Friday, March 16, 2007
The Era of "Cheaters"
Throughout this era, in which seemingly everyone from Mark Mcgwire to Mark Aguirre, due to suspiciously inflated stats as a fat man, is linked to steroids and/or illegitimacy, I have been a naysayer more so than a critic; I say cheat away, for I enjoyed the Home run chase of 1997 very much so and didn't care whether silicon was applied to these playboy-esque centerfolds-of baseball stars. Mcgwire and Sammy Sosa single-handily revitalized baseball when it was in desperate need of a revitalization, may it be with assistance of performance enhancing drugs or not. The league was fresh out of the disastrous strike-plagued year of 1995 and MLB needed the type of season that occurred in 1997 for them to be able to maintain the tag of America's ultimate pastime. We all knew that Big Mac and Sosa's muscles, amongst tons of other guys, were kind of bafoonishly large that season, but everyone kind of just turned their cheek to it, as the duo provided the most exciting summer that the league, arguably, has ever seen. It was kind of like the WWF pro wrestling phenomenon, everyone knew it was staged, but it was an unspoken law, of sorts, to not mention that acknowledgment due to the amounts of fun that was at stake. Big Mac crushed 70 home runs, created the corniest bear hug in history, Sosa swatted 66 home runs, and the rest is history. Now, the history of that season is in jeopardy, as the same critics/fans that indulged in that season are criticizing athletes like Mcgwire and Sosa for creating false stats that took advantage of the fans' trust for the game and want to have that season expunged from the record books in Cooperstown. Wasn't that season a blessing from the baseball gods and aren't big power numbers the most appealing for a fan to watch? After all, chicks do indeed dig the long ball, not a pitchers' duel. Commissioner Bud Selig shouldn't be such a hypocrite and say that these guys put a black cloud over the game when there might have not even been a cloud for rain to come from if not for those guys. Writers say that they don't vote for Mcgwire for the Hall of Fame because it jeopardizes the morals in which they have taught their children, but that seems a bit harsh and juxtaposing, as the kids, if baseball fans, surely loved Big Mac, and its not like Big Mac was doing Len Bias-types of drugs that actually might corrupt kids.
As I contemplate the issue of steroids in sports, I can't help but notice how it brings up comparisons to another issue of possible deceit from within the world of mainstream hip hop music, that resonates to the pessimism spiraling around sports with doubters of authenticity. Lil' Wayne, a rapper from New Orleans, that I have been following ever since my days as an ignorant, braggadocccio-through-the-rafters young'n, has recently gotten so much better on his recent albums that it has forced cynics to question his decorum and bona fide originality, examining if he indeed has used a ghost writer, the rap music equivalent to steroids. Ghost writing is where a rapper will use the lyrics written by someone else, and pretend that it is their actual work despite it being written by someone else. Ghost writers usually don't have the audacious tenacity that pumps up a crowd or charisma to recite the lyrics themselves, that is a prerequisite of sorts to be a successful rapper, so they sell their lyrics to a rapper that has the appropriate amount of swagger. Gillie da Kid is the man claiming he has written a majority of Lil' Wayne's (aka Weezy aka Weezy f. baby) recent hits, breaking the hearts of thousands of hip hop heads who wanted to believe that Weezy simply matured from album to album as a blossoming artist. Gillie has now become the match to Greg Anderson in the baseball community, where he was the supplier of the performance-enhancing drugs that athletes like Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Marion Jones may or may have not used, but claimed to have used by Anderson.
This despondency that has been created is bad for optimists like myself, as this culture has forced us to question every thing that we consider sincere. Weezy is now 24 and has released 10 albums to date already, which is an extremely large body of work, showing his workmanlike ethic, for most rappers would be lucky to release 5 their entire career. Of his 10 albums, the past three have been hands-down better from a creative standpoint than his first seven, which has created the pessimism towards Weezy. I look at this and site that he did a majority of his albums in his teenage years, so the enhanced quality of his music is only parallel with his age, after all, there is no way that I, at age 16, was capable of writing the way I am now. Progression happens with maturation, they go hand-in-hand. His increased use of relevant and thoughtful metaphors and influx of styles of flows has evolved from when he was 16, when he rapped basically like your prototype of any young rapper from the trap. He now may rap about similar subject matters, but the content has certainly gotten better with time. His latest albums, Da Carter II and his disk with Birdman, who was clearly his inferior, are the latest bodies of enhanced work. I say good for him, salud, but there are haters out there who will consistently be out there that look at the leap from his 2001 release, 400 degreez, and his 2003 release, Da Carter I, and compare it to the leap that the sleak, agile, base-stealing Barry Bonds with the Pittsburgh Pirates made, to his current, inflated meathead-like-state that he is now in with the San Francisco Giants. They will say that there was some false play involved, for anyone that is on top of his game will be antagonized by someone. Critics will say, Bonds took steroids when he saw the attention Sosa and Mcgwire were getting and was annoyed due to his belief that he was naturally a better player, probably true, and that Weezy found a ghost writer when he saw all the attention that other rappers, like Jay-Z and Nas, were getting due to their acclaim of lyrical prowess.
Bonds, Mcgwire, and Sosa, amongst many other baseball players, probably did take steroids to benefit their production, but it must be noted that none of the big three have been convicted, although Sosa somehow forgetting the English language in front of a grand jury, Mcgwire's disappearing act the last 5 years, and Bonds' link to Greg Anderson and Steroid/supplement provider, Victor Conti, certainly doesn't help their cases. Weezy, whose real name is Dewayne Carter, might have hired a ghost writer, although it is not nearly as likely as the athletes' fraudulent participation.
The overall point here is that the critics that judge these superstars in their respective fields have done nothing but negatively affect the culture that these guys live in. The nonstop pessimism towards anything that is considered impressive hurts the hip hop and baseball communities, for it hinders the fans' liking towards their passion, and how does it really, ultimately affect the critics if they accuse superstars of being so faulty anyways? How is it their responsibility to put another man's work into such frequent doubt? Granted, Lil' Wayne and these baseball players make millions of dollars and the doubters come with the territory, but for all the scrutiny they take, the money is well earned.
Being released very soon is Da Carter III, Lil' Wayne's latest album, which was listed as the most anticipated hip hop album of 2007 by XXL magazine, a highly sought after claim in the hip hop world, and I can only imagine how badgered Weezy is going to be if this installment is even more impressive than his first two albums in Da Carter trilogy. A man in a high position simply isn't allowed to excel anymore, not without admitting that he "cheated." I am avidly looking forward to this album, and will only listen to the songs, not the criticism that may be sung over how unreal it may be, for I only care about good music, even if it is with the assistance of a ghost writer, while not saying I think he hired one. Likewise, Sosa is entering yet another season in the big leagues, after a year hiatus, with the Texas Rangers, to prove that he can perform valiantly while being tested for steroid use. Sosa is much further along in his career than Weezy, so the expectations aren't nearly as high for him, so the connection isn't that close, but nonetheless, let's imagine that Slammin' Sammy somehow belts even 30 home runs, I can already for see the conspiracy theories flying around in the baseball community that would accuse him of using the Whizzanator, like Onterrio Smith, to pass his steroid tests. The critics will absolutely not be able to even consider the mere possibility that the man may have worked out like a madman for the whole last year while away from baseball before jumping to conclusions.
I, in conclusion, have to question the morale of the critics/naysayers in our society, for they don't seem to place themselves in the shoes of these vastly popular figures in the sports and music fields. Because, if I was offered the opportunity like Neo in The Matrix, to either take a red pill that would leave me in my current state as an unheralded, unknown blogger, or to take a blue pill that would catapult me into a level where my writing content would be that of Ernest Hemingway, and my sales would rival that of Da Vince Code author, Dan Brown's, I would be popping blue pills like a delirious man on Valium. This is what the opportunity is like for athletes and rappers, for if they take steroids they are likely to play 10X better and get paid 10X better, or rappers will get 10X better and sell 10x as many albums if they hire a ghost writer. This is not to say that Weezy nor the large group of baseball players currently under close observation are guilty, but even if they are, didn't their taking of steroids and usage of ghost writers create an arena where the fans are ultimately happier than when they were when their idols weren't using assistance, and isn't that ultimately the most important factor, the fans' pleasure and satisfaction?