It’s 3am and I’m reading Mo Meta Blues. No, not the Spike Lee flick — that’s Mo Better Blues — but the memoir of The Roots’ drummer Questlove. Read something interesting already on the first page.
Inside the front sleeve of this beautifully packaged memoir, The Roots is described as “the last hip hop band.” I was like, huh?
Then I flip to page 1 and Questlove explains.
According to QL, rap acts used to be almost exclusively groups. Public Enemy, Run DMC, Beastie Boys. Then later, The Native Tongue Collectives, which was a loosely connected group (like, nWo style) of three rap acts: De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest (my fave!), and the Jungle Brothers.
Then, to quote QL, “everybody thought they were Michael Jordan” and decided to go solo. So now rap is almost exclusively a me-me-me show.
This reminds me of a thought I had the other day playing basketball at Po Hing Fong:
“Everybody thinks they Kobe.”
Hong Kong’s lack of basketball education and relatively primitive basketball culture — sports simply isn’t taken as seriously here as in the US — has resulted in collective low basketball IQ in this city. Nobody here knows how to fucking box out or throw a proper pass (I mean the local Canto cats, white folks and Asian Americans here know how to ball and can be good). The latter is extremely problematic. If I play with older, or not-serious players, they will overpass, often throwing really bad ones that either serve no purpose or are destined to be intercepted. The younger, more serious players? Well, they simply don’t pass.
Like I said, everyone thinks they’re fucking Kobe.
I take pride in knowing my role on the basketball court. I know my limitations and what I can and cannot do. I know how to adapt. When I was playing against black dudes in NYC last year, I played the role of a role player — setting picks, swinging the ball, trying to stay in front of my man, and shoot when I’m open. But in Hong Kong, where most players are inferior, I look to score. I attack. In LA, when I play with Asian Americans, the happy medium between NYC and HK players, I vary my game depending on situation. This is not meant to be a brag. Everyone in America plays like this. There’s an unwritten code on the court — know your role and feed the hot hand/mismatch.
But in Hong Kong? Everyone who’s young or “serious” about the game — by that, I mean they show up head to toe in full NBA gear, another no-no that would get you laughed off the court in the US — have one mode. They chuck. It doesn’t matter if the guy guarding them is an athletic 5’11 guy or a chunky 5’6 guy. They play the same way, take the same shots. This especially annoys me because I’m better than most of these players — again, not a brag. Hong Kong players suck. I will gladly admit to being the worst player on the court in 90% of my hoop time in NYC — but it doesn’t matter. They’re getting their shots up anyway.
Much like the Jordan mentality has ripped apart the hip hop band, the Kobe mentality — which is really the Jordan mentality since Kobe patterned his game after Jordan — has ripped apart the basketball team.
Like Kanye and Jay, Hong Kong young ballers are all about the me-me-me.
Maybe it’s Jordan’s fault.
Maybe he led us to believe it was easy, when it wasn’t.
Maybe he made us think his highlights started at the free throw line, and not at the gym.
Maybe he made us think that every shot he took was a game winner.
That his game was built on flash, and not fire.
Maybe it’s his fault that we don’t see that failure gave him strength, that his pain, was his motivation.
Maybe he led us to believe that basketball was a god given gift, and not something he worked for, every single day of his life.
Maybe he destroyed the game.
Or maybe, all these rap acts and Hong Kong ballers, are just making excuses.