“What’s a Lockout” and the Rapping datrillstak5

When your basketball team truly sucks yet you still watch every game, you end up having a lot of discussions only tangentially related to what is happening on the court. Thus, I spent a solid amount of the winter of 2009 provoking my friend Tim by sending him links to interviews with Stephen Jackson, texting him when Stephen Jackson did something exciting awful, and generally inserting Stephen Jackson into his life much more than he desired. If I had really committed to the taunting, I would’ve broken my front two teeth to create a gap, worn a headband and shouted “I Make Love to Pressure!!” every time I beat him at Dominion.

Tim is one of those guys who bludgeon’s you with Larry Brown-esque phrases like “plays the right ways” and “does the little things that help a team win”. In other words, if he cared about college basketball he would be a Duke fan. He’s also a huge hockey fan, and maintains that a team of ten supremely athletic and interchangeable players that substituted hockey line shift style would be successful, yet doesn’t like the Denver Nuggets because of their paucity of defensive effort.

To put it kindly, Stephen Jackson isn’t exactly a Tim guy. He has many notable qualities—loyalty, self-confidence, humor, soul—but doesn’t exactly give 110% every time he steps on the court. The thing that would piss Tim off the most is when Jackson would do his herky-jerky drive through the lane, miss a contested layup, and abandon his transition defense duties to stare incredulously at the baseline referee as if he had just been assaulted. And boy was Stephen Jackson guilty of that, especially once Baron Davis wasn’t around to keep him somewhat in-line. Tim was thrilled when the Warriors sent Jackson to the Bobcats for what amounted to a broken bicycle, but I knew that the Warriors had lost one of the most interesting players in the NBA.

For most of us, the pre-NBA, or more likely pre-college, life of NBA players isn’t really consequential. Sure we know that LeBron is from Akron or D-Rose is from Chicago, and every once in awhile you’ll read one of those “he had to get 70 tickets for family and friends” stories, but it just isn’t that important to us. It makes for good 30-second features, or perhaps even a half time segment, but it just doesn’t really matter to me. Unless you’re Stephen Jackson.

When Ron Artest fatefully ran into the stands at the Palace in Auburn Hills, all of his teammates understandably stood around in disbelief, unable to comprehend what was happening. Except Stephen Jackson, who followed. Despite a 30-game suspension from the league, Jackson has never apologized for his actions, and rarely talked about them. But without anything better to do during the lockout, he returned home to Port Arthur and released a mixtape titled What’s a Lockout. It follows in a long tradition of athletes wanting to be rappers, but diverges from those it followed because it’s not terrible. The standout track, “Where I’m From”, is about the Malice in the Palace. Jackson raps “Okay I know I wasn’t right, last thing I came to do is fight” but follows that up with:

I’m here, and all I know is loyalty, so in the stands I go for my bro, it’s just no more to me
So you can find me, try to never mind me, my heart is in the right place and UGK designed me
I blame the streets I was raised in, days and nights, we earned stripes, where I’m from

Athletes love to talk about loyalty. Upon opting-in to the last year of his contract with the Orlando Magic, Dwight Howard based an entire press conference around the theme of loyalty. LeBron James often talked (and still talks) about his loyalty to Akron and the greater Ohio area. The chorus of “Where I’m From” goes:

Where I’m from it’s all about loyalty
I know there ain’t another nigga trill like me
I know there ain’t another place triller than where I’m from

Stephen Jackson has bounced around a lot in his career. From the CBA, Australia, Venezuela and Dominican Republic to the Nets, Spurs, Hawks, Warriors, Bobcats, Bucks, Warriors (again) and Spurs (again), and despite his obvious talent, Jackson has always overstayed his welcome. He has never been in once place long enough to develop the “loyalty” to a place others so often proclaim. Unless Port Arthur somehow got a team (the Port Arthur Kings?), an NBA city would always be second best anyways. Instead, Jackson’s idea of loyalty has always been directed towards people.

Notably, I have never read a teammate complaining about Stephen Jackson. I’m not saying it’s never happened, I’m just saying I follow his career pretty closely and haven’t read about it. I have read fans, journalists and commentators deride his actions, but never teammates. He’s the man Tim Duncan calls the ultimate teammate.

I started listening to What’s a Lockout with the idea of doing a mock-Pitchfork review, as if it were a “real” album. As I popped it in and started tracking down hundred of hospital tax ID’s (Clark Kent job) I forgot I was listening Stephen Jackson, as his rapping turned into the backdrop to my busy work. But “Where I’m From”, the second to last track on the mixtape, pierced through my data entry-induced coma. As funny as I think the original article idea would have been (opening line: If Ludacris’ staccato rapping mimics Michael Flatley dancing full bore, the Port Arthur, Texas drawl Stak 5 displays on What’s a Lockout reminds one of a Will Ferrell’s sensuous ribbon-dance in Old School), it wouldn’t have been fair to Jackson.

Jackson has earned equal amounts of plaudits and criticism because when he speaks you can almost hear the words funneling from his soul and out his mouth. As Jonathan Abrams wrote in a recent profile, “Jackson’s next ‘no comment’ will be his first”. What’s a Lockout is another chance for Jackson to bare his soul, but absent the context of basketball, arenas, hotels and journalists.

You can’t help but notice the usage of the word “trill” all around Stephen Jackson. It shows up in his lyrics, song names, and his Twitter handle. In a very “Stuff White People Like” moment for me, I went to Urban Dictionary to look up what the hell it meant.

“An adjective used in hip-hop culture to describe someone who is considered to be well respected, coming from a combination of the words “true” and “real”.”

Fitting.

“Where I’m From”
Stak5

You know, I never got a chance to speak my mind on the brawl situation
Okay I know I wasn’t right, last thing I came to do is fight
But that’s my brother man, and on the other hand we teammates, ride or die, you never understand
Not once did I think about the consequence, why should I, to me it’s just nonsense
If you fightin then I’m fightin to, without saying, chuck a beer I’ll chuck a beer at you, I’m not playing
See I’m a man first, death before dishonor, before today I never been inside a court your honor
But I was taught if you’re a real friend of mine, then I’ma ride wit you, up until the dead end sign
One day you’re here, the next day you’re depleted, where’s a real friend when you needed
I’m here, and all I know is loyalty, so in the stands I go for my bro, it’s just no more to me
So you can find me, try to never mind me, my heart is in the right place and UGK designed me
I blame the streets I was raised in, days and nights, we earned stripes, where I’m from

About Kevin Draper

Kevin “Franklin Mieuli” Draper was born and raised in Oakland, California, and loves it more than you can possibly imagine. Follow him on Twitter @kevinmdraper
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