Last May, hip-hop ascendant Meek Mill released Dreamchasers 2, the most downloaded mixtape of all-time and a thunderous precursor to this Maybach Music Group dominated summer we’re experiencing. In “Amen” – the only track from the mixtape to penetrate radio airwaves – Meek compares his dutiful affinity for Sundays at Miami’s Club LIV (where he is the featured performer tonight) to a churchgoer’s adherence to the Sabbath. The religious imagery continues: Meek blesses the “bad b****** in the building” with a resounding “Amen!”, channels his Bawse, Rick Ross, by noting the Holy Ghost’s presence in his vehicle, and laments the Devil’s temptation. In effect, he eschews the traditional Litany of the Saints in favor of a litany of sins, much to the chagrin of Rev. Jomo K. Johnson, a pastor hailing from Meek’s hometown of Philadelphia who believes the song to be blasphemous.
At the fabled May 2nd MMG press conference, Warner Music CEO Lyor Cohen famously declared that “Rick [Ross] has the biggest office in the world. The streets.” One would assume Ross’s dominion over the streets extends to his labelmates (with the probable exception of Omarion), which is why negative critiques of “Amen” (or any song from Meek’s extensive catalogue) weren’t likely to resonate in the hood. However, in the name of righteousness, Rev. Johnson implored his city, the so-called City of Brotherly Love, to boycott Meek in the weeks leading up to the August 28th release of his debut album, Dreams and Nightmares: “As a hip-hop fan, I want to encourage every rap fan in Philadelphia who is a believer in Jesus Christ, to boycott Meek Mill until he acknowledges this blatant disrespect.” Also: “And being resident of North Philadelphia and pastor, I revoke Meek’s ‘hood pass’ until this happens.” OH NO HE DIDN’T.
As Philadelphians rushed to take sides in the most heated controversy since TO/McNabb, Meek and the Rev. Johnson put their cheesesteaks down and hashed out some differences on Philly’s Hot 107.9. A scornful Meek punched first: “This looking like you trying to get famous, or you need some attention, because you could have came to me and said anything you wanted to.” Initially, I shared Meek’s skepticism toward the Rev. Johnson’s motives. I mean, the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff said some unbecoming stuff back in the day and he didn’t call them out! According to Meek, he “mighta even remixed the song with Kirk Franklin”, a prominent gospel artist, had Rev. Johnson expressed his concerns privately. They continued to trade barbs – basically, Meek contended that his philanthropic efforts render the crude lyrics in tracks like “Amen” meaningless; Rev. Johnson reasoned that these vulgarities sully the minds of impressionable listeners. The conversation devolved into Sabermetrics for Dummies when Meek, not exactly a master debater, brought forth an anonymously-sourced quantitative analysis: “Let’s do the statistics on rappers and pastors with rape. Zero percent rappers ever came to the light of raping a child. Pastors, it’s no match. What you talkin’ about? Are you protesting Eddie Long?” Host Q-Deezy swiftly ended the proceedings, and may or may not have compared the Meek-Rev. Johnson squabble to Lincoln-Douglas and/or Bohr-Einstein. Not your grandfather’s debate!
But back to the crux of the issue: Is “Amen” blasphemous? It depends. If Meek is intimating that the level of devotion required to do LIV on Sundays can only be matched by the deep-seated piety of a congregant, then no. However, the song could represent something more ominous – Meek actively worshipping the strip club experience, in which case Rev. Johnson may have a point. When Meek sashays into a club, does he, like, pause to genuflect, pray, and look to attain canonization and/or martyrdom? Let’s examine the empirical evidence.
Disclaimer: When YouTube user streetzmedia labeled Pacman Jones and Darnell Dockett “NFL’s Top Players”, he/she presumably utilized Urban Dictionary’s definition of “player”.
Pacman’s strip club prowess is well-documented – he comprised the rainmaking vanguard with Fat Joe and Colbie Caillat – and it is important to note that if anyone led a sect relating to the adoration of establishments that regularly promote “Showtime Saturdays”, it would certainly be him. The first minute of this video is exactly what you’d expect: flaming champagne bottles, gratuitous shots of a yellow Ferrari, amateur shawtys laboring for a dollar, some guy defiantly chewing his money. Meek, inexplicably going by Meek “Millz” here, finally shows up at 1:07 exuding that hands-in-his-pockets vibe, adorned with 3 Chainz, one of which is a cross! Does Meek Millz look like he’s prepping for a religious service? I can’t really tell, but I can tell you that Pacman is “street approved”, if his gray tee is to be trusted. For fun: try to guess what the stripe-shirted man posing with Pacman (2:04) says. My guess: an expletive-laden adaptation of DJ Khaled’s proverb-of-choice, “We The Best!” Meek caps off his Showtime Saturday in the most orthodox of ways – sipping straight from the bottle (potentially an “Amen”-ized communion practice, but that’s probably a reach). VERDICT: INCONCLUSIVE.
Meek Mill ft Drake – Amen (Official Music Video)
I know it’s just an advertisement, but doesn’t the Dreams and Nightmares poster with Meek in full brooding-contemplation mode seem kinda suspicious? He’s got that pseudo-regret portraiture down to a science – and a spiffy glove! “Amen’s” official music video begins in an RV park (0:06), seemingly after a night of worship/Ciroc mass consumption. There’s some murky bathtub action…and not much else, at least until the flashbacks begin, allowing the viewer to piece together the mystery of “last night” a la The Hangover or Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? My favorite part, by far, is Drake – looking like Andy Roddick – reappropriating Rocky Balboa’s signature dash up the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s steps (1:53). Sadly, while the word “churrrrch” is used early and often, no scenes in an actual church occur. Silver lining: Waka Flocka can be found dangling a Pink Panther pendant at 2:46. Meek delivers the final verse at Club LIV, insouciantly musing on the temptresses that wobbledy-wobble for his viewing pleasure. It doesn’t sound like prayer – sorry, Rev. Johnson. VERDICT: BLESSED ARE THE MEEK.
A pop quiz on the occasion of me jonesing for the start of football season:
Which former Cleveland Browns Head Coach was described by The Plain Dealer as having “the sound of a winner”?
A. Paul Brown
B. Marty Schottenheimer
C. Chris Palmer
D. Bill Belichick
The answer is …(drumroll)… C-Palms!
My grandma recently gutted her attic and, in doing so, unearthed a stash of historically significant newspapers. The front-page fodder was mostly political (JFK’s assassination, Clinton’s impeachment, hanging chads) with the exception of one event: the rebirth of the Cleveland Browns. With hindsight being 20/20, I sat down and devoured a lot of information on the 1999 squad, all recorded before the first game – a 43-0 loss to the Steelers. Here are my findings:
CHRIS PALMER AIN’T NEVER TOLD NO LIE
“Fumbling the football,” Palmer said one day in training camp, his eyes burning like lasers into the guilty party, “will get you cut.”
Tim Couch fumbled fourteen times – 14! – in 1999 and remained with the team until 2003.
LUGGING A WATER COOLER WAS ONCE THE HAPPIEST THING TO DO
Having read all these words on the expansion Browns, I am quite content to be in 2012. But this full-page ad rendered me kinda sentimental about the 20th century. All those times I promenaded down the driveway with my mom (egregiously underdressed, carrying some sort of breadbasket-purse hybrid) and dad (who was cool enough to gel his hair, but aware enough of the threshold he had crossed some years ago that prohibited him from frosting his tips), orange cooler in hand, readying myself for the Browns game but secretly excited for the pit stop at Kohl’s before the Browns game, which of course was the place to be when it came to showing my support for the team – those were the days!
FRAN PALMER, CHRIS’S DAD, SHOULD HAVE TEMPERED HIS EXPECTATIONS FOR THE 1999 BROWNS
“I’m not predicting nothing for this year,” Fran says. “I just hope they win more than three games.”
The 1999 Browns finished the season with a 2-14 record.
THE 2012 BROWNS COULD BENEFIT FROM THE SERVICES OF LESLIE SHEPHERD, BECAUSE THEY NEED A PROVEN PLAYMAKER
On the receiving corps, which consisted of Leslie Shepherd, Kevin Johnson, Damon Gibson, Darrin Chiaverini, and Ronnie Powell:
Shepherd is the only proven playmaker.
Shepherd ended the year with 274 yards on 23 receptions, considerably smaller numbers than rookie Kevin Johnson (986 yards, 66 receptions) and Scrawl So Hard devotee Darrin Chiaverini (487 yards, 44 receptions).
OWEN MARECIC IS UPHOLDING THE TRADITION OF FULLBACK-LINEBACKERS IN CLEVELAND
Consider Tarek Saleh:
DAVE BURBA HAS PROBABLY LOST MONEY IN VEGAS
Uprgrade: Palmer over Belichick.
Jeremy Lamb is often silent.
The August 6, 2011 rap battle that pitted him against then-teammate Alex Oriakhi illustrates this law of nature. It is plausible (likely, even) that the verbal fracas had a relatively innocuous origin – perhaps the teammates had tied in a game of one-on-one and felt that a war of words would better determine a winner than the standard overtime period. Nevertheless, you can feel the venom as Oriakhi asks, “How’s this kid tough? / He’s light skinned,” and just know that Jeremy won’t have a good answer. After expressing doubt about Lamb’s weight, a sentiment now shared by NBA draft analysts and league executives, Oriakhi eulogizes his opponent: “I just killed this fool/ R.I.P. J-Lamb.” In a follow up interview conducted today via Twitter, @aoriakhi42 (now a member of the Missouri Tigers) confirmed the victory.
ESPN’s Chad Ford worries about Lamb’s tendency to “be passive at times on offense.” A recent article in the Hartford Courant headlined “Lamb Fighting Laid-Back Reputation” seemed to include more acquiescing than fighting from Lamb. “I have to find ways to keep my energy up…But at times, it looks like I’m not trying,” the shooting guard conceded. Even President Obama has acknowledged Lamb’s sheepish demeanor. Fans – not to mention teammates, coaches, and the media – want players to wear their heart on their shooting sleeve, and interpret Lamb’s aloofness as indifference. During the final seconds of Iowa State’s 77-64 slaughtering of UCONN, a defeat that sent the defending champion Huskies home without winning an NCAA Tournament game, Lamb tragically whiffed on an attempted windmill dunk so gratuitous and ill-advised that it became emblematic of the entire season, arguably the most tumultuous in UCONN’s history.
The concerns about Lamb, however, pale in comparison to the uncertainty surrounding Andre Drummond, the enigmatic big man. While Ford and others gush about his potential, the only consensus on the former UCONN Husky is that there isn’t one. Every article that mentions Drummond’s name is obligated to include his measly free throw percentage, so here goes: Andre Drummond shot 29.5% from the line in 2011-2012. The thought of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich licking his chops to deploy the Hack-a-Shaq defense on Drummond makes me giggle, but is probably accurate. Drummond is considered a “raw” prospect, the implication being that an untapped reservoir of talent exists somewhere inside of him, but, like an uncooked carrot, is not ready to join the dinner table/starting rotation of a good team just yet; moreover, there is no guarantee he ever will be. Many teams, wary of risking a high draft pick on such rawness, may prefer the refined game of Tyler Zeller or Thomas Robinson, players comfortable with their bodies and more acutely aware of its limitations (steamed carrots in the vegetable metaphor). Not surprisingly, Zeller (22) and Robinson (21) are older than Drummond (18).
Drummond’s “motor” is his other glaring question mark. He spent the second half of his high school career at Connecticut hoops powerhouse St. Thomas More, and, in a promotional video for the school, inadvertently validates criticism of his work ethic. When asked to describe a typical day at St. Thomas More, Drummond takes it upon himself to differentiate between a “good” day (beginning with a 6:00 a.m. workout) and a “lazy” day (beginning at 8:00 a.m., no workout). His detractors claim that there are more of the latter.
The only thing that can be said with conviction about Drummond is this: Andre Drummond has firmly established himself within the pantheon of perplexing Dres, alongside the likes of WTAM’s Andre Knott and USC offensive tackle/a cappella enthusiast Aundrey “Rozay” Walker.
Together, Lamb and Drummond form the most tantalizing duo to enter the draft since Kentucky’s John Wall and DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins. (There have even been murmurs about the Kings selecting Drummond at no. 5; if it happens, Drummond, Boogie, and Jimmer Fredette need to buy a one-bedroom apartment and begin filming a reality show immediately.) I would be content if either/both of them became a Cavalier, not only for their potential, but because I don’t totally buy into the recurring non-basketball criticisms (i.e. cavalier attitude, lack of a “motor”) that plague their their scouting report. There is Internet evidence that Lamb can be genuinely happy – look at the unbridled glee on his face as he teaches UCONN President Herbst his trademark dance, the Lamb Shake. I really want to Lamb Shake now, and I bet you do, too! Drummond has the chance to become an elite center, which can’t be said for Zeller, Meyers Leonard, or anyone else in this draft class. He comes across as engaging and pleasant in interviews, unlike the petulant Andrew Bynum, a previous boom-or-bust big man frequently compared to Drummond.
While I’m defending Lamb and Drummond, one last thing to consider: It must’ve been pretty bad to play major college basketball on a campus that’s known for its women’s team.
Ohio State’s geothermal wells project, a testament to the lengths a university will go to for operational air conditioning, populates a sizable chunk of the campus’s South Oval. It never really was—and certainly isn’t now—a great concert venue. And as long as there’s the real Oval, it’s probably not going to be a great anything. So, head-scratchingly enough, the Ohio Union Activities Board chose to stage their annual Big Free Concert, featuring “rapper” Mac Miller and dubstep king Skrillex, on the South Oval’s trampled grass.
It should be noted, full disclosure, that I don’t like Mac Miller (no good reason, other than the Pittsburgh thing) or Skrillex (the nails on a chalkboard aesthetic has never appealed to me). Also, a floormate played Skrillex’s “Cinema” on a constant loop last fall, which led to a falling out with said floormate—let’s call him “Jacob”—one week into the school year. As I type this, the not-so-gentle strains of Meek Mill emanate from Jacob’s room, which is an improvement, albeit not much of one.
And yet I was excited! While the performers didn’t interest me, I recognized the Big Free Concert’s real value: namely, in being a crazy-good people watching event.
My crew, which awkwardly included Jacob, arrives on the scene at 6:30. There was DJ AXCESS, spinning away, and there was a tall male clad in a shirt that read “DTF 1”, an erotic play on The Cat in the Hat’s Thing 1 and Thing 2. Somewhere, Dr. Seuss was either cringing or, more likely, “DTF 2.” The shirt sparked a debate about whether it offered its wearer a competitive advantage pulling women. The general sentiment seemed to be “no,” unless she resembled the Lorax. A decked-out graduate (origins unknown—OSU’s cap and gown ceremony won’t happen for another month) surveys the landscape, flanked by family members of various hair colors. The concert seems to surprise her. I guess I’d be a little distraught in this situation, too, but what does that matter? Seeing her early evening photo shoot foiled by thousands of smashed college students is really, really funny.
This might be the most diverse assemblage of humans, ever. A decidedly Caucasian male leans idly against a tree, Jamaican flag draped over his shoulders. What does this mean? I don’t have time to ponder the blatant disparagement of American exceptionalism—soon a girl in Hello Kitty pajamas gallops by. Why isn’t she a bigger deal? I feel like the world has a lot to learn from a girl in Hello Kitty pajamas at a Skrillex show. Perhaps she has something to say about fracking or, maybe, super PACs. It bothers me that we’ll never know.
Mac Miller sends an ominous message into the Twitterverse (“fashionably late”) and people that have nowhere to go suddenly bemoan an extra half-hour of waiting. Luckily, the issue is rectified when DJ Clockwork emerges onstage and does things you’d expect a guy named DJ Clockwork to do. He draws the loudest cheers by ad-libbing directives like “Y’all better be high tonight” and “Don’t stop sipping” over Tyga, and everyone complies. The security guards, relegated by now to the South Oval’s periphery, look on longingly and dream of DJ Clockwork’s authority.
The ratio of sunglasses-to-sunlight leans heavily in favor of sunglasses, something like 10,000 to 0. There aren’t many “preps”, but the ones I see could pass for distant cousins of Ralph Lauren, virtual parodies of the frat boy archetype. More people are wearing throwback jerseys—Danny Ferry, TO (Eagles), and, adorably, Pacman Jones (Bengals). A justifiably timid ten year-old with an apparent hatred of vowels wears a shirt that reads “DNT HRT ME.” One kid paces anxiously gripping his POP Phone, a retro handset that plugs into iPhones. The device looks cumbersome and ridiculous, I say, but my skepticism is quickly dispelled with a visit to the official POP Phone website: “The chic design combines classic style with modern elegance, resulting in a fashionable and comfortable handset finished with a soft luxurious texture…and unparalleled conversation comfort.” Oh. Nevermind, then!
Mac Miller, unprovoked, enlightens the audience as to what he looks for in a female: “I like a girl with good grades. Intelligent chicks.” He could’ve stopped there, secure in his preference for intellectually-inclined women, but no! Mac adds, “But really, I love a freak.” This proclamation elicits applause, presumably from every girl not on the Dean’s List.
But really, everyone is here to see Skrillex. After a five minute countdown, the artist formerly known as Sonny Moore takes the stage to perform his routine of knob-twisting, head-bopping antics. I inhale an inordinate amount of secondhand smoke, most of it not the byproduct of Marlboros. Some daredevils are climbing trees and light posts. Skrillex shouts them out, along with “that group of crazy hula hoopers in the corner.” We are encouraged to chant for Nate, a friend of Skrillex’s that couldn’t make the show due to an unspecified injury. Get well soon, Nate! Skrillex tells us that we’re beautiful, and is adamant in his desire for the men “to be taking care of all the ladies tonight.” (Seriously—he repeats this line four more times.) More lighters than cell phones are held up for “Cinema”, which is a strange occurrence in 2012, but probably not for Skrillex. A very woozy man skips through the crowd and asks no one in particular, “How real is this?” Funny, I thought. I had been wondering the same thing.
Due to statuses (or is it stati?) like “SUMMER 2012 IS HERE <33” and “freshman year is OVAH!!” I’ve recently made a concerted effort to avoid Facebook. One of the most demoralizing things in the world is seeing “the tanlines will fade away, but the memories will last 4eva” on your news feed when another month of school remains to be endured. I can’t really fathom anything worse!
As they say, the next best thing to viscerally experiencing summer 2012 is previewing it in a blog post, so here goes:
Things I’m Really Excited For
My 19th Birthday Extravaganza, June 25
Will be held at a casino in Toronto. VIP room, obviously. The tentative slogan is “A Night of Impiety.” What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? Multiply that by ten and you’ll have a general idea of what this party entails.
God Forgives, I Don’t, Rick Ross, July 31
When I heard the opening lines of “I Love My Bitches”, the album’s first single, I was smitten:
A month ago, I gave a chick a hundred stacks
Straight to Neiman Marcus, young bitch had a heart attack
Never mind the fact that Rozay may have inadvertently foreshadowed his own cardiac malaise, or the song title’s fundamental relatability (Who doesn’t love their bitches?)—I felt immediately compelled to send flowers to our young protagonist’s hospital room! This urge gave rise to the realization that I was more emotionally invested in God Forgives, I Don’t than I had been for any other album, ever.
Whatever you want to call him—the Bawse, Teflon Don, D-Boy, Trilla, etc. —2012 is undoubtedly the year of Rick Ross. His superb mixtape, Rich Forever, had children adding Pyrex glassware to their Christmas lists while critics could only muster a dismissive “Must be Illuminati.” With confirmed tracks “You the Boss”, “Stay Schemin’”, “9 Piece”, and the aforementioned “Bitches”, everyone will be celebrating the Boy Who Lived’s birthday with the melodic strains of the Biggest Boss Seen Thus Far.
London Olympics, Late July-Mid August
Scrawl So Hard contributor Matt Lardner chided the Olympics and, by extension, America in a recent tweet: “can’t wait to pretend I care about Olympic sports for a month this summer!” Pretend you care? Even Communists care about the Olympics! Let’s be honest—after a long summer day filled with sunbathing, froyo, and perhaps even a work shift, is there anything you’d rather do than watch underage Asian girls compete on a balance beam? I didn’t think so.
Things I’m Somewhat Excited For
Future’s Pluto Tour, Cleveland House of Blues, June 10
At this point in my life, I’ve heard Future’s songs (mostly “Racks”, “Tony Montana”, and “Magic”) at least one hundred times and still can’t make out any of the words. This isn’t to discredit his work; Future readily acknowledges his soft spot for foreign languages by self-identifying as a Plutonian. The Pluto tour is guaranteed to include thousands of purp-addled concertgoers slurring together syllables as they try desperately to sing along, and I want to be a part of this.
Triple F Life: Friends, Fans and Family, Waka Flocka Flame, June 12
Friends? Fans? Family? These motifs don’t exactly scream “FLOCKA”, let alone “Brick Squad” or “Oh Let’s Do It.” Is a mellow, contemplative Flocka the natural byproduct of frequent collaborator/friend Slim Dunkin’s death? Probably. But if I wanted to hear songs about friends and family, I’d go to church, not the trap house. On a positive note, it’ll be fun to tally the number of times “Damn son, where’d you find this?” appears.
Related: Is anyone else slightly confused by the Brick Squad cardinal and Hollister seagull’s shared resemblance?
Cleveland Browns Training Camp, July-August
The highlight of my training camp experience last year was asking Titus Brown if he actually matriculated to Go Ham University to pursue an advanced degree in Hamanology (a claim that he had tweeted months earlier). A gleeful Titus confirmed my suspicions with a salute. That’s respect! This season, I plan to make at least one Nevin Shapiro joke to Travis Benjamin, find out what Thaddeus Lewis looks like, and hopefully see Tank (and Shaq) again:
Things I’m Not Excited For
The Dark Knight Rises, July 31
In 2008, I likened The Dark Knight to the career of Tupac or Biggie—that is, the art became overshadowed and consequently overrated by a death. If Biggie still graced the earth with his girth, people wouldn’t fawn over “Big Poppa’s” lyricism; if Heath Ledger was breathing in 2012, his performance as the Joker wouldn’t have been nearly as acclaimed. However, Ledger’s acting was good (above average, even) and will be sorely missed in the third installment of this series. Anne Hathaway, really?
Miami Heat Winning an NBA Title, June
In my younger and more vulnerable years—specifically, the Ohio State-Akron game on September 3, 2011—I went tailgate hopping without a hat/pair of sunglasses/any sort of facial masquerading device. This wouldn’t have been a terrible oversight for the law-abiding crowd, but veered into risky business for those (like me) with a questionable moral compass; the sole purpose being to swipe as much food as possible from as many tailgates as possible. With enough practice, I mastered the art of parking lot larceny and feasted accordingly before every Ohio State home game. Even when proper food-pilfering etiquette failed to net me a sandwich, all was not lost—the potluck that surrounded Ohio Stadium never really ended. There was always another Italian sausage to be had elsewhere.
Between the bad weather and the fact that it was a glorified scrimmage, I was skeptical about the opportunities for thievery at last Saturday’s spring game. However, no one appeared to mind when I moseyed up to a tailgate and helped myself to a handful of pigs in a blanket. While I initially reckoned this incident to be an aberration, it soon became apparent that everyone was in a giving mood. The merriment was a welcome change after the tumultuous 2011 campaign, and succinctly illustrated by the tank top of one scantily clad coed, which had etched in permanent marker “Urban Meyer, Can You Be My Baby Daddy?”
The thing about spring games is that they can get kinda boring. I suppose this is why non-athletic powerhouses—say, ITT Tech or Lakeland—attract larger crowds to bi-weekly campus B-I-N-G-O nights than at an April football exhibition; so, obviously, Buckeye fans went crazy when the game remained captivating deep into the fourth quarter.
Taking a page out of the XFL’s playbook, Meyer eschewed the coin toss for a bull-in-the-ring drill that climaxed (or nosedived, depending on how you look at it) when opposing QBs Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton were pitted against one another and proceeded to set bull-in-the-ring drills back twenty years. When Drew Basil connected on a short field goal, Meyer kept him on the field to showcase his placekicking prowess. Basil, sauntering back in five yard increments, was stymied by the 58-yard distance and failed to split the uprights on three attempts. The fans let out a collective sigh that seemed to say He’s no Mike Nugent! My attention to the game was only diverted once, as I made plans to attend a Twerk Team-themed event later that evening.
The breakout player of the game was freshman Michael Thomas, a wide receiver who, hilariously, operates a Twitter account under the guise of his chosen alter-ego, Rico Romano. Thomas’s reliably entertaining tweets range from cryptic (“I Still Remember What You Did Last Summer”) to primal (“Let’s Eat!!!”). In real life, Rico Romano is the general manager of the Las Vegas Playboy Club. Whatever vestige of Romano that Thomas sees in himself remains a mystery to me, but I’m not so sure I’d want to know anyway! Besides, I had bigger things to worry about—like if there’d be any food left outside the stadium once the game ended.
May 2010: My first period Algebra II class is abuzz over some rapper named Machine Gun Kelly who’ll be freestyling in the parking lot after school. The situation becomes considerably fuzzier when I call upon the services of Wikipedia, only to see this: “George Celino Barnes, better known as ‘Machine Gun Kelly’, was an American gangster during the Prohibition era. His nickname came from his favorite weapon, a Thompson submachine gun.” Okay? The Lake Catholic parking lot didn’t typically double as a concert venue, and I was dubious about the event’s likelihood to be approved by administration. Also, Wikipedia said Machine Gun Kelly died in 1954, which seemed to be problematic. But if this guy’s ghost was gonna put on a show for us, I was all for it.
April 20, 2012: A New York Times article detailing Hip Hop Squares—MTV’s forthcoming reincarnation of Hollywood Squares—features Machine Gun Kelly, now shortened to MGK, prominently, to the point that it includes the following picture/caption combo:
MGK’s meteoric rise has been well-documented (read his rags-to-riches tale here), and is epitomized in the anecdotes above where, in the span of two years, I went from thinking he was a firearm-loving thug to reading about his status as a celebrity game show contestant—albeit as a thuggish one—in the nation’s most prestigious daily.
When, precisely, did MGK crossover from misidentified murderer to Cleveland head-receiving rap luminary? Some say August 3, 2011, when he signed a two-album deal with Bad Boy Records. Others point to last year’s BET Hip Hop Awards, where he performed in a cypher alongside Diddy. However, neither is correct. The answer, August 20, 2011, is the day the Shaker Heights grad organized a flash mob (this was very in vogue at the time) on Twitter.
Now, MGK’s avant-garde use of social media is probably the overarching reason for his remarkably passionate fan base. Though he’s achieved a significant level of fame, Facebook posts like “Just played a kid in rock, paper, scissors outside Smoothie King for what songs I perform tonight” allow him to maintain the salt-of-the-earth vibe that initially endeared him to so many people. MGK goes to Smoothie King! MGK takes the time to play rock, paper, scissors with fans! Is there a decent chance this never happened? Yes. Does that matter? No. His disciples—the ones with “Lace Up” and “EST” tattoos—won’t entertain this possibility because MGK is one of us. So the flash mob craze was right up his alley.
(Social media side note: It should be mentioned that in his Twitter bio, MGK says, “I like threesomes, chocolate milk, and social studies,” but then again, who doesn’t?)
MGK narrowed down the site of his flash mob to three strong candidates: Strongsville’s SouthPark Mall, Beachwood Place, and Mentor’s Great Lakes Mall. I was pulling for Mentor, obviously, hoping to bear witness to the looming spectacle, so my emotions got the better of me when MGK announced that SouthPark had won. Unable to go, I took solace knowing that several videos of the event would emerge on YouTube, permitting retroactive flash-mobbery in the comfort of my own home. This arrangement was satisfying enough until I caught wind of what happened, which really got my YOLO juices flowing! As we mark the flash mob’s eight month anniversary, I felt obliged to revisit that fateful August day.
0:02: I can’t decide if the chauffeur is in on the joke or if he’s cursing the life decisions that led him to this moment.
0:18: Man, this crew is so Cleveland it’s a goddamn shame!
0:38: Pause the screen and reflect on the man in the white polo who takes it upon himself to catch a flailing MGK. Not many people would have done this.
0:50: I love how one of MGK’s minions brazenly adds to the chaos by brandishing a boombox. Looks fun!
1:10: The kid standing up in the yellow shirt is either on drugs, drunk, or a combination of the two. Vote here:
1:26: This is MGK’s best bit of acting. Content with the pandemonium level he’s caused, he throws up one final L and plays the part of the complying, unjustifiably handcuffed citizen, as if he had nothing to do with what just happened.
1:42: This guy in the red shirt can’t be a cop, right? Maybe he just wants to show this video to his grandkids one day and brag about how he had a hand in MGK’s arrest.
2:32: This chick equates bailing MGK out of jail to doing God’s work.
2:50: Is it bad that I was kinda rooting for the blue-shirted girl to trip on the back of the car? Not like I wanted her to sustain life altering injuries or anything.
3:00: Free at last!
3:10: Father-son bonding if I’ve ever seen it.
3:25: MGK “gives a f*** about these kids,” but why won’t he acknowledge the adults that showed out for him? Seems like a double standard.
4:10: MGK, struck by the audacity of his detractors: “And they say EST wasn’t a cult!” Really? I’ve never heard anyone say that, but I’ll take your word for it.
4:16: The video concludes with a five second sample of “Wild Boy”, which raises a pertinent question: Does anyone actually like MGK’s music? I mean, I’m sure some people do, but that many? Occasionally, I’m asked this at Ohio State and feel obligated to answer yes out of civic pride. Oftentimes I’ll praise him at the expense of, say, Pittsburgh native Wiz Khalifa the same way I perennially declare that the Browns will beat the Steelers even though I know otherwise. It’s the classic heart versus head conundrum, and I’ll go with my heart every time. MGK puts on for the city – that’s good enough for me.