With all due respect to those who believe Illmatic to be Nas's best effort, and perhaps a top-5 all-time hip-hop album* (according to Adewale Ogunleye, Derek Schultz at 1260AM, and many more in the rap cognoscenti), I actually prefer It Was Written. Truth be told, I was never much of a Nas fan to begin with, so maybe it's just the commercial success of his sophomore LP that caught my attention.
I Gave You Power is a phenomenal cut, a soulful personification told from the point of view of a gun that's at the same time baleful and cautionary. But the track that launched the album into the mainstream was If I Ruled the World, which featured Lauren Hill singing the hook. Riding the tidal wave of her Fugees' fame, Hill made Nas' music much more palatable to those unfamiliar with his style.
But despite the presence of more popular songs, it's Affirmative Action to which I turn when thinking about the New York Yankees. That's because in the opening lines, Nas laments the fact that "[people] don't understand the four devils: lust, envy, hate, jealousy."
My buddy John Arguello over at Cubs Den wrote a great piece the other day urging readers to understand how the Cardinals got to where they are before envying them. And I totally agree with that when it comes to the Cards because I see them make savvy moves with prospects and free agents, see them taking guys no one's ever heard of and turning them into All-Stars.
And as much as I do envy the success the Redbirds have experienced, particularly of late, I don't hate them. But the Yankees. Oh, the Yankees. Those pinstriped denizens of the palatial alabaster ballpark in the Bronx draw my ire like no other team in baseball.
While I admire their drive to win at all costs, it's that same full-throttle, no-governor spending that causes my temper to redline. They have legions of "fans" all across the nation, yet how many of them are simply riding a bandwagon that's packed tighter than the No. 4 train 30 minutes prior to gametime?
At their recent pinnacle, the Yanks were a homegrown team (Jeter, Posada, Rivera) surrounded by solid vets (Scott Brosius, Paul O'Neill). Since then, they've become a churn and burn team throwing more money on the fire in the hopes that the flames will once again reach higher than those in Boston.
Hate is a strong word, to be sure, but that's how I feel about the Yankees. Of course, I'm also jealous of them and of the success they routinely expect and strive for. I'm envious of their rich history and I lust after the World Series trophies they have on display.
I just don't want to see it done the way the Bronx Bombers are doing it now, with more mercenaries than an Expendables movie. So for now I'll just continue to drink the whine from my sour grapes, keeping an eye on this interleague tilt, which has now been distilled to just a single day, and hoping that the fortunes of the two participants will soon be reversed.
Okay, maybe not necessarily reversed, since the Yanks are also below .500 right now and missed the playoffs last year, but you get what I mean. I think. Oh, and I could also do without giving huge contracts to aging vets.
So here's to sweeping the Yankees in New York, or at least beating Masahiro Tanaka (for whom I had openly pined) in the Game 1 of the double-header. And here's to showing that you can build from within, even if it takes a while and forces bloggers to find new ways to justify the pain of watching a team that's just not very competitive.
And to the New York Yankees and their fans, I offer you my most sincere and heartfelt Bronx cheer. Pbbbt!
*My top 5, not necessarily in any particular order and subject to change daily:
- Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
- Dr. Dre - The Chronic
- Snoop Doggy Dogg - Doggystyle
- Ice Cube - The Predator
- Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP
Follow me on Twitter: @DEvanAltman
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