"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.
We are staring at a crisis.
Several days ago, one of my sons, Boy A, asked if he could play t-ball this coming season.
The boys have already played all of the sports made available to them. The only important one they've not played is football, and that's because they're not old enough. Apparently, people want to pretend seeing a four-year-old get trucked by a blood thirsty seven-year-old with a behavioral problem wouldn't be funny. You should be embarrassed, America. Abe Lincoln fought vampires and your kid can't risk a measly concussion? For shame.
The boys, they played t-ball when they were three. Boy A was good and Boy B was mostly okay, but then I realized that the coach had him batting and throwing with the wrong hand because YMCA coaches aren't exactly the most astute bunch so I yelled and he switched him and then Boy A was good and Boy B played like he'd been reborn with Thor's arms.
Note: The best player on the team was this black kid named J. He was a fucking monster. He once played an entire game at first base with no glove. The worst player was this kid named T. The very first game, he became so overcome with the responsibility of fielding that he took off his shirt, hat, glove, socks and shoes, sat down just started crying. His dad sighed a lot.
They played basketball when they were four. They started slowly but grew into roles. Boy A, a natural athlete, became the team's point guard—the first game that he scored a bucket, I reacted like Michael Jordan after he hit that jumper over Craig Ehlo—and Boy B, a natural jackass, became the team's headache. The only thing B was ever concerned with was the post-game snack. He wasn't going to chase down any loose balls, but fuck you if you think he wasn't coming out of the snack scrum with a granola bar.
Note: The best player on the team was this extra tall white kid named C. He was unstoppable. He singlehandedly dismantled the Tiny Milwaukee Bucks, basically our league's Miami Heat. I knew he was going to crush that day because he showed up with his hair brushed into a Mohawk. White four-year-olds that play basketball with Mohawks grow up to be white men that play basketball in headbands, and white men that play basketball in headbands are goddamn insane.
Note's Note: The craziest part of the season came before the Bucks game, when we played the Tiny Boston Celtics. They were this sloppy, slovenly group of rugrat kids. They looked awful in pregame. And our team had been cruising in the weeks prior, so I figured it was going to be a bloodletting. And it was. But in the wrong way. When the ref tossed the ball in, Holy Christ, it was like we were playing the real Celtics. They destroyed us. They were bombing jumpers from the free throw line, which is like an adult shooting it from full court. They dove after balls and played legitimately intimidating defense. I mean, they ran frigg'n plays on offense. Our boys weren't ready for that. Several of our players, including Boy B and C, ended the game in tears. I figure that's why C put the hammer down against the Bucks.
They played soccer twice, once as three-year-olds and once as four-year-olds. As a unit, it's the sport where they were most successful (you're free to make all of the "Well, they're half Mexican, so yeah" jokes you like now.) Their days are generally very structured, so they work best with a specific set of instructions. When the coach put them on defense and told them not to let the ball get behind them, that's exactly what the fuck they did. They shut down EVERYTHING. They slid laterally with the offensive action on the other side of the field, charged every ball that came towards and just basically wrecked everyone all day long. They weren't saying "You bitches ain't shit" to the other kids, but they basically were. It was beautiful to watch.
Actually, my most proud moment as Sports Dad came during soccer. It happened when, during what was effectively our championship game, the coach took them out for a break. We were winning 2-0 and there was only about a handful of minutes left, so she felt okay about it. The two kids she put in as their replacements, two lily-livered nincompoops that were as concerned with winning the game as they were the salinity of the Dead Sea, gave up a goal two minutes in. She immediately shouted, "Serranos! Get out there." They popped up, ran in, then restored order. I don't know exactly how much congratulatory candy I gave them after that game, but I know it was too much for me to say that I was a good parent that day.
So the crisis: Boy A wants to play t-ball. And fuuuuuuuck.
I mean, I'm happy that he enjoys something, and excited that he's pursuing things, but man, t-ball? Jesus, it is just about the worst thing of all. You know we played one team where one of the kids didn't even bat, he just walked to first base? What part of the game is that?
PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL is boring to watch, and those are the best guys on the planet at it. I don't know that I can sit through another eight games watching what, at that point, is basically shaved monkeys wearing hats, run the wrong way down the base paths and stepping out of the way of hit balls because they don't want to get an "ow-ie." Ronnie Lott ate his own finger during a football game. Where's your heart, kid?
So, we start the season in a few weeks.
1. Mach Five, "Turn Up Juice," featuring Gangsta Boo
Lots of tinks and tonks and winks and wonks and side-eye vegetable hi-jinks here, so that's fun. It's not necessarily a great song, but it's a fun song, and a lot of times that's all you really need.
2. Chinx Drugz, "Perfect Picture," featuring Action Bronson
SO SO SO TOUGH. Everything is just so well done. Chinx does that nearly-singing-but-really-not-even-close-to-singing rap thing he does so well. Bronson does that my-voicebox-is-about-to-explode thing he does he does so well. And Harry Fraud goes meta with the beat like he does when he's at his most monumental. I almost felt bad about downloading this for free. Almost.
3. Sir Michael Rocks, "Now You Do"
I don't think I started listening to SMR until his Gone Fishin' mixtape (from The Cool Kids) made some proper noise. He's always good for a good few clever lines—higher than usual count on this song earns him a spot in this week's lineup.
4. Angel Haze, "New York"
Several days ago, an email showed up in my inbox with "Dick" in the subject line. It was from someone I'd never heard of. To surmise, the complaint was that the "Diamonds & Wood" column, now more than a few weeks old, had never properly featured a female emcee. I don't know why it's been like that, but even if I had a reason, it wouldn't have made the claim any less true. So here we are, the ferocious Angel Haze stomping into the party. (I wanted to link to her new "Werkin' Girls" track, which is just extra aces, but only a clip of it is on YouTube. Sucks.)
5. Statik Selektah and Termanology, "Lights Down," featuring Big K.R.I.T.
Gets in on the strength of a subtly impressive contribution from K.R.I.T., maintaining his ascension up the Whose Your Favorite New Southern Rapper ranks.
Thank you for the continued support. And you're free to email complaints or tips for new music, because I guess we're doing that now? sheaserrano[at]gmail[dot]com
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.