Rock The Playoff Bells

19 May

After covering the remaining playoff teams from the NBA’s Eastern Conference, it’s now time to take a look at the Western Conference’s final four contenders and understand them better with some help from the 2012 lineup of hip-hop music festival Rock The Bells.  [Catch up on the Eastern Conference here.]

Western Conference

Lakers – Ice Cube

Ice Cube and this year’s version of the Lakers have a lot more in common besides just calling the city of Los Angeles home.  Cube earned his status as a hip-hop icon with his brash, free-wheeling work for N.W.A. and his own solo releases.  He’s dipped in and out of the rap game since his 90’s heyday, but in recent years has mostly shifted his body of work from Compton to Hollywood.  A string of family-friendly acting roles has given Cube a lot of mainstream success, and while he can still earn a top spot on Rock The Bell’s lineup this year, his focus now is clearly more on the drama than the music.

Drama is something that the Lakers have seen plenty of this season, and a lot of it has come from off the court.  The core of this Lakers team – Kobe, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol – has had a lot of success in the past with two championships.  Like Ice Cube, however, that success has given way to more and more drama this year, with swirling trade rumors, Bynum acting out, coaching questions, and the ever-changing antics of Metta World Peace.  The Lakers have tried with varying success to keep their focus on the court, but a tough matchup with OKC in the second round is fueling fears that their heyday – like Ice Cube’s – is now a thing of the past.

Thunder – A$AP Rocky “More To Be Announced”

On paper, the OKC squad seems to be a perfect basketball match for A$AP Rocky.  Both the team and the MC are young, supremely talented, exciting, have a lot of buzz, and seem primed for a lot of future success.  That’s on paper though – and as we’ve covered before here at Dan Swanky’s, the OKC Thunder are not a normal basketball team.  To fans of the Seattle SuperSonics (RIP), this OKC team is a living, breathing reminder of greed and theft on a large scale.

The Thunder shouldn’t exist – at least not in their 2012 version,  playing for the whitewashed crowd currently cheering them on in Oklahoma City.  They belong to Seattle, and as far as we’re concerned, are now an illegitimate franchise.  That’s why when it comes to the Rock The Bells Lineup, OKC is really most like that little phrase at the bottom of the poster: ‘More To Be Announced’.  Because they don’t really exist, in the sense of being a true franchise.  Is that a petty, bitter approach to take?  Well, yeah.  But that’s how we feel.  The awesome talent of A$AP Rocky is much, much too good for this stolen team.

Clippers – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

One of the themes of past Rock The Bell festivals has been to have older artists or groups reunite or make rare live appearances, in which they play some of their classic albums or tracks.  Bone Thugs are continuing that theme this year by coming together in their original lineup and playing the entirety of their most successful album, E. 1999 Eternal.  The group has been pretty inconsistent with their material in recent years, but they have a lot of great tracks from earlier in their career, and their unique, creative sound has earned them a favorable spot in the hip-hop canon.

One of Bone Thugs’ signature qualities is the loose, party-friendly vibe that permeates through a lot of their songs.  This has a lot in common with the style of basketball often played by the 2012 Clippers.  The Clippers carry the nickname Lob City, and play up to that moniker with highlight-ready plays from athletic freaks like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.  The Clippers run up and down the court, throwing no-look passes and dropping thunderous dunks, and at times look like a bunch of really talented guys playing a loose game of street ball on the neighborhood court.  There can often be a lack of discipline with the Clippers’ style, and discipline is not a word found anywhere near the vicinity of weed-scented Bone Thugs jams like “1st of tha Month” and “Weedman.”  There had to be at least one time this year when a dashiki-clad Nick Young put on E. 199 Eternal in the post-game locker room, prompting the entire Clippers crew to rap and dance along.

Spurs – Missy Elliot + Timbaland

There’s a chance that the Missy Elliot + Timbaland collaboration won’t actually make it to the Rock The Bells stage this year, but they’re on the initial announcement materials, so we’ll go with it.  With a history of one hugely successful run and reliably constant stream of output, there isn’t another artist on the lineup that better compares to the San Antonio Spurs.  To the chagrin of basketball fans who like their basketball stars to be emotional and remotely interesting, Tim Duncan has led the Spurs to three championships in his 15-year career with the team.  For a while in the 2000’s, the Spurs were the undisputed kings of the basketball world, much like Timbaland, and to a lesser extent, Missy, ruled over the music world with their distinct sound and style for a stretch of time.

The spastic, occasionally irritating sounds of Timba + Missy are also reflected by the Spurs with the flopping and flailing style of play often displayed by players like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.  These two foreign stars in particular stand out as being very talented, but nevertheless infuriating when they take spectacular dives from phantom fouls and whine loudly when things don’t go their way.  The music of Timba + Missy can be highly entertaining, and it’s easy to marvel at the high quality of their work; the response to the basketball performances of the Spurs can be the same way.  But there can be a time when the funky and expressive sounds of Timba + Missy become grating and tiresome, and those are two qualities that Spurs haters know all too well.

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