  I now have a summer rap album to go alongside Chance the Rapper.  Please go listen to this album.