Thursday, December 24, 2009


Start a family. Visit a chiropractor. Recycle. No added salt to anything for three months straight. Help out with five local missions or outreaches. Become fully knowledgeable on the entire career of John Coltrane. Know when to stop.Eliminate all credit card debt. Run the Warrior Dash in 45 minutes. Get my 10-footer back. Kools said he's a formidable opponent. Become fully knowledgeable in the recordings and biography of Charles Mingus.

Enjoy as much 1990 hip hop as possible and DON'T listen to Fear of a Black Planet (the greatest hip hop record ever made) until March 20th. Join a Sunday school class. Two cups of coffee daily. No more. Become an unapologetic and absolute 1990 hip hop snob. Begin riding a bike, seriously. Begin planning 10th anniversary. Cook ribs and use only dry rub. Finish with homemade sauce. Ween off of pale ales and into hefeweizens. Work on four mixes: Beatlemaniaddendum, Music to Flee a Zombie Invasion By, Boom Bap Origins and Gangsta Boogie Remastered. Another full month of no sugar. January is the obvious month. Run 10 miles a week. Buy a pair of dress shoes that cost more than $30. Watch one western a month and only two featuring John Wayne.

Take off another full week for vacation aiming to hit up Colorado and Idaho. Ski Waterfall at Wolf Creek. Turn Tucker and Jackson into the meanest walking dogs. No barking. One soda a month. Must be 20 ounces or less. No ice. Donate to net five less pairs of sneakers. Get a joke printed in Readers' Digest. Go to a concert. Go to a nice restaurant and order fish without even blinking. And not shrimp. Go to Juarez and build another house. Scope out another marathon...but don't start training for one. Read three books. Do the Polar Bear Plunge in Couer d Alene, ID on New Years, 2011.

Put your money where your mouth is and eat Krispy Kreme donuts exclusively realizing that the Yellow doesn't have a Krispy Kreme. Racquetball twice a week with my lovely wife. Own a suit you feel comfortable in. And look damn good in. Smile more and be mindful of how others view you. Not just how you view yourself. Write something worthy of getting printed in a periodical. Listen to more Dylan. See a tornado. Take Boggs out to an empty parking lot covered in snow and do two donuts. He's had a hard year and deserves it. Here's to 2010. Finally, a year twice divisible by itself. It's been 201 years since the last one. Stay up, 2009. It's been glorious.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Woke up at 2:50AM thinking about my 2009 personal checklist (some people call them "resolutions" although I think you're doomed to fail them if you call them "resolutions"). I was going through a few items in my head and then my head began to dwell on it. Now, I'm sitting behind a dark cup of coffee checking my effectiveness in completing the list. Let's start at the top.

Begin eating mushrooms.

I began eating mushrooms right out of the gate this year. No, not the funky kind that make you dance like a tool. It began when Dustin stuffed some with a meat sauce and topped them with some mozzarella. Nice introduction. Now, I'm conversational with mushrooms which is a great accomplishment from avoiding them for 31 years. They're quite good. Ate an entire pizza stacked with them. That was probably the climax of my mushroom consumption to this point. Why mushrooms? Because I never had any good reason for avoiding them in the first place. Always want to consider myself to be a fairly well-rounded, cross-trained eater. Also took up bananas which I haven't touched in about 25 years. Successful.

Successfully silk screen a shirt.

Fail. Didn't even attempt it. I outsourced, however, my RUN ROC shirt to a printer in Austin instead of giving these local ripoff artists any more of my hard-earned cash. The shirts came out nice and broham didn't take any artistic licensing with my shirt. He did it just as it was designed. Which, if I may not-so humbly add, is why they came out so nicely.

Influence popular opinion regarding the current donut situation in the Yellow.

Fail. This one kinda goes hand-in-hand with the above item. I was going to silk screen the following shirt and hand out 50 of them to key members of the community.

The thought that was that we could rally against the evil donut-hawker that is Donut Stop and eventually take a stab of their profits by saying what so many people want to, but don't. They have misrepresented the doughnut to the Yellow for too long. What they make is a tasteless, cardboard bread roll which is barely touched with a glaze or icing. The result is probably the poorest representation of a doughnut this state has ever seen and now they've monopolized the market. People think that they ran off Krispy Kreme with quality and the truth is (and I mean truth) that they suffocated Krispy Kreme's off-site business locally and, because the franchiser wasn't smart enough, the ultimately closed their doors. It's not a matter of taste, it's a matter of politics. So, Yellow, if you like your sad little cardboard communist doughnut, knock yourself out. I'm demanding Krispy Kreme. That's why, in the rare instance I eat a doughnut, it's in Lubbock (a real city) and it's a Krispy Kreme (a real doughnut), you suckas. Tell me that ain't the illest shirt. No one locally would print it though. Pretty sure of that. I'd have to do it myself.

Run 5 miles in succession twice a week by end of the year.

Well, I'm not running 10 miles a week right now. But I did run about 500 miles this year including a marathon. I'm checking this one off. Still think I'll carry it over to 2010 as part of my training for the Warrior Dash. Need to be able to do 5 miles in 45 minutes. Successful.

Lose 20 pounds.

Not sure about whether or not this happened, but would say it's likely. I've since changed my view on weight. It's all a relative concept. How about just "get in shape"? Pounds will be shed to a healthy weight if you just get in shape. The new mantra is "personal health isn't measure in numbers, it's measured in miles." Success.

Give away 400 CDs.

Negative on this one. I think I may have given away a humble 50 CDs. This one's much harder than I ever thought. It's music. I did, however, reduce the number of visible CDs in the house to under 200. That's quite a mark for a collection that tops about 3,500 CDs (all quality). The fact that you're only seeing about 5% of it is quite an accomplishment. I think my lovely wife appreciates it. She thinks that CDs are kinda ugly to look at. I would agree. My problem is that I think vinyl's much prettier. Fail.

Successfully silk screen a painting of James Brown.

Fail. Still got plans for this one. I wanna create a silk screen so that I can just have a print that I take a canvas, throw a JB on it, sell it for $50, rinse and repeat. To be more specific, I want it to be about 3' x 5'. Sizable. It's the only way to properly represent the man, the legend.

Do a blog entry each day of June--30 posts total within the month.

Fail. That was before I started training for a marathon. I don't know what good come out of this, seriously. No telling how lame it would get by about, uh, June 7th. I'd be talking about the ring in my toilet, more things that annoys me about neighbors and back spasms. Lame. Won't carry over this one.

Submit to a calendar company, a fully developed idea for The Root Down desk calendar.

Still like this one, but didn't get it accomplished. After a year of thinking about it, we'd have to go back to the drawing board on this idea. People don't use desk calendar's like they used to. Everything's electronic these days. Schedules are on the computer. Birthday reminders are sent through email or Facebook. Blackberries and iPhones might've replaced the desk calendar. Desk calendars are dead. You heard it hear first. That's why you read The Root Down. Fail.

Learn to shuffle cards.

Learned, but can't do it well. It's much like watching a caveman try to light a fire with two pebbles. I'm still more likely to just pass the deck to my lovely wife to shuffle rather than do it myself. I attract too much ridicule and laughter when I try. Of course, I'm thick skinned. Good when trying something new.

Complete six mixes within the year (to include The Gangsta Boogie, The Buhloone Mindstate Breakdown, The Tax-Exempt Federal Income Tax Mix, The Christmas Sweater Mix Vol. 2 and my lovely wife's request for a mix about women).

Uh, finished the Tax Mix. The Paul's Boutique Mix. The Col' New Yorkin' Mix. The Marathon Mix. The Intergalactic Mix. The Beatles Mix. The Black Moon Mix. The Wu Mix. Man, that's eight mixes and hadn't worked on one since June, really. Except for the Marathon Mix. Got some plans for the new year, but as time provides. I'm calling this one complete because while I didn't get to the Buhloone mix, the re-up of the Gangsta Mix or a second volume of the Christmas Sweater, I did eight instead of six. Done.

Wear a full-grown moustache for a week.

Did it for a half-day. I couldn't keep a straight face all day. It was extremely distractive. Fail.

Become more knowledgeable in Blues and the key components and players.

Fail. I don't think I'll ever be a huge fan of the Blues. I tried this for about two months. Because I'm not a huge fan, I decided to immerse myself thinking that I would come out a big fan and, if not a fan, at least knowledgeable. Blues is pretty boring really. The players and the stories are pretty fantastic, but just really didn't find it worth investigating any more. Let's shelve this one until I'm about sixty and have nothing better to do.

Follow up on the whereabouts of Roderick and Sean.

Found Sean. Missed his 40th birthday. Just found Roderick on Facebook. Dropped a "friend" to make room for him in the instance he accepts. Success.

Read a book. Serious. Just one.

Success. Read a book entitled Columbine about the massacre at Columbine. Very good read. Still not a reader, but can at least say cool things like, "So I was reading a book the other day and it dawned on me..." or "Yeah, I'm reading this interesting book..." or "I enjoy Saturday mornings with a good book and a cup of coffee." Figure that swings me into a few new social circles. None of those are true statements though. Replace "reading" with "listening to" and "book" with "album." I've already got another book lined up. I think I'm on page twelve.

Find out what happened to my 10-foot jump shot.

Fail. Probably would've happened had I not marathoned. I'll get back to the court in time. Need a new ball. Someone to ball with. Someone short so that I can bust the ol' McHale turnaround on them with optimum result. Great activity along with raquetball. Now that I got my cardio back, I could probably play for hours.

Pass on all fantasy sports. Most specifically Fantasy Baseball. It's not worth the time.

Check. This was quite rewarding. Just col' turkey. There was little temptation at all. I don't find anything fantastic at all about them except the incredible waste of time and money. I guess it's because I'm not that good. It's back to focusing on one team and that's the Sawx. I don't care about some loser pitcher from the Dodgers and how he did last night. I'm a Sox fan firstly. A fan of the game secondly. A Yankee hater lastly.

Begin working on family cookbook. Again.

Fail. I owe my family on this one. I lost all of the data when my laptop died a four years back. Ugh.

Begin playing harmonica.

Began playing. Never got very good, but that leaves plenty of room for improvement. Had a historical jam session between beers and games of dominos in Taos with good friend Dale.

Less coffee in 2009.

Less? Maybe not so much. I'm down to three cups a day. That's down from five to six. Still not really an acceptable level of coffee. If I could get my lovely wife to drink one, I could probably cut back to two a day. That's just one refill, the way I look at it. Establishing positive sleep patterns probably would help in this and vice versa. Staying active and fit would help with establishing positive sleep patterns. Here, I haven't worked out in more than a week and I'm up at 3:00AM for the second time since the marathon.

Cut back soda consumption to one reasonably sized soda a month.

Done. Haven't missed it much. Enjoy it when I have it, but don't need another. Body feels great. More water. Tons more water.

Make my own sauerkraut by rotting cabbage buried under the ground.

Eh. No. This was a stretch goal. Made some damn-good sauerkraut for Thanksgiving, though. But cheated because it came out of a jar.

Eat the sauerkraut.

Fail. I ate me some sauerkraut, but not kraut out of the backyard.

Take two one-week vacations. Possibly one to Idaho and then to the northeast catching a Sox game and visiting New York.

Half-check. Took one full-week vacation to a Sox game and to New York. That was huge. Huge taking that time off and even bigger going up to New York, Maine and Boston. Still gotta finish up my New York posts. Got some good photos and stories yet to come. For me, that trip was probably the best thing to happen to me in years. So relaxing to be with my lovely wife in upstate Maine with nowhere to go, nothing to do. Wish I could go back and stay. New York was hella-ill. Gotta get up to Idaho. My Aunt Pam insists at this point. It used to be politely suggested. Now it's, "Get your ass up to Idaho." That should be a shirt.

Become salty in discussions about 1989 hip hop.

Done. The Top 30 Hip Hop Recordings of 1989 is right around the corner. It should be a rewarding read.

Have a garage sale and use the proceeds to buy a ping pong table to then put in that empty garage.

Had a garage sale. Absolutely hated it. Proceeds went back into the bank. Probably a better use of that money. Guess you could say that, instead of buying more crap, we paid our way to Juarez so we could build a house for a family that desperately needed a solid roof over their head. We're gonna call it complete.

Go an entire month without sugar or sweets.

Check. That was the first complete. Did that in January. Might try it again. It's like a post-Christmas detox and gives you a nice jump on the year.

Use swimming as a primary form of exercise at the gym.

Fail. This year might be the year for swimming as I have already teased at the thought of a triathlon. That requires getting back on a bike for some serious road miles. And more training. Maybe I should just start swimming. See if I can still do it.

2010 list soon to come. I need another nightless sleep, er, sleepless night before I can get to that. Pillow, I miss you. I love you. Where are you?

Monday, December 14, 2009


The right knee never really stopped hurting since my longest run at 19.4. I knew that if there was any likelihood of a pre-existing injury that was going to make my Runday absolutely hell, it was going to be either my right knee or my left IT-band. Look it up. It wasn't an excrutiating pain. It could be medicated with a few ibuprofen, but when you're pacing, ibuprofen wears off quickly. I knew that, in the chance that it was going to flare up, I was just going to have to deal with it.
The night before, myself, my lovely wife, Kool Aid, Jacko, Steev and Liz went out for the customary pasta dinner the night before. It would be my first pre-marathon pasta throw-down. I had chicken parmasean. It was excellent. We kept the mood light. Talked memories. Family. Even talked shop and any pre-marathon plans or strategies. Truth be known, I had one strategy and that was to finish. Everything else was really just a detail meant to be forgotten.
That day, Kool Aid and I (also known as Team Root Down) went down to the expo to pick up our runners packet and to check out the competition. I liken this experience to that scene in Karate Kid when Daniel goes to his first big tourney and they're asking him what dojo he's with and he doesn't know what the hell is going on and he's just scoping the competition, biting on his nails nervously. I looked around and everyone appeared to be about my height and about a buck-fiddy. They all looked tan, shaven, fit, happy. Looked like they've been doing it for years. I found my bib number.

I was pleased. It was divisible by three. Three was the magic number. Always was.

I approached a table for a free shirt. Apparently the bib was a dead giveaway to the volunteer. She yells out, "First-timer!" and a host of volunteers begin cheering. I had arrived.

They wished me luck. I walked away from the table probably more intimidated than I had approached it with. I continued to walk confusedly around the expo as everyone was hocking products from shoes to water filtration devices, from home alarm systems to humanitarian causes. Exhausted, I just wanted to get lost. Kool Aid and I found a pisser and then left. We did the afternoon separately. He went to watch a rugby match. I sat around and visited with in-laws. Sitting upright made my sciatic nerve flare so I leaned back as much as I could wherever I could. Oh, did some record shopping. Looked for some Eric Dolphy. Found nothing worth owning.

Did dinner. Went back to the Hilton where I tried to relax and sleep. I just remember beating my lovely wife back to the room as she was hitting a couple of errands on the way back from dinner. I feel asleep and she came in and kissed me and I drifted off again.

About 3:30, sleeping became futile. My body was awake. My body was urging me to get ready. I had to tell myself to relax. Close your eyes. You've gotta run 26.2 miles in about five hours. You're gonna need everything you got. About thirty minutes passed and I drifted back off. But, like Christmas morning, I was awake in another hour. Five o'clock. A familiar hour for me. I went back to sleep for thirty minutes and then I was up for good.

Runday had arrived.

It was a foggy morning. I took a shower. Ate two bagels. Two bananas. Four ibuprofen. About a pint of Gatorade. Final preparations.

Went through some final prayers before trusting directly into the madness. Recalled my goal of finishing between 4:48 and 5:00 (those be hours, homie). Said, for my last time, my affirmation:

I am a marathoner. I can run on any day, at any time, in any weather. While my body wasn't born to do this, I can train my body to do anything and nothing can hold me back. With God on my side and hell on my heels, I'm going to run my happy ass 26.2 miles.

That day had arrived. T-minus two hours.

My ride arrived at 0645 in the circle drive of the Hilton. I stood outside for a few moments and breathed the morning air. It was cool and a little thick. Perfect. The forecast had the race ending at an unseasonal 70 degrees. Not-so perfect.

When we arrived down at American Airlines Center, it was pandamonium. Kool Aid and I looked for our "corral"--the wave in which we would begin. Being that we were 11-minute milers, we would start with people of the same speed to ensure there was no trampling. After locating our corral, we headed inside to hit the bathrooms. Fundamental.

I'll put it this way: all the urinals were available. The line was for the "sitting" commodes. We stood in line.

After heading outside, I saw fella runner Sarah who was hitting the half. Wished her luck. Small-talked. Tried to get my gameface on without getting too primed. Advice was to start slow, don't get wrapped up in the hype. Pace yourself. If you rush out of the gate, you're gonna wish you had it later.

(just put in an Art Blakey record I got in Dallas...lovely)

I spent about three minutes wondering what I was going to do with my iPod. Funny the details you don't think about until you're standing at the starting line. I was concerned about wearing it on my arm for five hours. I opted to put it in my Camelbak pocket. Time counted down. I heard Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" and some cheering. I checked out at that point. All of the noises became fuzzy. I put on my headphones and listened to the official Team Root Down mix. I did it with one earphone off, though, to hear the crowd. It was loud. Cacophony. Megaphones. Confetti.

Before you knew it, we had begun and this five-hour dance with D-Town had begun.

We meandered around downtown and two miles passed quickly. Just do that 13 times and this was history. Right knee soreness began almost immediately. I thought, "I knew you were going to be here. Welcome. Take off your jacket. Stay a while. Let me show you to the bar. Have a drink."


We made our way through Turtle Creek. My left knee worries subsided as I just came to the realization that it wasn't going to hurt any less so I might as well just accept the pain and live with it.


Then it appeared in the left calf. This was all very familiar to me. I pushed forward without worrying too much. I knew that if my heart and my lungs could do it, I could push myself through the muscle pains. As they say, "Pain is temporary. Pride is forever." I said my affirmation again and then just decided to enjoy it from there on.

Running in the crowd proved to be challenging. It was like a big game of leapfrog as everyone pushed for position. Kool Aid and I were in no big hurry, but knew that we didn't want to surrender too much at the beginning. The crowds were troublesome. We tried to initiate a pace and it would be broken up by a turn, aid station, someone goofing around.




At about the third mile, the pace set in and the marathon had really started to expose itself. The crowd was dispersing. Spacing. Breathing room. I remember seeing my dad somewhere around mile five or six. He was standing there smiling proudly. I took off one earphone. Yelled, "How's it going?" Continued onward across Central.

The neighborhoods were especially pleasant. I always liked the neighborhoods in our training. Relaxing. They were lined with families coming out to feed us. Give us water. Some offered beer. Bloody Mary. Bagels. Most just sat and applauded as the crowds passed their lawns. They'd wave. Tell us to "go" or "run" or "do it." I'd just read their lips as I we traversed through the neighborhood. I'd smile.

Then, I came across some familiar faces. That of my lovely wife and my sister-in-law. It was "GO JEFF" or "OGFJ" as they took creative license with the signs. My brother held up a sign that said, "So easy even a caveman can do it," and a few other sentiments. Nice to have a cheering section.

Just about eight miles in, I did an inventory on my body. Everything was holding up alright. Right knee was still in pain. Left calf pain had begun to lessen as it spread throughout my left leg. Otherwise, everything felt alright. We were nearing the lake. I could feel it as we descended through the neighborhoods. I remembered that we dove down into White Rock so as we took downhill after downhill, I knew it was close. When the halfers broke off somewhere around the seventh mile, it got about five degrees cooler. We lost more than half of the runners. This was the group of the longhaulers. The marathoners.


As the lake exposed itself, I was reminded of it's massive size. Essentially, mile nine through nineteen took place at this monstrous lake. White Rock (which my lovely wife has affectionately come to call "Dead Body Lake" because of all the murders that have gone unsolved in its depths) was covered in a dense fog. Probably better. You couldn't see how much of a huge-ass body of water this thing was. It just kinda looked like a calendar. Something from a LL Bean catalog. Coltrane came on the headphones. I took deep breaths. Enjoyed the scenary. The Coltrane.

Saw my mother-in-law in there.

As we rounded the lake, I saw Cory, Brian and my lovely wife. As Kool Aid stopped to take a piss, I headed forward and slowed down (didn't stop) for one short kiss from my lovely wife. I think I might've hit her cheek. Don't know what she hit. Maybe I just dragged my left sideburn across her face. This is what it looked like.

That kiss lasted about three more miles before we hit what is commonly referred to as "the wall." The "wall," in runners terms, is when your glycogen that has been stored is completely depleted and where most runners are reduced to their slowest speed. White Rock's wall exist at the 18th mile where it begins to make a 100-foot ascension over the course of a two mile drag. The apex of this is just after the Hooters aid station (which Kool Aid took full advantage of) and you enter what was known as Dolly Parton's Hills. As you turn the corner, you see nothing but marathoners walking uphill. Not Kool Aid and I. We pressed on. The runners on the right and us on the left. Just like a small car passing big rigs on a hillside. I asked Kool Aid if he wanted to walk (almost secretly hoping he would say "yes"). He answered, "No. I can't stop now. But don't push me either."

I kept the pace. As much as I wanted to walk, I just kept going. That climb through the neighborhood was just as I had anticipated. Which is why the mix goes over to NWA and Ice Cube for mile 19 and 20. Once we reached the top and made our way over to Swiss Ave, I spotted my brother in the distance. He dashed through the crowd and shouldered up against me and we jogged about fifty yards together. He told me that we had made it through the worst and we were on our way downhill.

Todd on the left. Kool Aid, in his excitable state, mentioned with some explicitaves, that his plan was to finish strong and give it all we had left in us as we finished line. I laughed it off thinking, "I just wanna finish at this point." Saw more family as I entered the beautiful Swiss Ave. We made our descension into downtown. I told myself that I had done six mile runs countless times. This was the easy part. It didn't get easier.


In fact, the sun came out and, almost immediately, my blood temperature skyrocketed. All day, we had enjoyed the cool breeze off the lake, the soothing mist in the air that coated our skin. Now, with the sun out, there was nothing to protect us. We were at her mercy. The mist evaporated. The cool breeze disappeared. I looked for shade on the trail. Never had I run so long and so late in the day. December felt like August. I looked around though and people still had jackets and earmuffs on. To the spectators, it was still relatively cool. In fact, all the way into downtown, I could still see my breath.

Unsure of my pace and only certain of my pain, I pressed on with Kool Aid right beside me. The buildings of downtown exposed themselves above the huge oak trees. We were nearing the end.

And it couldn't come fast enough.

We rounded Central Expressway and went underneath it and the shade almost pulled me to a stop. I wanted to enjoy the shade. I didn't mind walking just for a few steps just to get a little shade in. Cool off. But we didn't. We kept jogging. As we made our way back through downtown, my body began to relieve itself (no, not that way). My muscles began to relax. I could feel my joints, my feet, my legs, my arms exhaling. I thought, "Wait, not yet!" We still had a mile and a half to go.

When we turned the corner and saw the finish line, I just put my head down and headed forward. I felt Kool Aid pushing a little from the excitement. I wasn't concerned about how my ending appeared. I had just gone through the most excrutiating and brutal physical confrontation of my life. I just wanted it to be over. Sooner the better, yes, but I didn't to stumble like that that cat who busts face while getting his diploma. Take it cool. Don't walk, but don't go so fast the only way you'll stop is with your chin.

My whole left leg was throbbing at this point and my right ankle...ah, a familiar foe. When I first started running it was my right ankle that gave me such hell. In fact, it was my right ankle that my lovely wife told me to get checked out before I actually ran a marathon. I guess we both forgot about it until Runday. That bastard came back. It was like a rodent gnawing at your foot. I didn't feel so bad I was going to stop, but it didn't feel that good. Amazing how it disappeared on the third week of training but then just came back on the last few miles to remind me, "Yeah, bro. Should've had them look at me like your lovely wife advised."

The crowds cheered as we shot toward the finish line. I watched the clock ticking from afar. The crowd cheered as I had both earphones off at this point so I could enjoy the moment.

We finished. The exact time was yet to be determined. Some guy called me "Chops" as I made my way to the finish line. That meant more to me than anyone calling me by the name that was on my bib. "Jeffrey." I remember waving to that dude over my head to salute his salutation of my ferocious sideburns.

As we finished, the medal hit my neck, the heat sheet hit my shoulders and I was pushed aside for a picture all in one continuous motion. I found my lovely wife and kissed her through the chainlinked fence. I met with family after that. Had a granola bar, a banana, two beers.

My muscles were going crazy. It was like I was getting a charlie horse every step I took. They were on absolute overdrive. My back tightened up almost immediately. My feet felt like they had exploded. Not like a flat tire, but more like the tire blew up. When I sat down in my father's car, my right calf charlied up and I looked at it in a flexed position. It was as hard as a can of green beans and I couldn't unflex it. Freakiest thing.

We did lunch with family. It was awesome. After that, I went back to the hotel and watched television. Slept for a few hours. Woke up at about 10. Fell back asleep at 11. Can barely walk today. The car ride home was torture.

I sit here thinking back to when I first had an innocent conversation with Sam Prose at a retirement party for my father. Sam Prose mentored my brother in his first marathon. He told me that the human body is not meant to run 26 miles. I would agree. But it's amazing what you can do when you're fueled by stubborn will and the fire of God. I think about my worst runs and how I could've easily just packed up and moved on like I had a million times before. For every cool thing I'm fortunate to finish, there's a thousand that I gave up on. But not this one. For six months, I put myself through absolute hell until my body accepted it. Three miles felt like one. Eight miles felt like three. 18 felt like ten.

26 felt like 50.

There's no overstating finishing a marathon. As much as my body hurts, I'd live with it for months to do what we did. I almost don't wanna go to bed because I know I'm going to have that electric pain up my leg as I walk down the hall, but that pain is your body proclaiming "I'm alive!" I think I'm about lose a toenail, but can't reach down to check it out.

Would I recommend marathoning? Absolutely. I feel like I'm 25 again and have a new appreciation for each day. When you're pushed to the limit, you have a slightly new perspective on what surrounds you. It's a solo sport. Sometimes it's completely without reward. Sometimes you feel stupid. You feel like a nincompoop chasing some moronic romantic notion that only exists in Nike commercials. But, in the process, those moments that you feel small and insignificant in God's great kingdom are irreplaceable. Some days you feel small and insignificant. Other days you feel powerful and unstoppable. Either way, you feel humbled.

Maybe I have a affinity to solo sports. It's the same gravitation that you feel when standing on a mountain overlooking the beautiful snowcapped peaks of regions nearby. It's when you're alone and pushing yourself to the brink that you learn the most of yourself. Competitive sports are only possible when there's an opposing force to drive you. Something particularly sweet when that opposing force is yourself.

Contemplating the next event. Rory said during breakfast today that he was considering doing a marathon. I told him to not even lead on lightly because I'll do it again in a second.

Here are the stats. My goal for Kool Aid and I was between 4:48 and 5:00. We finished at 4:58. Our rank at 10K was #4008. Our rank at halfway was #3815. Our time at halfway was 2:27:32. At the 20.1 mile mark, my rank was #3570. My rank at the 24-mile mark was #3442. I finished at #3434. From the 20-mile mark to the end, we passed 166 runners and were passed by only twelve. Probably 90% of those passed we did on that hellish hill at mile 19.

Our first half was at 2:27:32 and our second half was at 2:30:28. We didn't give up pace hardly at all. The perfect tortoise pace. I ran non-stop and Kool Aid did except for one bathroom break. Probably wasn't the smartest thing for me to do given that my body was screaming for a break and I didn't listen to it. But then again, maybe marathoning isn't the smartest thing in the first place.

Thanks to my lovely wife for being patient and supportive. God. My family. Bananas. Sly and Family Stone. Sleep. Ibuprofen. Nike. Vaseline. Gatorade.

What next?


Sunday, December 06, 2009


(dusts off Midnight Marauders over a cup of coffee)

As some of you might know, the other day I decided that I was going to start purging my "friends" list on Facebook simply because I didn't see much sense in never really having more than about 15 friends in real life but having over 200 online. Plus, I'm a tightwad by nature and I feel that having more than 200 friends online is like overspending my attention. For that reason, I made some cuts to get me back at 200. And, honestly, it wasn't really that hard. As I viewed my friend-scape, it appeared to me that I let a few too many in the sidedoor in the early going as I was trying to increase my stock value. I see some of my friends have nearly a thousand friends on Facebook and I can't make any sense of letting that many people see all that throw up about yourself on a daily basis. I feel that when I get above 200, it's like there's a leak somewhere or a crack where my privacy is quickly leaking outward. So, in an attempt to keep it local and make sure my "circle of friends" isn't the size of Asia, I decided to make some cuts. I need a Dream Team of Friends. There's a standard that needs to be upheld. Quality not quantity. I mean, I like to think that I'm a pretty good friend to people online. I like to be insightful. Intriguing. Challenging yet polite, respectful. I'm not lazy. I work hard at what I post. I don't assume greatness as a friend. I work for it. Sometimes I achieve it. Sometimes not. Some of my "friends" are the worst ever.

Quality over quantity. I have to envision and enforce a commitment to excellence.

So, after lunch with my "friend" (in real life too) Denis, I started thinking about about making the cuts. I needed some sort of Guide to Unfriending...some criteria. Because as easy as it is to make someone your friend, firing them is a little dicier. When, how or where do you determine that a friend of yours isn't cutting it anymore? Well, while there's still no science to it, there certainly is an ART TO UNFRIENDING. Here's the lowdown.

I've never been the popular cat. Mostly on my own account. I lean to the road less traveled. I like my quiet time. I like quiet evenings at home with my lovely wife and two dogs. I hate crowds. I stick to a mission that sometimes means I'm out less to please others. I don't like being a jerk, but I don't mind being one in an attempt to achieve something I see as valuable. I believe in goodwill. I believe in helping others. I believe a higher cause. But, friends, well, that's something I've never been too good at. Keeping friends, however, I've had some good luck with. I think I've always had a threshold for friendships. It was about twelve to fifteen. After that, I just really didn't see much point. I wasn't going to extend myself to a level I couldn't maintain. If I called you a friend, I meant it. Some came and went over the years. But it my closest friends, I've had for almost my whole life. Danny...since third grade. Dale...since pre-school. Chris and whole life. There are others. Some come and go. But it's like I went out and gathered as many friends as I could at a young age and just kinda "topped out." You'll notice one thing about me and it's that I don't have a lotta "new friends." Try as a may, they just don't stick like my first friends.

With that being said, it wouldn't make much sense that my online friends would be growing exponentially day-on-day. The payroll got too high. I can't afford these relationships. It's tasking on me in time, attention and ultimately energy.

I devised a method to cutting based on the following criteria in this order. As I cut below the 200-friend level, I can then add as I see fit. Right now, I have no room for anymore friends because I'm sitting precisely at 200. If I see someone that I really want to be friends with, I'll make a cut and I'll start with number one here.

This ain't no peepshow, son. You gotta dance too. And it's probably less the people that don't post as much as it is the people that don't even have a profile picture. Like they got on there one night, decided to join Facebook, you were among the twenty names they first searched for some reason and they haven't logged on since. You're out, kid. I'm not gonna be your one night stand. And, you ain't gonna have everyday access to me if you don't budge a little and give me something to look at too. And, no, just clicking the "like" button every so often does not qualify as "recent activity."

Let's be real, here. It's abuse when you post about everything that happens in your life. I want insight. I want commentary. I want opinion. I want perspective. People that get up on there and post "good morning!" or "good night!" are a waste of my index finger's strength to scroll past you. One day, I'm gonna develop carpal tunnel and it's gonna be because I had three friends who simply couldn't resist posting something everytime they farted or laughed. Just save it. I want complete sentences and thoughts. Get up on there and say, "It's a good morning because I pulled someone out of a burning car and then high-fived a cop" or "after wrestling a bear to the ground and then getting him to join me for a game of Yahtzee, all I gotta say is good night."

Additionally, when you post over five times a day, it's time to get up and leave your computer, go outside and take a walk. Yes, that coming from the author of the Root Down who has devoted months of his life to this thing since starting over four years ago. There's nothing that important in your life that it warrants five posts in one day. That includes the "ha," the "ROFL," the "totally!", the "I still love you!", and the "call me!" Just stop posting. Message them so the rest of us don't have to see it.

If you had a baby, just put in one post, "went to the hospital today after my water broke and had a baby."

I don't need:

"water broke"
"on the way to the hospital"
"waiting in room for doctor"
"I love my husband. he's the best!"
"baby's on it's way."
"it's closer!"
"baby's here!"
"we'll call him 'corbin'"

Not that I don't care about your baby, but, c'mon, I got 200 friends. Spend your comments wisely. One update will do and then put some pictures up later. There's also the folks that update their status after every home run, controversial call or just every quarter, period or inning of a sporting event. I understand your watching it. I don't need the play-by-play. Just post once at the beginning or the end of it. That'll suffice.

To me, it's one of the most aggravating behaviors on Facebook. You'll know it when you see it. Or, at least, I hope you know it when you see it. It's so annoying. I'll give you an example. Someone posts:

"Today's the day!"

Why is today the day? Is it too hard to expand on that by adding a "because" to it? I don't play this game, at all. In fact, I've been known to call people out on it. I ain't no sucka. I don't respond to these types of posts. In fact, I'm hoping no one else does until that one moron gets on there and will, inevitably, post "What's happening today? Tell me!" Happens everytime. I'll give you another example.

..."is sad because someone really close to me hurt me."

Okay, firstly, get over it. Posting about it on Facebook ain't gonna make it any better. Especially if you don't give us any more information. I ain't gonna help you. You're on your own, kid. Secondly, this is behavior that kids in elementary school normally display. The kid who sits in the corner and pouts until people notice and then he's fine for the rest of the day. That's what we're dealing with here. Saw one of my friends post the other day:

..."has the worst friends ever!"

I don't care. Unless you have the nerve to expand on that and let your friends know what they did to you (on Facebook, which is really pretty passive aggressive, don't you think?), I really could care less. Another example:

..."I'm so blessed and I love my life!"

Okay, I understand that. But tell me why. Otherwise, I'm gonna call foul on you. And, just so you know, if it's a status update, it should be "is so blessed and loves his/her life." There's a format here. Then there's this one:


I wish Facebook had an application that would dummysmack cats for trying to post this stuff. Like it would say something like "not valid status update" or "no one needs friends like you" or "no one cares, get a life." I don't need the unabridged version, but the Readers' Digest version, but dude, don't give me headlines. Life is challenging enough that I don't wanna have to play Sherlock with everyone of my "friends" who decides that, instead of working and typing complete thoughts, they're gonna put leading comments in their status updates. This ain't no scavenger hunt, bro.

Look, solely joining a cause on Facebook has yet to achieve anything. I mean, it's a network of people who believe in a certain cause, but I've yet to see it do anything except work as another social bucket. For that reason, I don't join causes. I just do stuff. And encourage others to do the same. I'm annoyed by people who are so passionate about a cause, but it's just ends up being another email in the inbox. I won't join your cause. Tell me you're building a house, I'm in. Tell me you're going to feed the hungry, I'm there. Tell me that you want me to join your cause to "feed the hungry." I need a place and time. Otherwise, save it. In fact, if you don't save it. I'll help you and just unfriend you. When charity becomes a button on Facebook, is it really charity? It's not that I haven't been affected by cancer or experienced the impact of poverty so be careful about throwing the "insensitive" card. It's action I'm looking for. Not social networking.

Given my stance on "join my cause," it goes without saying that I'm annoyed by Mafia Wars and FarmVille. I don't want a flower that I can't put in the garden. I don't want three heads of fake cattle. I don't want a cinammon roll that I can't eat. Don't give me a high-five, a jack-o-latern, a wreath, a teddy bear. I blocked those applications a long time ago and I've even dropped friends because of them. I liken those to forwarded emails. I delete upon receipt. Call me. Inbox me. Come to my house. But the box of chocolates that I can't eat is simply stupid so spare yourself the trouble.

It's Monday. Runday is in t-minus six days. Holla atcha boy.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Click the image above to download and get listening, fool. What awaits you is one of the illest kitchen-sink mix you've ever heard. Specifically sequenced for the 11-minute mile runner at the White Rock Marathon in Dallas, this mix will go uphill with you, downhill with you. When the going gets tough, enter Ice Cube. When you're chilling in the neighborhood just southwest of the Lake, enjoy a chunk of Coltrane and Ellington. As you make your final push for the finish line, Public Enemy's Fear of the Black Planet is played in its entirety--no breaks, no omissions--to help you see your way to glory.

This thing is a beast so if you elect to download it, be prepared. It's 80 songs and close to 5 hours of seamless dopeness. It times in at 4:48:18--just 30 seconds short of an 11-minute mile pace for 26.22 miles.

Even if you ain't running the Rock, it'd be good listening for an afternoon at work.
1 Dynasty "Adventures in the Land of Music"
2 Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band "Cherchez La Femme"
3 KC and the Sunshine Band "I Get Lifted"
4 The Emotions "Blind Alley"
5 Nice and Smooth "No Delayin'"
6 De La Soul "Oodles of O's"
7 Black Moon "Who Got Da Props?"
8 Run DMC "Peter Piper"
9 The Love Unlimited Orchestra "I Wanna Stay"
10 Rufus Thomas "Do the Funky Chicken"
11 The JBs "Monorail"
12 Labi Siffre "I Got the Blues"
13 The BarKays "Holy Ghost"
14 Banbarra "Shack Up"
15 T-Connection "Groove to Get Down"
16 (some really ill piece I found...don't know who or what)
17 JC Davis "A New Day"
18 Hell Razah, Talib Kweli and DOOM! "Project Jazz"
19 Jonathan Toth (with DOOM!) "Ghostwhirl"
20 Jeru the Damaja "Y'Playin' Y'self"
21 De La Soul "Area"
22 De La Soul "Afro Connections at a Hi-5"
23 New Birth "Honey Bee"
24 Wu Tang "Clan in Da Front"
25 Black Ivory "I Keep Asking You Questions"
26 Raekwon "Criminology"
27 The Sweet Inspirations "Why Marry?"
28 Ghostface Killah "Box in Hand"
29 Method Man "M.E.T.H.O.D. Man"
30 James Brown "It's a New Day"
31 Sly and Family Stone "The Underdog"
32 Sly and Family Stone "Stand!"
33 The Tempations "Psychedelic Shack"
34 Badder Than Evil "Hot Wheels"
35 John Coltrane "My Favorite Things"
36 Duke Ellington "Caravan"
37 Charles Mingus "Hog Callin' Blues"
38 John Coltrane "Blue Train"
39 Beastie Boys "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun"
40 Run DMC "Beats to the Rhyme"
41 Gangstarr "Speak Y'Clout"
42 A Tribe Called Quest "Check the Rhime"
43 Public Enemy "Don't Believe the Hype"
44 Last Emperor "Rap Tyranny"
45 Jay-Z "Reservoir Dogs"
46 Murs "24 Hrs with a G"
47 The Winstons "Amen, Brother"
48 Eric B and Rakim "Paid in Full (C'mon, dude, f'real? Of course, the 7-minute mix)"
49 Eric B and Rakim "Lyrics of Fury"
50 Black Sheep "The Choice is Yours"
51 Main Source "Fakin' the Funk"
52 Beastie Boys "So Whatcha Want?"
53 Brand Nubian "Punks Jump Up to Beat Down"
54 Eric B and Rakim "Juice (Know the Ledge)"
55 Rashaan Roland Kirk "Stompin' Grounds"
56 John Coltrane "Giant Steps"
57 NWA "100 Miles and Runnin'"
58 NWA "Express Yourself"
59 Ice Cube "Doin' Dumb Shit"
60 Ice Cube "When Will They Shoot?"
61 Public Enemy "Contract on the Love World Jam"
62 Public Enemy "Brothers Gonna Work It Out"
63 Public Enemy "911 is a Joke"
64 Public Enemy "Incident at 66.6 FM"
65 Public Enemy "Welcome to the Terrordome"
66 Public Enemy "Meet the G That Killed Me"
67 Public Enemy "Pollywanacracka"
68 Public Enemy "Anti-Nigger Machine"
69 Public Enemy "Burn Hollywood Burn"
70 Public Enemy "Power to the People"
71 Public Enemy "Who Stole the Soul"
72 Public Enemy "Fear of a Black Planet"
73 Public Enemy "Revolutionary Generation"
74 Public Enemy "Can't Do Nuttin' for Ya Man"
75 Public Enemy "Reggie Jax"
76 Public Enemy "Leave This Off Your Effin' Charts"
77 Public Enemy "B-Side Wins Again"
78 Public Enemy "War at 33 1/3"
79 Public Enemy "Final Countdown..."
80 Public Enemy "Fight the Power"
That's today's lesson. Keep on rockin' it, kid.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Here at The Root Down, as many of you know, we're a hip hop friendly environ in which discussions or simple declarations are often made about it's greatness or failures. We critique, we praise, we question and we clarify. Because we proclaim to be friendly to hip hop, much in the way that sometimes being a "true friend" or a friend of notable awareness and honesty might require someone to confront a friend in their asinine behavior or otherwise erred perspectives, we too feel like we were granted the license to do the same to hip hop. Maybe only because of our investment in it as consumers, but nonetheless, even if not performers...we all critics, homie.
This is not to be an argument of who's realer or who's the realest. This is not to pin underground against mainstream. East against west. This is just a brainstorm I had when jogging the other night and thinking (as my brain was light on oxygen, admittedly) what were the splits, the events or the eras in hip hop that did more harm than good in the long run? Where did hip hop go wrong and play itself? What created this creative sinkhole that dominates the game right now? We have to be able to trace it back to something right? Man, I love italics.

This ain't in chronological order. In fact, it's in absolutely no logical order at all. Chrono or otherwise. I'm a big fan of hip hop history, though. If I could somehow draw it out on paper, I would. Maybe I will one day. I've had interest in dropping everything and becoming a film maker and doing a huge 20-part series on hip hop from the beginning to the end like Ken Burns. That'll be after I do this marathon. It's true, though. Like in religion or politics. You can look back in the church and it branches, breaks off and creates new denominations as a result of a disagreement, a fundamental argument, how worship is conducted, etc. Hip hop kinda did that as well. There's all these splits, sub-genres, movements, regional sounds and trends, but let's be real, it's all just hip hop. Politics are politics. Beliefs differ, but there's consistent underlying themes that perpetuate it from generation to generation. But for hip hop (and all popular music, jazz, blues, reggae, country, punk, etc) it was in this constant mutative state for about 20 years until it basically mutated to nothing. What are we left with today? I would contend that 90% of the hip hop out there now (as opposed to about 40% about ten years ago) is like the waste product of a pop factory that is simply broken. It's uninspired. It's dry and, unfortunately for its listeners, it's barely waned in popularity. It still remains as the most vital cultural impact of the last 30 years even though it's last ten years has been riddled and marked by a definitively miserable output.

You can debate that last point all you want. You ain't gonna change my mind.
Ah, my very favorite of the ambiguous and sometimes completely undefinable sub-genres to come out of the late 90s. Let's be real, though, there's always been acts that many would attempt to classify as "conscious" hip hop from the very beginning. It's been how hip hop has tried to correct itself by saying there's an alternative to, basically, everything else and that is this weird and peculiar presumption of "consciousness." Identifiable by cats who carry themselves as educated, esteemed and enlightened as if there's a jet stream of consciousness that they coasted in on that's going to settle hip hop's score and bring thought and context to what is otherwise an unconscious state. It was really heightened by the surge of Christian hip hop acts that were reversing many of hip hop's sins of the past with clean, scripture-based prose that essentially washed the blood off of hip hop's hands in the eyes of the popular media. It gave families a safe alternative to the edgier acts on the market. While this rise in Christian hip hop was happening, Common Sense dropped the "Sense" but actually upped his consciousness from his earlier recordings. Rappers started donning sweater vests and collared shirts. They dropped the thuggery for a new costume that was visibly more affluent. Lyrically, they shed their references to all things "street" unless they were talking about the traps of the streetlife and how to avoid them. I mean, let's keep it positive. Kids are listening.
C'mon. Be real now. What this unfortunate fabrication would suggest is that hip hop, up to this point, was not conscious. That 2Pac and Biggie were just thuggery and not capable of speaking on a conscious level. It's like Tipper Gore got her way. Like government-approved hip hop. That's not to say these self-proclaimed "conscious rappers" were not indeed talented and genuine in what they were doing and rapping about, but making the distinction that this was conscious would suggest that everything else was less or not at all. My suggestion would be that all hip hop is in one way or another conscious not just that which is defined as conscious. NWA was pretty conscious. Public Enemy was definitely conscious. So was Mos Def. So was Ice Cube. De La. Geto Boys. Yes, 2Pac. You bet. These small and insignificant splits in the genre are really no splits at all because they all reconnect to the main highway just over the hill. It just gives a fan a piece to grab onto during a transitional period in their life. Whether it was created by a bank of writers, Tipper Gore, All Music, the fans or the artists themselves, such splits in hip hop are futile. They're truly silly. And, in most cases, they're created by those who have the least invested in it. In protest, I always wanted to listen to the most unconscious hip hop...reckless, irresponsible, socially damaging, violent, obscene and altogether wretched hip hop with no regret. I turned out alright.

There's possibly nothing that more perfectly exemplifies the idiocy and ignorance of modern hip hop better than the "chopped and screwed" trend of the early 90s. In short, a DJ from Houston discovered a new and less-innovative remix method in which you slow down the rap recording to approximately 70 BPM and then "chop" up the recording by skipping and cutting the record in single-second increments which effectively made bad records even worse (editorial influence). DJ Screw contended that by slowing it down, it helped a listener ease into a more mellow state and then could more easily soak in the lyrics now being delivered at a punishingly slow and low tone. It was something that not only did I really fail to see the genius in it, I found it straight up comical. It sounded like something was terribly wrong with the record player (again, more editorial influence). Click here to get an idea. The DJ was named DJ Screw and, after making this "discovery," referred to the tapes as "screwed and chopped." Before long, it took massive hold over the southern sound and dudes were "screwing and chopping" up rap recordings from Houston to Memphis. It was said that the best way to enjoy these recordings was to listen to them while drinking "syrup" (also known as "drank" or "sizzurp"). And to take excessiveness and irresponsibility to new levels, DJ Screw, the genre's founder died of a lethal dose of "syrup" which was a potent combination of alcohol and cough syrup. The irony is almost too much to bear. That'd be like Charlton Heston getting fatally shot in some horrible hunting accident.

Now, I'm from Texas and I was selling records in East Texas when "screwed and chopped" (see also "slowed and throwed") was hitting its regional highmark. Nationally, it was still waiting to peak (and it never really did). Every stoplight, every fast food drive-thru, every basketball court, every mall parking was everywhere. How it caught on I'll never know. You ask others from deeper in the state and they'd say, "How could it not?" It has since died down in popularity and is likely to completely phase out in the next couple of years, but let's be real, it'll be back.

So why, you ask, would something so popular be considered amongst the worst developments in hip hop's history (according to The Root Down, of course)?

Firstly, in my humblest opinion, something that takes very little talent to create should have never left a city block, much less half of the nation. These crazes happen all the time. It's like the autotune in popular R&B music. Singers no longer need talent to carry a note. Autotune will do it for you. To call DJ Screw a "deejay" is a little far-stretched. Wouldn't you say? That practically makes me a DJ. I mean, I can put on a record. I can slow it down. I can chop it in Audacity. Hell, in two years, they'll probably have an iPhone app so you can screw and chop anything. By the simplest of means and least effort possible, cats thought, all of the sudden, that DJ's came out of a box like some Alphonso Ribero b-boy kit. It cheapened the game. It stunk up the DJ's claim. DJ's used to be all hip hop had. Rappers were just mouthy fools that would tell people to get off their asses and dance. But the DJs were the force. DJ Screw slowing down records so you can listen to them and enjoy them while drinking cough syrup? Why don't you just go by your birth name, bro. You ain't no DJ.

Sometimes the dumbest things actually stick. And when they do, everyone wants to do it. It's like that party that everyone within a five-mile radius goes to. And once they're there, you have to basically run out of beer or have the cops come in and break it up. That was screwed and chopped. We let too many morons into the game because someone left the back gate open. They came and drank all of our beer. Or sizzurp, if you prefer.

Secondly, I'm a little pissed that Houston's legacy is more screwed and chopped and not Geto Boys. Not Def IV. Rap-a-Lot. I was talking to someone a few weeks ago and they thought that the Geto Boys were from Los Angeles! I hated to react the way I did, but I bounced back, "Bro, Geto Boys are not only from Houston, they are Houston." I guess we all go through this as aging heads though. That argument of who was first. Who was better. The thought that the Geto Boys' lock on Houston has been erased by DJ Screw and Michael Watts is a depressing one. Signed "Sincerely, Crotchety Old Hip Hop Head"

I need to start a Hip Hop Preservation Society. Every art form and musical genre seems to have one.

NO LIMIT RECORDS (1997-1999)

Hip hop was on a pretty good roll going into 1997. 1996 brought us classics like Reasonable Doubt, Ironman, Stakes is High, ATLiens. But as the sun began to set on the "Golden Age," Jiggy was coming in. Collossal rap radio took form on hits like "The Crossroads," "Mo Money, Mo Problems," and Freak Nasty's "Da Dip." 1997 was the year of two labels. Bad Boy Records which brought us Ma$e, Puffy and, of course, Notorious' Life After Death in the same month he died. And No Limit Records which actually had been around since 1993. Master P and his camp were like a freaking record plant. They would record, produce, gloss and release records at a rate that would make the major labels' jaws drop. And they were rolling in it. I remember working in music retail these years and it seemed like anything these cats put out just flew off the shelves. And, lucky for us, they put out tonnage. Unfortunately for hip hop, though, they put out tonnage.

All they needed was a hit to keep the cash flow up and they got it with "Make 'Em Say Uhhh!'" which came out in 1997 sending Master P's Ghetto D soaring. Once that cash started making its way back to the label, there was no stopping them. And if there's any label that perfectly hit on the "strike while the iron's hot" approach, it was No Limit. They weren't interested in longevity. It was strictly an I-gotta-get-mine operation.

This label (an indie, mind you) released an astounding 46 full length records. Master P, the label's founder released a solo record in each of these years along with running the label all while retiring and coming back from retirement. Problem with No Limit, though, was we're not necessarily talking about a Def Jam or Tommy Boy here. These guys weren't really that talented. So, in essence, you had a dominant label with very little talent at all split amongst it's stable of artists putting out more records than any one record store clerk could keep track of. And when the toilet backed up, shit went everywhere. They flooded the market and ruined it for everyone else.

These were formidable years for hip hop. You had the game shifting back to this capitalistic, short-term model where artist development was secondary to the quick buck. The game's veterans were going into other business ventures. And we left the control the Master P's of the world and they quickly took that crappy old mixer and beat machine and converted it to cold hard cash. Do I solely blame Master P for hip hop's demise? No. Absolutely not. Not solely. But for the volume of releases that this dude put out in the marketplace and not really a single classic record among them, it makes me truly ponder on what hip hop would've been like had he not shifted 30 million units of sub-par hip hop into the marketplace in three years. He owned the sound of 1997-1999. That's three years or 10% of hip hop's existence. You don't think that's not enough to change the taste of hip hop heads for years after? I don't know think we've yet recovered from those years. I liken this period to the steroids era of baseball. If you're wanting to put butts in the stadiums, hopping up hitters to crank 480-foot home runs every night is one way to do it. Not sure if the overall contribution to the game is healthy, but you can make some serious cash along the way. Another New Orleans label by the name of Cash Money Records rose to popularity at the same time on the strength of Juvenile's "Back That Azz Up" and, much like the No Limit model, they were quick to react putting out Hot Boys, Big Tymers, BG, another Juvenile record and Lil Wayne's first solo over the next three years. Ain't nobody in the game bigger than Lil Wayne and it's almost 2010. You have 1997 to thank.

*Big Bear neither a No Limit or Cash Money artist--just a notable Pen and Pixel gem.


It always seems to be the cats that are out to save the game that end up doing the most damage. The intentions of the "backpacker," I believe, were always good, but it always backfired and hip hop suffered because of it. The term "backpacker" is said to have a few different origins. Likely, though, it's origin was from graffiti writers who would tote paint, tapes, tips, a bag of weed, and whatever else around town as they'd be tagging different structures or trains. You were a self-reliant warrior going into battlegrounds and train yards to hone your craft. In the mid-to-late 90s, however, the backpack was part of a wardrobe, an accessory that was less functional and more an identifiable element of a "freedom fighter" for hip hop...the backpacker. What they wore or what they were called is really less important, it's what they stood for.

The backpacker, often times a late-adopting caucasian, felt that, firstly, garb and sneakers would give them an edge into the hip hop community and they would "dress the role" firstly and then modify their tastes and musical preferences to fit the mold of a hip hop fan with, of course, an "underground" hip hop lean. Their pants were baggy, usually rocked skate shoes or Adidas shell-toes with the loose laces and they had their backpacks doubled up on both shoulders and always rocked a lid to the side. What they were always carrying around in their backpacks, I'll never know. The backpack became this symbol, almost, of something that was part of their artillery. Like they were always ready for anything. I saw a dude at show, one time, hop out of his car and put on his backpack. Whatta nincompoop. That was like driving the skatepark.

There were two main arguments of the backpacker and they couldn't just help but get into it wherever they went. It was their never-wavering mission.

First, there's the "underground" vs. "mainstream" distinction that they always were preaching on to ensure that everyone knew how to identify all. And, in short, "underground" was the dopest hip hop out and "mainstream" represented the major label machine that was incapable of making good hip hop because it was played out on the radio and supported by BET and MTV. It was a position that was riddled with fallacies because any underground artist that wasn't trying to make it to a major label is either stupid or a liar. The upstreaming of an act from the minors to the majors is really all that independent artists want unless, of course, they can maintain their artistic vision and make dough at the same time. Those labels and/or artists represent the lucky miniority of the independent game. They have no interest in going to the major label. The argument that underground hip hop is inheritantly better because it's undiscovered is laughable. I would contend that underground hip hop has never really been any better than the "mainstream," there's only been more of it. 80% of the game is not on an independent label and out of that 80%, probably only 15% of it is close to meritable musically and artistically. The remaining 20% of the recordings come from the majors and only about 30% of it is close to meritable by the same definition. For the sake of my argument and nothing else, let's assume these numbers to be sound. Out of the 80 records that came from independent labels, 12 of them would represent some of the finest hip hop out that year. Out of the 20 records from the major labels, six of them would hit the same mark of artistic achievement. By the numbers, it would appears that independent hip hop doubled up the major labels, however, it took them 80 albums to do it. They're mainstream nemesis was batting .300--much better than the .150 of the independent labels. But it would appear to the backpacker, that the majority of the good records came from the independent sector. Incorrect, the overwhelming majority of the bad records came from the independent sector...68 to 14 to be exact.

You couldn't convince these kids, though. Their tendency to enter arguments with unrivaled bias was expected. Mos Def was their king. Jermaine Dupri was the enemy. Jay-Z had some respect, but only for his early recordings. Once a dude sold a million records, it took you off the cool list. When Eminem came out, it really rattled the backpacker's argument because here was a cat with legitimate talent, but he was building his success on mega-producer Dr. Dre and super-major Interscope. In response, they hailed white emcees Slug and Eyedea from Rhymesayers camp as their response to Em's successes. We've got talented white emcees too. Slug's actually only part caucasian. His father was part Native American, part African American, but visibly he appears white. White enough to a backpacker. Such arguments are silly, I know, but these come from actual run-ins I've had over the years. Wonder what those same cats are saying now as they're taking a smoke break from dropping frozen french fries into a hot friolator at Sonic when the talk about Mos Def and Talib Kweli who, both individually, got upstreamed to major labels. Jean Grae's been dying to get picked up. Warner Bros blew that chance. She's blowing up the blogs now saying that the independent game just doesn't make ends meet. It's like backpackers almsot want their heroes to suffer, live poor lives as independent artists. It's like some sort of weird martyrdom. So there's the "underground vs. mainstream" battle and then there's the even more dreaded "hip hop vs. rap" argument.

In short, the two names became almost commentary on the quality of the music. Hip hop had the "emcee" and rap had "rappers." Rappers were less introspective. They talked about guns, women, cars. Rappers were incapable of being political or sparking social change. They were just thugs with mics. Emcees, however, were truly more invested in the game. They were lyrically gifted. They possessed an uncanny ability to "battle" or "freestyle." Rappers didn't even write their own material so they'd never be able to "battle." It is by that distinction that would set Eminem apart--an emcee in the mainstream game. A rare breed, indeed. The sounds of rap music would make a backpacker's ears bleed. The harsh sounds of a rapper stinking up the mic, talking about weed, drive-bys, the ghetto. The only exception was that you could get grandfathered in. Ice Cube was safe. Although, his current recordings would be measured on the same level. His first four records were safe, though. The backpackers thinking was anything old could be good. Anything new, had to come from this pocket of independent labels or else it was considered to be below the level of listenability. They had a preference for the Golden Era. Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, all Native Tongues, EPMD, etc. 2Pac wasn't assumed though. He was a little too thug for most backpackers. Eazy E, maybe.

The grand fallacy in this thinking is that, inevitably, it only prides itself on the past and doesn't embrace current artists. It's hung on nostalgia and anything from a certain era is automatic. Anything past a certain era is suspect. I don't mind the notion that anything from, say, 1992 or 1993 was dope because, largely, it was. Things were good back then. But to suggest it's impossible for good hip hop to come out in 2009 or 2010 is a little lame. In my most restrospective moments, I've said things like this. I guess to know a backpacker's thinking is to kinda be one yourself. But I denounce their presumptions. They write the rules and hold everyone to them. There's no fairness in their thinking. They can argue against everything. Like James Brown said, "Your talking loud, but ain't saying nothing." It's argument for argument's sake. The noise that these fools created over about a five to seven year period in their circles, their forums, their threads on their websites just played the whole game out with their fingerpointing, their accusations and their crucifixions. It's because of these dudes that I kinda fell out of love with hip hop. Every show I went to was littered with them. Every independent record store I went to was infested by these chumps. I felt like to like hip hop, I was somehow one in the same with them. They wrote too many rules. They preached this elitist bullshit which was coded with something so cryptic that no one could make sense of it. And they held everyone to it. And, worst of all, they preyed on the weakest of hip hop's fans so their army grew to a size which was unstoppable and it just kids who thought they knew, but in the end had very little clue. Hell, most of them weren't even born when Raising Hell came out. What do you really know, son?

It's like Krush Groove meets the trailer park meets thousands of soda-guzzling carnies meets Hot Topic meets the WWE meets every junior high school's remedial math class meets the Kiss Army meets the Wal-Mart pregnancy test aisle meets the Wal-Mart break room meets the Wal-Mart smoker's lounge meets the tractor pull meets the meth lab meets the Cheetos aisle at Wal-Mart meets the furthest place from a treadmill meets every failed gimmick to sell a hip hop record meets every knuckle-dragging primate who thought he/she knew what hip hop was the first time he/she heard The Slim Shady LP.

The biggest problem is that they sell like crazy.

Not that I'm fair of judging off looks alone, but damn, now I know why they wear facepaint. Don't know I would've picked the Insane Clown Posse to outlast most of the other groups from the early 90s. It's definitely a statement on the brain cell count of their average fan that this same gimmick wouldn't get old after 17 years. That's a freaking lifetime. I'm thinking back to 17 years ago. I was 15 years old. I thought I'd marry my first girlfriend, play in the NBA (even though I hadn't notched one minute on the A-team) and enjoy my offseason in my cabin up near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Well, I'm 32 and none of panned out for me. And I didn't just realize that wasn't going to happen yesterday. I realized that about, uh, 16 years ago. The typical ICP fan (and yes, I intend on generalizing), still lives like they're in high school (or junior high if they're now in college). They're consumption of recreational drugs, video games, caffeine and ICP's music has stunted not only their behavioral development but also their potential as contributing members of society.

Yes, that's a mattress and a garage door. These are your juggalos--the affectionate name given to ICP fans and faithful followers. As much as I hate elitist pricks that make rules and say things like "they suck" or "that ain't hip hop."

They suck and that ain't hip hop.


Back in 1991, MTV "Unplugged" hosted their first ever rap-only "unplugged" performance featuring among others De La Soul, Tribe and Mr. Deodarant Balls--LL Cool J. If you remember the performance, you know what I'm talking about. Featuring a supposed "electric unplugged" performance of "Mama Said Knock You Out" by LL, we all knew it was only a matter of time before live instruments replaced the drum machine or more sample-based hip hop. Samples were expensive. Drum machines sometimes were quite dry and lacked any heart. Live instruments had the ability to bring soul back to the music. To give the music another dimension not yet realized. Plus, it would make dreadlocked morons dance like hippie chicks.

What bringing in live instrumentation into the game, hip hop began to cross over to cats who had always denounced hip hop because it lacked any significant musical accomplishment. It didn't require it's participants to do anything other than rap and, we all know, that takes no talent at all. It also relieved the stigma that rappers and, moreover, the DJs/producers were thieves of previously recorded music. By performing live the breaks instead of sampling them, it gave credibility to the music because, let's be real, if you're performing it live, it's not really stealing. Right?

What really happened with live hip hop is that it opened it up to a larger audience that really had no appreciation for hip hop's core. And it always seemed to be bigger in the Mountain states: Colorado, Washington, Idaho, Montana. One could only guess it's because of the large contingency of jam band fans in the mountains. In Houston, hip hop's best enjoyed in their car, rocking the trunk and absolutely annihilating the eardrums in every car at the intersection. Once you dip into the mountains, it's like hip hop's best enjoyed on bongos and an acoustic guitar.

It's not unusual to find that these peripheral fans of hip hop truly enjoy the live performance, but find very little takeaway from the actual recordings of those performances. As great as that night's performance was, that elation only lasts as long as their buzz. When they wake up in the morning, they take off their hip hop hat and are back to their lives. Ask one of these cats about Kool G. Rap. The Beatnuts. They wouldn't have a clue what you were talking about. Go save a whale, duke.

The whole live hip hop game is played. It's tired. It's not this new revolution that's going to save hip hop. Simply because the excitement is only in the performance. The recordings don't translate. And it's the recordings that will act as hip hop's archive for future generations. The immediacy of live hip hop quickly expires. It's like milk in that way. KMD's Mr. Hood is like raw never spoils. Live hip hop is too gimmicky. It relies on too many conditions to be consumed. And I don't care how good your drummer is, they can't replace Clyde Stubblefield on vinyl so don't go into no "Funky Drummer" because I don't wanna hear it. Give me the original.

Look at the best in the genre: The Roots. These dudes have been doing it for years and there's certainly something to be said for being first. However, every record they release, they sell less and less, but they have no problem selling out shows wherever they go. Less "fans" and concert goers are concerned about their records. They just wanna see them jam live which they've proven reliable for. Here you have one of the most talented crews in the game whose albums are actually getting better, it seems, with every release, but no one would know because no one buys them. They'd be the best selling crew out they had the same ratio of record-buyer to concert-goer as, say, Insane Clown Posse.

Recognize, son.


The Root Down.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Almost 400 miles later, my longest run behind me, I await and finish out my training heading up to Runday Sunday in Dallas, December 13th. Only fitting that I return to the town that raised me and do the "award tour" of Lubbock. It started early on Saturday morning. The goal was to finish it in three hours and 35 minutes. Accomplishable. By doing so, I would have just enough time to shower and then make it to our seats at the Jones for OU versus Tech.

I'd go to 98th Street all the way to 4th Street. Close to entire latitude of the city. I started at 4:55AM by stretching, eating my two bagels, one banana, ibuprofen, water. I had some technical difficulties with my iPod but substituted the 80G in the Nano's place. I made it to my starting point by 6AM and began my run by heading south. It was freezing and I had not planned on such a low for the morning. It was 27 degrees and I had my running shorts and my Lions t-shirt. Nothing else. It was so cold that I got hypothermia on the third mile stretch between Slide and Frankford. I was jogging and trembling at the same time. I couldn't wait for the sun to rise. It was so cold that water was not exiting my body. A problem because my fluids were to replenish me in the places I needed it. It just went straight into my bladder and stayed there. So I ducked into a yard on the way down Frankford to empty my bladder.

Almost got run over on Frankford by a driver that threw his brights on me, failed to yield to me and stayed in my lane and honked at me as he passed by. Yeah, I gave him the one-finger salute as I pressed onward.

Passed our old house on Frankford and continued down toward what is now Marsha Sharp Freeway. It was passable at Chicago which is what I originally planned, but then remembered my dear friend Ty who was killed at the intersection of Chicago and, what was then, Brownfield Highway. Thought better of it and changed my route slightly. Passed Danny's house. Passed Danny's parent's house. My old junior high as I made my way toward my old neighborhood. Passed Agape Methodist where I was a member of Troop 543, the meanest Scout troop in history. The corner of their lot where I first played tee-ball. Past 13th and Vicksburg where Aaron and George were killed when we young. Past another one of my childhood houses right across from my first elementary school...Rush Elementary. Headed down Toledo past Dale's childhood home. Went by my 7th Street home and hugged family at the corner. Proceeded up Salem to my grandparents street where my Gommy handed me an apple the size of a softball. It was the juiciest apple I ever had. I continued to 19th and Quaker where I turned it toward Covenant Lakeside where I'd circle the park. Fatigue was setting in. Family kept making drive-bys as I pressed onward. Good to have them along the way.

My hip was giving me serious problems. And my left hamstring. I continued back across Quaker to head toward my high school. Passed Coronado and headed south on Utica toward 50th Street. Passed Westmont Christian where I went to church after my parents divorced. Continued to Dupree Park where my mother lived nearby just after my parents divorced. Headed over on 58th Street to Memphis. Up Memphis to 66th Street and then around the park where my lovely wife and I once pondered on what was going to happen to our relationship when she moved to Tyler, TX. Her apartment was right there. I stayed in one just up Quaker.

Ended at the EZ Mart on Quaker just south of the loop. It took me three hours and 35 minutes. Not a minute more. Not a minute less. When I arrived back at my mother's place, my lovely wife was frying up my favorite...bacon. With eggs topped with salsa. I ate the eggs, the bacon, two Krispy Kreme chocolate cake donuts, two glasses of chocolate milk, one glass of orange juice and about 30 ounces of Gatorade.

So now, I finish out my training by scaling down my runs. I'll fill in the time with working on my hip and hammie. Maybe a little swimming. Keep my diet in check.

It's been a long run to this point. Don't want to screw up now. Stay healthy. Plenty of vitamin C. Water. Don't get sick. I gotta get Kool Aid back out on the trail. Dude's been ill for the last two weeks or so.

Lovely wife celebrates a birthday on Tuesday. Not telling you which one, but I'll give you this clue: Larry Legend. Fams coming in on Wednesday for Thanksgiving in Amarillo. Fried cajun turkey, sauerkraut and chocolate bourbon pecan pie on the menu amongst other things. Gonna be some purdy good eatin'.

Ya'll rest up and enjoy your week and Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Been a bit, Root Downers...regrettably. Have had a busy couple of weeks. Always do this time of year. Nothing different there. Of course, you put "training for a marathon" into anything and it eats up whatever else you were planning on doing. If you're not running, you're recovering. Like this morning behind a nice mug of coffee listening to LL Cool J's Walking With a Panther recounting yesterday's first 18-miler.

This is it. I got two 36-mile weeks consisting of two 5-milers, one 8-miler and then one long run at 18 miles. That's a big week. I'll do this twice and then we wind down going into the marathon. Even with the marathon on the final week, I'll only run 34 miles that week so this makes the longest distance weeks in the training. I've had some killer runs this week. There was the five on Monday where Kool Aid and I tore through the neighborhood like killers on the loose. We started out at "prowler" and ended at "predator." We were trucking that night. Then, my eight on Tuesday was my historic "Prefontaine on Fire" sprint where I clocked eight miles in eighty minutes. A personal best for that distance. The 18 I was set to do yesterday came at an optimum point in my training. Of course, as luck would have it, Kool Aid's gotta temperature so I was going to have to leg this one on my own. I drew out my route which would take me from essentially center city all the way out to the northwestern edge of town. Preferably at sunrise. There's something great about hitting the path before everyone else. Get to the earth before every moron in hurry tramples it to death. There's just something about it that's intoxicating. At that hour, the city is not only silent, it's paralyzed. Nothing's going. It's just you in God's great landscape splitting the air and breaking the serenity with your soft footsteps and light pants of breath. Here's the path.I woke up feeling great. A little tired, but whaddya expect for a Saturday morning at 4:45. I stretched, lubed up, munched some ibuprofen, a banana, a bagel. I stepped out into the morning air and it was thick with this wondrous fog. I couldn't even see the end of the driveway. It was cold and a wind was hurriedly pushing the fog down the street. Perfect.
Pressed play on the iPod and started out. The pace was good. Breathing was quickly locked into tempo. Hydration was optimum. I carried with me enough food to fuel me out and back. Two bags of jelly beans, two goos and a banana. As I made my way out on 9th all the way to the edge of town, the sun began to slowly rise lighting the landscape around me. The heavy blanket of fog surrounded me. It was so thick at one point that I wouldn't have known I was even going up hill until I saw headlights that appeared to be coming down from the sky in front of me.
It was the greatest setting for a solo run. Just me, a few rabbits, a herd of cattle and a punishing northern wind. When I turned north into the wind, it almost reduced me to a walk. And, just at that moment when I was rocked backwards, the intro to LL Cool J's "Goin' Back to Cali" broke the silence. I took a deep breath, put my head down as the wind drenched my beard with morning dew and tore northward. Thanks, LL.
Geez, you'd think this cat was never a rapper with Google image search. I had to hit up five different pages before I could find a picture of him not in a beautiful suit on the red carpet smiling like a nincompoop. Here we are. Here's the LL I was running with.

You know, LL's pretty played. Dude's from Queens. Don't you root for the Mets if you're from Queens? Everytime I see that dude, he's rocking a Yankee lid. Guess Mets are old school. That was back in 1986 with the World Championship team with Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter. That was a long time ago. Yankees have won five championships since then. LL probably doesn't even watch baseball. He probably just has problems matching his outfit to the orange on the Mets hat.
Why is it that anytime there's a special on Led Zeppelin on television, the Wilson sisters of Heart are flown in as the Zeppelin experts. I swear, I turned on Biography this morning and, in the first five minutes of the Led Zeppelin Biography, there's Ann and Nancy in their gypsy garb talking about Zeppelin in their whispy fascinated tone. Seriously, don't you have a state fair you should be playing at? Go away. I hate Heart with a passion. Chicks were Zeppelin biters. Go listen to "Barracuda" and tell me it ain't a direct bite of "The Immigrant Song."

But I digress.
When I made out to Soncy and Tascosa Road, it was time to turn it back to the city. Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" blasted into my brain as I jogged onward. With the wind now shifting to my left shoulder, I powered forward actually gaining speed as I climbed back into the city. The inclines and declines on this path were remarkable. Easily more challenging than anything I'll see in Dallas. I think the most brutal portion of White Rock is a 1.3% grade for about two and a half miles--18 to 20.5 and then it goes downhill for the rest. I was doing 2.5% grade for a half mile at a time.
As I came into town, I arranged to have my lovely wife follow me for mile 13 to the end at 18. She met up with me in West Hills with dogs in tow, threw the hazards on and crept behind me offering encouragement along the way. As we made way back into our neighborhood, I was approaching 16 miles. Only two more to go. So I took a route that I knew would measure up to two miles and I would end just down the road from the house. I sprinted the last block to make sure I didn't end in a crawl. End strong.
I doubled over at the end. My legs immediately tightened up. It only took about two minutes for the muscles to shrink and shrivel. I stretched as quickly as I could to avoid cramping. Walked back to the house and perched myself on a stool in the kitchen and chomped a sandwich, a glass of milk. Hopped up and it was too late. My muscles already tightened up. I could barely walk. I went into the living room and laid out. The pain lasted for about fifteen minutes. Took a shower. Some ibuprofen. Walked it out. Felt a little better.
My ending time was 3:35. Pretty long for 18 miles. Not yet convinced that my ending time was close to 12 minutes per mile, I decided to go out and drive the entire thing and confirm the distance. Turns out that my distance was 19.4 miles--overshot my goal by 1.4 miles taking my average per mile down to 11:05. Overall, that's a great time for the hills I ran, the wind that I was jogging headfirst into and the hour at which I started.
I ate a burrito from Sharkeys after that, laid down on the couch and immediately passed out. When I awoke, I was hungry again. I stood up from the couch and my right leg almost gave out from under me. My knee, thigh and hamstring were on fire. I sat back down. Now's when you let your body heal. Nothing strenuous. Take it easy. That's the rule on Sundays.
Last night, we had some friends over for dinner...birthday dinner for the wives. I ate a ton of food. I was so hungry. Bruschetta, a NY strip, shrimp, zucchini, spinach ravioli, chocolate cake and ice cream. I had a couple of beers over the evening and by about 10:30, I could barely keep my eyes open. I went to bed on by back, with my legs outstreched and my hands on my belly. At 5:00 this morning, I awoke in the same picture....the pillow still folded behind my head and the blankets over me not even slightly disturbed. I laid in one position for five hours. Something my body never does.
Snapped to my feet at 6:00. Leg feeling better. Had two bowel movements already this morning. Hungry again. These 36-mile weeks have my body going crazy.
Doing it all over again this week. Marathon's under a month away. This morning's a perfect morning for Sly's There's a Riot Goin' On.
Keep up, kiddo.