Check the Wuddermark: Atlanta Episode 2 & 3 Re-Caps, Music On My Mind, Happy EmBiiDay, March Sadness, NFL Free Agency Pluckers & Suckers
Top of the Monday Morning to Yoūse...
Lotta stuff to discuss, so we'll skip a long intro, but wanted to let you know.
We’re gonna start this one talking about my favorite current TV show.
If you aren’t watching Atlanta, or aren’t caught up, and don’t want details of the prior pair of episodes spoiled rotten, you may wanna continue to scroll, till you find a section with subject matter that better satisfies your soul.
Atlanta Episodes 2 and 3 Re-Caps
Season Two, Robbin’ Season
Episode Two, “Sportin’ Waves”
Six-Word Summation: Rap Game/Trap Game/Stacked Game
Most Memorable Scene: Tracy invoking the “No-Chase Policy” to Earn, in front of a helpless store clerk, before striding out of there with at least three pair.
Most Memorable Line: “"don't get me wrong it's a funny show, but the way they dive into depression and especially after what he did to her daughter, I was like, ‘can I even feel bad for this horse anymore?’"-Tracy to Earn on the subject of ‘Bojack Horseman’ before they enter the shoe store at the mall.
Best Darius Moment: “Don’t You Worry Your Trappin’ Soul”, Darius reassures Al, before taking him on a wild goose chase of potential weed-plug-fuckery.
Viral Allusion: Acoustic Rap Covers.
This acoustic cover of “Paper Boi” calls to mind this rendition of Chief Keef's "Love Sosa" five years earlier.
Best Cameo: RJ Walker.
No one this week was going to be able to approach Katt Williams’ scenery-chewing surprise performance. But Walker’s energetic portrayal of a young Lil Uzi Yachty type named Clark County was surprisingly nuanced in its limited screen time. That meeting between him and Paper Boi in the Fresh offices (“I’m gonna get this to-go”) might end up becoming the only fortuitous occurrence in this episode, but we’ll have to see.
Episode MVP: Paper Boi.
Bryan Tyree Henry’s gift for being able to communicate without saying a word is becoming an acting tour de force. As a character, Al/Paper Boi’s indignation and frustration with everyone and everything he encounters througout this episode is palpable, without quite the “you really thought that BS was gonna work?!?” feeling you get from watching Earn trust Tracy’s gift-card scammer idea, or Tracy sitting in the interview lobby practicing lines with his wave cap still on.
Best Use of Music: “Yoo-Hoo” by Clark County. #TeamEarn on this particular issue. This show fakes it so real that it’s beyond fake. Compare this clip to anything in Empire’s musical universe of implausible ridiculousness, even with a few assists from the A-list.
Notable Callback From A Prior Episode: Darius paying Earn $4000 for their entrepreneurial puppy breeding and selling venture in Season One's "The Streisand Effect".
Quibbles-n-Bits: This episode felt more plot-driven than this show typically is. Which is cool if that’s where we’re headed, but episodes of Entourage-without-benefit-of-white-privilege-or-superstar-accouterments, crushing disappointment lurking around every corner, might make for a tough watch in less skillful hands.
By the way, we’re now headed into Episode 3. Where is Van?!?
I’m ready to swap out Tracy, the “Dom” of this crew, for her anytime the Glover Brothers are ready. This season could strongly use her presence by now.
Wudder Weight: 8.5 out of 10
Season Two, Robbin’ Season
Episode Three, “Money Bag Shawty”
Six-Word Summation: The Heart is a Lonely Stunter
Most Memorable Scene: Clark County’s conduct in the studio is multi-layered. This kid RJ Walker is going to be a star. I’m calling it early. It’s fascinating to watch his character vacillate between breezy, positive energy, millennial goofiness and hyper-focus, yet underneath it displaying ruthlessness. The combination has him winning in business, while Paper Boi, who should be a kid like Clark County’s “OG”, remains stuck inside the trappings of trap-rapping. Bryan Tyree Henry does so much of the heavy lifting acting-wise with his eyes, particularly while observing there’s more to Clark County than he realized. Darius, in his Slacker Stoner Yoda way, is blissfully aware of this the whole time.
Most Memorable Line: “It’s Michael Vick.”
Best Darius Moment:
"Boy you're a strapping young lad"-Darius in the control room
"Hey I appreciate you, Darius"-Clark County from the recording booth
Viral Allusion: Crying Blonde Woman Reciting Rap Lyrics on IG Live. This is like the flip side of last week’s acoustic rap cover viral trend. While that one was best exemplified by the blonde in her dorm room doing “Love Sosa”, this one feels inspired by this video of a distraught-acting woman with her daughter in the background reciting “Norf, Norf”.
Best Cameo: It’s Michael Vick.
Episode MVP: Van. After being MIA the first two weeks, we finally get the return of Zazie Beetz, who hits lights up the screen in every scene like a ray of sunshine. She delivers many of this episode’s hottest lines, while displaying the ways that she is, and isn’t, similar to her stumbling-while-stunting boyfriend.
Best Use of Music: “Grey Luh” by Berhana. Berhana has sorta slid thru the cracks a bit in terms of profile among many more well known names in the Funk/Jazz/Soul/Hip-Hop Renaissance that’s been taking place in L.A. all decade. This song forms a smoothly melancholic backdrop for Earn and Van on their big night out, while the lyrics speak to the grey area that their relationship continues to exist in, despite their shared belief in its promise.
Notable Callback From A Prior Episode: Earn getting the bartender at Onyx's attention by calling out "Yoo-Hoo" in the same cadence as Clark County's TV commercial from last week's "Sportin' Waves" episode. We'll get to a pre-Atlanta episode callback in the next section.
Quibbles-n-Bits: None really.
This episode was pretty flawlessly executed.
But speaking of execution, was Earn always this terrible at decision-making?
Are we getting prepped for his downward spiral once Al realizes he can boost his career by dumping his too-smart-to-be-so-dumb cousin?
Is Earn being clowned at the strip club for "that stupid fucking Coca-Cola shirt", a trademark tee in early Childish Gambino press shots, plus worn in episodes of Community and 30 Rock, a playful wink or Glover attempting to kill off earlier career incarnations, which led to him being skewered by many (including me) on the message boards of sites like OKP? We shall see.
There seems to be a mounting sense of dread, coupled with the daily disappointments.
The characters may not see it coming, but for the viewers blessed with Hiro Murai’s stylized realism and overarching lens, we can.
And despite that, each episode still gives you at least 5 legitimate, audible laughs.
Wudder Weight: 9 out of 10
In the Mouth of March Madness Turned Sadness
Sure, it might sound like hindsight, but be real: if you had to pick the first team to lose to a sixteen seed, wouldn’t your best guess have been Virginia?
They’re a perennially overachieving, under-talented team who struggles to score and is out of any game they trail in the second half by ten or more.
It can't be understated how much they missed their only NBA pedigree player (De’Andre Hunter) when he broke his hand a week before the NCAA tourney began.
But a coach like Tony Bennett and his team had no business losing to UMBC with the same starting five they fielded for a full 31-2 ACC winning season, let alone falling in blowout fashion.
They needed to at least wait to lose to a team who simply out-talented them, like an Arizona.
Speaking of them…
Arizona Wildcats Coach Sean Miller’s had a tough run recently, with ESPN reports that claimed to have him on the phone offering 100K to a player to come to AZ.
While that is now in dispute, Miller laid low for a week, allowing the unpaid professional amateur teenagers to answer questions about the program on behalf of the middle-aged millionaire after the game he sat out, when media heat was at its peak.
Miller then resurfaced a week later, acting indignant about the accusation once it was unclear how much intel ESPN had, since no “gotcha” recording publicly surfaced.
I’ve long since grown tired of the sham-amateurism, coach worship, transient nature and declining product quality of big-time college basketball…but it’s March.
Which means I'm still excited to watch these first four days of wall-to-wall games.
My thought was that the least Sean Miller and his insanely talented Arizona Wildcats team could do, with the consensus #1 overall pick in the draft in the fold, was make a run in the 2018 tourney after being given a stay of execution.
It could’ve also made further mockery of of the hypocritical NCAA.
Instead, they got blown off the court by the University of Buffalo.
And Miller has the gall to get up on the podium afterwards, to say that his kids “had a very tough draw, against a team that quite frankly we didn’t match up very well with”, to pass the buck after an embarrassing fold, while playing with a stacked deck.
And yes, if you hadn't guessed, this angry tone is coming from someone who picked Arizona to win the 2018 title, then saw them get taken into a back alley and pummeled with a billy-club, as if Buffalo was that patrolling beast in a horror flick that freaked me out in ‘95, In the Mouth of Madness.
So with a bracket lit on fire by the opening night of the tournament, my Temple Owls catching the beats in the NIT, and my 2018 sentimental rooting interest in my mom’s alma mater St Bonaventure going down to Florida, less than 48 hours after delivering a sweet play-in victory over the P-U-CLA Bruins...well, March Madness has quickly devolved into Sadness.
In addition to that, most of the first few days of the tournament featured non-competitive games. Meanwhile by the time the fourth day was done, with a bloodbath of blue-blood programs not making it thru the first weekend, it’s tough for me to get too excited about the remaining field, but Villanova and Kentucky look to be the best squads still in it.
But what do I know, my bracket got riddled with more bullets than an active shooter can fire without a bump stock.
Nah, it’s way past time to give a loud and proud middle finger to American gun culture, the NRA, and any elected official that puts this agenda over human lives, like this political parasite:
Moving on…unlike the Wildcats…Spartans…Tarheels...Cavaliers…you get the idea.
Happy EmBiiDay to the Young God, Future of the NBA, Joel Hans Embiid.
The 2017-18 Sixers season has been a choppy ride at times, intermittently exhilarating and frustrating in a fashion I can’t really recall any Sixer team being before it, but then again, the Sixers have never had two young superstars like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons before.
I’m not sure if the league has had any analogous pair to these two before.
Ben Simmons is 21.
On Friday night Joel Embiid turned 24.
*Neil Young voice on the opening line of "Old Man"*
Jo Hans, living his best life.
24 and there’s so much more…
With Friday night’s victory over the lowly Brooklyn Nets, at home where they’ve won 14 out of 15, the Sixers are now only a game out of the four seed in the East.
They have the highest number of remaining home games and lowest opponent winning percentage in the league over the final fourteen regular season games on their schedule.
But with a team that turns the ball over this much, so many players who lack experience together or individually, plus a few flat-out unreliable players getting real minutes, very little comes easy.
Friday night was no exception.
While most were fixated on watching the tournament, I spent much of the fourth quarter pounding a table like Kruschev, yelling at the TV, and watching the Sixers in the final minute end up trailing the sorry-ass Brooklyn Nets by three.
Luckily, we had Joel Embiid, who on two crucial possessions stifled the Nets at the rim on D, then either scored or got a good look for a teammate on offense.
Meanwhile Robert Covington, inconsistent or arguably flat-out disappointing ever since Bryan Colangelo paid him earlier this season, knocked down a key open three.
So while they should blow out teams like the Nets in front of a feverish Friday night Philly crowd on Embiid’s born day, there was something sorta poetic in JoJo not letting them lose, asserting superiority on both ends of the floor, then knocking down the second of a game-sealing pair of free throws in the final seconds, to put the Sixers up by four.
The final freebie from Embiid on his 24th Birthday, meant he landed on the point total matching the age he turned that day.
He also hauled in 19 boards, plus was cheated by the scorers out of a couple more.
Wishing all the 24th birthday blessings in the world to JoJo, who’s stayed healthy all season, and as a result is on the cusp of being the best player in the league.
Shout-out to Ben Simmons for almost becoming the only other player outside of Oscar Robinson to notch three consecutive triple-doubles as a rookie, even if he came up two short on the rebounding end.
And props to The Homie aka Shi-Shi aka Super Dario Saric, who prior to an unremarkable performance versus the Nets, has been better than any Sixer not named Joel for a month or so.
The rest of you dudes, please just do your job…especially you, Rob.
It’s almost playoff time…and this is the first time the Sixers have gone into a postseason with any upside or intrigue since 2003.
NFL Free Agency period officially began this past Wednesday.
Early impressions on who played it cool and who played the fool.
The Minnesota Vikings, last seen getting curb-stomped to the tune of 38 unanswered points during a festive January night in Philadelphia, backed up a Brinks Truck to sign Kirk Cousins.
Defensive-minded Head Coach Mike Zimmer, last seen running off the field with a sore ass and without shaking Doug Pederson’s hand, is going to get his team over the hump in 2018 by making a QB who's won nothing in six NFL seasons the highest paid player in the history of the league, with 84 million guaranteed?!?
Howie Roseman is rolling. Only a year or so removed from returning to the Big Boy Building in South Philly, after two years in timeout due to the poisonous ego of former Eagles Coach Chip Kelly, Roseman continues to display a shrewd sense of cap managing and adding value.
The Eagles added Michael Bennett, a Pro Bowler in Seattle the past three seasons, in exchange for the last pick in the fifth round and a practice squad receiver.
There’s no real downside for anyone involved, besides Vinny Curry and Woodbury Nissan.
In addition, the Eagles added another Super Bowl champion defensive lineman, run-stuffing former Raven/Lion Haloti Ngata.
Ngata may be exiting his prime, but he’s still a solid tier above Beaux Allen. And tho Ngata's stats after replacing Ndamakong Suh in Detroit don’t jump out at you, he’s a highly respected veteran presence (the Lions' nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award) who occupies blockers and can still have a major impact defending the running game.
If you don’t believe me, ask all the people in Detroit upset that he’s gone. Or note the difference in the Lions performance against the run before and after he was out with a bicep tear last year:
Pre-Ngata injury: 74.6 rushing yards per game
Post-Ngata injury: 129.7 rushing yards per game
The Eagles’ most consistent + consistently available linebacker last season, Nigel Bradham, seemed pricier than expected to re-sign: $40 million over five years.
But that’s a sticker-price for the agent to sell the media and potential clients.
This is the NFL, where contracts beyond the guaranteed money ($5 million) aren't worth the paper they were written on. In essence, this is a two-year, $7 million-dollar-deal, with the Birds able to say yay or nay on whether to pay Bradham beyond the 2019 season, due to team-options in the deal's final three years.
Despite some loose ends still to be tied up, particularly at receiver and corner, the defending Super Bowl Champions offseason is shaping up pretty, pretty good.
The Browns have been busy. And not in the usual disastrous sense of the word, commonly associated with the league’s biggest laughingstock in this millennium. Tyrod Taylor isn’t great, but he immediately becomes the best QB to take snaps in Cleveland this decade. Jarvis Landry led the league in receptions last year, and if Josh Gordon can pass drug tests, gives them a nice receiving corps to help Taylor and whoever the Browns select at #1 and #4 in the draft.
Joe Thomas retiring doesn’t help the Browns, but hopefully it's beneficial to the long-term well-being of the best offensive lineman in team history, only future Hall of Famer the team has sniffed since returning in ’99, and best Cleveland athlete of his time besides KANG.
The Ravens, for signing pedestrian pass catcher Ryan Grant to a four year 29-million-dollar deal, with 15 million of that guaranteed. It reeked of desperation after striking out on bigger targets (Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson), for a team that’s continually failed to find an even average array of offensive talent to put around South Jersey Joe Flacco since the Ravens won the 2013 Super Bowl.
The Ravens, for being able to nullify the Grant overpay after he failed the physical.
The Ravens, for realizing they’d messed up and making sure he failed the physical.
John Elway usually knows to avoid overpaying mediocre quarterbacks, aside from when he almost paid Brock Osweiler in 2016, before Houston hopped in, made a Godfather offer, and had to give up a second-round pick just to get rid of him a year later.
But Elway wisely stayed clear of the Cousins “Sweepstakes”, instead taking the Vikings' 2017 starting QB that reached the NFC Championship Game (only to get beaten in Philly like they stole something from a mob-owned storefront), for 1/5th of the price while leaving the door open to still select someone to groom in a deep 2018 QB draft class.
Of course, this doesn't make Elway perfect, as evidenced by his introduction of his new QB:
The Arizona Cardinals made sure someone will again pay Sam Bradford exorbitantly to be a deer in headlights, toss check down passes, finish with a losing record and get hurt.
Sammy Sleeves and the organization’s only saving grace is that Phoenix/Scottsdale is the “rehabilitation”, “personal training” and “sports therapy” capital of American professional sports, which is why some athletes playing there tend to look “rejuvenated” after arriving.
In case you aren’t picking up what I’m putting down due to “subtlety”, the Phoenix AZ metro area is a great place for athletes to train year-round, featuring a plethora of quality sources for high-end, undetectable PED’s.
You didn’t hear that from me 😉
But if you suddenly see Sam Bradford, who in uniform usually resembles a kid dressed in his father's jersey and pads for Halloween, suddenly looking sturdy and durable? Remember our little secret.
Besides maybe veteran defensive end Cameron Wake, the Miami Dolphins have lost the only four players you could likely name on their team last season: Smokin’ Jay Cutler (that’s okay, he was a surly stopgap after losing Ryan Tannehill in camp last August), Jay Ajayi (now forever known as Super Bowl Champion Eagle Jay Ajayi), Ndamakong Suh (who will go somewhere for far less than Miami paid him, and make a big difference on a better team) and Jarvis Landry (last year’s league leader in receptions, now paired with Josh Gordon in Cleveland).
But cutting pricey vets mighta made sense, if they weren’t also absorbing big cap hits, getting nothing significant back in trades, and then paying full market price to sign free agents like Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson, aka the “Hurt” and “Who?” Crew.
The Chicago Bears picked up some legitimate skill position talent this off season: potential #1 wideout Allen Robinson, deep threat Taylor Gabriel, and run-pass-block Triple Threat/Super Bowl Champion former Eagle 2nd/3rd tight end and Philly Special tossing Trey Burton. For someone like me, with a healthy degree of skepticism for both the Bears and Mitch Trubisky's prospects to becoming a franchise QB, that doesn't mean contention but they should be improved.
Music On My Mind
Top 2 Albums from The First Two Months of 2018:
1) Black Panther: The Album
2) Nipsey Hussle-Victory Lap
Top 2 New Albums of March So Far (slotting to be determined later):
Phonte-No News Is Good News
The phrase “grown man rap” too often means rap music that's preachy or stubbornly traditionalist, but Tigallo (originally of Little Brother, currently of The Foreign Exchange) on his second solo album instead taps into something uniquely personal and rewarding. The intro doesn’t do a great job of setting the tone, but Phonte is soon spitting darts on “So Help Me God” No News Is Good News' second track. Shortly after he does a deep dive into health concerns and family business on “Expensive Genes”. The album sets sail from there. That beat on “Sweet You”?!? Levitation, holmes. While listening on drive on an empty highway on the way to Cape May last Saturday morning, that track had me in the zone. The end result is an album that may be the supremely underrated veteran Greensboro-NC-bred MC's best work, nearly twenty years into his career, expanding on the promise of 2011's Charity Starts at Home.
The Breeders-All Nerve
Spoke on this a bit last week, it’s great to hear Kim and Kelly Deal back with the original crew from Last Splash for their first new music in 25 years. But rather than try to do too much, the band following some well received reunion shows a few years back, got in the studio last year with legendary alt-rock “reducer” engineer Steve Albini, and cut 11 bangers averaging about 3 minutes a piece. The whole album is over before you know it, but when you’re in the mood for a fuzzy rock fix, you’ll probably wanna run it back.
Two Anticipated March Albums That Haven’t Really Hit That Spot Yet:
Veteran Bassist/Singer/Songwriter/ Multi-Instrumentalist Meshell Ndegochello has been working the circuit plugging this, while talking cash shit about some current prominent artists (see: Mars, Bruno). But some of these 80’s/90’s R&B jams I’d been excited to hear interpreted, based on how much I love Meshell's cover of Ready For The World’s “Love You Down”, haven’t impressed as much, in admittedly very early impression. One notable exception: the country lilt, harmonica and acoustic guitar rendition of Force MD’s “Tender Love”. That’s a keeper.
While on the subject of R&B/pop-rock cuts getting an acoustical, country-fried send up, a shout-out to my boy Duke for bringing Sarah Jarosz’ mandolin-drenched cover of “When Doves Cry” from her recent Spotify session to my attention. The plethora OF “Purple Rain” covers since 4/21/SickDream were all underwhelming. Meshell’s “Sometimes it Snows in April” on Ventriloquism evokes emotion, but if I wanna dwell in the ache of The GOAT’s absence, I’ll listen to the original, now sadly prophetic, Prince version. But this “Doves Cry” rises above many other purple covers by retaining the bone structure of one of the best songs in the history of popular music, while also highlighting the differences in tone and musical skill set that its performer brings to the table.
Dating back to “Boom” in the 90’s, it’s always good to hear from the tandem of Royce the 5’9” and DJ Premier. Even moreso now that they’ve joined forces, like Run the Jewels or Czarface, to form a devastating duo in recent years.
But I’m not sure if the secondary production source formula, from Adrian Younge on Prhyme 1 and Antman Wonder here, fused with Preemo chops formula is ideal. We’ll see, I’ve only been thru the full album once so far.
Gonna give these two the respect of taking a good deal more time to dig for gold inside these beats and rhymes.
Top Seed Of The Week:
After the Storm-Kali Uchis, Bootsy Collins and Tyler, The Creator
Prior to hearing this song, or seeing its accompanying video that expands on the Pee Wee's Big Adventure style visuals of Tyler's "Who Dat Boy", plus the performance of it with The Roots on The Tonight Show last week, I didn’t even know what Columbia-born, DMV-bred (Alexandria to be exact) looked like, let alone much about her career aside from a few features.
I still don’t.
But this song is in heavy rotation because of how well its disparate parts coalesce into a fully realized musical package, while despite her higher profile company, Uchis’ voice and words, coupled with this tasty groove, take center stage here.
Perhaps on paper, Uchis’ lyrics could border on trite, to a more cynical reader.
But as a former longtime Los Angeles resident currently engulfed in a Northeastern winter that never seems to end, adding the context of Tyler and Kali’s previous collaboration on "See You Again" on Flower Boy, along with the weather metaphor symbolizing becoming a testament to positivity and perseverance thru pain, this song sounds like a Spring anthem to me.
The funk thump, plus injection of freak-flying personality via Bootsy and T, take you into orbit from there.
We'll see, maybe"After the Storm" will bloom into a 1990 Dee-Lite, Bootsy, and Q-Tip groovy hit for 2018.
That might be why despite obligatory multi-plays of Thin Lizzy’s definitive “Whiskey in the Jar” and the Pete Rock remix of “Jump Around” on Saturday, this was the song that fueled the weekend, with the prerequisite amount of hope to carry us into a sunnier season of growth.
One day shy of officially being spring again, we wanna hear this joint, like the Wu-Tang radio caller on “Protect Ya Neck” said, again and again and again.
Peace and Love,