Thursday, August 20, 2009

On a Brief Basketball Note (Talkin' That Comeback Shit)

Before you ask, law school's easy. Anyway, a few weeks back I saw that Iverson breaking down in tears over the end of his career video, and I was terribly struck by what a relic Iverson's become. He's very much a mid-90s, turn of the century man in a very post-90s era. A realness man in a post-realness era. Hearing Iverson talk really takes you back to the days when two thirds of the Lox were featured in shoe commercials, when songs like 'Mighty D-Block' were not only possible but became hits, when we were still living in the world that Mobb Deep built. Ron Artest is often associated with P and Hav, but his persona, if not his game itself, is way more H.N.I.C. 2 than it is Infamous. Rap today is a whole lot more whimsical and ludic and a whole lot less grim. And Iverson's very out of step with that. Anyway, today I learned from Bethlehem Shoals, professional NBA twitter-comber, that Iverson is in fact about to go to one of three teams, and said so on his twitter. Mssr. Shoals, being a fan of culturally impactful but basketball-detrimental players like Iverson, is elated over this news, which is his right, but I do think he is missing the strangely familiar pathos (and bathos) in this series of A.I. twitters:

Looking forward to getting back to work myself! I am so ready to return to the NBA! Stronger, Faster and So much Wiser!...

I have had a year to get ready, my back is fine now don't worry. When you see me again you will think that I am fresh out of Georgetown!

I have heard all of the doubters, but they should know that I willnot be broken and I will remain true to my fans. I spoke with my manager the other day and told him that I am again a student of the game. I am studying video and breaking down film. I want to be the best that I can be. One doesn't plan to fail, they fail to plan. I am planning for my comeback. Plan to hear from me daily on

When I read these twitters, I'm reminded of nothing so much as pronouncements made in the past 5 or so years by various washed-up 90s rappers as to the excellence of their latest abortive comeback. When we see him again we will think that he's fresh out of Georgetown? Yes, and Prodigy promised me that Amerikaz Nightmare would be the best album the group ever made. (It's actually pretty good.) Then he said the same thing about Infamy. (Not so great but still underrated.) Cam promised it would be a hot summer in front of that baby pool. Then he recorded nothing, and then recorded Crime Pays, which is worse. Tek and Steele actually said that their 9th Wonder-weedcarrier helmed comeback would be better than Dah Shinin because they were picking their own beats. I don't remember what it was called. Jay's been promising a follow-up to Reasonable Doubt since 2003. Nas actually did a magazine cover with Premo for an album that never began to be recorded because both parties probably know how much it would underwhelm. A.I., student of 90s hip-hop, is so steeped in this rhetoric that he's promising a comeback when he never even left. He got sat for about a month for sucking and is now trying to promulgate this fiction where the Detroit season never happened (what "year to get ready"?), like it's the lost year from which he'll rebound and stage his comeback. Like it's his Nastradamus or something. A deviation from the straight and narrow way of realness caused by commercial pressures outside the artist's control, not a real part of his catalogue, excused by true fans who understand and keep the faith. (Joe Budden fans take a similar line on Joe's one hit ever, 'Pump It Up.') As NORE said on his Premo-laced comeback,

Melvin Flynt dropped, my whole colosso stopped,
I can't believe I fucked up and made a half-assed album
But my excuse is, my pops just died
And I didn't want to make music, my pops just died

My fans stuck with me...

And just like a NORE or Jay or Nas or Mobb or Tek and Steele, the comeback, the latest attempt at regained relevancy, is billed as a return to past greatness. Jay has his sequels to Reasonable Doubt (1996); Iverson says he'll be the player he was at Georgetown (in '96). Will Iverson be stillmatic? Of course not, not that I necessarily blame him for trying to fool us and himself into thinking otherwise. I just find it fascinating that in a business where, unlike rap, Iverson doesn't even have to bullshit us about comebacks and such to get paid, Iverson is such a product of his era that, if not for the references to basketball, one wouldn't be able to distinghish his twitter from a Nas press release.

1 comment:

bding7 said...

A couple notes:

1) Glad to hear law school is easy.

2) I literally just got back from seeing Cam in concert tonight. The man can still rap really well, I promise you. Why Crime Pays sounds like it does, I can't say.

3) In terms of Iverson, I love the guy, as someone who followed the Sixers during AI's prime. So watching that video hurt me a bit. I don't think he's trying to bullshit us, he really believes he can comeback and make an impact. You doubt him, which is fine, but I will withhold judgement. Have we seen an NBA player do something like this before, only to find out he was lying? Maybe I just want to believe in the guy who made some great commercials with Styles.