Monday, March 30, 2015

TREVOR NOAH TO REPLACE JON STEWART AS HOST OF 'THE DAILY SHOW'

By: Connor Glowacki

Trevor Noah.
Photo courtesy of NPR.
     Comedy Central has found a new host for their long running series, The Daily Show, in 31 year old South African comedian Trevor Noah. The network announced on Monday (March 30) that Noah will succeed Jon Stewart after he announced his departure back on February 10.
     Noah had made his debut as an on-air contributor for The Daily Show back in December and has made three appearances. He offered his outsider's perspective, as a biracial South African, on race relations in the United States.
     "I never thought I'd be more afraid of the police here than in South Africa," Noah joked. "It kind of makes me nostalgic for the old days back home."
Noah appearing on The Daily Show
in December.
Photo courtesy of eonline.
     In a statement, Stewart said, "I'm thrilled for the show and for Trevor. He's a tremendous talent and comic that we've loved working with. "

     The main questions surrounding Noah might be his relative youth, which could honestly be a big advantage for Comedy Central and for The Daily Show, but also a possible lack of experience.
    What has set Trevor Noah apart in the comedy world is his work ethic to constantly travel around the world to perform stand-up and his ability to speak six different languages. He began performing in the United States in 2010 and has made appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman. Throughout his career, Noah has been an on air personality and contributor on various radio and television shows in South Africa
      Noah grew up in the town of Soweto, where he is the son of a a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father. At the time of the apartheid era, their marriage was illegal.
   
      Comedy Central President Michele Ganeless said in an interview with The New York Times, "We talked to women, we talked to men. We found Trevor to be the best person for the job. He brings such a unique worldview and a deep understanding of human nature, which makes his comedy so insightful."
John Oliver was considered a favorite to
take over, but is currently hosting
Last Week Tonight on HBO.
Photo courtesy of NBCToday.
     After Stewart announced his eventual departure on the show in February, Comedy Central began making a short list of his possible replacements.
     Stephen Colbert, John Oliver and Samantha Bee were all primed favorites, but were already signed on to different shows, with CBS' The Late Show, HBO's Last Week Tonight and an unnamed show on TBS, respectively.
     There is no official date yet for when Stewart will officially end his hosting duties on The Daily Show or when Noah will take over.



Did Comedy Central pick the right person, in Trevor Noah, to replace Jon Stewart?

Leave a comment below or let me know what you think on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Friday, March 27, 2015

KEVIN DURANT OUT 4 TO 6 MONTHS, FACING RIGHT FOOT SURGERY

By: Connor Glowacki

Photo courtesy of Reddit.
     Oklahoma City Thunder star forward, and last year's NBA MVP, Kevin Durant is going to undergo bone graft surgery in his ailing right foot and will miss the remainder of the season. This development was announced in a statement by Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti today.
     Prior to last season, Durant had a screw inserted into his right foot after suffering a Jones fracture. He missed the beginning part of the season, but returned to play in 27 games. In those games, Durant averaged 25.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists. At times, Durant even resembled the same fearless player that won the MVP award last season.
     However, he underwent surgery back on February 23 in an attempt to alleviate soreness and discomfort that had developed in his right foot, due to the screw that was initially inserted. In the following weeks, Durant's health and expected return time were being consistently re-evaluated.
Durant won his first MVP award
last season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today.
     Recently, Durant had been increasing the intensity of his on court workouts. But last week, he was removed from all basketball activities by the Thunder, which could've been a precursor by Oklahoma City management that the right foot was not completely healed and news of an eventual shutdown would be imminent.
Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook
has carried the team offensively in Durant's absence.
Photo courtesy of Fox News.
     News of Durant's injury troubles have come in the midst of the Thunder making a push for the final playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference.
     Point guard Russell Westbrook has carried the team on his back, since Durant has been sidelined, and is making a strong push for this year's MVP award with a stat-line of 27.3 points, 8.7 assists, and 7.1 rebounds per game this season.
     What's beginning to loom on the horizon for the Oklahoma City Thunder is the fact that Durant will become a free agent after the 2015-2016 season.
     In eight NBA seasons, Durant has career averages of 27.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, while shooting over 48 percent from the field.

Will Kevin Durant be able to come back from his recent injury troubles? And will this recent development impact how Oklahoma City deals with Durant in free agency after next season?

Leave a comment below or let me know what you think on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

KENDRICK LAMAR- 'TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY' (ALBUM REVIEW)

By: Connor Glowacki

Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone.
     California rapper Kendrick Lamar's rise in rap music has been a gradual climb over the last few years. From early mixtapes, such as 2009's 'The Kendrick Lamar EP' and 2010's 'Overly Dedicated', Lamar has shown an uncanny ability to combine narratives of gangsta rap and conscious rap within his hometown of Compton, California.
     After 'Overly Dedicated' was released, legendary rapper and producer Dr. Dre, one of the original members of the 1990s hip hop collective N.W.A., reached out to work with Lamar.
   
     In 2011, Lamar released his first album. It was an independent project titled 'Section.80', a concept album revolving around the hardships of two young women living during the Ronald Reagan presidency. There are many references to the eighties, including the decade long crack epidemic in low income neighborhoods and the high drug and medication tolerance of people born during the Reagan era.
Album cover for 'To Pimp A Butterfly'.
Photo courtesy of stereogum.com.
     'Section.80' was a critical success and not only was Kendrick Lamar hailed as a rising star by various music publications, but he would end up being signed to Dr.Dre's Aftermath record label and hailed as the new 'King of the West Coast' by rap heavyweights Dre, Snoop Dogg and Game.
     With Lamar's growing success, his independent label (Top Dawg Entertainment) began to see its stock rise with their other rappers that now include another breakout star in Schoolboy Q and indie darlings Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Isaiah Rashad.
Lamar's 2012 album 'good kid,
M.A.A.D. City
' is hailed as a
modern day classic.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
     In 2012, Lamar released his second overall, but official major label debut album, 'good kid, M.A.A.D. City' to worldwide acclaim. It was another concept driven piece of work that followed the story of his teenage experiences in the gang lifestyle and drug infested streets of Compton.
     It brought Lamar to superstardom and with hits like 'Swimming Pools', 'Backseat Freestyle' and 'Poetic Justice', the album has gone on to sell over 1.3 million copies in the United States alone.
     Since then, 'good kid, M.A.A.D City' is considered a modern day hip hop classic and Lamar has been touring all over the world. But inevitably, he would have to release another album that would face insane expectations. When Lamar announced his new album, 'To Pimp A Butterfly', he declared that it would be different from 'good kid, M.A.A.D. City'.
     It's been almost two and a half years, but the wait is finally over. Let's break down this new album track by track and see if it stands up to 'good kid, M.A.A.D. City'.



1.) 'Wesley's Theory' featuring George Clinton and Thundercat

     'To Pimp A Butterfly' opens up with 'Wesley's Theory', a song that begins with a musical sense reminiscent of seventies Motown, but transitions into a dark, funkier vibe. This is where we get the first description of the phrase, 'pimping a butterfly'.
Funk musician George Clinton
sings on 'Wesley's Theory'.
Photo courtesy of starpulse.com.
     Lamar compares the phrase to how successful black entertainment artists will have or have already become pimped to the entertainment industry.
     "When I get signed, homie I'mma act a fool," states Lamar. It's the common tale of how a musician can fall into the wrong circles or groups and have the external pressures of fame distract themselves from the art that they are trying to portray.
     What's really cool about 'Wesley's Theory is that the song suddenly breaks halfway through into a recorded phone message with Dr.Dre. He warns Lamar that it is just as easy to become irrelevant as it is to become famous.
     Funk pioneer George Clinton provides vocals during the bridge where he ominously sings, "Lookin' down is quite a drop. Lookin' good when you're on top." The song has a warped sense of crazed energy that keeps you captivated.

2.) 'For Free? (Interlude)'

     The interlude starts off with a beautiful saxophone solo by Terrance Martin and leads to a jazz/funk breakdown. Now keep in mind that both of these genres of music were crucial in shaping the early forms of hip hop in the seventies and eighties.
     The first verse is from an unknown female who mocks Lamar for, "walking around like you God's gift to Earth". He responds to this woman in the second verse, but if you look at the theme and total context of what this album is about, you figure out that Lamar is using this conversation between himself and the unknown woman as a metaphor.
     The metaphor goes into how the American entertainment industry is 'pimping' out black artists. Musically, it's again very manic and full of energy that at times feels as if it can't be controlled.

3.) 'King Kunta'

     Some quick background information is necessary before jumping into this track. 'Kunta' is based off of an 18th century slave named Kunta Kinte, whose story was the basis of Alex Harley's novel, Roots: The Saga Of The American Family.
     Kinte had his right foot cut off after an escape attempt from a plantation. So Lamar, now as a major voice in hip hop, uses Kinte's name as 'King Kunta' to differentiate between the highest and lowest levels of society.
     It's another funk based song that sounds nothing like 'good kid, M.A.A.D. City'. With production from Martin, 'King Kunta' is bright and contains lots of live instrumentation. Lyrically, Lamar is mocking the people that doubted his rise to stardom, "B---, where was you when I was walking? Now I run the game got the whole world talking. Everybody wanna cut the legs off him. Black man taking no losses."

4.) 'Institutionalized' featuring Anna Wise, Bilal and Snoop Dogg

     Lamar utilizes his higher vocal inflections to begin the song. "I'm trapped inside the ghetto and I ain't proud to admit it. Institutionalized, I keep running for a visit," Kendrick raps.
Rapper Snoop Dogg provides a verse
on 'Institutionalized'.
Photo courtesy of hotnewhiphop.com.
     Here he talks about suddenly being surrounded by fake friends who just want to live off his riches, "But something came over you once I took you to the BET Awards". And he's questioning why some rappers are glorifying a violent and lavish lifestyle, even though they've never lived in or visited a hood.
     Snoop Dogg appears on the outro and delivers a poignant line saying that even though Kendrick might be 'king of the west coast' and the former good kid is out of the hood, the hood can never be taken completely out of the kid.

5.) 'These Walls' featuring Anna Wise, Bilal and Tundercat

     This track differs in its meaning throughout its duration. In the first few verses, the walls that Lamar are rhyming about are of a woman's body. This makes you think that 'These Walls' is a song about sex and love.
     But in the final verse, he is rapping about prison. "Wall telling you that commissary is low. Race wars happening no calling CO. No calling your mother to save you, homies to say you're reputable and not acceptable".
     The combination of vocals by Wise and Bilal and production from Thundercat and Martin is smooth and not only fits well with the descriptive native of Lamar's opening lyrics, but also the depressing, sobering nature of prison life.

6.) 'u'

     The hook opens 'u' with Lamar singing, "loving u is complicated". He is rapping about how much he hates himself and hates the person he has become. Lamar has become depressed and manic after the critical and commercial success of 'good kid, M.A.A.D. City'. He doubts that he actually has talent, "Watching anonymous strangers tellin' me that I'm yours. But you ain't s---, I'm convinced your talent's nothin' special".
     He blames himself for his younger sister becoming pregnant as a teenager and how he was touring and selling out shows around the world instead of being at home and being more of a positive influence on her.
     Lamar also feels guilty because his friends are upset that he hasn't returned to visit Compton more and that he has forgotten his roots. Later in 'u', he details how one of his best friends from home was shot and died in a hospital. Lamar, however, was touring overseas and couldn't make it back to his fallen friend.
     In a culture where hip hop is dominated by braggadocios materialistic rap, this kind of authentic subject matter is extremely refreshing. 'u' is RAW and it is real.

7.) 'Alright'

Pharrell Williams sings and produces on
'Alright'.
Photo courtesy of americansongwriter.com.
     Interestingly enough, 'Alright' was produced by superstar producer/singer Pharrell Williams. And needless to say, this is one of the few songs on 'To Pimp A Butterfly' that I could see finding success at radio. The production is bouncier, but retains that deranged energy.
     Lamar references an excerpt from Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Color Purple, with the quote, "Alls my life I has to fight". There are further lyrical references to slavery, religion, and how music industry executives only care about artists on a commercial basis.
     But with Lamar and Williams joining in on the chorus with the chant, "We gonna be alright", you get lost in the uptempo production while in the midst of trying to comprehend the subject matter.

8.) 'For Sale? (Interlude)'

     The second interlude showcases Lamar interacting with a woman, or possibly a being known as 'Lucy'. But with some of the subject matter already delving into religion, could 'Lucy' be a name short for 'Lucifer'? Or a name to stand for the world's problems among the racial divide? In the last verse, Lamar finally indicates that he is returning home to Compton. Now at the half way point of 'To Pimp A Butterfly', will he finally find solace by returning home?

9.) 'Momma'

     As the end of the previous interlude indicated, 'Momma' details Lamar's return home to Compton after all of his success in music. It feels somewhat triumphant with a gospel choir chanting during the chorus, "We've been waiting for you".
     And yet it begins to feel chaotic with clamoring bells and other rhythmic noises providing several distractions during the song's subject matter. He continues to reference 'Lucy' or 'Lucifer' throughout the song and becomes very frantic during the last verse.

10.) 'Hood Politics'

    When I discovered that 'Hood Politics' featured a sample of 'All For Myself' by singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens, I was impressed that Lamar knew who Stevens was. Nevertheless, there is great production ranging gradually increasing keyboards to menacing beats by producers Sounwave, Thundercat and Tae Beast.
     Lamar defensively responds to a critic that he will stay true to himself and not chase any trends, "Came in this game, you stuck your fangs in this game. You wore no chain in this game your hood, your name in this game."
The LAPD is a target of attacks
from Lamar on 'Hood Politics'.
Photo courtesy of callofduty.wikia.com.
     This song is an insight into what word is actually spreading out in the hood. He learns from friends on the streets that the new gangs in Compton aren't the notorious Bloods and Crips, but instead the Republicans and Democrats.
     "From Compton to Congress. Set trippin' all around. Ain't nothing new but a flow of new DemoCrips and ReBloodicans. Red State versus a blue state, which one are you governin? They give us guns and drugs, call us thugs."
     There are unapologetic attacks on politicians and the Los Angeles Police Department because of the complete lack of trust that people living in these situations have for high ranking officials.
     Another highlight on 'Hood Politics' was Lamar attacking music critics for being inconsistent with where they want rap to go, as far as being more lyrical. "Critics want to mention that they miss when hip hop was rappin. If you did, then Killer Mike would be platinum". That line made me chuckle and I agree with every sentiment and aspect of it.

11.) 'How Much A Dollar Cost?' featuring James Fauntleroy and Ronald Isley

Ronald Isley provides vocals on
'How Much A Dollar Cost?'
     This song contains haunting vocals from both Fauntleroy and Isley, of the Isley Brothers. If you listen to the lyrics in this song, it's Lamar describing meeting God at a gas station in the image of a homeless man. When the man (God) asks him for a dollar, Lamar resents him and showcases his selfishness, to which he attributes to his success.
     There are plenty of religious notions and instances mentioned in the song that might be related to him personally, in the sense of whether he should focus on making more money and becoming more famous or using the platform he has to give back to those who supported him.

12.) 'Complexion (A Zulu Love)' featuring Rapsody

     Like a lot of songs on 'To Pimp A Butterfly', 'Complexion' has a pro-black theme that strongly resonates. It talks about putting away the standards of societal beauty that are placed, in terms of colorism.
     An uplifting song where Lamar maintains the importance of loving all forms of black, no matter if that shade of black is light or dark.
Rapper Rapsody provides a verse
on 'Complexion'.
Photo courtesy of therealhip-hop.com.
     "Then wit told me, 'A woman is woman, love the creation' it all came from God then you was my confirmation. I came to where you reside and looked around to see more sights for sore eyes."
     I was pleasantly surprised to see a verse from emerging female rapper Rapsody on 'Complexion'. She gives shoutouts to Stuart Scott and Tupac Shakur and continues the inspirational subject matter. "Call your brothers magnificent. Call all the sisters queens. We all on the same team, blues and prius, no colors ain't a thing."
     This song sounds inspired from something that Tupac would have written. It specifically reminds me of his song, 'Keep Ya Head Up'.

13.) 'The Blacker The Berry'

     'The Blacker The Berry' was released as the album's second single back in February and it created quite a stir of controversy for its lyrics. Overall, it deals with radicalized self-hatred in the black community. Lamar plays on different meanings of what the bottom of mankind means and the stereotypes of the black community. Instead of dismissing these stereotypes, he embraces them as his own.
     There are references into how young, black men are the highest group sent to prison. Lamar also compares gangs in Compton and throughout the county to tribes in South Africa who might go to war with each other. "It's funny how Zulu and Xhosa might go to war. Two tribal armies that want to build and destroy. Remind me of these Compton crip gangs that live next door". However, the song ends with him encouraging the listener to delve deeper into the content of this song. And it's that the issue of hypocrisy is inevitable in all communities.
     'The Blacker The Berry' is raw, in your face, and an overall successful example of an artist using a platform to stand up for something and speak out.

14.) 'You Ain't Gotta Lie (Momma Said)'

     Instrumentally, it's a nice change of pace that this song stays calm and cool after the extremely aggressive 'The Blacker The Berry'. The basic aspect of this song is Lamar telling a friend that you don't need the typical hip hop lifestyle (women, drugs, money, cars) to live a happy life. It will only cause more trouble in the long run.

15.) 'i'

     'i' was released as the lead single for 'To Pimp A Butterfly' all the way back last September. In radio    interviews, Kendrick wrote the song for his homies that were in prison and for people that are contemplating suicide. Unlike 'u' and other songs on this album, 'i' is WAY more positive. It's a song about loving one's self.
Cover Art for the single 'i'.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
     The intro of the song describes Lamar not as a rapper, but as a poet or a writer. There have been several interviews where he has stated that he sees himself more as a writer now than as a rapper.
     'i' is very funky with lots of groove in the instrumentation and even features a sample of 'That Lady' from The Isley Brothers.
     Although a lot of people, including myself were skeptical of this song when it was first released as a standalone single, it fits well on an album of self-exploration and Lamar constantly doubting himself and what he had become due to his success.
   

16.) 'Mortal Man'

     This is the final song off of the album and it's a whopping 12 minutes! But it feels like it goes by quicker and in a good way. Ultimately, Lamar realizes that he is the new voice in a line of leaders in the black community.
     What's really cool is that in the last verse, he interviews Tupac Shakur! Okay, it's not an actual interview. But Tupac's quotes were brought from an interview of his back in 1994.
     In a line of leaders from Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, etc., he realizes that he has a limited amount of time on Earth and needs to speak his mind about issues as long as he can.


RATING: 5/5

Photo courtesy of americanaljazeera.com.
     It's hard nowadays for me to listen to an album and not find any kinds of faults. But some albums are just near perfect and feel timely in current events.
     With the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and other young black men who have been killed by police officers, the cries for racial inequality and police brutality have risen all across the United States.
     'To Pimp A Butterfly' is the album that attempts to inspire a new generation to change the world. It expands upon the local issues of race from 'good kid, M.A.A.D. City', but expands it to a worldwide audience. It's an album that showcases more of Kendrick's personality and that he feels trapped, depressed and eventually relieved over how he should be using his musical platform.
      It's not that Kendrick Lamar is preaching these statements or statistics down our throats, but he makes these events of racial injustice personal and somehow even relatable.
Photo courtesy of NME.
     While so many rappers have been criticized outside of the rap community for delivering subject matter about the stereotypical drugs, sex, money for purely braggadocios reasons. It's refreshing to hear a rapper talk about these things in the proper context of the song and the album.
     Musically, Lamar's incorporating jazz, funk and even spoken word poetry back into hip hop. He is willing to push himself outside of his comfort zone and not repeat a formulaic pattern for success.
     'To Pimp A Butterfly' is a masterpiece and is on par with 'good kid, M.A.A.D. City'. I think that due to the intellectual subject matter, wordplay and production, it could be viewed as being the superior project in a few years.
     If you are not a fan of this musical genre, I STRONGLY urge you to give this a chance. Hip Hop, like many other musical genres, is stereotyped in the mainstream media. At times it's fair and other times it's not. Kendrick Lamar's 'To Pimp A Butterfly' is not a stereotype, it is a classic that will be a benchmark in music for years to come.

FAVORITE 3 TRACKS

1.) 'Hood Politics'          2.) 'Institutionalized'           3.) 'Complexion (A Zulu Love)'

Did you like this album? Did you hate it? Leave a comment below or send me a comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.




Friday, March 6, 2015

NFL OFFSEASON MOVES: WEEK OF 3/6/2015.

By: Connor Glowacki

     The NFL offseason began just over a month ago as the New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 49. But with just four days left until the beginning of free agency, teams throughout the league have already started making moves to try and improve their rosters for the upcoming 2015-2016 season.
   
      Let's take a look at some of the big moves that were made in just the past week:

*Chicago Bears trade wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets.

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
Photo courtesy of The Chicago Tribune.
     Marshall trade rumors had been brewing for the past few days, but it was made official today (March 6) as the Chicago Bears traded their star wide receiver to the New York Jets.
     Marshall, a nine year veteran and a five time Pro Bowler, struggled through nagging injuries in 2014 and had just 721 receiving yards with eight touchdowns. In the previous seven seasons, Marshall had racked up at least 1,000 yards receiving in each consecutive season. While the Jets will pair Marshall with wide receivers Eric Decker and Percy Harvin in New York, the Chicago Bears will most likely receive a 2015 late round draft pick in return.
     Marshall was scheduled to make $7.5 million this season and the Bears are preparing to give wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey a larger contract at the end of next season. Chicago is in the midst of both a new era with new head coach John Fox and questions surrounding the future of embattled quarterback Jay Cutler, who is in the middle of a seven year/$126.7 million deal.
 
*Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots will not resign wide receiver Reggie Wayne and nose tackle Vince Wilfork, respectively. Both are now free agents. 

Wide receiver Reggie Wayne
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
     Two NFL veterans will now test out the free agent market. The Colts announced this week that they will not re-sign Reggie Wayne after 14 seasons with the team. Wayne is the Colts' franchise leader in regular season games played (211) and wins (143). He also ranks second in receptions (1,070), receiving yards (14,345) and receiving touchdowns (80).
     Wayne is currently sixth on the NFL's all-time receptions list, but he struggled last season as he dealt with injuries and only had 779 yards and two touchdowns. He is still deciding between retiring and playing next season.
Nose tackle Vince Wilfork.
Photo courtesy of CBSSports.com.
     News came out about Vince Wilfork's release from the Patriots on Thursday (March 5) and the move will save New England over eight million dollars in cap space.
     Wilfork returned from a torn achilles injury in 2014 and played in 73.4 percent of defensive snaps, anchoring an improved Patriots defense as the team's nose tackle. He has won two Super Bowls and is a five time Pro Bowler throughout his 11 seasons in New England.

*Philadelphia Eagles trade running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Running Back Lesean McCoy
Photo courtesy of Huffington Post.
     This was a trade that came out of nowhere and shocked many people in the sports world. McCoy ran for over 1,300 yards in 2014, but also just five touchdowns. And there were only four games last season where McCoy ran for over 100 yards.
     With the length of a running back's career in the NFL dwindling each and every year, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly might have believed that McCoy, age 26, had already past his NFL prime.  
     Alonso missed the entire 2014 season due to injury, but registered a whopping 159 tackles in 2013. And since he's a former Oregon Duck, the same school that Kelly coached for, Alonso should be a solid fit for the Eagles defensive schemes. McCoy can only help a Buffalo Bills rushing attack that ranked 25th in the league last season.

*Running Back Maurice Jones-Drew retires after nine seasons in the NFL.

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Photo courtesy of ESPN.
     Jones-Drew, known for his small stature at 5-foot-7 and 210 pounds, ran for 8,167 yards and 68 touchdowns in his career.
     After eight seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Jones-Drew played for the Oakland Raiders in 2014. However, he broke his hand in the first game and couldn't reclaim his spot on the depth chart.
     He announced his retirement on Twitter stating, "All good things must come to an end!".

*New York Jets resign linebacker David Harris to three year deal, San Diego Chargers sign wide receiver Jacoby Jones to a two year deal.

Linebacker David Harris.
Photo courtesy of silive.com.
     The Jets re-signed Harris today (March 6), four days before he was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.  His new contract will be three years for $21 million. Harris has spent his entire career with the New York Jets, since the organization drafted him in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft.
     Harris led the Jets with 124 tackles and also contributed six sacks in 2014. He also played in a whopping 99.4 percent of all defensive snaps last season.
Wide receiver Jacoby Jones.
Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Sun.
     Meanwhile, the San Diego Chargers signed former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones to a two year deal.
     Jones struggled in 2014 and quickly lost his spot on the depth chart as a receiver. He finished the year with just nine catches for 131 yards.
     Keep in mind that just two years ago, Jones caught a 56 yard touchdown pass and scored on a 198 yard kickoff return in the Ravens' victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 47.

Have any thoughts on these offseason transactions? Anything I missed that you would like to add?

Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Monday, March 2, 2015

MUMFORD & SONS TO RELEASE NEW ALBUM, 'WILDER MIND', IN MAY

By: Connor Glowacki



     Grammy award winning British folk-rock band Mumford & Sons have announced today that they will release a new album, titled 'Wilder Mind', on May 4. The lead off single, 'Believe', will be released in the next few days.
     Mumford & Sons has found huge commercial and critical success with their first two albums, 2009's 'Sigh No More' and 2012's 'Babel'. The latter album even won a Grammy back in 2013 for album of the year.
     The band has been well known for its use of acoustic instrumentation that includes guitars, banjos, mandolins, and other instruments that have helped popularize the rise of folk, bluegrass and americana genres into mainstream music over the last few years.
Album cover for 'Wilder Mind'
Photo courtesy of Consequence of Sound.
     However, in an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone, the band has stated that they have mostly replaced their standard signature elements - acoustic strumming, banjo, stomping kick drum - with arena sized guitars, synthesizers and even drum machines.
     During the interview, frontman Marcus Mumford stated, "We felt that doing the same thing, or same instrumentation again, just wasn't for us. None of us really had any interest in doing a sort of 'Babel 2'. It was always going to be different."
     Another revelation in the Rolling Stone article was that unlike the band's first two albums, the lyrical songwriting was reportedly shared between all band members and not just exclusively Mumford.
Lead singer Marcus Mumford has stated
the band did not want to make a
'Babel 2' with this new project.
Photo courtesy of kolgdyd.com

     "There's way more space on this record," said Mumford, "I think all of our favorite bands have albums that are really urgent, but have space to them. You listen to an Old Crow album and there's not a huge amount of space there. But then you listen to a Led Zeppelin album and you actually hear the space. All of our favorite bands, from Dire Straits to Fleetwood Mac to Radiohead, all go about it in interesting ways."
     The band has also recently hired a drummer for live shows and bassist Ted Dwane admitted, "Being a bass player in a band without a drummer for seven to eight years has been kind of weird."

Below is the tracklist for 'Wilder Mind':

1.) 'Tompkins Square Park'
2.) 'Believe'
3.) 'The Wolf'
4.) 'Wilder Mind'
5.) 'Just Smoke'
6.) 'Monster'
7.) 'Snake Eyes'
8.) 'Broad-Shouldered Beasts'
9.) 'Cold Arms'
10.) 'Ditmas'
11.) 'Only Love'
12.) 'Hot Gates'

How do you feel about a new Mumford & Sons album that will reportedly be very different from 'Sigh No More' and 'Babel', in terms of instrumentation?

Leave a comment below or send me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

AN UNKNOWN FUTURE FOR THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS

By: Connor Glowacki

     Last Sunday (February 22), the Los Angeles Lakers ended a seven game losing streak by defeating the Boston Celtics in overtime by a final score of 118-111, but the real news came after the game had finished. While Lakers guard Jeremy Lin was being interviewed after leading all scores with 25 points in the victory, several of his teammates bombarded the interview with declarations that the Lakers 'were back'.
     Guard Nick Young and forwards Jordan Hill and Carlos Boozer suddenly appeared on camera and were excessively celebrating a victory that brought the Lakers to a pedestrian 14-41 record. Young,  infamously known by his nickname 'Swaggy P', starts to joyously yell into the camera, "We back in the building. Ya'll thought we was gone!"
   
     *Below is part of the post game interview.  


*(Video belongs to the NBA)
   
     This highlight ended up making its way to Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who had just undergone season ending surgery to his right shoulder. While on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Bryant looked utterly disgusted when Kimmel showed him the video and couldn't even bring himself to words. The video ended up showcasing how some players on the team act without their driven guard in the locker room to keep them in check. It was an utterly embarrassing moment for a legendary franchise that has fallen on some rough times in recent years.
   
Injured Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's initial
reaction after watching the 'celebration'
video on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live'.
Photo courtesy of Huffington Post.
     WIN NOW MODE

     Ever since Los Angeles won back to back titles in 2009 and 2010, the Lakers franchise has slowly trended downward. And looking back in retrospect, it appears clear that this trend ultimately started before the 2012-2013 season.
     After losing in the Conference Semifinals for the second straight year back in 2012, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and owner Jerry Buss decided that they had to make moves in order to become an immediate championship contender. And it looked like that had a chance of happening when the Lakers were on the edge of acquiring point guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets in a trade. But the NBA and former commissioner David Stern famously called off a trade that could've realistically brought Bryant another championship.
Point guard Steve Nash.
Photo courtesy of USA Today.
     If the Lakers had acquired Paul, who was only 27 at the time, Bryant could've been given the opportunity to focus simply on fulfilling his role as a scorer and it could've lengthened his career by an extra year or two. And the Lakers, at the time, still had all star forward Pau Gasol and center Andrew Bynum on the roster. Gasol and Bynum were still productive in 2011-2012 and played pivotal roles in the Lakers two championship runs just a few years earlier.
   
     PLAN B (BUT STILL WIN NOW)
   
     Instead, the organization went to Plan B and acquired a 38 year old former two time MVP point guard, in Steve Nash, from the Phoenix Suns. Over the last few years with the Suns, Nash's production had begun to decline. But he did average 12.5 points and 10.7 assists per game in 2011 and the Lakers obviously felt that he could be the guy to take pressure off of Bryant in the backcourt and be the floor manager and facilitator that they desperately needed.
     The organization then pulled an even more surprising move to trade a disgruntled Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers and acquire all star center Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic. For years in Orlando, Howard had grown increasingly frustrated with head coach Stan Van Gundy and with management. There were also numerous reports that he wanted to play in a bigger market with other marquee talent. So when a trade to the Brooklyn Nets to play with guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson never materialized, Howard took the Lakers offer to play in Hollywood.
Former Lakers center Dwight Howard,
now a member of the Houston Rockets.
Photo courtesy of fansided.com.
     At this point of his career, at age 26, Howard was a three time defensive player of the year and had averaged 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds and over two blocks per game with the Orlando Magic back in 2011-2012. The Lakers organization had believed that not only had they put together a dynamic roster that could be a championship contender for the next years, but that they had found their next superstar to build the future around, in Dwight Howard, after Kobe Bryant's eventual retirement.

   
PROMISE TURNED INTO DISASTER

     Yet the 2012-2013 season for the Los Angeles Lakers turned out to be a complete disaster that quickly played out in the public eye. Howard actually had back surgery in April 2012 and the Lakers believed that he would be able to start playing productive minutes around December.
     But with new head coach Mike Brown trying to implement a new offense, the Princeton offense, there were inevitably going to be struggles for all of the players to learn. Especially for Howard, who would be practicing later than everybody else on the team.
     But even with that, expectations were sky high for that year's team as their five starters (Nash, Bryant, forward Metta World Peace, Gasol, and Howard) had a combined 33 all star appearances and the roster had a league high $100 million payroll. Los Angeles began that year with three straight losses, the first time that had happened since 1978. And when they reached a 1-4 record, Brown was suddenly fired by the team.
Coach Mike D'Antoni
Photo courtesy of foxsports.com.
     Lakers fans wanted the team to bring back legendary head coach Phil Jackson, who had won five of his 11 championships coaching the Lakers. They instead hired former coach Mike D'Antoni, who had coached Nash for several years in Phoenix. Unlike the slower Princeton style offense under Brown, D'Antoni wanted to spread the floor and turn the Lakers into a high-octane offensive juggernaut.
     That turned out to be an even worse decision. Nash and Howard would end up fighting injuries all season, Howard and Gasol had trouble getting the ball and getting involved in D'Antoni's perimeter style offense and Howard and Bryant were constantly feuding off the court due to the belief that Howard wasn't as interested as Bryant was in winning.
     Chemistry issues and further injuries, including a season ending Achilles injury to Bryant, ruined a promising season and the Lakers ended up being swept out in the first round of the playoffs.

     THE CURRENT STATE OF THE LAKERS

     The past two seasons have been even worse for Laker nation. The team finished with a 27-55 record in 2014 and are currently 16-41 this season. Dwight Howard left in 2013 after just one season with the Lakers and is currently on the Houston Rockets. Pau Gasol left after the 2014 season and is currently enjoying a career resurgent year with the Chicago Bulls. Steve Nash is still on the roster, but has only played in 15 games this season and is averaging just 6.8 points and 5.7 assists in those games. And with Kobe Bryant out for the remainder of the season, what do the Lakers have exactly?

Guard Nick Young
Photo courtesy of Bleacherreport.
    Nick Young currently leads the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game, but is only shooting 36 percent from the field and averaging just one assist a game. Carlos Boozer, a free agent pickup from the Bulls, is averaging just 12.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Jordan Hill is averaging 12.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game and Jeremy Lin is averaging 10.7 points and 4.5 assists per game, after having to be inserted as the new starting point guard.
Forward Jordan Hill
Photo courtesy of lakernation.com.
     These are the four 'best' players currently playing for the Los Angeles Lakers and none of them are players that a professional team can consistently win with or try to build around. Boozer is heading towards the end of his NBA career, Lin has been on three teams in the last four seasons, and Young and Hill are only being paid long term contracts because the Lakers couldn't get anybody better this past free agency.
     Lakers management swung and completely whiffed on trying to acquire star NBA talents like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and many others to try and pair them with Bryant for one last championship run. Very few players in the league now want to play with Bryant and his $20+ million per year contract makes it impossible to be able to sign other stars around him and make a viable team.

     AN UNKNOWN FUTURE

     Kobe Bryant has one year remaining on his contract and it appears more and more apparent that next season will be his last in the NBA. But will next season even be a good season for him to go out and retire on? His reaction on Jimmy Kimmel Live showcased the frustration that he has with the mediocre talent that is remaining on the roster and how the younger players are joking around after one overtime victory, against an equally bad team, has them still well under a .500 record.

Guard Jordan Clarkson
Phoro courtesy of lakeshowlife.com.
     Where does this legendary franchise go after Bryant retires? It seems that throughout the years that the Los Angeles Lakers have been able to have one superstar pass the proverbial torch to another.  From Wilt Chamberlain to Jerry West to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Magic Johnson to Shaquille O'Neal to Bryant, the Lakers have benefited from having some of the NBA's historically great players. But where do they go from here and who do they build around? The organization again hoped it would be Howard, but that didn't turn out to manifest itself.
Forward Julius Randle
Photo courtesy of The LA Times.
     Guard Jordan Clarkson is a promising second round talent from the 2014 draft and is averaging 8.4 points and over two assists per game off the bench in his rookie season. But he's not a guy yet that you can even think about building around.  The Lakers also drafted Kentucky forward Julius Randle with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft, but after just 14 minutes into his NBA debut, Randle fractured his leg and has missed his entire rookie campaign.
     Randle and Clarkson could end up being solid talent, but the cupboard is VERY dry outside of these two players. The Lakers are stuck with a four year/ $21.5 million contract with Nick Young and a two year/ $18 million contract with Jordan Hill. If this is what you're going to have soon WITHOUT Kobe Bryant, this organization might soon be years and years away from even being relevant.

     The only thing that the Los Angeles Lakers have going for them is that they could end up with another high draft pick for this year's draft in June. And with the Lakers currently having the fourth worst record in the NBA, their chances of landing a very high draft pick look promising. Especially when this year's draft class is loaded with immediate NBA talent, such as Duke center Jhalil Okafor, Kentucky forward Karl Anthony Towns, and Ohio State point guard D'Angelo Russell. But once again with the Lakers, even that is not a guarantee.
     Due to the trade for Steve Nash back in 2012, the Lakers owe the Phoenix Suns a 2015 first round draft pick. However, that pick is top 5 protected. This means that if the Los Angeles Lakers end up with a top five draft pick this year, they get to keep the pick. If it falls out of the top five, that pick automatically goes to Phoenix.
     We won't know what pick the Lakers will have until the NBA draft lottery in May. And even though the Lakers have the fourth worst record in the league right now, that could change if the team begins to win more games or if the lottery balls place the Lakers outside of the top five anyway.

The 2015 season will most likely
be Bryant's last NBA season.
Photo courtesy of Business Insider.
"THE TIMES THEY ARE A'CHANGING"

     It kind of comes back full-circle in a way. The Los Angeles Lakers traded for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in 2012 to make the team an instant championship contender. Instead, everything has gone downhill since. Jerry Buss unfortunately passed away during the 2012-2013 season and Jim Buss has struggled mightily in his father's footsteps as the new owner. Bryant will most likely retire after next season and the future of this organization is truly up in the air.
     The Los Angeles Clippers, the team that successfully acquired Chris Paul, is the new marquee team in Hollywood. Even though the Clippers will never match the mystique of the Lakers, there is no doubt that the Lakers have hit hard times.
     Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and future draft picks could be the keys in at least bringing back respectability to the Lakers organization. But there is no certainty that the Los Angeles Lakers are going to be relevant anytime soon.


What do YOU think the Lakers can do to rebuild and restore itself to prominence? Should they rely on the draft or should they go after marquee free agents? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.