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"Diamonds & Wood" is an ongoing series in which music critic Shea Serrano breaks down the 5 hip-hop tracks you need to hear this week.
The enemy is at the gate. They are ready for war. Their swords are sharpened, their arrows drawn. They crave blood/murder/destruction. They will rape our wives and murder our children and discard our elderly. They will laugh as they do so, but they will not smile. They never smile. They are man-eating archdemons, an army flood of terror that which hath ne'er known mercy.
And ours still don't understand the difference between kickoff and kick return.
The eighth grade football team that I help coach, our first game is in three days. We will play De., a school that traditionally gets trounced by everyone else in our division. Their population is also 90+ percent Latino, same as ours, except our head coach wrote the coding for Madden 13 and theirs knows as much about football as Gucci Mane does about Socrates or building high-end townhouses. When we have superior athletes, it's less a game and more a one-way existential crisis. Last year, our Formula One racecar of a receiver and our F-150 of a running back unraveled their secondary's molecular structure entirely. It was like watching someone curb-stomp newborn chicks. Even when our teams are comparably talented, we still blow them out. All that to say: they'll likely beat us this year. That's how weak this year's team seems to be. I'm saying, Gucci Mane can't miss every nail.
The team, our team, which heretofore will be referred to as Function Undertaking, is not without hope however. Several players have arms and legs that are fully operational. A brief scouting report of our five most important players this season:
The Helicopter: This is our best player. He is a legitimate athlete. He is 6' tall and has legs like a horse. He's also twelve. We had to move him up from the seventh grade team because he'd have destroyed everyone on that level. He will singlehandedly win at least one game for us this season, I'm certain. He plays quarterback*, which means every time we tell him to run a QB Option it will always be followed with, "…but just keep the ball. You understand? NEVER toss it to the running back."
*He'll also play safety on defense, naturally.
The Bully: The Bully is our second best player. He plays defensive end, but really he plays DEFENSIVE END. He has zero fear in his bones and (probably) the bones of a half dozen or so deceased offensive tackles hidden under his bed. He's like one of those armored trucks had an edge up and a behavior problem.
The Underachieving Overachiever: Last year, he was the best player on the seventh grade team. He's a likeable, hyper-polite kid with spiky hair and shoulders that grow broader by the hour. He used to "play" quarterback (he completed all of two passes last season), but now he plays tight end*. I suspect he's intimidated by The Helicopter's presence because it's the first time (probably in his life) that his Herculean work ethic can't overcome an athletic disadvantage. (The Helicopter really is something special. During one passing drill, we rocketed balls at him. They landed in his paws without making a sound. He was like an owl plucking moths from the air.) Still, I trust that he'll figure everything out. And I know that if he doesn't, it won't be for lack of trying, and that's all anyone can ever ask, really.
*He'll also play linebacker, for sure.
The Receiver: He is by no means a replacement for The Athlete, the single most athletically gifted middle school receiver that God has ever crafted, but he'll do. If you throw the ball directly to him, he'll catch it—his hands are sure and strong. If he has to make any sort of adjustment though, man, that's just a ball that ain't getting caught is all that is. Still, he has progressed the most of any of the players (this is his first year). If he shows any sort of resolve in the receiving game, he will become a crucial piece of the offense.
The River: The River is our biggest big guy. He plays center and defensive tackle. He was halfway great last year; the ball would be hiked and he'd crush his way into the backfield, and that was fantastic, but rather than tackle anyone he'd just stop and marvel at his own strength afterwards, and that was infuriating. We're hoping he tackles this year. His last name contains the word "creek" in it, which is how he got the name River. (Ex: John Creekdale—"Creekdale? Nah, you're too big to be a creek. You're new name is Riverdale.") Sometimes these things just get placed in your lap, I mean.
Tuesday. Mark it down. Pray for our souls. We will all perish at the hands of a mislead group of misfits accidenting their way into an unexpected victory (I fully expect the score to be something stupid like 9-4), but we will die a warrior's death. Or we won't. Whatever. It's not that serious, chillbros.
Recap next Friday.
1. Iron Solomon, "Get On My Level"
How are we all supposed to process Iron Solomon, the white New York battle rapper whose image seems to always be playing catch-up to his preternaturally capable flow? I don't know, and I'm not even sure that it matters. Or maybe it's the only thing that matters? Or maybe it matters 70 percent? This is all very complicated. Or it's not. (This could go on for days, yo.)
2. The O'My's, "HoneyDip"
3. Mase, "Adorn"
Included solely so you can say, "Did you hear that Mase freestyle over Miguel's 'Adorn'? What the fuck was that about?"
4. Dee-1, "The Very Best," featuring Mannie Fresh and Yasin Bey
Just ignore the dizzying chorus and skip to Mos Def's part. (It was a slow week, for really real.)
5. Killa Kyleon, "Amsterdam"
Killa Kyleon is one of the most talented, least celebrated rappers in the Southern United States. It's like, I mean, any rapper that uses the "beat feet" phrase should be championed endlessly, is all I’m saying.
Shea Serrano is a writer living in Houston, TX. His work has appeared in the Houston Press, LA Weekly, Village Voice, XXL, The Source, Grantland and more. You can follow him on Twitter here.