Archive for April 2011

The Show Must Go On

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Uttering the name, Kanye West, will always strike many different emotions from different types of people. Many people find him arrogant, self-absorbed, and impulsive. Others find him artistic, innovative, and even revolutionary. Love him or hate him, he still seems to appear on your television sets, computer screens, and most importantly, your headphones.

As for myself, I'm one of the people who think Kanye West is a genius, and in my eyes is one of the most inspiring individuals in my lifetime, in the sense that his work challenges me to be more bold, and live with more ambition. In no way am I saying that he should be compared to some sort of Saint, but in terms of striking artistic inspiration, I think Kanye West has the ability to summon the inner artist and budding ambition in all of those who appreciate his work.

This past weekend at the world renowned Coachella Valley Music and Festival, Kanye was slated to close the festivities by performing the last show on the final day of the festival, and boy did he not disappoint. Fortunatley for those of us who weren't able to make it out to the sold-out festivities, most of the performance was recorded for our viewing pleasure.

Kanye West delivers a larger than life performance, and shows the entire music world what the concert experience should truly be like. Not only does he perform with intensity and charisma, he also pours his whole heart into it, and you can truly see his passion and emotions being delivered to the audience through his performance. If more artists used Kanye's performances as an example of what a concert should really be like, I don't believe that the music industry would be as far deep in the slump as it currently is.

So take a look for yourself. Obviously it's a long video, but if you just watch the first 5 minutes or so, you can get a grasp for the creativeness in Kanye West's performance, and maybe even appreciate Kanye for his incredible artistic vision, opposed to picking him apart for his questionable social skills.

The video is below, courtesy of rapdose.com, enjoy!




Jtraa

Still Ballin

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It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. With the NHL playoffs fully in bloom, and making life exceptionally better, the NBA playoffs are here and it's looking like it's going to be a classic!

There are so many storylines, interesting match-ups, and interesting possible match-ups with these NBA playoffs, so let's get right into it by taking a look at all the first round match-ups for the 2011 NBA playoffs.

(1) Chicago Bulls vs (8) Indiana Pacers

Key Players: Derek Rose (CHI), Danny Granger, Darren Collison (IND)
Prediction: Bulls in 4

The Chicago Bulls are coming into these playoffs with a lot of people saying that they are the favorites to win it all. In a league with the Los Angeles Lakers being led by Kobe Bryant, the Celtics having the "Big Four", and Lebron James and Dwayne Wade being on the same team, that's saying something. The reason for the high hopes in Chicago can be pin pointed to just one man: Derek Rose.

The success of the Chicago Bulls begins and ends with Derek Rose. He brings up the ball, and demands attention from his opponents, who usually have no idea what to do defensively against this guy, he is the undisputed leader of this team and has his team supporting him 100% in that role, and the man works harder than anyone else in the league. He can do it all. You put single coverage on him, he will burn you 9.5/10 times. If you double him, he will kick it out with ease to guys like Kyle Korver, or Luol Deng who are consistently making big baskets for the Bulls this year. If he wants to slow it down, he will pass it into the post, where Carlos Boozer will do work in the paint. And if all of that isn't enough, well, the Bulls have the leagues best defense as well.

With all due respect to the Indiana Pacers, who are a young team who really fought hard to make it into the playoffs this year, they do not have a chance in this series. I predict the Bulls will sweep this series, because Derek Rose is going to show why he is the MVP of this league.


(2) Miami Heat vs (7) Philadelphia 76ers

Key Players: Lebron James, Dwayne Wade (MIA), Andre Iguodala (PHI)
Prediction: Heat in 4

Ever since Lebron James decided to "take his talents to South Beach", the Miami Heat have been the villains of the NBA. During the season they've been on winning streaks, losing streaks, and they even cried after a loss, which has been now dubbed as "Cry-Gate". However, the reality of the situation is that they can play.

Say what you want about this Miami team, but they have two of the top 10 players in the NBA playing on the same team along with Chris Bosh, who at his best is one of the top post players in the league. Sure, they don't have much of a bench at all, but especially in a first round series like this, you're not really going to need it when you have Wade and James on your squad. Not to mention, behind all of the offensive firepower, Miami is probably one of the top five defensive teams in the league.

The 76ers are a lot like the Indiana Pacers in the sense that they are a young team who fought pretty hard to get into the post season. And like the Pacers, I don't see how they will be able to win any games against this Eastern Conference powerhouse. And although I really feel like the Heat have some team issues that may come up to nip them in the butt later on in the playoffs, I predict the Heat will sweep this first round series.




(3) Boston Celtics vs (6) New York Knicks

Key Players: The Big Four (BOS), Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony (NY)
Prediction: Boston in 7

Yes, you read it correctly; the New York Knicks are in the playoffs. With the Knicks being so bad over the last decade, you would think that when they drew the Boston Celtics as their first round playoff opponent that they wouldn't have a chance in the world. I'm here to tell you that I think that's far from the truth.

The Knicks have a new look, bringing Amare Stoudemire in during the off-season, and picking up Anthony and Billups before the trade deadline this season. With Amare having to be "the man" all season long, it was an interesting change to see Carmelo come in and absorb most of the spotlight. At first, the partnership was a difficult one, with the Knicks putting together a streak of some fairly terrible games, especially on the defensive end. However, they end their season 5-2 in their last seven games, and look like they have really started to figure things out.

The Celtics on the other hand, were the one of the favorites to win it all coming into the All-star break this season. However after trading their defensive strong tower in Kendrick Perkins, and having Shaq out of the lineup for the majority of the second half, the Celtics look to have a lot to worry about. Without Perkins down the middle, the Celtics seem to have lost their toughness, along with their identity. Their opponents look a lot more comfortable in driving to the hoop without that fear of getting roughed up in the middle. Along with their loss defensively, Rajon Rondo has not looked as good as he did in the first half of the season, and the Celtics offensive production has suffered because of it. However, with Billups often looking like a defensive liabilty, there will be a lot of room for the younger, and faster Rondo to exploit Billups, and provide a lot of offensive opportunity.

This is going to be an exciting series. The Celtics are looking cold lately, and the Knicks are looking hot. I don't think the Knicks have enough all around depth to take this series, and I was thinking that the Celtics would win in 6. But the city of New York have been waiting over a decade to see a playoff game at Madisson Square Garden, so that place is going to be even more electric than normal. This environment is going to give the Knicks two wins at least, but ultimately I have the Celtics winning in 7 tough played games.


(4) Orlando Magic vs (5) Atlanta Hawks

Key Players: Dwight Howard, J.J. Redick (ORL), Jason Collins, Al Horford, Josh Smith (ATL)
Prediction: Orlando in Six

On paper, the Orlando Magic have such a great team to me. They have the years potential MVP in Dwight Howard, a all-star point guard in Jameer Nelson, proven shooters Hedo Turkoglu, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Quinton Richardson, and J.J. Redick. However, this Orlando team has not been able to live up to the promise that was placed upon them when they made it to the NBA finals in the 2008-2009. I don't neccisarliy think that this year is the year where they do, but I do believe that Dwight Howard will be able to lead this Magic team at least past the first round.

However, the Hawks will not take this series laying down. The Hawks are going to go hard at Dwight Howard, and try to force him to get frustrated. This will all start with Jason Collins. Collins is by no means and NBA all-star, however he is a large, tough defender, who has given Dwight a lot of trouble in the past with his hard-nosed, physical defense.

On the other hand, lets be honest. When one of the keys to winning the series is Jason Collins, I don't think that's enough to bet on a team to win the series. Magic in 6.


(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (8) Memphis Grizzlies

Key Players: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginoblii (SA), Zach Randolph (MEM)
Prediction: Spurs in 6

The San Antonio Spurs shocked the NBA this season by somehow grabbing the Western Conference's number one seed this year. They have played great as a team this year, and their veteran leadership and winning experience seems to have paid dividends in a season where most had counted the older Spurs out.

On the other hand, the Memphis Grizzlies are a younger team, who nobody really had any expectations to do all that much damage in the league this year. They are a very scrappy team, lead by the double-double machine, Zach Randolph, and have shocked a lot of teams by their good work ethic, as well as their solid team play. However, in the ladder part of the year, when their leading scorer Rudy Gay was injured, and ruled out for the rest of the season, most had counted the Grizzlies out in making the playoffs. But it seems like Memphis has used Rudy Gay's injury as a reason to band together, and have a great second half, earning a playoff spot in the 2011 NBA playoffs.

Although I think the Spurs are far superior, I predict that it will take a few games for the Spurs to truly learn how to shut down Zach Randolph. I also feel like the Grizzlies defense is a lot better than it has been, with the acquisition of defensive specialist, Tony Allen. Although it will be a good series, the Spurs will ultimately win in 6.


(2) Los Angeles Lakers vs (7) New Orleans Hornets

Key Players: Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum (LA), Chris Paul (NO)
Prediction: LA in 5

Usually going into the playoffs, the Lakers are almost always assumed to run over the competition into the Conference Finals. However this year, the Lakers have really struggled down the stretch, and haven't really showed the world that they are shoe-in contenders for the Finals. The problem is, something that people aren't really talking about is that Kobe really isn't dominated the way he used to. Sure, he's still getting the job done, but it seems like he's missing more shots, getting the hoop with a lot more difficulty, and has really slowed down this season.

At the same time, Chris Paul has not been Chris Paul this season. He's been a lot slower, and has been going to the hoop with a lot less power and swagger. It seems to me that he has been playing injured for most of the season, and with the Hornets second best player, David West, being injured, the Hornets cannot afford to lose Chris Paul.

Even with the Lakers slowing down, they are still a great team, and still a contender regardless. I think Chris Paul might be able to steal a game, but the Lakers will still waltz through the first round, and hopefully figure out some issues in the process.


(3) Dallas Mavericks vs (6) Portland Trailblazers

Key Players: Dirk Nowitzki (DAL), LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Miller (POR)
Prediction: Portland in 7

Even in the NBA where their seems to be a clear separation between good teams and great teams, there is almost always a notable upset in the first round of the playoffs. Ladies and Gentleman, this is your upset.

I don't think I have ever seen a team with such a good record, get so little respect in a first round playoff series before. But when you look at the Mavericks roster, with Butler being injured, and Jason Kidd way past his prime, almost the entire workload is resting on Dirk Nowitzki's shoulders.

Portland on the other hand, plays a very distinct team game. Their top 7 players are very solid and reliable, and yet they still have their "go to" guy in LaMarcus Aldridge, who has had a breakout season and should be looked at as one of the best players in this league. On top of that, Brandon Roy is back in the lineup, and even though he is not nearly the same player as he once was, he can definitely make some big shots if he gets an open look.

I think Portland's team game will overcome Dirk's dominance, and the Blazers will win in 7.


(4)Oklahoma City Thunder vs (5) Denver Nuggets

Key Players: Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins (OKC), Ty Lawson, Nene (DEN)
Prediction: OKC in 6

Mark my words, this will be the most exciting series in the first round.

Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook have established themselves as one of the top 5 "1-2" punches in the NBA, and have had a great season this year. These two guys have gone from good players, to NBA superstars right before our eyes, and this team looks ready for the playoffs. The problem with the Thunder was always that they could score, but they were not tough in the center position, especially on defense. However, in the best trade of the season, the Thunder picked up Boston Celtic's tough defensive center, Kendrick Perkins, and has never looked better.

The Nuggets were also effected by a blockbuster trade when they got rid of Carmelo Anthony close to the trade deadline. The whole league counted this team out without Carmelo, but the Nuggets have been one of the best teams in the second half, and have been winning games against big time playoff teams using their "score by committee" approach to the game.

This series will be a fast, run and gun, exciting series. In the end, OKC will win the series, and the NBA will need to take notice that these guys are serious contenders.


Ladies and Gentleman, the playoffs are here, and it's going to be a great couple of months.


JTraa

The Crystal Ball

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Ladies and Gentleman, the NHL playoffs start tomorrow. In some ways they have snuck up on us a little bit, but in other ways it feels like the season has lasted forever. In the media, a lot of the attention for the NHL season has been put on the negative aspects, such as what seems to be the weekly debate of head-shots and concussions. This only seemed to intensify near the end of the season with Sidney Crosby still out with a concussion, and a series of hits and head-shot's that did, and did not receive supplemental discipline from the NHL. However, like i said, the playoffs are here. So for now at least, we don't need to talk about head-shot's, concussions, and the definition of a "hockey play", because the definition of "hockey" is the NHL playoffs, the greatest sports tournament in the world.

Since the NHL Playoffs is such a fantastic tournament, it's only natural that sports journalists and regular chumps alike make their picks on who they think are going to win "Lord Stanley's Mug". I'm gonna fit myself somewhere in the middle, as a regular chump hoping to one day be considered a sports journalist. And the first step to that dream is by predicting the whole first round perfectly. In case you are wondering, this is what the NHL playoffs are going to look like this year. Or in the first round anyway...


(1) Washington Capitals vs (8) New York Rangers

Season Series: 3-1 Rangers
Starting Goaltenders: (WSH) Michal Neuvirth vs (NYR) Henrik Lundqvist
Key Players: (WSH) Alexander Ovechkin (NYR) Henrik Lundqvist
Prediction: Washington in 6

The last image of both of these teams as their seasons came to an end last year could be described by one word: disappointment. The Rangers needed a win in game 82 of last season against the Flyers in order to earn a playoff spot. Unfortunately, the Flyers squeaked out the game in a shootout, and eventually advanced to the Stanley Cup finals, with the Rangers sitting at home watching what "could have been". The Capitals on the other hand, did earn a playoff spot, in fact, they cruised through the Eastern Conference during the regular season and easily obtained the first seed to face off against the Montreal Canadians in the first round. Sports writers and sports fans alike all basically had the Caps' sweeping the series, however the Canadians proved to be more of a difficult task, and Jeroslav Halak stole the show to steal the series, and eliminate the Capitals in seven games.

Similar to last season, the Capitals again have the first seed, but the Rangers obtained the eighth seed on the last game of the season, with Carolina losing their last regular season game, to insure that the Rangers would be in the playoffs. To me, I think that this series will be a very interested one to watch. The Capitals have not cruised through the season like they did last year, and I think that has helped make them more of a team than last year. On the other hand, the Rangers have been fighting for a playoff spot for the last 20 games or so, so that push for the playoffs is also something that brings a relatively young Rangers squad together as well.

I think that with last years playoffs fresh in their minds, the Capitals are not going to come out flat this time around. The players on this Caps team are now more experienced, and more determined than ever, and I predict Ovechkin to lead Washington into the second round, with Ovy turning back to his goal scoring self by having a performance bigger than we've ever seen from him. Judging by the Rangers final regular season game, I think that the Rangers may very well be tired from the second half push they've made. Not to mention that I don't think they can recover in either the offence, or heart department from the loss of Ryan Callahan for the remainder of the season. Unless Henrik Lundqvist plays even better than Halak did last year, I can't see the Rangers being able to pull out this one. Capitals in Six, but and exciting series nevertheless.


(2)Philadelphia Flyers vs (7) Buffalo Sabres

Season Series: 2-2
Starting Goaltenders: (PHI) Sergei Bobrovsky, (BUF) Ryan Miller
Key Players: (PHI) Mike Richards, Claude Giroux, Chris Pronger (BUF) Ryan Miller
Prediction: Philly in 7

As much as I enjoy watching the Flyers play, to me this is the least intriguing match-up of the first round. On paper, Philly has one the deepest teams we've seen in a long time. Up front, they have guys who can score like Giroux, Briere, and Carter, heart and soul guys (who can also put the puck in the net) Mike Richards and Scott Hartnell, and not to mention young studs like Ville Lieno, and James Van Reimsdyk. Back on Defense, there are no slouches on this team either, however there is a question mark right now on whether or not playoff expert Chris Pronger will be healthy come game time, but from what I've been hearing, that is not likely. I have to say it though, Philly's goaltending is once again, very suspect. Bobrovsky has been not playing up to snuff as of late, and Brian Boucher has never been a goalie that can be completely depended on. This, and one Ryan Miller, is why I give Buffalo a fighting chance in this series.

Buffalo is similar to the Rangers in the sense that they have been pushing for 20 or so games now to get into the playoffs, however unlike the Rangers, they have been on fire, winning out their last 4 games to secure a playoff spot, which is the reason why I have Philly winning in 7 opposed to the 5 games I was thinking it could be. Philly on the other hand, has been the exact opposite when it comes to closing out the, and has looked pretty terrible as of late, but I really do think they have too much talent on that roster to squander it when it really matters.

So, once again, Philly in 7, but I think Ryan Miller will steal a couple games, as well as the first game in Philly, due to the hot streak Buffalo has been on as of late.

(3) Boston Bruins vs (6) Montreal Canadians

Season Series: 4-2 Montreal
Starting Goaltenders: (BOS) Tim Thomas, (MTL) Carey Price
Key Players: Tim Thomas (BOS), Carey Price (MTL)
Prediction: Boston in 6

First of all, what an unbelievable series this is going to be. Boston vs Montreal during any playoff should speak for itself. But this year this is so much more. We have the 8-6 win for Boston that was one the games of the year, with even a goalie fight between possible Vezina winners Carey Price and Tim Thomas. There as also obviously the Chara it on Max Pacioretty into the turnbuckle, and then the 7-0 beating Boston put on Montreal in what was supposed to be the Habs "revenge game".

But when you put all of those story lines aside, you will end up seeing two of the leagues best goalies clashing together to help their team move on, and also prove to the world who the best goaltender of the season was (assuming we got hit in the head too many times with a puck and forgot about Pekka Rinne's great season). However, I think that in this series, Boston is just going to be too tough, big, and physical for the Habs, and will eventually eliminate them in 6. But definitely keep and eye on this series regardless, because when these two teams go at it, it's always a war.



(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (5) Tampa Bay Lightning

Season Series: 2-2
Starting Goaltenders: (PIT) Marc-Andre Fleury, (TB) Dwayne Roloson
Key Players: (PIT) Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh's penalty kill, (TB) St Louis, Lecavalier, Stamkos
Prediction: Lightning in 6

With Sidney Crosby in this lineup, this series is entirely different. As of right now, it really does not look for Sid, and it doesn't look like we will be seeing him. From every report that has come out, he's still out for a while, or the Penguins are very good liars. I'm willing to take the risk, and go for Tampa Bay.

The Lightning's Powerplay just seems to be too good to be knocked out by this team. If the Penguins get into any penalty trouble, they have to face St Louis, Lecavalier, and sniper Steven Stamkos, and with the team Pittsburgh has without Crosby and Malkin, I cannot see them overcoming that. I also think that the Lightning have a proven playoff goaltender (2006 Stanley Cup final with the Edmonton Oilers) in Dwayne Roloson who has played very good as of late, and even posting a .914 save percentage, which to me doesn't really spell out "over the hill".

The Penguins will be wanting to get some wins for Sid, and the may very well take some with Fleury playing as well as he has in the second half of the season, but I don't think the empty void of Pittsburgh's two best players will be able to be filled before the clock strikes midnight for this always competitive Penguins team.



(1) Vancouver Canucks vs (8) Chicago Blackhawks

Season Series: 2-2
Starting Goaltenders: Roberto Luongo (VAN), Corey Crawford (CHI)
Key Players: The Sedin's, Luongo, Ryan Kesler (VAN), Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook (CHI)
Prediction: Chicago in 7

I'm running out of time a little bit right now. I do appologize for going so long, but I'm just so excited for playoffs! ha.

But as for this series, this might just be the most interesting series in the first round. We have the Canucks who absolutely dominated the regular season. The Sedin's were amazing as usual, Kesler is at a totally higher level than ever, and Lu is being Lu. The only issue is, they are playing the Blackhawks in the first round. I don't think there is a worse match-up for this Vancouver club.

I know, the Blackhawks have been less than impressive this year, but you cannot deny the psychological edge they have on Vancouver. The eliminated them two years in a row, and even eventually made Luongo cry at the end of it all. It is going to take quite a team effort from Vacouver, I don't care how good they are on paper, to get past this club.

Let me also add, even though Chicago has lost quite a few guys, they still have their same core players (see key players for the series). They are still a very good team, and you would be foolish to say they don't have a chance to repeat. That being said, there isn't all that much pressure on Chicago to win again because of the fact that they have lost so many players. Vancouver on the other hand, have a whole country on their backs, and the pressure to produce in the playoffs has never been higher. And this may be bold, but with all of this pressure, combined with the fact they are playing the Blackhawks, I predict the Blackhawks to win this series in 7. Keep in mind, I think that if Vancouver can pull this series out, which they very well can, they will win the Stanley Cup this year.



I know there are still a few more series left, but I have gone on for quite a long time. But I have almost ran out of time, so, I'm going to just quickly go through the rest of the games and add some more notes to them a little bit later. I have to get my picks out though, just so to clarify when I get them all right (hashtag: sarcasm).


(2) San Jose Sharks vs (7) Los Angeles Kings

Season Series: 3-3
Starting Goaltenders: Antti Niemi (SJ), Jonathan Quick (LA)
Key Players: Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, Dany Heatley (SJ), Ryan Smith, Dustin Penner, Dre Doughty (LA)
Prediction: Sharks in 5

Every year, sports writers and analysts alike, seem to band together to choose San Jose to either make it, or win the Stanley Cup. Every year, sports writers and analysts are wrong. Usually, I'm always slow to jump on board with San Jose, but I really think this year is going to be a little different. I think having Stanley Cup champion, Antti Niemi on board this year is going to help this teams confidence greatly. Not to mention the fact that the Sharks have 3 proven superstars in Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, and Joe Thornton. On top of that, Ryan Clowe is coming off of a career season, and rookie Logan Couture scoring a lot of big goals for the Sharks this season.

The Kings on the other hand, also hold a lot of firepower on offense, however they are missing their leading scorer, Anze Kopitar for the rest of the season, and their second leading scorer Jason Williams is coming off a shoulder injury, and even though it looks like he will dress for Game 1, it seems unlikely that his production is going to be very close to what he was before he was injured.

I have the Sharks in five games, because I think that even though Jonathan Quick is very capable, I don't see the Kings scoring enough goals to beat the offensive powerhouse that San Jose is.

(3) Detroit Red Wings vs (6) Phoenix Coyotes

Prediction: Wings in 7

This is going to be another great series, just like we saw last year. I was hesitant because of Detroit's injuries in the ladder half of the season, specifically Zetterberg's latest. But I think that Detroit's over depth in lineup will be overwhelming for the young Coyotes. Expect this to be a great series to watch though!


(4) Anehiem Ducks vs Nashville Predators (5)

Prediction: Nashville in 7

This is Nashville's year. Maybe not to win the Cup, but at least to win the first round. These are two of the hottest teams in the NHL right now, and I expect it to be a great series. But I think that Pekka Rinne will steal the show on this one, and the Duck's question mark in net will cost them the series. Nashville's deep defensive based forwards, along with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter will be able to shut down the best line in hockey in Ryan, Getzlaf, and Perry.




Well everyone. That's it for now. That was a lot of writing. I don't expect you to read all of it, but feel free to post comments or beak me all you want about these picks, I'd love some response.

The next time I post on here, it will be the playoffs! It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Enjoy the playoffs everyone!


Jtraa


What's next

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Today was a long day. Work in the morning and work in the evening makes Joe a dull boy. BUT, through a long day of work, inspiration has hit me in a thousand different ways.

I had one of those days where I felt like I could take on the world. I came to a realization that to make it in the business I want to get into, which is sports journalism, it can all start with a big idea. It just takes something unique, something that can gain interest in the masses, and that can propel me to a place where I can actually be noticed. To be honest, I don't really know what that is just yet, but today was just one day. The encouraging thing is that through just one day of brainstorming, I feel like I'm actually on to something. Just imagine what will happen a year from now. That's exciting to me. And I know I'm being super vague, but maybe if you keep up with my blog throughout the next year or so, you may actually see these ideas develop.

That's really all I wanted to say. Nothing all that earth shattering, but I really just wanted to get a blog post under my belt before I went to bed. As for tomorrow, I'll be posting an NHL playoff preview, so you're definitely going to want to check that out. As for today, like yesterday, I'll leave you with a fairly new track from Childish Gambino. Enjoy!

Jtraa

Oh Sweet Melodies

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As the NHL season comes to an end and the playoff picture has been painted, you would think that I'd have puck on the mind. And trust me, once the puck actually drops and when "History will be made" like the NHL has so eloquently drilled into our brains, my mind will be mostly on vulcanized rubber. But today, I turn to my second love: music.

For the three of you who may keep up with my Twitter, you may have noticed I have developed quite a bit of a man crush on a hip-hop artist named Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover. If you haven't heard of Glover (I'll post a couple of links at the bottom of the post), the 28-year-old wrote comedy for Saturday Night Live, and the popular SNL inspired, 30 Rock. He then transitioned to acting, and plays a high school student in the popular and critically acclaimed comedy Community. He's now touring around North America on the IAMDONALD tour which what we've been told is a tour that will consist of Glover doing stand up comedy, and finishing it of with...a rap concert, under the moniker "Childish Gambino". At first I was skeptical. I love hip-hop, and the inner critic in me was assuming this was just some rich kid messing around, trying to feed off of his unrelated fame in order to bring in more money for himself. Boy, was I wrong.

Turns out, the guy is good. His rhymes are clever, complex, and personal. His flow is tight, polished, and yet unique. But what I think is the most impressive about him is that the man can sing! In my opinion, Childish Gambino has what it takes to make it big in specifically today's hip-hop world, and although his rhymes and flow are impressive, it is his singing voice that brings me to this realization. And it also made stop and ponder about what the hip-hop world has turned into today.

It has been well documented that today's music industry has taken quite the hit. Rolling Stones reports that album sales have gone down once again in 2010, this time by 13 percent. Not only that but they also inform us that even ticket sales have gone down 12 percent in the last year. If that wasn't already enough, digital sales, the medium that was supposed to save the music industry, did not continue to grow rapidly like it has over the past few years, and only grew one percent in 2010. But what does this all have to do with hip-hop specifically?

Yes, the music industry as a whole is suffering. But there is hope. In the same article, Rolling Stones makes all of the hip-hop haters backtrack when they report that although every genre suffered a decrease in sales by double digit numbers, hip-hop sales are actually up 3 percent in 2010. Sure, you could pass some of the credit to Eminem producing the top selling album of 2010. But, I would argue that the increase of hip-hop's popularity should not so much be credited towards certain individuals, but instead it should be directed towards the current mold of hip-hop today.

Ever since the origin of hip-hop, the genre can be recognized by its rough and rugged nature. Think about great rap crews like N.W.A., Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, and even the Beastie Boys. Their music was filled with long fast paced verses, hard hitting beats, and rarely did you ever hear any kind of melody, even in the chorus. The only time you would hear any singing at all, was if it was a sample of an entirely different song, or in some rarer cases, another artist outside hip-hop would lend their voice to the track.

This trend, although I know there were some exceptions, carried on into the 90's, and into the new millennium. Fast forward to 2010-2011, and we see that the art of hip-hop is done a little differently these days. Now, you are seeing more and more rappers doing more than just rap on their songs, but sing as well. When you take a look at the hip-hop artists today that are buying into the 2 for 1 combo when it comes to singing and rapping, the list is ridiculous! You got Drake, B.O.B., Knaan, k-os, KiD CuDi, Andre 3000, Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def, Wiz Khalifa, Nelly, and Nicki Minaj just to name a few! Now just by reading the names I came up with, it is important to take into consideration that the larger majority of those mentioned are relatively new artists. Of course you have guys like Andre 3000, Mos Def, k-os, and Lupe that have been doing this for a while now, but the rest of the artists have pretty much just hit mainstream within the last few years. Not only that, but they are some of the biggest artists in the music industry today, never mind just in the hip-hop community. These facts are simple, but yet they should speak volumes to why hip-hop is so successful right now.

Hip-hop has, and always will be my favorite genre of music. I love all of it, from the classics, to the type of tracks that are coming out in 2011. And I know there are hip-hop purists out there that will say hip-hop isn't the same as it used to be, as they stick their chins high in the air and turn up Straight out of Compton in their iPod's. And they're right. Hip-hop has changed. But the beauty of music is that it's always changing. In 2010, hip-hop reigned supreme over every other genre of music, and many people ask the question: why? It's because during hip-hop's cycle of evolution, it has now hit a point where melodies and rap collide. Drake's singing to try and "find your love" and in the next track, letting the world know with a swagger only hip-hop can provide, that his last name's Ever, and his first name's Greatest. The beauty of hip-hop today is that it speaks to all demographics, all situations, all emotions, and all personalities. Hip-hop has always had a large set of messages that can touch any one's life, but the difference now is that it's speaking to people in a sound that is appealing to the listeners ear. Now, instead of turning the station, they turn up the sound.

Lupe Fiasco wrote "Hip-hop has saved my life". How great is it that in a time where nothing seems to be working, it's now the music industry whose life hip-hop seems to be saving.




Also, download Childish Gambino's new EP HERE

Jtraa

Optimism

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This world we live in throws a lot of adversity our way. My life is no different. I feel adversity every day of my life. And that is because I'm a Leafs fan.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs this week, and I faced the all so familiar feeling of disappointment, while looking for another team to cheer for in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But wait, this feeling is different. But what is it? No! Could it be? It is! Optimism!

Since February 1st, the Leafs hold a record of 18-8-5. Now lets think about that for a quick second here. I'm not going to tell you right now that they are ready to take on the world and win a Stanley Cup if they just would have put away a couple games in the first half. But I am going to say that this record is no illusion. It needs to be pointed out that the Leafs didn't just beat up on the Islanders 18 times since the All Star break. They beat potential Cup contenders like the Flyer's and Penguins, and they beat the powerhouse Boston Bruins three times during that stretch. Not only that, they pulled out multiple wins against teams they were competing for a playoff spot with, such as the Sabres and Canes.

I was listening to Puck Daddy Radio the other day, and they brought up an interesting point and said that people actually are having trouble hating this team lately. I think it's safe to say that the Leafs are probably the most hated team in the league, but there is a lot to like about the product they are putting out on a nightly basis these days. You can't watch these guys play and tell me that they aren't playing hard. They have the slogan "The Passion That Unites Us All", and honestly, they look united out there, and boy are they playing with a great deal of passion.

But like I said. I'm not going to book tickets to the 2012 Stanley Cup parade in Toronto just yet. They have obvious holes that become evident especially while looking at their special teams. Their powerplay percentage is 21st in the league, and they also sport the leagues 4th worst penalty kill. I don't care what your second half record is, you are not going to make it deep in the playoffs being 27th in the league in penalty killing. To give you some perspective, the three worst teams in penalty killing are the Avs, Oilers, and Thrashers, and the four best are the Pens, Kings, Canucks, and Capitals.

And I admit, I'm sure there were a lot of teams that took the Leafs lightly in the second half, and they might have used their surprise factor to pull out some games. But, I would bet that teams will no be taking the Leafs lightly come next season. Especially when they have the Reim Minister between the pipes.

The Leafs playoff hopes may be gone, but until the playoffs actually start, I'm sure this isn't going to be the last you hear from me about "The Passion That Unites Us All" this season.

J Traa

It's me

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Hey there,

So, after about a year absence, I'm back into the blogging game. However, this time it's not a course requirement, I actually just want to blog. Weird, right?

This sudden plunge back into new media (ie Twitter and blogging in particular) is due to a few different factors. First off, for those of you who know me well, one day I'm going to be a sports journalist. I was about to say that I want to be a sports journalist, but to be honest, I think I have what it takes make it. Or at least have the potential to obtain what it takes to make it. And if Kanye West has taught me anything, it's go big or go home...that, and if your a genius, act like a maniac and it will make you look like an ever bigger genius...but that's for a future post.

Anyways, like I was saying, I want to be a sports journalist. Or broadcaster. I'm very interested in both actually. But for the sake of blogging, I'll just say journalist due to the more direct correlation between the two. And to be a sports journalist, I need practice. And what's a better way to practice writing about sports than...well, writing about sports?

Another reason I decided to start this up again is because of the emergence of a sports podcast that my fellow sports enthusiast and I plan on starting up this weekend. Having a blog will allow me to both plug the podcast, and also touch on subjects that we didn't talk about on the podcast, or expand on something that we did discuss.

Finally, I love writing. I really do. And taking a semester off school has put me into a withdrawal of sorts, that quite frankly took me off guard. And if I'm really serious about making it big in the sports world (which I truly am), I need to stay sharp. So here I go. I'm hoping this will both challenge me, and entertain me for years to come. I have big goals, and I guess they start with humble beginnings. As a blogging Jay-Z probably would have said if he had a blog, "Only blogger to rewrite history without a pen, no IP on this post let the story begin...".


Insert witty closing line (don't worry, I'll think of something),

J Traa


Oh yeah, also, this isn't just going to be about sports. I love music. And I'm very opinionated about other things as well. So, expect words from all different directions on this puppy.