"Diamonds & Wood" is an ongoing series in which music critic Shea Serrano breaks down the 5 hip-hop tracks you need to hear this week.
There have opportunities that have been wasted, and then there have been OPPORTUNITIES THAT HAVE BEEN WASTED. This, this is that second one. A monumental misstep. Something that will, without question, live in the shadows until the end of my days. Every quiet moment, it'll be there, whispering in my ear, reminding me of the moment that should've happened that didn't, plucking feathers from the wings of my soul. Just kill me now.
The details: Approximately two weeks ago, a perfectly pleasant PR person contacted me. She described herself as "a point of contact" for Footaction, then explained that, to coincide with the NBA All-Star Game (which is being held in Houston this year), they'd organized a series of events that they'd like for me (along with eight others) to attend.
Everything would take place between Thursday and Sunday, she said. There would be dinners, lunches, concerts, free stuff, meet and greets, a private styling session with Rachel Johnson (the woman that styles LeBron, Chris Paul, Amar'e Stoudemire, etc.) and a few other things, she said. So, would I like to sign up, she asked.
I am a bigBigBIG fan of the NBA, and I am definitely a bigggerBigggerBIGGER fan of free stuff, but I am most assuredly the biggestBiggestBIGGEST fan of the human experience. So, despite it beginning on Valentine's Day, and despite it eating up the time I'd planned on spending walking around the mall and downtown "accidentally" trying to bump in professional rappers and basketball players, I opted in.
The first event was last night, and I will forever only have ash in my mouth thinking about it.
It was a private meet and greet at a Footaction in a mall. The event itself was wonderful. (A taste: They gave every single person that walked through the door a tote bag that had all sorts of goodness inside, including, but not limited too, a super slick laser-etched wooden case for your cell phone and a gift card with far more money on it then anyone could've reasonably expected.) What happened there though—or, more accurately, what didn't happen there though—was not.
There were a couple of celebrities that attended, most exciting for me were rappers Darryl McDaniels (DMC from Run-DMC, obvs) and Big Sean (formerly with Kanye, but now on Def Jam's ticket). Each of the two had little stations set up where you were allowed to touch hands with them and get pictures taken. As soon as I saw Big Sean, I knew what I was going to do.
I was going to walk up to him, extend my hand, then, in response to the inevitable, "What's up?" he'd offer, respond, "Buh-buh-buh Big Sean, boy how big is you?" (In case you don't know: That's maybe the most accidentally funny line that Nicki Minaj shouts at him in their collaboration, "Dance (A$$)".)
He'd hear it, give me a wayward look, process the situation, then burst into laughter. We'd become best friends almost immediately afterwards. He'd ask if I wanted to hang out for the weekend. I'd play coy, but then eventually say yes. We'd move around the city together, two 5'7" rap demons, and everyone would love us. He'd tweet for everyone to follow me and then I'd change my Twitter handle to @BigShea. He'd leave on Sunday, but we'd stay in touch.
After a few months of sporadic texting, he'd finally ask, "Shea, have you ever considered writing rap music? I could use some." I'd deflect the question a few times, but then later be like, "Well, okay, but just this once." Then I'd write a verse and he'd use it in a song and he'd win a Grammy for Best Rap Verse (which, duh, they'd have made a category by then). Word would get out that I was responsible, and other rappers would come calling.
I'd earn so much money that I'd buy New York and Los Angeles, and then I'd turn them both into Houston. I'd buy the moon too and I'd have the UGK crest carved into it. I'd buy longer legs and longer arms and six-pack abs. I'd buy a bunch of scientists, have them build me a time machine, then go back in time to 1967, buy Paul Newman's face from him, then go forward in time to 1997 and have the doctors from Face/Off replace mine with his, then come back to 2013 and rule all.
And that all WOULD'VE HAPPENED.
But when I got to Sean, WHEN I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO CHANGE MY LIFE, you know what I did?
I didn't say one single word. NOT ONE.
It wasn't like the time I met David Robinson and completely froze from star-struckedness. It wasn't like that at all. I didn't feel overwhelmed or nervous or anything.
I just blanked. I flaked. My brain went dark. All of my words were lost in the wilderness. I just went, "…ehr" and then wandered away.
That's my life.
Some men aren't meant to be kings, I suppose.
1. Bun B and Big K.R.I.T., "Check My Sign"
These two together: YES. That's really all there is to it.
2. Trinidad James, "All Gold Everything," Live on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon
Linking to this for two reasons:
1. Because Questlove playing this on the drums: YES.
2. To use it to point back to Tyler, the Creator also performing on TV for the first time on Late Night and showing how Trinidad's performance is decidedly less poignant. It's like even he knows that his career is already on the downside. Sucks.
3. Drake, "Started From The Bottom"
Drake being able to reinvent himself and his sound with each of his past three albums better than maybe anybody* in the history of rap has ever been able to do: YES.
*I mean, seriously, who's better than Drake? Who do you trust more to make a hit than Canada's favorite son? Whose videos do you get more excited for? People tried to argue that Nas should've beaten Drake for Best Rap Album? Awful. God should've been more discerning with who he gave opinions.
4. Tim Dog, "Compton"
tim dog passed away. infinite sad faces. only lower case letters.
5. Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge, "The Rise of Ghostface Killah"
All of the YESES. All of the exclamation points! All of the kung-fu movies. All of the high-fives. All of the snare drums. All of the Tony Stark references. All of the Columbian neck ties. All of the everything of anything of everything. All of it. Every single piece. This is that. This is the God particle.
Shea Serrano is a writer living in Houston, TX. His work has appeared in the Houston Press, LA Weekly, Village Voice, XXL, The Source, Grantland and more. You can follow him on Twitter here.