13 Ways of Looking at Professional Wrestling

There is no ballet of War, no pre-meditated art of pornographic excess without Professional Wrestling

Puppies, Christmas, and Sunshine are not wholesome. Professional Wrestling is not wholesome.

Soap Operas are quite subdued. Professional Wrestling is melodramatic.

American Culture is an ass. Professional Wrestling is the crack.

A group of homosexuals went shopping for purses. Then they went to the gay bar and watched professional wrestling.

Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels were all fake. Kunta Kinte, Tyler Durden, Neo, and Charles Foster Kane were all fake.

Wrestlemania, Survivor Series, Summer Slam, and Royal Rumble are fake. The Field Of Dreams, Atlantis, Heaven, and Funkytown are fake.

It’s Monday again. At least we can watch Professional Wrestling tonight.

Friday at last! And as if that weren’t enough, we can watch Professional Wrestling tonight!

After I become an astronaut, a cowboy, The President, and a rockstar, I will be a Professional Wrestler.

If we don’t watch Professional Wrestling, The Terrorists will have won.

The good die young.

On her 100th Birthday, she attributed her longevity to “watching lots and lots of professional wrestling.”

WAR Cry Part II - Seattle Mariners

Welcome back to the idiotic world of taking a subjective, artful game and reducing it to cold, lifeless statistics!

This time around, we're going to see what WAR has to say about the Seattle Mariners, and who gave them the best years at each position on the field. Having grown up on Whidbey Island, I supported the Giants but was always subjected to SODO MOJO. Their consistently goofy commercials are matched only by their consistently goofy front office decisions, robbing their fan-base of future Hall-Of-Famers Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Alex Rodriguez - all of whom were in or near their primes - in consecutive years. Then, in typically goofy Mariners fashion, they wandered into Ichiro Suzuki and seven other all-stars in 2001, en route to a record 116 wins...and an early post-season exit at the hands of the Yankees. I've been close enough to it all to know that being a Mariners fan is an emotionally trying experience - but not in the perpetually-pathetic-Kansas-City-Royals kind of way - it's more frantic than that. Expectations are constantly skyrocketing or plummeting, and the team's performance from year-to-year rarely syncs with those expectations, whatever they may be. Through it all, they've seen a caliber of individual play and star power usually reserved for teams with longer histories and a busier October schedule. I present to you the best of the best, beginning with the hitters:

C: Dan Wilson, 1996 (27)
WAR: 3.9 // .285 - 18 HR - 83 RBI // .774 OPS // 1 SB // 14 FLD

1B: Alvin Davis, 1984 (23)
WAR: 5.8 // .284 - 27 HR - 116 RBI // .888 OPS // 5 SB // 8 FLD

2B: Bret Boone, 2001 (32)
WAR: 7.8 // .331 - 37 HR - 141 RBI // .950 OPS // 5 SB // 12 FLD

SS: Alex Rodriguez, 1996 (20)
WAR: 9.8 // .358 - 36 HR - 123 RBI // 1.045 OPS // 15 SB // 8 FLD

3B: Edgar Martinez, 1992 (29)
WAR: 6.7 // .343 - 18 HR - 73 RBI // .948 // 14 SB // -6 FLD

LF: Phil Bradley, 1985 (26)
WAR: 5.3 // .300 - 26 HR - 88 RBI // .862 OPS // 22 SB // -1 FLD

CF: Ken Griffey, Jr., 1996 (26)
WAR: 10.2 // .303 - 49 HR - 140 RBI // 1.020 OPS // 16 SB // 32 FLD

RF: Ichiro Suzuki, 2004 (30)
WAR: 7.2 // .372 - 8 HR - 60 RBI // .869 OPS // 36 SB // 20.5 FLD

DH: Edgar Martinez, 1995 (32)
WAR: 7.5 // .356 - 29 HR - 113 RBI // 1.107 OPS // 4 SB // -2 FLD

-A-Rod played 5 seasons for the M's; they are the Top-5 seasons by any M's shortstop. From there, your leader is a young Omar Vizquel. As for the greatest Mariners season in center by anyone not named Griffey, that distinction goes to the '09 incarnation of Franklin Gutierrez.
-Pretty funny that in his 1995 season, Edgar Martinez managed to cost the M's an estimated 2 runs just by playing defense in 7 games. Nothing funny about that 1.107 OPS, though, the highest ever by a Mariner.
-Griffey's 10.2 WAR in '96 is the high point for a Mariner at any position. Junior received high marks for his baserunning, managing to swipe those 16 bases while only being caught once. Furthermore, 32 FLD ranks Griffey's '96 as the fourth-best defensive season by a center-fielder for any team in the 34 years since the M's inception.
-It's one of baseball's great mysteries: What could Ichiro Suzuki have done with a full career in the MLB? His most productive season came at age 30, and while he remained a strong force at the plate, on the bags and on D through 2010, one can't help but imagine the kind of career numbers he'd be putting up had he joined the Mariners prior to age 27, when many players on this roster had already peaked. Nonetheless, he owns all of the Top-8 seasons by an M's right-fielder (with Leon Roberts & Jay "Bone" Buhner following).

And now, the pitchers...

1. Randy Johnson, 1995 (31)
WAR: 9.5 // 18-2 2.48 ERA // 2.08 FIP // 12.35 K/9

2. Randy Johnson, 1993 (29)
WAR: 7.1 // 19-8 3.24 ERA // 3.05 FIP // 10.86 K/9

3. Randy Johnson, 1997 (33)
WAR: 7.0 // 20-4 2.28 ERA // 2.82 FIP // 12.3 K/9

4. Erik Hanson, 1990 (25)
WAR: 6.9 // 18-9 3.24 ERA // 2.74 FIP // 8.05 K/9

5. Felix Hernandez, 2009 (23)
WAR: 6.8 // 19-5 2.49 ERA // 3.09 FIP // 8.18 K/9

-I love that despite a dominant run by The Big Unit, Felix is represented in the M's rotation. Interestingly, though, it's for his 2009 season, which ranked a bit higher than his 2010 Cy Young campaign.
-I had anticipated an appearance from Jamie Moyer, but he really wasn't close. The fan favorite makes just 2 appearances in Top-35 - '98 & '99.
-Other starters who made Top-20 appearances include Mark Langston, Freddy Garcia, Floyd Bannister & Aaron Sele.
-Meanwhile, in a dimly-lit room somwhere in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Bosio grooms his mustache with a bowie knife, plotting his revenge on the sabermetric community.

1. JJ Putz, 2006 (29)
WAR: 3.6 // 36/43 SV 2.30 ERA // 1.73 FIP // 11.95 K/9

2. Bill Caudill, 1982 (25)
WAR: 3.1 // 26/30 SV 2.30 ERA // 2.75 FIP // 10.44 K/9

3. Arthur Rhodes, 2002 (32)
WAR: 2.9 // 27 HLDS 2.33 ERA // 1.94 FIP // 10.46 K/9

4. Mike Schooler, 1989 (26)
WAR: 2.8 // 33/40 SV 2.81 ERA // 2.13 FIP // 8.06 K/9

5. Arthur Rhodes, 2001 (31)
WAR: 2.5 // 31 HLDS 1.72 ERA // 2.14 FIP // 10.99 K/9

-If, like me, you're wondering where Kazuhiro Sasaki is, he just barely cracked the Top-20.
-Also conspicuously absent is Jeff Nelson, but he just missed out - his '95 season ranks 8th. Remember this is despite his situational use as a reliever, which knocks his WAR lower than some less-effective closers. This, however, doesn't prevent Arthur Rhodes from making the team twice, back in the days when even right-handed hitters couldn't touch him

That brings us to the Mariners' All-Time WAR Team Total WAR: 116.4. For comparison's sake, we'll break that down per player, as AL teams have an extra player in the DH spot. So that 116.4 total WAR becomes: 6.13 WAR per player. So in the Iowa conrnfield of our well-informed imaginations, smart money is on the Giants WAR squad and their 6.63 WAR per player. Still, Mariners fans can hold their heads high with a very respectable team, despite a history that only goes back as far as 1977, 19 years fewer than the San Francisco Giants.

That is, 19 years and one world championship fewer. Sorry, couldn't resist.

Up next, Red Sox Nation gets an audit...

San Francisco's WAR Cry: Barry Bonds & Other High Points In Giants History

Excuse me if it sounds a bit sanctimonious, but my friends and I played fantasy football before it was cool. It stings a bit to see it reach its current level of ubiquity. But I can't be too bitter; good news travels fast. And it's only a matter of time before my new esoteric sports pet blows up, only to be forced into in-game commentaries and water-cooler banter country-wide. In fact, I'm late to the party myself. So I don't mind expediting it's inevitable pop crossover. I'm talking, of course, about sabermetrics.

You won't hear the word "sabermetrics" in the film Money Ball. But you will see the story of Billy Beane, a GM whose sabermetric approach to finding the most valuable players transcended the constraints of a small-market club. But these advanced statistics do more than inform MLB front offices - they tell the story of what happens on the field. Accurately. They warn of regressions to the mean, and of misleading tropes like RBI and pitcher Wins. Due to their relative complexity and consequent lack of mainstream acceptance, however, their application in the rich world of theoretical sports debate has so far gone largely unexplored. I've been studying these statistics to enhance my enjoyment and understanding of the game all season long. But with the postseason nearly over and my Giants long since eliminated, its time to take the next step.

If you're new to stats like UZR, SIERA, and WPA, the whole thing can be a little overwhelming. It's nice to start with WAR; a personal favorite, it's certainly the most practical because it condenses a player's overall value - hitting, fielding, throwing, running, even the difficulty of the position they play - into a single number. This number, the player's WAR or Wins Above Replacement, represents how valuable the player was to his team based on how many additional games the team could be expected to win with this player as opposed to a "replacement-level" player at that position - someone they could pull off the bench or waiver wire. (A team with a "replacement-level" player in each roster spot will yield a record of approximately 49-113. Astros fans, you can chalk up those extra 7 wins to the nausea opposing players feel when they touch down in Houston.)

It's not without its flaws, but the math is solid and the practical applications of having a single number to evaluate any player are a lot of fun. It may be hard to take WAR at face value, but take a look at this years' leaders in WAR and you'll see it does a fantastic job of confirming what we already know about who the most valuable players are right now. (If something doesn't seem right, like Ryan Howard being ranked as the 107th-best position player in the league, take a close look at the other metrics and should be able to tell exactly why WAR says what it does about that player. In Howard's case, his high RBI total masks a secretly poor (for him) season where his Slugging dipped, he played piss-terrible defense, and only Paul Konerko cost his team more runs on the basepaths.)

So what do we do with this new information? What's that, you say? Someone should use this incredible WAR stat to make rosters featuring the greatest seasons at each position for every team? And they should start with the reigning champs, my Giants? Well, I'm way ahead of you...

We'll start with hitters, for reasons explained later.

C: Dick Dietz, 1970
WAR: 5.8 // .300 - 22 HR - 107 RBI // .941 OPS // 0 SB // -20 FLD
1B: Willie McCovey, 1969
WAR: 8.4 // .320 - 45 HR - 126 RBI // 1.108 OPS // 0 SB // -8 FLD
2B: Jeff Kent, 2000
WAR: 7.6 // .334 - 33 HR - 125 RBI // 1.021 OPS // 12 SB // 1 FLD
SS: Rich Aurilia, 2001
WAR: 7.6 // .324 - 37 HR - 97 RBI // .941 OPS // 1 SB // 5 FLD
3B: Jim Ray Hart, 1966
WAR: 6.9 // .285 - 33 HR - 93 RBI // .853 OPS // 2 SB // 8 FLD
LF: Barry Bonds, 2001
WAR: 12.9 // .328 - 73 HR - 137 RBI // 1.379 // 13 SB // -5 FLD
CF: Willie Mays, 1965
WAR: 11.5 // .317 - 52 HR - 112 RBI // 1.043 // 9 SB // 15 FLD
RF: Bobby Bonds, 1973
WAR: 8.0 // .283 - 39 HR - 96 RBI // .900 OPS // 43 SB // 14 FLD

According to WAR, those are the players & vintages with whom the Giants would win the most games, given their choice of any player they've fielded since coming to San Francisco in 1958. If that just looks like a bunch of random, confusing numbers to you, this is not for you. If, on the other hand, you have an erection, you are probably on my level of baseball geek-dom, and have found your new favorite hobby. Next season will be your greatest as a fan. You're welcome.

-Players' ages listed in parenthesis.
-Barry Bonds & Willie Mays together own slots 1-16 on the top seasons by any position player in a Giants uniform.
-Dick Dietz? Really? Yes, in fact he owns the second-greatest season by a Giants catcher as well, for his follow-up campaign in '71. If you're wondering where Buster Posey's rookie year ranks, it puts him 6th. Remember that he didn't see much action until late June - given a full season, he'd likely have fallen between the two years in which Dick Dietz channelled the spirit of Roy Campanella.
-Will Clark's NL Championship season in '89 ranks second. Other than that, the Top-5 is all McCovey. Hence the cove.
-Aurilia's 2001 season was largely a product of hitting in front of Barry Bonds, but still the greatest season by a Giants SS by a fairly wide margin. More on #25 in a bit...
-If you're surprised to see someone other than Matt Williams at 3rd, know that his '93 season ranks third, and WAR really hates the way he refused to take walks. He nonetheless owns 5 of the Top-12 seasons by a Giants 3B. Pablo Sandoval just finished #6, despite missing time with injuries.
-Did you catch that Field Of Dreams connection in the outfield? Gotta love baseball.

Now, on to the pitchers...

Here's where the project loses a little steam, for the simple fact that WAR numbers for pitchers only go back as far as 1974. This means the list ignores some pretty spectacular years from Juan Marichal ('63-'69, '71), Gaylord Perry ('64, '66-'71), Ray Sadecki ('67 & '68) and too many others to name. Rather than infusing my own subjectivity into the rotation, we'll take a grain of salt and move forward with only seasons from the 37 glorious years for which pitcher WAR is available.

1. Tim Lincecum, 2009
WAR: 8.0 // 15-7 2.48 ERA // 2.34 FIP // 10.42 K/9
2. Tim Lincecum, 2008
WAR: 7.5 // 18-5 2.62 ERA // 2.62 FIP // 10.51 K/9
3. John Montefusco, 1975
WAR: 7.0 // 15-9 2.88 ERA // 2.57 FIP // 7.94 K/9
4. Jason Schmidt, 2003
WAR: 6.7 // 17-5 2.34 ERA // 2.64 FIP // 9.01 K/9
5. Jason Schmidt, 2004
WAR: 6.6 // 18-7 3.20 ERA // 2.92 FIP // 10.04 K/9

-It's a little comforting to note that Marichal's FIP never dropped lower than Lincecum's 2.34 in 2009. Translation: Even in a perfect world, The Freak reigns supreme. You wonder, though, if the Giants All-Time WAR squad would run into chemistry problems when '08 Lincecum starts smoking all of '09 Lincecum's pot.
-15-Win seasons didn't receive a ton of praise in 1975, even if you were a rookie like Montefusco, so it's not surprising that his legend doesn't cast much of a shadow. This also may or may not have something to do with the fact that rather than retiring to the commentary booth, he did time for attacking his ex with a steak knife.
-Both Madison Bumgarner & Matt Cain submitted Top-10 seasons in 2011.

1. Robb Nen, 1998
WAR 8.0 // 40/44 SV 1.52 ERA // 2.12 FIP // 11.17 K/9
2. Gary Lavelle, 1977
WAR 3.3 // 20/27 SV 2.05 ERA // 2.54 FIP // 7.07 K/9
3. Robb Nen, 2002
WAR 3.0 // 43/51 SV 2.20 ERA // 1.97 FIP // 9.90 K/9
4. Rod Beck, 1992
WAR 2.6 // 17/23 SV 1.76 ERA // 2.01 FIP // 8.51 K/9
5. Brian Wilson, 2010
WAR 2.6 // 48/53 SV 1.81 ERA // 2.19 FIP // 11.21 K/9

-A big problem with the WAR team bullpen is that middle-relievers and set-up men are essentially a non-entity. ML Managers - the atavistic, stubborn bunch that they are - tend to pick a closer with experience and stick with him, even when younger, hungrier pitchers in the bullpen put up far superior numbers in the middle-innings. There's certainly something to be said for a closer's ability to handle 9th inning pressure, but sabermetrics strongly suggest that the whole idea of "clutch" is more of a constructed narrative than it is a reality based on players' ability in certain situations. If I'm handpicking Giants for this team, there's no way my bullpen goes without '11 Sergio Romo or '01 Felix Rodriguez, both of whom were underutilized on Giants teams that missed the playoffs.

One thing that really sticks out to me is that the SF Giants' one & only championship year, 2010, is represented only once, amidst the labyrinthian beard of #38. NL Championship teams in '62 and '89 are without representation and the '02 NL Champs are represented only once, again in the bullpen, driving home the point that on an MLB team, no one player guarantees success - unlike the NHL or NBA where individuals carry more weight and the fluidity of play brings a star players' intangibles and influence on their teammates into the W-L column.

Now let's take a closer look at that left-fielder because: wow. Everyone knew we were watching history as it happened, but Bonds' 2001 season has only had its place in history solidified by sabermetrics. BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play), for example, measure a player not by their success, but by how that success relates to what we would expect of a hitter making that kind of contact, at that rate. It's a very helpful stat for examining which players are hitting .300 because they're seeing the ball well and which players are hitting .300 because they've caught some fortunate hops and drilled the ball at a lot of inept fielders. Without further ado, my favorite baseball stat ever:

Barry Bonds, 2001 BABIP:

If your jaw is not on the floor, you haven't yet understood sabermetrics fully. At least, not BABIP.

Compare that .266 to the league average, which is around .300. What this means is that during his 2001 season - one of the most successful not only by SF Giants, or baseball players, but by professional athletes in general - Barry Bonds was actually a victim of fate, not a beneficiary. It is important to note that WAR does not take this into account.

The closest anyone other than Bonds himself has come to that 12.9 WAR in the last 43 years was when Joe Morgan reached 11.4 in 1975, a full 1.5 wins lower (Morgan's BABIP that year: .336). Had Bonds gotten the same number of kind bounces most hitters did in '01, it'd have been substantially higher. In the history of the game, only Ruth & Gherig have eclipsed 12.9 WAR. You might imagine they had great fortune during the years they did, and you'd be right. Their composite BABIP: an indulged .375.

What a performance. Enhanced by drugs? Most assuredly. But so were many of the other hitters of that era, all of whom failed to hold his jock. Stepping outside that 2001 season for a moment, Bonds' dominance continued through 2004. During that four-year run, his closest competitor was A-Rod (admitted PED user), who trailed him by 14.9 WAR. To put that into perspective, 14.9 WAR represents greater output than all-stars like Derek Lee, Johnny Damon and Alfonso Soriano over the same span.

It's also helpful in evaluating Bonds to remember that many of the pitchers he faced were juicing. And that his most productive years came in a pitcher-friendly stadium notorious for it's sobering effect on left-handed power hitters. I can only imagine the havoc he'd wreak hitting in front of a raging Dick Dietz.

But the fun doesn't end there. The Giants' All-Time WAR Team has a total WAR of 119.4. How does that fair against, say, the Mariners' All-Time WAR Team? Or the Yankees and Sox? Stay tuned...




Store runs for wine.



"When you speak, I can hear the trees growing."

Wishing Rock;

Port Townsend.
Your hand.

Animalia, Joseph Campbell, The beach, coffee, Catherine, sunshine,
but mostly
Your hand.

At its best,
is not a verb
but a symptom.


Taking the ferry
back to reality.

But something's different...(forever)...

Haiku from Cape Cod

Where's my truck?
Oh, it's behind that bigger truck.

"Beautiful Jabronies"

In Bellingham,
I went to see old friends and drink with them.

I went to the grocery store to buy six Heinekens and take a shit.
In the stall, I read that Obama is a Nazi
as I sit and wait excitedly for the pageantry of youthful excess to begin.

There, I felt free.
The city's livelihood is palpable
powered by rich white kids - privileged,
and blissfully unaware
of virtually every plight.

Somehow, Love permeates (most of) them.

At the party, there is no end to the ugly & melancholy cliche parade.

They cling to muscular shoulders, and are displayed on an ostensibly unending cache of mantles.
Among them, workout shirts (at 10:14 pm?)
empty chewing tobacco containers - utilized for their decorative properties -
unopened bottles of beer in back pockets,
old football jerseys from high school,
and, in addition to energy drinks, oversized advertisements for energy drinks

I meet a boy named Tosh. He doesn't know whether or not his drink is caffeinated.

Japanese tattoos & the word "bro,"
rubber band bracelets, bleached blonde hair

"I wanna punch the dude in the face who stole my energy drink! Who steals a FULL energy drink?!"

Dead relatives are an excuse for more "ink"
which feign abstraction,
but are in fact picked from a binder, with minimal modifications. (Careful, now.)

All of which would be completely tolerable. Enjoyable, even...

If not for the soundtrack:
empty artists grasping wildly for a song
which men will like
and women will tolerate.

The skinniest of these bitches mistake their easy pussy as validation, approval - or even praise - of their figure.
I doubt they have considered whether or not
it is the same psychological battle causing their reckless dieting, self-induced vomiting, and starvation
which leads them to jerk off the nearest P.E. major with a working car and sufficient hair-gel.
Jesus, these broads are fucking dumb.

But I cannot condemn them, nor their adoring jabronies.
Beautiful jabronies,
thoughtless horsemen of a sluggish apocalypse
They have merely chosen the more gilded of two equally misleading showcases.

For not only do they welcome me to their sub-culture (is it my throwback?), but they are, after all,
products of a society in which ignorance is praised rather than ridiculed
& bands born of focus-groups thrive with the help of relentless repetition
while art suffocates

Where have you gone, Dave Chappelle?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
But you are dead, and so is Joe DiMaggio.

It is not their trust funds that I envy. It is not their physiques, their hoes, or their beer-pong proficiency. It is their ignorance.
I am alone, stuck between them & their intellectual counterparts: elitists filled with bitterness for all the parties to which they were never invited - or perhaps just for better parties which were never thrown.
In this gap, I alternately revel in my peaceful solitude and thrash in a desperate search for validation, company, sanctuary, connection

Where else would they roam but in this elaborate, lazy mating ritual?
As insulting to the intellect as it is to the liver,
it somehow sustains them
and leaves me searching
always searching
for a place of permanence
in between all these nights of fractured, ugly bliss
where peace & understanding
are as simple
and impossible
as finding sobriety between the soiled couch cushions where they let me crash

Riley's 2010 Year-End Clusterfuck!

Wherein I use the Earth's positioning in relation to the sun as an excuse to pontificate about why my favorite songs are better than your favorite songs - or at least why I think you should really, really give this music a chance. FYI - it would take just barely seven hours to listen to all of the songs on my Top-100. Not a tremendous investment - I think you'll be happy with the returns.

Incidentally, in the interest of saving myself from the embarrassment of an increasingly one-dimensional palette, this year's list will focus exclusively on what I listen to most and know best: Hip-Hop.

Lastly, to borrow something I liked from Chris Faraone of the Boston Phoenix: "I don't spend hours doing round-ups every year because I believe that I'm endowed with a divine ability to deliver definitive compendiums. I do it because I listen to 50 times more new music than 95 percent of hip-hop critics, and because I know that heads who still look for raw rap will appreciate the effort."

First, my Top-6 albums of the year. Why 6? Cause fuck off, that's why. Then, per tradition, my Top 100 songs of the year.

Here we go! Hopefully Ghostface doesn't destroy all of this by dropping another masterpiece tomorrow...

KRS-One & True Master

As beats go, "Y'all Been Warned," off the Clan's Iron Flag (2001) is as quintessentially Wu as any. Ol Dirty's "Brooklyn Zoo," GZA's "Columbian Ties," and Ghostface's "Fish" & "Biscuits" are other top-notch beats likely attributed to RZA at one point or another. They are all, in fact, products of True Master's catalogue. With RZA's grip on reality loosening, his M.O. has become a spattering of unassailable brilliance obfuscated by rushed productions, bizarre experimentations, and recycled samples. True Master, on the other hand, is "Forever (1997)"-era RZA without the merit of the Abbott's originality (nor his untamed drums). His style is consistent, more minimal than that of the other Wu-Elements - becoming an MC with a lot to say. Enter The Blastmaster.

KRS-One did some of his best work ever in '10. With his catharsis and dramatic spiritual growth immortalized on wax since '87 and palpable on every release since (17(!) full-length LP's in total), it makes sense that of all Hip-Hop
s elder statesmen, The Teacha would be the one to go Brett Favre on our asses, throwing TD after lyrical TD, setting PR's long after the conventional "prime" of his career. When I listen to Chuck D's intro on "Us (2009)," I can't help but think that if the offer had been extended to KRS, Brother Ali'd have been blessed not only with a sermon, but with a wise 16 bars.

9 of the 20 tracks are actually excerpts from an interview where KRS muses over one cryptic, drowsy beat. This is a daring decision, supported by the substantial content in his teachings, which actually address the same issues tackled in the music. Blurring the line between MC and guest lecturer, his declarations are sometimes simplistic, but always full of love & joy. True Master comes out swinging. He's at his best with productions like "Unified Field," where KRS sets out to deliver his verse over a march ng, short loop, but is then joined by a venomous 4-note guitar lick which punctuates the lyrics without breaking their momentum. "At this level money is irrelevant / I'm makin you more intelligent and that's the end of it"

KRS' understanding of the culture is so dense, his stature so commanding, he's able to pass down a lot of knowledge without sounding out-of-touch or conceited. Hard to say how many of these he's got left in him, best cherish it while it lasts, before True Master goes back to squandering heat on Cappadonna.


While it's customary to bring attention to an album's high-points in celebrations like the one you're reading, Eminem's sheer ability makes him a frontrunner for "Album of the Year" anytime he releases material. So here I'll focus on what kept the album to a mere Top-5 appearance on my list.

One of the few things Eminem has never done is a concept album. But Recovery is so fixated on the singular concept of Eminem's comeback that it is more concept album than comeback album. It's tiresome that way.

I'm not insinuating that Marshall Mathers' brush with death at the hands of methamphetamine addiction was fabricated or even exaggerated. I'm merely proposing that a less business-savvy entertainer would have let the music tell the story (with the help of headlines), rather than strain to blend the two. Eminem's artistry is beyond question, and his art is here amplified by a great story. But Em isn't dumb enough to leave the assembly of that narrative to his largely mainstream audience. So he forces it, continuously re-stating a plot that was already contained within every venomous, re-invigorated verse. With the artist too conscious of his own legacy to let the art speak for itself, the art suffers.

That said, Em executes the act of rapping better than ever. It's as if, having pushed the content-envelope as far as it would go, he now pushes the flow-envelope, stacking incredibly complex rhyme schemes atop one-another like building blocks, ascending rapidly and maintaining intensity as he finds new space to fill with syllables. Lost in the stark contrast to his recent output is Em's wise decision to leave the production to others - Though Dr. Dre is the exec., he contributes just one track. Em himself has only co-production credits, on two tracks. The beats aren't the focus here, but there is palpable freshness in the break from the old trope, severing the ties to recent follies on another level. Shit ain't a game.

"Encore" (2004) & "Relapse" (2009) are not simply forgotten by this extraordinary album, they are apologized for - literally. "Not Afriad" isn't a standout track on it's own merit, but forsaking his recent back-catalogue in favor of a clean slate and good-standing with his fans is an act which makes me proud to have supported Em through the tough years. Without knowing the details or extent of his personal crises, I defended tracks like "Shake That" and "Like Toy Soldiers" instead of focusing on the indefensible and proclaiming him dead as many justifiably did. Now I have tracks that don't need my defense. Except for "W.T.P." Oh, well. Welcome back, Shady. Long live the G.O.A.T..

Freddie Gibbs
Str8 Killa

Staying true to ones's roots a) artistically and b) geographically - these are the two strongest pillars of Freddie Gibbs' formula.

He embraces his role as mouthpiece for Gary, Indiana - a city cloaked in middle-America anonymity but ravaged by poverty, drugs & unemployment. On "The Coldest" he raps: "Ain't been a nigga bigga since The Jacksons left my city / even the hardest didn't know that we was rappin in my city / so regardless of if I get support or backin from my city / they'll remember me as the nigga that got it crackin for my city"

Equipped with a nimble tongue, Gibbs' songs serve primarily as a showcase for his double-time, multi-syllabic rhyme skills. He's direct as he is confident: "Rappin ain't nothing but talkin shit / I'm just the best at it" His 16's recall Big L - in skill, cadence, & swagger - but with an added sense of forward momentum. While L thrived without ever showing any sign of weakness, Gibbs' music is enhanced by his intermittent vulnerability. His tales of ghetto indigence are unbelievable - rendered fantasy/fiction like so many others - if he doesn't show emotions like fear, uncertainty and other rarities of the gangsta-rap lexicon. His hubris & honesty in doing so contextualizes the relative brutality of the rest of his catalogue.

His choices for jacked beats on which to rhyme (Goodie & OutKast's "Black Ice," Souls of Mischief's "'93 till Infinity," Big L's "Flamboyant") are as ballsy as they are telling: a rapper's rapper, he is also a fan. A product of the midwest, Gibbs' content is Dirty South, but he sounds best over East Coast beats - a tribute to his lyrical approach to song-crafting. Don't let the "Gangsta Gibbs" moniker fool you: yes, dude is raw as fuck, but I've found only one song in his catalogue of mixtapes which is better off screwed & chopped ("In My Hood"). Hopefully he'll recognize this characteristic before the release of his first full-length LP (est. release: Feb '11) and pick his beats accordingly. His songs fail only when the beat fails him (see: "Rep 2 Tha Fullest").

Kurupt & Daz, while prolific, haven't been able to summon their Chronic-era heat for years now. Pimp C is gone and Bun B has sold out (earning 5 mics from The Source in the process). Mobb Deep will most likely never recover from the G-Unit years, and my grandmother can identify Snoop by sight as easily as any Crip. So where does that leave gangsta rap in 2010? In shit-hole, Indiana? Apparently. Though if Str8 Killa is any indication, the sub-genre may be poised for a renaissance. In any case, Gibbs has left his mark and it's hard not to get excited for the future. Freddie misses out on the #3 slot not for lack of quality but lack of quantity. Str8 Killa is merely an 8-course EP, one of which was taken from the previously released mixtape of the same name - making the release itself more of an appetizer than an Album-Of-The-Year candidate. Next year should be another matter.

Big Boi
Sir Luscious Left Foot: Son Of Chico Dusty

The best thing I can say about this album is that it's an OutKast album. Andre is not missed, and that speaks fucking volumes.


KanYe West
My Dark Twisted Fantasy

In the wake of "Late Registration" (2005), KanYe West developed and cultivated what I have always felt to be a contrived ego - a new persona to reconcile his roots as a silent producer of soul beats with his new place among the most visible and commercially successful MCs alive. It's entirely possible that the money and lifestyle of a multi-platinum artist actually prompted constitutional change in his personality, but if that was the case, he embraced his newfound egotism. He flaunted it in his music and we were fine with it, especially when Graduation pleased his core audience while simultaneously expanding his role as Hip-Hop's ambassador to pop.

However, shortly thereafter - incidentally, around the time of his mother's death - a nut came loose and things went awry. This was first evident in his music: Those of us in his corner are quick to deny 808s & Heartbreaks from canonization, writing it off as one part masturbatory fling and two parts unabsorbed grief. Not only was it not Hip-Hop, it was not listenable; here was Exhibit A in the case against Auto-Tune. Things took a turn for the worse when his inner-turmoil then began manifesting itself in his public persona. His bravado crossed over the threshold into douchebaggery - most visibly at the VMA episode, which was either a) a hilarious, ill-timed outburst or b) a monstrous annihilation of an All-American girl's dream come true - depending on your tolerance for minority celebrities. Even Taylor Swift's people have admitted the incident was ultimately gold for their promotion (http://www.hiphopdx.com/index/news/id.12730/title.taylor-swifts-label-says-kanye-west-incident-helped). But for Yeezy, the damage was done; the label of "asshole" is a hard one to wash off, especially having been originally self-imposed. Made acutely aware of the damage his impulsive, self-centered actions had done, he sat-out most of 2009, then retreated to Hawaii to channel his emotions through music.

One by one, Hip-Hop representatives in better public-standing came back from Hawaii with high praise. RZA, Pete Rock & DJ Premier - the holy trinity of boom-bap production - each came back with warnings of the impending takeover. These testimonies were given credence by G.O.O.D Friday: if these songs were not album-quality (they were), then they were certainly at least the product of album-level focus, featuring album-budget collaborations and an album's attention to detail. Ye's willingness to jettison high-quality tracks of such thorough, meticulous production garnered even higher anticipation for the LP.

At once apocalyptic and celebratory, every track is huge enough to render his prior catalogue relatively impotent. Everyone else's, too. There's contradiction & clarity, there's misogyny & love: both carry undertones of regret, but there's plenty of joviality, too. There are enough little touches that everyone has a different favorite part. I find a new one on each listen - currently the screwed & chopped break midway though "Hell Of A Life."

If there's a flaw, it's KanYe's lyricism. He blows his wad on the first three tracks, and doesn't wow with the pen again until the final 4 minutes. But on the commanding strength of those first three tracks, he rides the rest of the way on top-notch production & guest spots from Hove, Nicki, CyHi, Pusha, No I.D., & John Legend - even Rick Ross couldn't land a turd in the punch-bowl; I couldn't agree more with Cokemachineglow's observation that "his guests here are all subsumed by his vision, his influences treated as subject to his emotions."

The message sent to his contractors is simple: Hate if you must, but know that you will be excluded from the music, condemned to look from the outside-in on the greatest trip of the year. At least, the greatest in an average year...

Das Racist
Shut Up, Dude & Sit Down Man

To review Das Racist is to take them more seriously than they take themselves. Or so it would seem.

Two mixtapes released 6 months apart, "Shut Up, Dude" & "Sit Down, Man" play like parts 1 & 2 of a manifesto calling for both less seriousness and greater relevance from the genre. Their approach to making "rap songs," as they refer to their tracks, is so original, so damn weird, that it flew over my head on the first listen or two. I'd fallen into a depressing mindset: Relying on Hip-Hop for so much, yet never asking more than dope beats & dope rhymes. Less than that, in fact, because I'm still happy to listen to plenty of MCs who offer either one or the other.

Whereas DR might at any given moment not offer either. They might instead be repeating absurdities as many times as they feel they can get away with (which is a lot), or just interpolating something Ghostface said.

They make a lot of obscure references. They do it rapid-fire. Mistake this for a flippant shtick and you risk sleeping on two MCs whose fusion or perspicacity and wit with awareness and social commentary rivals that of any to ever spit. That said, it's so much fun to hear them eschew this potential in favor of an advertisement for their cocks. Or just some auto-tuned shouting.

Hip-Hop allows room for this kind of experimentation - there's even room to take it farther, because the mic is always properly rocked. More often than not, they are balls-deep in the zone: often a biting expression of social discontent, but always fun. Himanshu: "We dabble with non-sequiturs, dadaism, repetition, repetition."

They've been described as "a hip-hop version of "Flight Of The Conchords." While I am a fan and don't object entirely, I find no equivalent in the music world: I'd sooner dub them hip-hop's answer to "The Colbert Report" - a caustic
commentary masquerading behind mock-ignorance & commanding showmanship. Moreover, while F.O.T.C's musicianship is rarely subject to critique, Himanshu & Victor - no matter how funny or socially aware - would be laughed out of they game if they couldn't hold their own. But both are good technical rappers whose flows & lyrical proficiency merit multiple listens, even for those on whom the joke is tragically lost.

In an era where rappers are quick to proclaim themselves "revolutionary" or "old-school," DR exemplifies the best of both terms. Old-school means pure Hip-Hop that has not been forcibly bred with pop, neo-soul, R&B, or any other off-shoot intended to open up additional demographics. It also means fun. However, it does evoke an image of songs that are simple, lyrics that are low-minded, and unvaried content. The "Insane Brown Posse" reminds us that with a little focus, the old-school's spirit can be channeled - fun, unpretentious jams that don't fall prey to the aforementioned pitfalls. As for their "revolutionary" credentials, they apply a show-not-tell approach; they are not merely conscious of racism in America, they are conscious of it's roots and means of perpetuity. Moreover, they know America's vices go far beyond racism, and they demonstrate this understanding to varying degrees in nearly every track.

As if that kind of arsenal weren't enough, their most powerful weapon may be their ear for the infectious. It's not just the songs, but individual lines & bars which stick with you for the better part of a day...or week. This is what helps their music transcend what is merely great, to bore their way into one's soul, leaving an indelible mark and tying themselves to memories that tend to be those of uninhibited fun. Even if they are never to record again, I will forever measure the work of others by the bar they've set this year with their ferocious uniquity & style. But I imagine there is much more to come. After all, "Why not?"


"All I have to say about these songs is that I love them, and want to sing along to them, and force other people to listen to them, and get cross when these other people don't like them as much as I do."
-Nick Hornby

100. Eligh - "Shine" feat. The Grouch & K-Lay
99. Atmosphere - "The Loser Wins"
98. Von Pea - "The Yorker"
97. B.o.B - "Dr. Aden"
96. Dead Prez - "Exhibit M"
95. Dead Prez - "The Movement"
94. PackFM - "Wanna Know" feat. CunninLynguists
93. Kno - "Graveyard" feat. Sheisty Khrist
92. Ski Beatz - "Prowler 2" feat. Jean Grae, Jay Electronica & Joell Ortiz
91. MURS & 9th Wonder - "The Lick" feat. Verbs
90. Big Boi - "Hustle Blood" feat. Jamie Foxx
89. KanYe West - "Runaway" feat. Pusha T
88. Shad - "At The Same Time"
87. Yelawolf - "I Wish (Remix)" feat. CyHi Da Prynce & Pill
86. Big Boi - "Tangerine" feat. T.I.
85. Dynasty - "Epic Dynasty"
84. Reflection Eternal - "In This World"
83. Kurupt - "Yessir"
82. Eligh - "When I'm A Dad"
81. MURS & 9th Wonder - "Fornever" feat. Kurupt
80. Eminem - "25 To Life"
79. Inspectah Deck - "9th Chamber"
78. Bun B - "Let Em Know"
77. Canibus - "Gold & Bronze Magik" feat. Bronze Nazareth
76. Raekwon - "Never Matter To You" feat. Bun B
75. Joell Ortiz - "Sing Like Bilal (Version 3)"
74. The Roots - "Dear God 2.0"
73. Snoop Dogg - "That Tree" feat. KiD CuDi
72. Freddie Gibbs - "The Ghetto"
71. KanYe West - "All Of The Lights" feat. Rihanna, Fergie, KiD CuDi, Alicia Keys & Elton John
70. 7L & Esoteric - "I Hate Flying"
69. Eminem - "Cold Wind Blows"
68. Cypress Hill - "It Ain't Nothin'" feat. Young De
67. KanYe West - "Christian Dior Denim Flow" feat. KiD CuDi, Pusha T, John Legend, Lloyd Banks & Ryan Leslie
66. KanYe West - "So Appalled" feat. Jay-Z, Pusha T & CyHi Da Prynce
65. Kno - "Rhythm Of The Rain" feat. Thee Tom Hardy & Tunji
64. Big Boi - "Night Night" feat. B.o.B & Joi
63. Nick Javas - "Opportunity Knoccs"
62. Das Racist - "Roc Marciano Joint" feat. Roc Marciano
61. Big Boi - "Shine Blockas" feat. Gucci Mane
60. Mac Miller - "Nikes On My Feet"
59. MURS & 9th Wonder - "Live From Roscoe's" feat. Kurupt
58. Raekwon, Ghostface & Method Man - "Gunshowers" feat. Sun God & Inspectah Deck
57. The Roots - "Right On" feat. STS
56. Vinnie Paz - "Same Story" feat. Liz Fullerton
55. Reflection Eternal - "Just Begun" feat. Jay Electronica, J Cole & Mos Def
54. KRS-One & True Master - "Knowledge Reigns Supreme"
53. MURS & 9th Wonder - "Vikki Veil"
52. Big Boi - "Shutterbug" feat. Cutty
51. Yelawolf - "Pop The Trunk"
50. Eminem - "Talkin 2 Myself" feat. Kobe
49. Das Racist - "Free Jazzmataz"
48. Raekwon, Ghostface & Method Man - "Miranda"
47. Das Racist - "Rapping 2 U" feat. Lakutis
46. Donwill - "Ian's Song" feat. Opio
45. KanYe West - "Blame Game" feat. John Legend
44. Das Racist - "Hahahaha jk?"
43. Lupe Fiasco - "S.L.R"
42. Eminem - "No Love" feat. Lil Wayne
41. Jay Electronica - "The Announcement"
40. Das Racist - "Sit Down, Man" feat. El-P
39. Das Racist - "Who's That? Brooown!"
38. Freddie Gibbs - "Personal OG"
37. Eminem - "Cinderella Man"
36. Big Boi - "Fo Yo Sorrows" feat. George Clinton, Too $hort & Sam Chris
35. KanYe West - "Lost In The World / Who Will Survive In America" feat. Bon Iver
34. Von Pea - "Dreams" feat. Jermiside, Ilyas & Spec Boogie
33. Sway & King Tech - "2010 Wake Up Show Anthem" feat. Locksmith, Kam Moye, Crooked I, Tech N9ne, Tajai, RZA, Ras Kass, B-Real & DJ Revolution
32. Donwill - "Championship Vinyl" feat. Von Pea & Ilyas
31. Das Racist - "Luv It Mayne" feat. Fat Tony & Bo P
30. Das Racist - "All Tan Everything"
29. Reflection Eternal - "City Playgrounds"
28. Big Boi - "Daddy Fat Sax"
27. Das Racist - "Rainbow In The Dark"
26. Das Racist - "Rooftop" feat. Despot
25. Donwill "Laura's Song"
24. KanYe West - "Hell Of A Life"
23. Eligh - "Whirlwind" feat. Pigeon John
22. Das Racist - "Hugo Chavez"
21. Big Boi - "You Ain't No DJ" feat. Yelawolf"
20. KanYe West - "Lord Lord Lord" feat. Mos Def, Raekwon & Charlie Wilson
19. KRS-One - "Meta-Historical"
18. Big Boi - "General Patton" feat. Big Rube
17. Canibus - "Melatonin Magik"
16. Eminem - "Almost Famous"
15. KanYe West - "Monster" feat. Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver
14. Inspectah Deck - "The Champion"
13. Mathematics - "All Flowers" feat. Raekwon, Method Man, Ghostface, Ice Da Don & Inspectah Deck
12. KanYe West - "Power (Remix)" feat. Jay-Z
11. KanYe West - "Dark Fantasy"
10. Das Racist - "Ek Shaneesh"
9. KRS-One & True Master - "Palm & Fist"
8. KRS-One & True Master - "Unified Field"
7. KanYe West - "Gorgeous" feat. KiD CuDi & Raekwon
6. Sage Francis - "Little Houdini"
5. Raekwon - "Rockstars" feat. Inspectah Deck & GZA
4. Freddie Gibbs - "The Coldest" feat. B.J. The Chicago Kid
3. Das Racist - "Amazing"
2. Freddie Gibbs - "National Anthem"
1. Eminem - "Despicable"


This is the music Eminem makes when he wants not to exercise one of his personal demons, nor to shock us, necessarily, but simply to remind us that he has the art form mastered, that he is the best rapper alive.

"Cinderella Man," "25 To Life," and "Almost Famous" all showcase a hungry Shady with something to prove. But here, outside the structure of the impressive "Recovery" LP, are his greatest 2 minutes and 15 seconds of 2010.

"Encore" and "Relapse" are not without stretches of sleek writing and fluidity, but even cohesive diamonds in the rough like "Yellow Brick Road" and "Deja Vu" are less Hip-Hop than they are added chapters in a compelling diary.

Here, like in his show-stealing performance at the '09 B.E.T. Awards cypher (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9BB09uoAlk&fmt=18), he stands beside the catharsis which at once aids and hinders his entire oeuvre. Unrestrained, he showcases a flow reminiscent of that on "Role Model," "Renegade," or "'Business", but it has evolved - sharpened by sobriety and hardened by wisdom.

Borrowing beats from Drake and Lloyd Banks - two MC's with whom Em has enjoyed fruitful collaborations (see: "Forever," "Warrior (Remix)"), he at once tips his cap and runs up the score on his contemporaries (read: competition). For these 40 bars of fire, he didn't go with two original beats - not did he go with two particularly great ones - but in hijacking them he adds a caustic, underlying "fuck you" to any/all lesser MC's.

Produced by The RZA

I have remixed this track, editing out the incredibly shitty Swizz Beatz verse.

I don't agree with KanYe's decision to split these two, as I cannot imagine anyone listening to one without the other.

#63, 75, 78, 85
Produced by DJ Premier

I have remixed this track, editing out Copywrite's shitty verse.

Produced by Pete Rock

#20, 41, 67, 72, 96, 100
If you know who produced these tracks, please let me know