Loyalty can’t mask the truth.

While reading through ML’s recent interview with Kurupt (Shameless self-promotion! I’m playing my part!), I was pleased to see that Young Gotti, much like myself, is a loyal Laker fan, and the purple and gold can do no wrong in his eyes. Spoken like a real fan and not like a bandwagon jumper, this attitude epitomizes the ideal of true dedication to following a sports team. Sure, losing to the Suns in the first round for two straight seasons has been discouraging, but hey, how many teams don’t even make the playoffs? And even when the Lakers didn’t make the playoffs three seasons ago, they were able to turn their lottery draft pick into Andrew Bynum, who could become the next great big man in the NBA, or possibly be used as trade bait to help the Lakers snag a superstar (like Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, or Jermaine O’Neal) to put next to Kobe during this offseason. Success! Kind of!

However, I can’t shield my eyes to the wrongs that the Lakers have done in recent years (and Kobe apparently feels the same way). The draft pick that was used for Brian Cook could’ve landed Leandro Barbosa or Josh Howard, and the draft pick that got Sasha Vujacic could’ve snagged Anderson Varejao or Chris Duhon. Caron Butler, who just made his first All-Star appearance this past season in Washington, was traded for Kwame Brown, who still has yet to get his shit together. I won’t even go deep into detail about the Shaq trade, because Shaq made it quite clear that he didn’t want to play for the Lakers anymore, but still… they traded Shaq. You do NOT trade Shaq.

I realize that my loyalty to the Lakers is a lot like my loyalty to a lot of the rappers I praise. I care too much about my Lakers (see how I said “my”?) to abandon ship when times get rough. Likewise, when a rapper that I faithfully support drops a dud of an album, I’m not throwing away his other CDs and boycotting his career from there on out.

However, unlike Kurupt, I can’t let my loyalty sway my opinions — the/my Lakers have made some horrible personnel decisions in recent memory, just as some of my favorite rappers have released some horrible albums in their time. The list that follows is some of those albums that I acknowledge as being godawful, not to disrespect the artist that produced it, but rather, to praise the overall quality of their careers despite these respective shortcomings.

Nas – Nastradamus

How do you market an album that you put together a mere 7 months after producing an album that was pretty stellar in its own right? The best answer would be, well, you wait longer than 7 months. Nas went against the grain, and the end result was Nastradamus — not a good look. The lead single was an EPMD rip-off with a video that was cross-promoted with 3-D glasses. (Awesome!) And then there was “You Owe Me,” the only proof the world ever needed that Nas was too smart (or perhaps, not smart enough?) to make a song for the clubs. “Owe me back like 40 acres to blacks”? I bet there were people dancing to that song, reciting the lyrics, and not knowing what that line even meant. Imagine if this album never came out, or at least wasn’t so aggressively rushed, how much less firepower Jay-Z would’ve had to throw at Nas on “Takeover” — it definitely could’ve altered that “1-hot-album-every-10-year average” (if that average is even accurate to begin with).

Method Man – Tical 0: The Prequel

You see that facial expression that the baby is making on the cover of this album? I think that was his reaction after listening to Tical 0. A Wu-Tang member album with only one RZA production, executive produced by Puff Daddy — someone actually thought this would be a good idea? (And it doesn’t sound like Meth was that someone.) Even the promising Meth-Redman-Snoop Dogg collaboration was fucked up somehow. The dated production and awkward guest spots led to this album’s poor reception by fans and critics alike (though the two are sort of interchangeable nowadays), which in turn led to Meth bringing it much harder on last year’s 4:21… The Day After. If anything, Tical 0‘s saving grace was the killer Ghostface-collabo “The Afterparty” — think we’re not Ghostface fans here at ML? Read the site name. And ask the clip, yo.

Redman – Malpractice

A Redman album is always noted for having skits that are actually worth more than a press of the “Skip” button, so when Redman’s skit game is not intact, there’s likely trouble ahead. The whole recurring theme with the British dude telling me I’m gonna die on his roller coaster? Sorry, but I just couldn’t get into that, though I started to feel my life flashing before my eyes after listening to “Dat Bitch” featuring Missy Elliott. It wasn’t even that Redman’s lyrics were off-point, as he ripped it on the opener “Diggy Doc,” but the album was littered with unoriginal hooks that made it difficult to hold one’s attention throughout an entire song. Much like often-times-partner Method Man, his ability to still drop a solid album after all these years with this year’s Red Gone Wild shows that Redman was, and still is, capable of so much more than what Malpractice had to offer.

Mobb Deep – Infamy

To interject another basketball metaphor into this post, Prodigy’s performance on Infamy was equivalent to Dirk Nowitzki’s showing in Game 6 of Dallas’ 1st-round series against Golden State. Instead of taking it strong to the hoop, Dirk spent the whole game throwing up jumpers that consistently missed; likewise, P spent all of Infamy throwing weak subliminals at Jay-Z (“rocks at the throne,” if you may) rather than going strong at Jay and defending his manhood in the wake of the whole Summer Jam Screen shenanigans. The end result of both underwhelming performances was major losses taken. Prodigy had always been the face of Mobb Deep — “There’s a war going on outside…” “I put my life time in between the paper’s line…” How many Havoc quotables can you recall off top? Yet, on Infamy, P just couldn’t muster the effort — even on the album cover, he’s playing second fiddle to Hav. After this, P came back somewhat stronger on the underrated Amerikaz Nightmare, only to resort back to “Sleepwalker P” mode on Blood Money, and then show some more promise on this year’s mixtape-better-than-most-albums Return Of The Mac. Because of the possibility of this pattern repeating itself, I’m not keeping much hope up for H.N.I.C. 2; maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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