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Top 25 Songs (feat. T-Pain)

As you may (or may not) have noticed, I haven’t done a ton of writing on this website this year. Between my 2015 Baseball Preview and coverage of Vanderbilt baseball, I’ve had plenty to keep me busy, but I wanted to bring back an old favorite this summer.

In my seven years of blogging, I’ve pretty much always stuck to sports. That changed two years ago when I ranked my Top 20 Kanye West songs and followed it up with my Top 20 Usher songs last summer.

They’ve been fun to write, got good conversations going, and more than anything, I’ve enjoyed thinking a lot about my favorite songs of the past decade.

Each of the three artists I’ve ranked so far have been important to me. Kanye West is the greatest artist of this generation, Usher was the first artist I ever saw live in concert, and T-Pain made more iconic anthems than anyone during my early years of listening to pop music (2007-08).

There’s a great article in the New York times that notes how 14 is a formative age for musical tastes. T-Pain was dominating the Billboard when I was that age, and his songs are among my favorite. The number one song on this list is more or less my favorite song ever.

One of the reasons T-Pain was able to dominate the Billboard in the mid-to-late-200s was because he would admittedly work with anyone. Yes, he got to work with great artists such as Kanye West, R. Kelly, and Lil Wayne, but he also helped create plenty of one-hit wonders by singing iconic hooks for no-name artists like Maino, 2 Pistols, and Baby Bash.

We even got such gems as T-Pain collaborating with Adult Swim and Cartoon Network to create hilarious animated shorts like “Auburn Sucks” and a 90-minute movie entitled “Freaknik: The Musical,” and used his (in)famous Auto-Tune on President Obama.

I was lucky enough to see T-Pain live at Vanderbilt’s Rites of Spring this year, and it was pretty much the greatest moment of my life. He sang all his best songs for well over an hour and even free-styled over Royals by Lorde. I cried a little.

Anyway, I digress. This is a list of my favorite songs by one of my favorite artists ever. I don’t expect you to agree with all the rankings (although I won’t argue about the top four songs), but I hope this starts a conversation about a top-hat wearing, (formerly) dreadlocked, Auto-Tuned rapper (ternt sanga) who is somehow only 29.

25. I’m Sprung

T-Pain (2005)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 8

We’ll kick off this list with T-Pain’s first top-10 Billboard song. Despite bringing Auto-Tune into the mainstream, this song isn’t very heavy on Auto-Tune, which is a rare find on this list. T-Pain’s debut album was titled “Rappa Ternt Sanga,” and he really shows off his voice in this song. He sang the song complete sans auto-tune for Larry King late last year, and it turns out he’s actually a really good singer without Auto-Tune. He showed off his voice for NPR a month before that as well. This song falls lower on my list because it’s somewhat repetitive and a little slow for me, but it’s still a classic.

Best T-Pain Part:

“She got me doin’ the dishes
Anything she want for some kisses
I’m cookin’ for her when she gets hungry
All she doin’ is actin’ like she want me”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Doo doo doo doo-doo doo doo doo doo-doo doo doo-doo doo doo

24. Hey Baby

Pitbull (feat. T-Pain) (2010)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 7

This was a last minute call for me over Go Hard by DJ Khaled with Kanye’s great “George Bush hates black people” reference. I really hesitated putting a Pitbull song on this list, but this hook is too infectious for me to ignore. T-Pain was so good that he helped give Pitbull his third ever top-10 single. Top-10 was old hat for T-Pain at this point, though, since he had already been a part of 13 other songs to chart that high. The duo would later collaborate with Sean Paul to create Shake Señora, which topped out at 69 on the Billboard Hot 100. I feel like that’s a really Pitbull thing to do.

Best T-Pain Part:

“Hey, baby girl, whatcha doin’ tonight?
I wanna see what you got in store
Givin’ it your all when you’re dancin’ on me
I wanna see if you give me some more”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

None – it’s Pitbull

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Ah-ah-ah!

23. Shawty Get Loose

Lil Mama (feat. Chris Brown and T-Pain) (2008)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 10

Lil Mama is best known for her (banger of a) song Lip Gloss, but T-Pain saved her from being a one-hit-wonder, elevating her to a two-hit-wonder with her second (and likely final) top-10 Billboard song. T-Pain collaborates with Chris Brown, who will appear a few more times on this list, and is able to keep up with her high-speed, high-energy beat with a rare 16 bars of rap with impressive speed. This is one of the few times T-Pain is featured on a song but doesn’t sing the hook, but it’s just fun, infectious, and brings me way back to 2008.

Best T-Pain Part:

“What it do, Teddy to the Piz-ain
You already know, tell ’em I’m the miz-ayne
Shawty, yee ain’t messin wit a lizz-ame
Imma have you loose on the floor, you gon’ be steppin wit a cizz-ane”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“The way we get loose, we move our shoulders
Forward, heads back
Get it in Control like Janet Jack”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Nappy Boy!!!

22. Drankin’ Patna

T-Pain (2014)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: N/A

This song hasn’t charted well because it’s not on an album yet and hasn’t been marketed well as a single. I hadn’t even heard of it before I went back through T-Pain’s discography and stumbled upon it, but it’s great. Believe it or not, T-Pain said it’s his favorite song right now, adding that “Drankin’ Patna’s one of them songs that you go around the country and just look for people to drink with, and I think I’ve found a few. But nobody can beat my wife. That’s not even a question.” The song is very solid, but I’m not too surprised he picked it as his favorite considering when Snoop Dogg asked him what his favorite drink is, he took a long pause and said, “I’m alcoholic, man, that’s a very tough question.”

Best T-Pain Part:

“Oh I think I need her to drink a drink with me
I found the girl of my dreams and I got you
I done found me a drinking partner
Everybody want her
She be sipping that Corona
And we ain’t turnin’ up in the club with out her
I done found me a drankin’ patna”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Ohh-hey!

21. I’m Dancing

T-Pain (feat. Flo Rida) (2011)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: N/A

I remember waiting years for T-Pain’s fourth album to come out, and RevolveR took seemingly forever because it was delayed over a year. I’m Dancing was supposed to be on the album after it was leaked to the Internet with Dance With Me, but neither song ended up making the final cut nor even got released as a single like Rap Song, Take Your Shirt Off, Reverse Cowgirl, and Booty Wurk eventually were. It doesn’t even exist on iTunes, although you can find it on Spotify. Still, this is one of those songs that I get instantly excited for as soon as it comes on. It checks off most of the boxes of a great T-Pain song: a catchy hook, high energy, a couple “shawties,” and a strong guest appearance by a big name.

Best T-Pain Part:

“Do you wanna party?
Do you wanna go home?
Lets get this party started
We can do it all night long
And I, I’m dancing
And I, I’m dancing
Lets get this party started”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Yeah I got a grand I’m the man
I don’t take it out the rubber band
Girl it’s the courtesy of T-Pain”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Hey hey … hey!

20. Good Life

Kanye West (feat. T-Pain) (2007)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 7

From my #20 to #14 songs, we’ve got seven great songs from the years 2007 and 2008 on which T-Pain is featured. They’re all really closely bunched together, and I could easily be convinced that they belong a couple spots differently than I have them ranked right now. Good Life is obviously a great song because it’s by Kanye (and off one of his best albums), but it falls at the bottom of this group because I didn’t have the same connection to the song as I did to the next six songs when it originally came out. My list, my rules.

Best T-Pain Part:

“The good life, better than the life I lived
When I thought that I was gonna go crazy
And now my grandmama
Ain’t the only girl callin’ me ‘baby'”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Have you ever popped champagne on a plane, while gettin’ some brain
Whipped it out, she said, ‘I never seen Snakes on a Plane'”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Hey… heyy… oooh!

19. She Got It

2 Pistols (feat. T-Pain and Tay Dizm) (2008)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 24

Not only has T-Pain dramatically changed my life by making some of the best music known to man, he also made 2 Pistols boatloads of money by singing the hook to She Got it. Sure, he largely ends up just saying “She got it” (66 times to be exact, and yes, I counted them all), but as always, T-Pain manages to make the hook sound great. I’ll admit to owning two other 2 Pistols songs (You Know Me and That’s My Word), but I can assure you that none of his other music is good, especially when he’s not featuring T-Pain, Ray J, or Trey Songz. Also did you know that 2 Pistols came out with his second album just last year? Good for him.

Best T-Pain Part:

“I know she got it cause she lookin’ at me like she want it
She drop it low, make me wanna throw some D’s on it
Whatever it is you can’t stop it
Cause she get low, when she on that pole, and that lets me know”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Excuse moi, let me talk to you for a second
Lil mama so fine she got the whole squad sweatin’
Damn, how you fit all that in them jeans?
Was the question that I asked followed by lemme Buy U a Drank”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Yeah-eah… Yeah-eah-eah… Hey!

18. One More Drink

Ludacris (feat. T-Pain) (2008)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 24

This is irrationally one of my favorite Ludacris songs (up there with Get Back, Runaway Love, Pimpin’ All Over the World, and Money Maker), and it has been for a long time. I even did a project my senior year of high school where I made a commercial for Coca-Cola using this song (I’ll sell the rights to it for cheap, and I think the Atlanta connection with Luda is a surefire win). I was very upset when he didn’t sing it at Commodore Quake last fall, and I can’t remember if T-Pain sang it at Rites this year, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t sing it. It’s a real shame because this song has a great message that Luda gives at the end: “You hear what I’m sayin’? People too picky these days, dammit. Too tall, too short, too fat, too skinny. Have a couple of drinks and quit discriminatin’.” The music video is hilarious too.

Best T-Pain Part:

“If I take one more drink, I’m gon’ end up fuckin’ you
Is that what you wanna do, shawty?”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Surrendered to the woman end up bringin me home
Cause she started lookin’ better every shot of Patron, yup!
I jumped up with a devilish grin
Cause tonight, damn right I might do it again”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Tooo-oooooh-oooh-oooh-ooooooh

17. Shawty

Plies (feat. T-Pain) (2007)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 9

How can you not love a song featuring T-Pain that is called “Shawty?” I don’t think there could be a more classic T-Pain song with the sheer amount of Auto-Tune and “shawties.” People like to make fun of Lil Jon for only saying “okay,” “yeah,” and “what?” in his songs, but T-Pain has his own version of the only three words he uses. That’s “shawty” (pronounced “shaw-tay”), “woah” (pronounced “woah-ooh”), and “yeah” (pronounced “yea-yea-yeah”). Look out for them in all his songs. For some reason, I just love the part right after the hook when Pain just sings “woah” over and over for 24 seconds before sprinkling in a couple “shawties.”

Best T-Pain Part:

“Now, even though I’m not your man, you’re not my girl imma call you my shawty
Cause I can’t stand to see you treated bad, I beat his ass for my shawty
And we ain’t did nothin’ that we ain’t supposed to do cause you my shawty
Baby girl you know I be home, keep me on the ringtone
Shawty sang it to me girl!”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“I exposed her to real and now she hate lame
Remember she used to run from me, now she like pain
She call me sometimes just to ask is it her thang
Ever since I ran up in shawty, she ain’t been the same”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

“Woah oh-oh woah woah woah oh-oh woah woah woah oh-oh woah
Shawty
Woah oh-oh woah woah woah woah woah woah woah oh-oh woah
Shawty”

16. I’m a Flirt

R. Kelly (feat. T.I. and T-Pain) (2007)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 12

I’m not going to pretend like T-Pain alone made this songs how great it is because he only sings one verse (and doesn’t even sing the hook), but he just adds the icing on top of the cake. The only thing holding this song on my list is its general lack of T-Pain; he sings less than a minute of the five-plus minute song. On the other hand, it would have had a totally different feel with him singing the hook instead of R. Kelly. There’s another version of this song out there with Bow Wow singing instead of T.I. and T-Pain, but I can’t imagine what madman would prefer that version.

Best T-Pain Part:

“I be like como se llama, lil mama me llamo Pain
What is your name?
I’m feeling your vibe and I’m hoping you feel the same
Imma wink my eye and let you know I got the game
When I pass by I know exactly what you say
He’s so fly, yes he’s so cool”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“She looking at you, and I walk by
You turn your head, she wink her eye
I can’t help it if she checkin’ for a platinum type of guy
She be calling my daddy, and I be calling her mommy
She be calling you Kelly when your name is Tommy”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

When I uh, when I uh, when I uh, when I…

15. The Boss

Rick Ross (feat. T-Pain) (2008)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 17

The Boss is the quintessential Rick Ross song in my book, and T-Pain absolutely delivers on the hook and his short interlude. T-Pain also happens to continue the trend of repeating the name of the song a ton, just like She Got It and Shawty. This time he says “boss” 24 times in a 10 second span. Just great stuff. Man I love T-Pain. You also get to enjoy a good deal of shirtless Rick Ross and seeing just how big of a boss he is in the music video that was shot well before Ricky Rozay became skinny.

Best T-Pain Part:

“And shawty straight diggin’ me, and I ain’t even rich
I know you n****s on the sideline like, “Ain’t that a bitch?”
I’m on my job and I ain’t gettin’ off
Cause it’s just another day in the life of the goddamn boss”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“I don’t smoke twenties, eight hundred for the izzerds
I’m the biggest boss that you seen thus far
You can tell by the strongs that’s standin’ by the car”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

The boss, boss-boss the boss
Boss-boss the boss, boss-boss the boss
The boss, boss-boss the boss
Boss-boss the boss, boss-boob the boss

14. Cyclone

Baby Bash (feat. T-Pain) (2007)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 7

This is another song that people just get hype for as soon as it the song starts. Everybody recognizes it, and Lil Jon did a great job incorporating synths. It’s pretty amazing considering how great this song is that Baby Bash has done quite literally nothing since this song came out. But did you know that Baby Bash came out with five whole albums before Cyclone came out? Only two of those even cracked the Billboard Top 200. Just think about that. Him making Cyclone is like a blind squirrel finding a nut, except it’s more like a tone deaf squirrel writing a hit song (but only because he was working with T-Pain). Even though he doesn’t sing to the hook to the song, T-Pain puts the magic touch on this song by making car engine/cat noises at the end.

Best T-Pain Part:

“Shawty got looks (and)
Shawty got class
Shawty got hips (and)
Shawty got ass”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“She moves her body like a cyclone
And she makes me wanna do it all night long
Going hard, when they turn the spotlights on
Because she moves her body like a cyclone”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Rear-rear-rear-rea-rear-rea-rear-rear-rear
Rear-rear-rear-rea-rear-rea-rear-rear-rear
Rear-rear-rear-rea-rear-rea-rear-rear-rear
Rear-rear-rear-rea-rear-rea-rear-rear-rear-ruh
Oww!

13. Up Down

T-Pain (feat. B.o.B) (2013)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 62

Despite working on his new album Stoicville: The Phoenix, T-Pain has barely come out with any songs since RevolveR came on in late 2011. Up Down has been the highlight of the small bunch; Drankin’ Patna and Make That Shit Work are his only songs along with some featured parts on random artists like Sergey Lazarev, DJ Kay Slay, and Wisin & Yandel. Did I make up those names? Maybe. Anyway, the beat of Up Down is infectious, and B.o.B does a great job on the third verse. Just a very good song overall.

Best T-Pain Part:

“Go do a show then
Bring some more in
Pockets bigger than a Samoan
I’m at the stage every time shorty go in”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Let them bands go, let them bands go
Watch a n***a throw a grand or so on that camel toe
And be like ‘Damn boy, why you cuffing that ho?’
The whole team smashed her and you ain’t even know”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Ahh… ahh… ahh!

12. Turn All The Lights On

T-Pain (feat. Ne-Yo) (2011)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 113

I honestly have no idea how this song didn’t chart well. This is yet another song that gets me instantly hyped and is one of the first times T-Pain really experiments with EDM. The hook just sounds like the anthem to somebody’s Friday at 5 p.m. This is easily T-Pain’s best song off RevolveR; some people prefer 5 O’Clock or Drowning Again, but those are way too sad and slow for my taste. All the best T-Pain songs are about going to the club, drinking, girls, and having a good time. That’s a pretty common theme through all his songs really.

Best T-Pain Part:

“Take off your shoes (shoes shoes)
Ain’t nobody gon’ see nothin’
Bring out the booze (booze booze)
Baby girl stop frontin’
Ain’t nothin’ to lose (lose lose)
And I ain’t gotta work no more
Fuck that place, fuck my boss
Imma buy the bar, don’t care what it costs”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Shawty is a perfect ten
This angelic body made for sin
I love the way you get it in
Come over here and shake it for a gentleman”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-Ah-Ahhh!!!

11. All I Do Is Win

DJ Khaled (feat. T-Pain, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, and Rick Ross) (2011)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 24

Nobody pumps out songs with A-List rappers quite like DJ Khaled. He’s due for his eighth album in ten years in a few months and already has 112 songs released during that span. I may or may not own 37 of them. Although I’m So Hood and I’m On One charted better, All I Do Is Win is undoubtedly his most famous song for no other reason than every single sports stadium in America (and likely abroad as well) owns this song and plays it after they win a game. Just like after they win a championship, they will play We Are The Champions by Queen. Not but a minute after the US Women’s Soccer Team defeated Japan (wooooo!!!!), the sports bar I was at started playing the song. But I don’t mind because it’s great, and T-Pain kills the hook.

Best T-Pain Part:

“All I do is win win win no matter what
Got money on my mind I can’t never get enough
And every time I step up in the building
Everybody hands go up
And they stay there, and they stay there
And they stay there, up down up down up down”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Time and time again while I’m sipping on this gin
Al Davis said it best, ‘Just win baby, win!'”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Gahhh!!!

10. Got Money

Lil Wayne (feat. T-Pain) (2008)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 10

Lollipop will always be Lil Wayne’s best song (and was atop the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks), but Got Money is right there with it. T-Pain gets Lil Wayne to use Auto-Tune for pretty much the first time of his career, and the song is a jammer. The hook is unforgettable, and it brings me straight back to middle school dances. Those were the best times.

Best T-Pain Part:

“If you got money
And you know it
Take it out your pocket and show it, then throw it like
This-a-way, that-a-way, this-a-way, that-a-way”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Okay we go one for the money
Two for the show
Now clap your hands if you got a bank roll
Like some clap on lights in this bitch
Imma be clappin’ all night in this bitch”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Yeah-eah… ooh-ooh… ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh

9. I’m N Luv (Wit a Stripper)

T-Pain (feat. Mike Jones) (2005)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 5

Although it falls at the back of my top 10, this song is potentially the most classic one by T-Pain, his top charting song for the first album and three years of his musical career. For one thing, he finally answers the age old question of a nice way to describe a girl’s brown eyes (butter pecan brown). According to the song’s Wikipedia page, he produced the song using GarageBand in about two hours. I find that very hard to believe but worth sharing. And if that’s true, that should be the commercial for GarageBand right there: throw together some Auto-Tune, synths, and sexually-charged lyrics and get a top-10 Billboard song in two hours!

Best T-Pain Part:

“Droppin’ low
She comin’ down from the ceiling to the floor
Yeah she know what she doin’ (yeah yeah yeah)
She doin’ that right thang (yeah yeah yeah yeah)
I need to get her over to my crib and do that night thang
Cause I’m in love with a stripper”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“But I can’t even lie, the girls are here so fly
She slidin’ up and down that pole got me mesmerized
Mike Jones don’t ever trick, but goddamn she thick
I can’t lie, I must admit”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Yeah-yeah-yeah-eah-yeah

8. I’m On A Boat

Lonely Island (feat. T-Pain) (2010)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 56

At number 8, I love absolutely everything about this song, which should tell you how great T-Pain is/how much I love T-Pain. As with most Lonely Island videos (shouts out to I Just Had Sex and Jack Sparrow), the choreography is incredible with so many little Easter Eggs around the video. As for T-Pain’s part, his constant background singing is perfect for the absurd lyrics, and he hits on all three of his key words (woah, yeah, and shawty) in the last 14 seconds of the song in the best way possible. The song is parodying many rap cliches and was actually nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the Grammy’s, an honor T-Pain rarely earned (unfortunately).

Best T-Pain Part:

“Never thought I’d see the day
When a big boat coming my way
Believe me when I say, I fucked a mermaid”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Hey ma, if you could see me now
Arms spread wide on the starboard bow
Gonna fly this boat to the moon somehow
Like Kevin Garnett, anything is possible”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Yeahhhhh yeahh-yeahhh yeahh-yeahh.. woahhh-ooooh sh-sh-shaw sh-sh-shaw sh-shaw-shaw sh-shaw-tay shaw-tay yeahh-yeah-yeahhh

7. Freeze

T-Pain (feat. Chris Brown) (2008)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 38

Easily the best song on Thr33 Ringz (apologies to Can’t Believe It), Freeze is a hard song to dislike. The song was originally supposed to be featuring Omarion, but it was eventually changed to Chris Brown. That’s a good thing because as it turns out, Chris Brown and T-Pain working together seems to work well. They’ve collaborated on six songs, netting four songs that cracked this list (including three in the top ten) along with Look At Her Go and (the admittedly catchy) Algo Me Gusta de Ti. I’m pretty disappointed this song never charted well because I love it, and more people need to.

Best T-Pain Part:

“You know what I do if you can do it too
Then that’s just somethin’ that makes me more attracted to you
And I, and I wanna see you break it down, for me
Yes, we in this private party girl I like your body
But can you tic, tic, tic, tic, tic, tic, pop, lock, and drop it?”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Girl lets get it poppin’ (crackin’) tell me how you feel
Lets get up on this floor and do this thing for real
Cause we you and me can really break it down, together”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Woahh-ooh ah-ahhhh-ahhhh-ahhh woahh

6. Best Love Song

T-Pain (feat. Chris Brown) (2011)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 33

I’m not sure I like Chris Brown and T-Pain trying to harmonize (or rather, I know I don’t like it), but that doesn’t stop Best Love Song from being one of T-Pain’s best. When a bunch of singles leaked off of RevolveR, this was the only one that really charted well and ended up being the only leaked single to make it onto the album. The up-tempo beat and nice lyrics work together well, and the song is hard not to like. If T-Pain and Chris Brown collaborated on an album like Watch The Thrones or Face Off, I wouldn’t complain at all.

Best T-Pain Part:

“Turn up the bass, turn up the treble
I’m ’bout to take it to a whole other level
DJ turn up what you’re playing
I want the whole club to hear what I’m saying”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“You know it’s right, just do the wave
Girl just move your body like a snake
And if you wanna get with me
Put your hands in the air, show me that energy”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Hey hey hey hey-hey-hey hey hey hey heyyy hey hey hey-hey-hey hey hey hey

5. All the Above

Maino (feat. T-Pain) (2009)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 39

Give me synths, drums, and violins in the background of a song, and I’m all about it. Add in a T-Pain hook, and it’s an all-timer. I’m honestly shocked that this song didn’t chart well considering how widespread this song is. It’s been used by so many (college) sports teams, and nearly everyone knows the hook. That’s probably because the hook is simple, catchy, and includes “all the above” 28 times throughout the song. But still. I find it amazing how many people (especially girls) know this song, and pretty much everyone loves it. Even more amazing because Maino is the biggest one-hit wonder T-Pain has ever made a hit song with; dude only has two other songs that charted in the Billboard Top 200 (Hi Hater at 108 and Let It Fly at 106).

Best T-Pain Part:

“Tell me what do you see, when you’re looking at me?
On a mission to be, what I’m destined to be
I done been through the pain and the sorrow
The struggle it’s nothing but love
I’m a soldier a rider a ghetto survivor and all the above”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“The new Benz is all white, call it John McCain”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Woahhhooowoaahhhhwoahh

4. Bartender

T-Pain (feat. Akon) (2007)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 5

Now we enter the pantheon of T-Pain songs: four songs from 2007 that can all make a case to be T-Pain’s best single. Bartender is a little slower than the other three atop the list which bumps it down a bit, but it’s every bit as good as the rest of the group. Like any great T-Pain song, this one is about drinks and has a killer verse by a featured artist. Also like any great (T-Pain) song, people immediately lose their mind when it comes on because the beginning is instantly recognizable. Number four is no insult, it’s just a testament to how great T-Pain was, especially in 2007.

Best T-Pain Part:

“Broke up with my girl last night so I went to the club
Put on a fresh white suit and the Mini Coop’ sittin’ on dubs
I’m just lookin’ for somebody to talk to and show me some love
If you know what I mean… uh huh”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Got a passenger side that’s empty wantin’ it to be yo’ spot
Put you on my Billboard we can act like the charts I can end up on top”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Okayy-ayy-ayyy

3. Kiss Kiss

Chris Brown (feat. T-Pain) (2007)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 1

I was really tempted to make this the number two song, but this song gets a very respectable bronze medal. By far T-Pain’s best work with Chris Brown, this is an unforgettable song that was built to be sung along with because of its call and response nature. Brown originally wanted the hook to be “She’s chunky, chunky (chunky, chunky) / She’s thick, thick (thick, thick),” but thankfully someone had him change it. The beat is just so iconic, which is a main reason why this song peaked atop the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks, knocking Crank That off the top of the chart. I’m still waiting on Nappy Boy Radio to go live, though, because I would buy a subscription in a heartbeat.

Best T-Pain Part:

“She want that lovey dovey (lovey dovey)
That kiss, kiss (kiss, kiss)
In her mind she fantasize ’bout gettin’ with me
They hatin’ on me (hatin’ on me)
They wanna diss, diss (kiss, kiss)
Because she mine and so fine, thick as can be”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“I’m the epitome of this demonstration, I got the remedy
You feelin’ me, so why is you hatin’ on my anatomy?
It’s bird-like, yeah, you heard right
Girl I’m the king, so that means I’m fly”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Ah-ah-oh-ah-ah-ah-oohweee!!

2. Buy U a Drank

T-Pain (feat. Yung Joc) (2007)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 1

No song brings me back to leanin’ and rockin’ at middle school dances (with the exception of Lean wit It, Rock wit It) quite like Buy U a Drank. It’s just such a classic, and I absolutely love T-Pain backing himself up in the hook with a few signature “woahs,” straight out of Ne-Yo’s So Sick. This was T-Pain’s first ever number one Billboard single, and it’s also the only song to ever chart in each of the top 12 positions, the second to ever chart every top 10 position. It would be the greatest T-Pain song if not for his third number one hit…

Best T-Pain Part:

“Baby girl, what’s your name?
Let me talk to you, let me buy you a drink
I’m T-Pain, you know me
Konvict Muzic, Nappy Boy, ooh wee”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Won’t you meet me at the bar, respect big pimpin’
Tell me how you feel, mama tell me what you sippin’
A certified dime piece, deserve Louis 13
150 a shot, 3 for you and 3 for me”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Yeahh-yeah-yeahhh… ahhooooh-oooohh-oooohh

1. Low

Flo Rida (feat. T-Pain) (2007)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 1

The was most iconic song of 2007 and my time at middle school (just edging out Crank That), and T-Pain sings the most iconic part. It was the most downloaded song of the 2000s as well because it’s that amazing. You know how Metta World Peace wore #37 because MJ’s Thriller was atop the charts for 37 weeks? If I were in professional sports, I would wear #10 for the number of weeks Low was atop the Billboard Hot 100. This song is so great, I can’t even put words to it. This was the first major hit song when I started listening to pop music, and it will always have a special place in my heart. I will audibly freak out if it ever comes on the radio. That’s why it ends up atop my list. I’m also waiting to go to a dynamic duos date party, in which case I need someone to wear apple bottom jeans and boots with the fur to go with my baggy sweatpants and Reeboks with the straps.

Best T-Pain Part:

“Shawty had them Apple Bottom jeans
Boots wit the fur (wit the fur)
The whole club was lookin at her
She hit the flo’ (she hit the flo’), next thang you know
Shawty got low-low-low-low-low-low-low-low”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“That’s what I told her, her legs on my shoulder
I knew it was over, that Henny and Cola
Got me like a solider, she ready for Rover
I couldn’t control her, so lucky oh me
I was just like a clover”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Mmmmmmmmm

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Top 20 Usher Songs

Last summer I broke my streak of only writing about sports to give my Top 20 list of Kanye West songs. I had a lot of fun doing it, and apparently enough people liked reading it because it’s now my 12th-most read post ever.

Now it’s Usher’s turn.

Kanye is the greatest artist of our generation, but Usher was the first artist I ever saw live (with my good friends Reed Payne and Ryan Melton), and he put on the greatest performance I’ve ever seen in concert. The best part was undoubtedly when he brought a girl on stage and sang Trading Places on top of her.

Making a Top 20 list was pretty difficult (I’d love to see all your lists too) because I had to leave off some really good songs. U Remind Me, My Boo, Scream, OMG, and More, just to name a few.

And like last time, if you don’t want to read about my musical preferences, that’s just too bad. Skip this post.

Of course, this is my personal list of favorite Usher songs that are going to be different than everyone else’s. Everyone has their own personal preferences, so I don’t expect you to love every one of my picks. The real point of this post is to start a discussions about some of the best songs of the past decade plus.

20. Euphoria

Looking 4 Myself — 2012

Looking 4 Myself – 2012

Euphoria is definitely more of a new-school Usher song since he teamed up with Swedish House Mafia to make it more or less an EDM song instead of just relying on his vocals. This song is a lot of fun, and I like what Usher did on his latest album, Looking 4 Myself, which is why I have this song in over older classics like My Boo and U Remind Me.

Highlights:

“Cause the fire don’t fear the water
And the night don’t fear the thief
It’s just you and me together
Here we are, we are, we found euphoria”

“Re-introduction to a feeling I don’t wanna know
Yeah I been running but it caught me somehow
The rule was never fall in love, I did it anyway
You make my heart beat keep pumping
Why the hell you turn it up so loud?”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

There is no music video. Sad.

19. DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love

Usher1

Raymond v. Raymond – 2010

This song cracks my top 20 despite featuring Pitbull, which is a feat in and of itself. DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love didn’t quite peak as high as fellow Raymond v. Raymond song OMG (#4 versus #1), but I’ve always thought OMG had a bit more annoying lyrics. This song isn’t particularly deep, but the hook is infectious, Usher can really sing, and just like Euphoria, it’s a lot of fun.

Highlights:

“Yeah baby tonight, the DJ got us fallin’ in love again
So dance, dance like it’s the last, last night of your life, life
Gon’ get you right”

“Keep downing drinks like there’s no tomorrow
There’s just right now, now, now, na-na-now, now
Gon’ set the roof on fire gonna burn this
Mutherfucker down, down, down, da-da-down, down”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

Either when he does the Guitar Hero-esque slide in front of the windows or when the crowd just starts doing really weird things.

18. Caught Up

Usher_-_Confessions_album_cover

Confessions – 2004

Usher’s been making club-friendly hits for a while, even if his EDM phase is new. This one is have heavy on brass and percussion, which is the exact type of music I’m a sucker for. This song basically brags that Usher never falls in love but just did when he saw this girl, which is kind of odd because every other song of his is about being in love. But anyway, great song.

Highlights:

“I’m the kind of brother
Who been doing it my way getting my way for years
In my career
And every lover
In and out my life I’ve hit, love and left the tears
Without a care”

“Until I met this girl who turned the tables around
She caught me by surprise
I never thought I’d be the one breaking down
I can’t figure it out why”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

Either when he dresses and looks exactly like Ne-Yo in the beginning or when he dances in absurdly baggy dress pants.

17. Show Me

usher-looking-for-myself

Looking 4 Myself – 2012

This song has more of an old school feel on Usher’s newest album. Just like the first three songs on the list, it’s a really fun song (and heavy on percussion) and doesn’t have the deepest or most emotional lyrics. I can’t help but smile when I hear this song, though, so that’s why it’s up so high.

Highlights:

“The night is young, you know
We’ve just begun
Let’s have some fun until the moon turns to the sun
Look out the DJ’s got this party jumping
It’s easy to let loose when you sipping something
Relax, it’s what you deserve
There’s no need to be reserved, no”

“Telling you can’t control what you can’t have
You’re here, to enjoy yourself
What time, in the back of your mind
Spending what left of it on the floor”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

What a lazy artist, that Usher. Can’t make a music video for every one of his songs.

16. Bad Girl

Usher_-_Confessions_album_cover

Confessions – 2004

Bad Girl is essentially the musical version of Dikembe Mutombo’s (apparently false) quote “Who wants to sex Mutombo?” If that isn’t enough for you to listen to the song, I don’t know what you’re looking for in entertainment.

Highlights:

“Players, when you see me
Act like you know me
I keep a dollar worth of dimes
You know pimpin’ ain’t easy”

“What sexy lady is
Coming home with me tonight?
I’m ready to be bad
I need a bad girl
Super bad, baby
Get at me, bad girl”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

This seems like a big missed opportunity for a great music video, but performing it live with Beyonce will just have to do.

15. Confessions, Pt. II

Usher_-_Confessions_album_cover

Confessions – 2004

Five songs in, we finally get a sad song. Confessions and Confessions, Pt. II are really one continuous song Usher wrote with Jermaine Dupri, and since the second part comes up first on this list, I’ll go ahead and ruin Confessions. Usher confesses to cheating on his girl in part one (apparently not based on his own life) and confesses that his side chick is pregnant in part 2. For some reason, though, he thinks there’s a chance the two of them will stick together. Probably because he’s Usher.

Highlights:

“The first thing that came to mind was you
Second thing was how do I know if it’s mine and is it true
Third thing was me wishin’ that I never did what I did
How I ain’t ready for no kid and bye bye to our relationship”

“Just when I thought I said all I could say
My chick on the side said she got one on the way
These are my confessions
Man I’m thrown and I don’t know what to do
I guess I gotta give part 2 of my confessions
If I’m gonna tell it then I gotta tell it all
Damn near cried when I got that phone call”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

This is a tough choice between his surprisingly powerful chair kick and him trying to get back with his girl by grabbing her ass.

14. Stranger

Usher1

Raymond v. Raymond – 2010

Stranger is a song about how a girl isn’t treating Usher right because of a poor relationship in her past, which is a pretty common theme in his music. This one’s a little different from songs like His Mistakes, though, because he’s trying to get to know this girl instead of thinking about ending things. Great beat on this song.

Highlights:

“Say you’ll never give away your heart again
I’ll be knocking ’til you let me in
I know you told me, you rather be lonely
You don’t even know, that’s why I no longer want to be a stranger”

“Girl you independent as hell and doing by your self but
What you gon’ do when the night time gets cold?”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

Stranger has never been particularly popular, which makes it no surprise this song lacks a video. I don’t think it ever cracked the Billboard 100.

13. His Mistakes

Hereistand

Here I Stand – 2008

Here I Stand has four great songs on it, two of which are pretty sad, the other two of which are very… love in this club-y. His Mistakes falls into the “pretty sad” category, and Usher gets pretty emotional in this song. Personally, I think it’s one of his better musical songs. Then again, what do I know about music? I played percussion.

Highlights:

“And it’s killing me girl knowing you compare me to him
Always guilty before the sin
I can’t win, I can’t win
I’ll do anything to prove I love you
Baby girl would I refuse to
Pay for something I didn’t do”

“I know he did you wrong
But tell me what does that have to do with me
Trying to show you something real
Figure out what is going on
Before you look up and I’ll be gone”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

…no music video.

12. U Got It Bad

Usher8701Cover

8701 – 2001

U Got It Bad was Usher’s third ever number one single and the earliest to appear on my Top 20 list. If you haven’t heard it, the title’s misleading because he’s really just saying that love makes people really change for one another. But like in a good way.

Highlights:

“I’ve been there, done it, fucked around
After all that – this is what I found
Nobody wants to be alone
If you’re touched by the words in this song
Then baby
You got, you got it bad”

“All my people who know what’s going on
Look at your mate, help me sing my song
Tell her: ‘I’m your man, you’re my girl
I’m gonna tell it to the whole wide world’
Ladies say: ‘I’m you girl, you’re my man
Promise to love you the best I can'”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

Really I just wish I could dance like Usher.

11. Numb

usher-looking-for-myself

Looking 4 Myself – 2012

Numb is the other song along with Euphoria that Usher made with Swedish House Mafia. This one better shows off Usher’s great voice, has a better beat, and is just better overall. It’s the only song on this list that’s not about love, but it’s such a fun song. I’m honestly surprised it didn’t peak higher than 69th in the US.

Highlights:

“I’m just saying that what don’t kill only makes you strong
If you don’t recognize what is real
Then forever is a long, long, long, long time”

“Keep on doing the same old thing
And you expecting change
Well is that really insanity
Or just a losers’ game
I only trust in the things I feel
Some may say that’s strange
You better recognize what is real
Cause forever is a long, long, long, long time”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

A lot is going on in this music video, but Usher starts it off by saying “I feel like a failure, hopeless, paralyzed, numb.” USHER NO!!!

10. Confessions

Usher_-_Confessions_album_cover

Confessions – 2004

I give Confessions the edge over Confessions, Pt. II because his first verse is so iconic (Every time I was in L.A. I was with my ex-girlfriend…) and he shows off his musical range better. I also love when he backs himself up singing toward the end of the song, kind of like Ne-Yo at the end of So Sick.

Highlights:

“Every time I was in L.A. I was with my ex girlfriend
Every time you called I told you ‘baby I’m workin’
I was out doing my dirt
Wasn’t thinking bout you getting hurt
I was hand-in-hand in the Beverly Center like man
Not givin’ a damn who sees me”

“Everything that I’ve been doing is all bad
I got a chick on the side with a crib and a ride
I been telling you so many lies
Ain’t none good it’s all bad
And I just wanna confess
It’s been going on so long
Girl I been doing you so wrong”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

Usher didn’t make one just for Confessions, but he used that first verse in his Confessions, Pt. II video, so I’ll go with his totally convincing transition from talking to singing to start the song.

9. Lemme See

usher-looking-for-myself

Looking 4 Myself – 2012

Usher really shows off his falsetto here in a song about bringing a girl home. His part is pretty simple lyrically which contrasts Rick Ross’ clever lines at the end well. Ricky Rozay manages to drop a Trayvon Martin reference, find a rhyme for LeBron, and end with a clever ice/hot line in his 16 bars. It’s also pretty hard not to like the beat for this song.

Highlights:

“She says she wanna take her skirt off, be my guest
I decided to take my shirt off, and show my chest
And we’ve been sipping on that Merlot
So you know what’s next
Working intermissions, switching positions
We so explicit, oh….”

“You’ve been saying all night long
That you couldn’t wait to get me all alone
What you gon’ do to me?
Don’t talk about it, be about it
Let me see, let me see, let me see”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

The changing tattoos on the girl (which may have given inspiration to the album cover) are pretty sweet, but really who doesn’t like to see a shirtless Rick Ross? I’ll pick the scene where the girl’s tattoo spills onto a shirtless Rick Ross.

8. Love In This Club Part II

Hereistand

Here I Stand – 2008

It’s no Love In This Club, but Part II is still very good and includes guest appearances by Beyonce and Lil Wayne. That’s Lil Wayne back when he was still good, and he has two nice allusions to his best song: Lollipop. The hook of the song isn’t great, which is why it’s so low on the list, but Usher and Beyonce’s duet is so well done.

Highlights:

“Now baby girl there ain’t nothin more that I can say
You know by now, I want it more than anything
If I walk away and just let you leave
You’ll be stuck in my head like a melody”

“I know, we here together
So this must be something special
Cause, you could be anywhere you wanted
But you decided to be here with me
No coincidence, it was meant to be
Don’t be shy, come let ya boy get in
So you can tell all of your friends
He was on the remix”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

Not making a music video for his song about having sex with Beyonce is undoubtedly the biggest mistake of Usher’s career.

7. Burn

Usher_-_Confessions_album_cover

Confessions – 2004

Like both parts of Confessions, Usher wrote this song with Jermaine Dupri, although this one actually is based on his life. He wrote this song as he was nearing the end of a two-year relationship with Chilli from TLC, which must have led to some awkward conversations at home. “Hey, have you been working on any new songs lately?” “Yeah, I’m working on one about how my relationship is going poorly and I should end it soon.”

Highlights:

“Tell me why I should stay in this relationship
When I’m hurting baby, I ain’t happy baby
Plus there’s so many other things I gotta deal with
I think that you should let it burn”

“Man I don’t know what I’m gonna do
Without my boo
You’ve been gone for too long
It’s been fiddy-leven days, um-teen hours
Imma be burnin’ till you return”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

His girl diving into the pool and him jumping off the bed as they light on fire are pretty cool moments, but my favorite is when all the palm trees start burning and raining down flames. Fire is so great.

6. Moving Mountains

Hereistand

Here I Stand – 2008

What a heartbreaker of a song. Usher is trying his hardest but he can’t get through to his girl; it’s too hard for them to continue. These are some of his better lyrics, and he absolutely belts them, which makes for a really good song. I probably have this higher than most people because this was the second Usher song I ever got hooked on (after Love In This Club).

Highlights:

“But I keep climbing and hoping things would change
And the sky turns gray
And the water from the rain washes progress away
It’s like moving mountains”

“I love you, and I shouldn’t complain about it
I should take it like a man and walk up out it
Cause we will never be the same, ooh
I’ve been standing in gas and you have been the flame”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

This is actually one of Usher’s best music videos, and I don’t really have any places to make fun of it. I guess the end sequence is pretty cool.

5. There Goes My Baby

Usher1

Raymond v. Raymond – 2010

Man this is just a sweet song. That’s about all there is to it. If you don’t like this song then you’re just cold and heartless. Also: this is pretty high up there on Usher’s baby making music scale.

Highlights:

“I’ve been waiting all day to wrap my hands
Around your waist and kiss your face
Wouldn’t trade this feeling for nothing
Not even for a minute
And I’ll sit here long as it takes
To get you all alone
But as soon as you come walking my way
You gon hear me say”

“There goes my baby
Ooh girl look at you
You don’t know how good it feels to call you my girl
There goes my baby
Loving everything you do
Ooh girl look at you”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

The music video is just as sweet as the song (and it does get borderline soft-core pornographic at times), but this scene is just impressive.

4. Climax

usher-looking-for-myself

Looking 4 Myself – 2012

I know I’ve already said a song was heartbreaking before, but this is Usher’s saddest song of all. You can just hear it in his voice. It’s almost haunting. What’s kind of funny is that Climax and Euphoria both appear on his latest album (Looking 4 Myself) and their titles mean essentially the same thing in a vacuum, but the songs couldn’t be more different in style and subject. Also, this song was produced by Diplo, whose name is apparently short for Diplodocus, which makes his three to four times cooler.

Highlights:

“I’ve fallen somehow
Feet off the ground
Love is the cloud
That keeps raining down
Where are you now?
When I need you around
I’m on my knees, but it seems we’re
Going nowhere fast
We’ve reached the climax”

“I gave my best, it wasn’t enough
You get upset, we argue too much
We made a mess of what used to be love
So why do I care, I care at all”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

The music video is pretty sad too, and at one point he grabs a gun to shoot his (ex-)girlfriend’s new guy. USHER NO!!!

3. Hey Daddy

Usher1

Raymond v. Raymond – 2010

I know I gave it the bronze, but Hey Daddy might just be my favorite Usher song. I could pretty easily be convinced that my top three belongs in any order. This is in contention for my favorite song because Usher absolutely kills it the second and third time through the hook. I don’t know he can just sing so well. And I’m sorry if my descriptions for songs are slowly deteriorating; there are only so many ways for me to describe R&B. Also: Usher’s background singers singing “Hey Daddy” over and over is only slightly seductive.

Highlights:

“I just wanna get your attention
I really wanna be all up in your head
Yeah, cause what I got, you gon’ wanna get some
Yeah, but girl that’s only if you ain’t scared”

“I won’t knock won’t ring no bells
You just poke that bottom up in the air
Said I’ll get you hot, I know you, oh, so well
And when I walk in all that I wanna hear
Is you say ‘daddy’s home, home for me’
And I know you’ve been waiting for this loving all day
You know your daddy’s home, it’s time to play
So you ain’t got to give my loving away”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

I think what I’ve learned from this music video is that the ladies like Usher.

2. Yeah!

Usher_-_Confessions_album_cover

Confessions – 2004

I don’t know a person who doesn’t love Yeah! Probably because I don’t bring it up in normal conversation, but whenever it comes on, people usually immediately sing along. Ludacris’ verses are pretty iconic, the beat is infectious, and the song is just great overall. It’s just the ultimate party/club song from Usher. And in case you didn’t already know, when Usher says he’s “trying to get a little V.I.” he’s not shortening V.I.P.  Sorry if I ruined your childhood.

Highlights:

“She’s all up in my head now
Got me thinkin’ that it might
Be a good idea to take her with me
Cause she’s ready to leave
And I got to keep it real now
Cause on a one to ten, she’s a certified twenty”

“Yeah, shawty got down low said, come and get me
Yeah, I got so caught up, I forgot she told me
Yeah, her and my girl, they used to be the best of homies
Yeah, next thing I knew, she was all up one me screamin’, yeah”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

The best part of any video is when Lil Jon jumps in from out of nowhere and just starts yelling while holding his pimp cup/crunk goblet.

1. Love In This Club

Hereistand

Here I Stand – 2008

This was the first Usher song I truly got hooked on, which probably goes a long way to deciding why this is my favorite of his songs. But nostalgia aside, this is just a quality song about love. You know, with lots of other people watching. Young Jeezy absolutely kills his verse, but it’s Usher’s voice that carries the song. I’m tired of all this music analysis; Usher’s just awesome, and this is his best song.

Highlights:

“You see you’re searchin’ for somebody that’ll take you out and do you right
Well, come here baby and let daddy show you what it feel like
You know all you gotta do is tell me what’cha sippin’ on
And I promise that I’m gonna keep it comin all night long”

“Might as well give me a kiss
If we keep touchin’ like this
I know you’re scared, baby they don’t know what we doin’
Let’s both get undressed right here
Keep it up, girl and I swear
Imma give it to you non-stop
And I don’t care who’s watchin, watchin, watchin, watchin
In this club, on the floor
Baby let’s make love”

Favorite Part of the Music Video:

I was going to say “wow people used to have phones that look like this,” and then I was going to say “hey there’s a Kanye cameo and I love Kanye,” but then the end of the video leads into the Moving Mountains music video, which is SO CRAZY.

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Highlights from the Hustler

I haven’t posted in almost a month for two reasons:

1) I’m buried in work for my baseball preview, which is due to come out late next month. I’ll give out a sneak peek of my top 50 prospects, now an annual tradition, in the next four weeks.

2) I’ve been writing a lot for the Vanderbilt Hustler.

Although I’ve been updating my Hustler page, I’ll highlight my favorite articles from the past few months. I highly suggest reading the first two. (I mean I still highly suggest you read them all, but still).

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hi

Vanderbilt freshman Jordan Sheffield is left with a 5-inch scar on his right elbow after Tommy John surgery.

February 12, 2014

Jordan Sheffield: Scarred star on the road to recovery

This is my favorite feature of 2014. Sheffield was the 6th-best recruit in the nation until he had Tommy John Surgery at the start of his senior year of high school, and that’s the main reason he came to Vanderbilt.

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December 4, 2013

Opportunity beyond football at Vanderbilt

This is my favorite feature of first semester. Here I tell the story of how Jahmel McIntosh, Jimmy Stewart, and Steven Clark made it from humble beginnings and how much a football scholarship means to them. We get into some tough stories about growing up here.

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January 21, 2013

Commodores strike gold with Derek Mason

I got to intensely cover a coaching change with Derek Mason replacing James Franklin, so this is almost necessary to share. My introduction to Mason made the front page of the Hustler.

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January 21, 2013

Young Jones brings old feel to Commodores

Damian Jones is going to be a special player for Vanderbilt men’s basketball very soon, and this is my feature on him. Despite is dominance in the paint, he’s actually a pretty goofy guy.

Categories: College Baseball, College Basketball, College Football | Leave a comment

Champions Classic Running Diary

The best night of college basketball we’re going to see all season is on a Tuesday in November. For NBA Draft nuts like me, the Champions Classic this year is just about basketball porn.

Kentucky. Michigan State. Duke. Kansas.

It just doesn’t get any better than this. We have 15 of the top 35 draft prospects, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford, and four of the top-5 ranked teams.

I’m so excited about tonight that I’m going to keep a running diary of the games, which you can track throughout the night, with Jackson Martin of the Dirty South Sports Report:

Ben, 6:35 PM CT: I’m a little bit surprised Aaron Harrison is getting the start over Alex Poythress. Hey, if you’re upset about your lack of playing time, Alex, I know a school from your home state of Tennessee that would love to have you!

Ben, 6:46: Our first all-freshman lineup for Kentucky as Cauley-Stein is pulled for Dakari Johnson! It also just hit me that every single player on this court is younger (and way more talented) than me.

Jackson, 6:54: Michigan State looks like me playing NBA 2k14 where on defense I just keep hitting the X button. Sure, you get a ton of steals in a short period of time, but this is going to backfire eventually.

Jackson, 7:02: I don’t really buy into the thinking that you need experience to win the national championship, but early season games with an all-freshman team can get ugly. We’re seeing that on both ends with Kentucky right now.

Ben, 7:04: I’m just amazed how big Kentucky is. With the Harrison twins starting, every player is between 6-foot-6 and 7-foot. Forget offense, when this team matures by the end of the year, it’s going to be a defensive monster.

Ben, 7:07: I feel like every time I look up from my laptop, Michigan State’s on a fast break. Julius Randle’s been making some weird passes around the perimeter, so I wonder if Kentucky should just slow down the ball and let him bang in the paint.

Jackson, 7:14: Kentucky is forcing the dribble-drive offense right now and Michigan State is just bodying them up. The Wildcats look like the Harlem Globetrotters with all the rotating handoffs they’ve had at quarter-court.

Ben, 7:18: Kentucky’s already down nine points with six minutes left in the half, but they’re also in the bonus. They need to cut down their high volume of long shots and take advantage of their size and MSU’s foul situation. Their height (and talent) is going to help them rack up a lot of fouls this year.

Jackson, 7:22: Here’s why Julius Randle is my No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft: When I watch him play, he can either take the ball up the court or post up a PF on the block and not look out of place. He’s one of those rare guys who has the abilities to play 4 or 5 positions on the court.

Ben, 7:24: Sure he’s a senior, but Adreian Payne has a spot at the next level as a late first-round pick if he can consistently knock down a three. He’s got great hops, good defensive instincts, surprisingly good shooting, and most importantly, a great name.

Ben, 7:29: I’m starting to really like Gary Harris. I’m thinking he’s either a worse Bradley Beal or a better Willie Green. Probably somewhere in between.

Jackson, 7:30: Kentucky’s dribble-drive offense is creating wide-open outside shots. Young has started knocking them down, and if the Wildcats can hit those threes with any consistency this is going to be a game again real quick.

Ben, 7:37: The big difference I’m seeing so far between this Kentucky team and the championship team two years ago is defense. There’s no Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist right now (although some of the young guys could develop into similar players), but for now UK needs to get back on defense quicker. MSU is just running over them.

Ben, 7:52: Side note: I love Kanye, I love Yeezus, and I’m so happy Black Skinhead is taking over commercials and basketball arena soundtracks.

Ben, 7:55: I’m not nearly as high on Randle as Jackson is (and by that I mean I wouldn’t take him 1-1 right now), but MAN is he fun to watch. 6 straight points to open the second half capped off by a coast-to-coast drive. He’s got some serious power moves you rarely see from young guys.

Jackson, 8:13: This is what I mean. There’s going to be some time this second half where Kentucky dominates play for stretches of time. And watching those stretches shows you the true potential of this young team. They probably won’t win this game, but by the end of the year Kentucky will likely be the best team in the country.

Jackson, 8:14: Coast-to-coast for Michigan State with no dribbles. Man, that’s beautiful basketball.

Ben, 8:16: Places Kentucky needs to improve: free throw shooting (6-16), turnovers (16), assists (4 in 18 field goals), and making freshman mistakes.

Jackson, 8:19: Ben, did you just copy and paste that list from the last four years? These are the things Kentucky struggles with for half a season every year. I’ve got a feeling this is going to turn out okay for the Wildcats.

Ben, 8:21: You’re not going to beat Michigan State with iso or post-up plays. Kentucky needs a lot more ball movement and more rotations, which may not happen until the offense is more cohesive later in the year.

There aren't many true post scorers left, but Randle is one of them. And he's damn good.

There aren’t many true post scorers left, but Randle is one of them. And he’s damn good.

Jackson, 8:23: Julius Randle is a man playing college basketball. The turnovers are a problem, but it’s his first real game. Everything else he’s doing makes you see why he’s so highly touted. He will make some NBA fanbase really, really happy.

Jackson, 8:29: It’s now a three-point game with another strong finish from Randle. I will be amazed and terrified for everyone else if Kentucky can pull this game out.

Ben, 8:30: Kentucky is going to win this game. Look out.

Ben, 8:33: If Randle weren’t on this AAU Kentucky team, he’d put up numbers like another guy who wore #30, Michael Beasley. Don’t laugh, Beasley put up a 26.2-12.4-1.2-1.3-1.6 line on .543/.479/.774 shooting at K-State. R.I.P. good Michael Beasley.

Jackson, 8:47: I hate player comparisons as much as you do, Ben, but does Randle remind you of any NBA players? I’m trying to place it, but can’t quite come up with who.

Ben, 8:49: Well he just hit four straight clutch free throws towards the end of the game, so clearly not Dwight Howard!!! But in all seriousness, maybe he’s a much higher ceiling, thicker version of Chris Bosh, who, by the way, is actually a really good player. Maybe I’m thinking that because this is “The Best Draft Class Since ’03” and Bosh was the first big man off the board, but still.

Jackson, 8:57: Randle just scored over a triple-team. I have a new man crush. He is ridiculous.

Ben, 8:57: I’m going to wait until after Wiggins and Jabari go head-to-head before I decide on a man crush. And I love Dante Exum too. Dear Lord, I already love this draft class. Please tank, Horncats!

Ben, 9:02: Yes, Michigan State won and was the better team tonight. But man is Kentucky going to be scary (and so fun to watch) by the end of the year.

Ben, 9:05: The biggest problem I’m going to have all year with Kentucky is remembering which Harrison twin is which. Thank God for their different haircuts and uniform numbers.

Ben, 9:12: Wait the United Center is playing The Way I Are by Timbaland. I’m a fan.

Ben, 9:18: Congrats to Vanderbilt, earning their first win of the season in a 86-80 takedown of former Kentucky Wildcat Ryan Harrow’s Georgia State Panthers. Imagine if UK still had Harrow, too…

Ben, 9:25: I don’t like Tyler Thornton starting over Andre Dawkins and Rasheed Sulaiman for Duke. I’d like at least one ball-handler off the bench.

Ben, 9:33: Early prediction: Jabari Parker has a better college season than Andrew Wiggins. He’s a lot more polished, but when I saw Wiggins in high school, it was easy to see how talented he was. Wiggins will probably have a better pro career, but you can see the rough edges.

Ben, 9:38: “That’s (Wiggins’) first collegiate basket, and I can assure you it won’t be his last.” Thank you, Dickie V. Bring me back Jay Bilas.

Ben, 9:40: I was really wondering how you pronounce Joel Embiid’s name, and it turns out it’s what I expected: em-BEED. There are about fourteen other pronunciations you couldn’ve told me and I would’ve believe any of them.

Ben, 9:43: Ever since Wiggins reclassified into the Class of 2013, Jabari Parker has been thrown a lot of shade. But dude can play. Just in the last five minutes, he hit a pair of threes (one was an and-one), blocked a shot, and stole a pass.

Ben, 9:48: Good to see Wiggins come inside to grab an offensive rebound and put it back in. At Huntington, he would often drift along the perimeter waiting for the ball, since his team had really good guards and big men. He has even more talented teammates at KU, so he’ll really want to show his assertiveness here.

Ben, 9:54: Quinn Cook was Duke’s most improved player last year, and Amile Jefferson may be that guy this year. He’s beefed up a bit–enough that he’s playing a de facto center for Duke–and looks a lot more comfortable in the lane. He was pushed around a lot last year.

Ben, 10:04: Wiggins has been quiet (and on the bench) for most of the game. Still, Randle and Parker look just as good as advertised–if not better. As Meat Loaf will tell you, two out of three ain’t bad.

Ben, 10:13: 19 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 assist, and 1 block later for Jabari Parker in the first half, it seems like a good time to bring up this video.

Andrew Wiggins may be the better long-term prospect, but Jabari Parker is a better player right now.

Andrew Wiggins may be the better long-term prospect, but Jabari Parker is a better player right now.

Ben, 10:31: Look, I might be a naïve Duke fan, but Jabari Parker seems like a hard guy to dislike. He’s not crazy, he smiles all the time, and he’s Mormon. Who hates Mormons!

Ben, 10:37: I’ve seen Wiggins play in about two and a half games, and I’m not sure if I’ve seen him hit a single three-pointer. I can’t even recall him hitting a jumper, although I’m sure he has. That’s an issue if he’s going to be a shooting guard, but until he figures out his shot, he just needs to drive more, which he can do very well.

Ben, 10:56: Jabari Parker has had a lot of success jumping interior passes, leading to his three steals. This time, Wayne Selden caught him and snuck past Parker to Embiid for an easy deuce. Selden has been one of the most impressive Jayhawks, especially with his excellent passing.

Ben, 10:58: My television’s ESPN feed is having broadcast issues, and every play is shown at 90% speed before the screen glitches every five seconds. Wiggins went up for a fast break dunk and hovered for what seemed like forever, and I’m not quite sure if it was the faulty signal or his freakish athleticism.

Ben, 11:06: For some bizarre reason, Coach K played 6-foot-2 Tyler Thornton on 6-foot-8 Andrew Wiggins for two possessions. Wiggins posted him up the both times, scoring first and drawing a foul the second time. Thornton is a very good defender, but there’s only so much you can do against an athletic freak a half foot taller than you.

Ben, 11:11: Embiid just missed a free throw by hitting the backboard first. Yeah, that’s what only been playing basketball for three years looks like.

Ben, 11:17: Parker’s floater in the lane was about the twelth time tonight I’ve just yelled something not fit for print OH GOD HE JUST HIT A THREE.

Ben, 11:27: Rick Bonnell, a fantastic Bobcats beat writer for the Charlotte Observer I worked with this summer, just made a great point on Twitter I’ve always said. People are clamoring for players to stay in college basketball 2 years. Sure, that’s fine, but only if Randle, Wiggins, and Parker can go pro out of high school. These guys don’t belong in college, and the NBA has no reason to keep them in college for two years (or any time at all).

Ben, 11:32: Rodney Hood turns it over, Wiggins gets a fastbreak dunk, and Parker fouls out with Kansas up 6 and just over a minute left. That’ll just about do it for the game, but there’s no doubt both teams are great and both stars are just unbelievable.

Ben, 11:37: This is why I love college basketball. I love watching elite future NBA players, and I love a lot of scoring. Ain’t nobody got time for that 37-36 Georgetown-Tennessee nonsense.

Ben, 11:44: What a night of really good performances. We’ll look back on this night in about five years and be amazed by how many great players were on one court over five hours.

Categories: College Basketball, NBA, Running Diary | Leave a comment

All The Articles I Forgot To Post

I write about sports a lot, and I occasionally forget to post my articles. Here’s your place to find all the articles I didn’t post from the past two months.

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Friday, October 11

Previewing the MLB Playoffs with Jackson Martin: League Championship Series

Jackson and I go head-to-head in round two of our baseball playoffs preview. I don’t brag too much about beating him 4-0 last week.

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Tuesday, October 8

COLUMN: Why Franklin should leave Vanderbilt

I write a column that Vanderbilt fans won’t like about why James Franklin should go to USC if he gets a job offer. I got a nice endorsement from commenter bill cherry: “What a great article from a Vandy STUDENT news source….a bunch of big freaking nerds.”

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Tuesday, October 1

Explaining the Vanderbilt running back rotation

Without Zac Stacy, the Commodores don’t have one feature back and are instead going with a three-headed running attack. Here’s your guide to what is going on in Nashville.

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Tuesday, October 1

Commodores heat up against Blazers

I covered my first Vanderbilt football game from the press box, and the Commodores won 52-24 against UAB. That bodes well for the Georgia game I’m covering next week, right?

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Tuesday, September 17

Vanderbilt men’s basketball lands four-star guard

Vanderbilt landed its second four-star recruit in shooting guard Matthew Fisher-Davis, who went to my rival high school, Charlotte Christian. They’re on pace to have their strongest recruiting class since 2011.

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Tuesday, September 3

FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: News and notes from Monday’s football press conference: Week 2

Ah, the first in a series of weekly news and notes from the Monday football press conferences. A series that lasted one week.

Categories: College Basketball, College Football, MLB | Leave a comment

A Memory Stuck Like A Tattoo

The first time I interviewed Vanderbilt shooting guard A.J. Astroth, I asked him a rather open-ended question: “What’s something most people don’t know about you?”

A.J. took a while to respond, then turned to sophomore forward Shelby Moats, who was walking out of the gym.

AJTat“What’s something most people don’t know about me?”

It took Shelby a few seconds, too, until he finally said, “you’re tatted.”

Well that was kind of obvious. A.J. is has more ink than a finals paper.

He’s got a giant lion on the right side of his chest with the words “Heart of a Lion” – the 6-foot-6 freshman is a Leo, after all.

On his right arm, Astroth has an image of a staircase heading up to a gate with the shadow of a basketball figure and the words “God’s Gift.” His tricep has a cracked hourglass with the words “Never Enough” wrapped around it. On the inside of his arm? The phrase “Sacrifice: without fear there is no courage.”

And then there is his right arm. On his right arm, there is an intricate cross with the words “Psalm 27” along with the dates 1926 and 2008. There is a rosary on the back of his arm and the beginning of Psalm 27 printed on the inside of his arm

The Lord is my salvation: Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life: Of whom shall I be afraid?

This arm is dedicated to A.J. Astroth’s grandmother.

LArmInsideLeftAstroth was born in Germany because his father worked in the military. Since his mother also had to work a lot, A.J.’s grandma helped raise him until the age of seven.

According to Astroth, his grandmother had at least 15 children and did not have any education past the eight grade, but he considers her one of the smartest women he’s ever met.

“She always knew exactly what to say for every situation,” said Astroth. “Just looking up to her, it was just something I grew up with. Knowing that everything’s going to be all right, even when things didn’t seem all right because she always knew how to go about things.”

Beyond being such a wise woman, Astroth’s grandmother was also extremely religious. Astroth can still remember the long, lively church services he would go to with her, but the more important religious aspect of his grandmother were the lessons and moments at home.

BackRightRArm“She was always lecturing me or yelling at me or putting me on the right track,” Astroth recalled fondly.

But perhaps more important than keeping young Astroth in line with his behavior was her use of strong faith as a form of comfort.

“When I was a little kid,” said Astroth, “she used to read me Psalm 27 whenever I got scared. As I got older, when I wasn’t really scared of the dark or things like that but I would feel down on myself, she would read that to me. It would be like a motivator to me.”

To Astroth, this quote symbolizes rising above temptation, rising above the evils of the world. Above all else, walking with God and walking with faith.

Once both Astroth’s family moved back stateside, the two were separated. His grandmother moved to Chesapeake, Virginia, and Astroth now lives in Tampa, Florida. Despite the distance between cities, Astroth still managed to see his grandma once or twice a year.

When they did meet up again, times were good. Astroth can remember his grandma coming out to play basketball with him and his cousins, even as she was in her 70s. And then there was her famous cooking he always enjoyed.

InsideRightWhen his grandmother did pass away, the whole family went through a tough time. Astroth knew he wanted to get a tattoo to commemorate her, but he wanted to wait until he was older.

During his junior year, Astroth’s mother finally allowed him to go get his first tattoo, the one he had been planning since his grandmother’s passing.

“I felt like I just wanted to get something to remind myself to always keep going no matter what.”

From a short glance at A.J. Astroth’s tattoos, it’s not hard to see that he derives lots of his motivation from religion. Between the rosary, cross, psalm, and “God’s Gift” moniker, that much is clear.

But what most people may not know about A.J. is the lifelong impact one great woman can have on a basketball player’s life.

Categories: College Basketball | Leave a comment

What Do I Stand For?

There’s a saying that you should never meet your heroes because they might let you down. I’m not sure if I totally subscribe to that theory because I’ve gotten the chance to meet some of my favorite writers (Keith Law and Jonah Keri) and favorite athletes (Tyler Beede and DeAngelo Williams), and they’ve only raised my perception of them. Moreover, the saying should go: you should be cautious when you meet your heroes because they might let you down.

In the last thirty days, though, we’ve seen three major idols crumble and fall because of poor choices, lying, and lying about poor choices. In mid-January, Lance Armstrong finally admitted that he doped—but he claimed he didn’t cheat after 2005. He was emotional and remorseful, but he was also a lying cheater. We wanted to believe that Lance was clean—despite the fact that quite literally every other cyclist was dirty—because we wanted an American hero.

A man who overcame cancer and dominated a sport by winning seven straight Tour de Frances. Overwhelming evidence be damned, this man had to be telling the truth because, after all, he threatened to sue people who “slandered” his name. His reactions to accusations of doping were so visceral that he had to be telling the truth. But no, he turned out to be just like the rest of the cyclists. A cyclist who overcame cancer.

A few days later, another idol went crashing to the ground, this one in possibly the most bizarre way possible. Manti Te’o found his way into the hearts of Americans across the nation because of the heartbreaking story of his girlfriend—Lennay Kekua—who was in a terrible car accident, got leukemia, then died six hours after Te’o’s grandma died. Fueled by the terrible losses, Te’o went on to lead Notre Dame with 12 tackles en route to a 20-3 victory over Michigan State, nine more wins and an undefeated regular season, and nearly a Heisman trophy. Except there was one problem: Lennay Kekua never existed. She was a hoax.

The most inspirational story of the college football season was soiled because the Notre Dame linebacker fell in love with a girl over twitter and pretended to have met her and introduced her to his family. That is, unless he was in on the hoax the entire time, which would make him the most histrionic, attention-seeking, twisted player in recent memory. In one moment, Te’o went from sympathetic, inspiration figure to the laughingstock of the sports world, an unenviable mess.

I am the bullet in the chamber

Pistorius appeared in a Nike ad featuring the catch phrase “I am the bullet in the chamber.” The multi-billion dollar industry took all of twelve seconds to take one down.

Then comes the most recent letdown, the sad story of South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius. The man is the first double leg amputee to compete in the Olympics, earning him the nickname “Blade Runner.” His inspirational story touched millions of people—from South Africans to disabled people to sports fans in general—until he (accidentally) shot and killed his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The jury remains out on whether or not he killed her on purpose—he claims he thought she was a burglar—but he is forever unclean in the eyes of many people. How can you look up to someone who killed someone they loved, even if they overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to reach the pinnacle of modern athletics?

In the end, it just seems that we cannot trust athletes and look up to them now. Maybe the saddest story of them all is the recent antics of LeBron James. The All-Star forward is trying to get into the good graces of sports fans’ hearts after leaving frigid Cleveland for beautiful Miami in order to better his chances to win a championship by playing the best basketball of his entire life. The shameless James is even working harder than ever to get teammates involved, rebounding at the highest rate of his career, and scored 30 points on 60% shooting or better in six straight games in a sad attempt to raise his image.

In the end, it’s really athletes like LeBron who will do anything for attention that make fans sick and leave us wondering if we should and can look up to any athlete.

Categories: College Football, NBA, Other | 1 Comment

The True Top Golfer

There’s an ongoing debate about who the best golfer in the world is. Is it Tiger Woods, the man who has shattered all sorts of records, including the most white trash girls used to cheat on a wife (highlighted by such classy ladies as Raychel, Loredana, Joslyn, and Cori)? Is it Rory McIlroy, the 23-year old up and comer, who sits atop the World Golf Rankings? Or maybe even is it Freddy “Boom Boom” Couples? The choice is simple, and he’s also my favorite golfer.

Tiger and Rory

Past vs. Present or Present vs. Present?

The sports world has been enamored with Rory McIlroy lately. He won the U.S. Open at the age of 22, something we haven’t seen since, well, Tiger Woods won the Masters at age of 21. See, sometimes we forget just how great players have been because of off-the-field incidents. With Adrian Peterson nearly breaking Eric Dickerson’ single-season rushing record, we forget how great O.J. Simpson was. The man rushed for 2,003 yards in 14 games—that extrapolates to over 2,289 yards in 16 games, which would have crushed Dickerson’s record of 2,105 yards. We just forget about Simpson because of a few small run-ins with the law.

Tiger Woods may not have won a major since he won the U.S. Open in 2008, and he may have gone 107 weeks without a victory of any kind following his admitted infidelity, but that doesn’t tarnish his great legacy. Tiger, the youngest golfer to ever win The Masters. Tiger, the youngest golfer to ever complete a career grand slam, and the only golfer to win all four in a row. Tiger, the quickest player to fifty tournament wins. It’s impossible to make the case that Tiger Woods is the greatest husband and father in the world, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still the most dominant golfer of our time. And just because Big Lurch got high on PCP and ate his girlfriend’s face doesn’t mean he’s not the greatest rapper of all-time.

There are lots of ways you can nitpick at Tiger’s game. For instance, he’s never won a major while trailing after 54 holes. Sure, but he’s also the greatest closer in the game with a 14-1 record when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round. That’s a fair trade-off. Yes, he does get angry and he does curse at fans and he does throw clubs when people take pictures during his backswing. But none of that negatively affects how dominant he was at his peak, and how dominant he may be, as he is only 37 years old. Jack Nicklaus won his final major at the age of 46, so I’d give Tiger a fairly solid chance to win four to five more majors in the next ten years.

Tiger is the lone golfer that is his own brand. Phil Mickelson may be very popular, but there aren’t too many dials being turned because Lefty is leading with four holes to go. Hell, Tiger Woods has the official PGA Tour video game named after him. He has (or had, in some cases) sponsorships from Gatorade, Nike, GM, Titleist, American Express, Buick, and TAG Heuer. Not only did he revolutionize the sport by forcing courses to move back their tees, he also monopolized the media aspect of golf, becoming even bigger than the sport itself at times.

Rory McIlroy may end up breaking the record for most majors in a lifetime. That record may still belong to Jack Nicklaus, or it may be Eldrick’s. McIlroy is a golf talent we haven’t seen since young phenoms Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler. Except none of that trio has lived up to expectations yet. Maybe McIlroy will become the greatest of all time one day. But he doesn’t have the pedigree, and at this point in his career—even if he officially the number one golfer in the world—I find it hard to put McIlroy ahead of Tiger.

(This was written as an assignment at Vanderbilt. Gotta love when you can write about sports for school.)

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The Days I Saw Andrew Wiggins

In my time watching non-professional sports, I’ve seen two phenoms play: Bryce Harper and Andrew Wiggins. (Sorry Eduardo Najera.)

I got the chance to see the #1 basketball recruit in the Class of 2013 over Thanksgiving weekend at the Charlotte Hoops Challenge, which featured Wiggins’ school Huntington Prep (W.V.). The gym at Waddell High School was nearly packed, and there were appearances made by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and Dave Telep as well as reps from several D-I schools.

Phenoms have a way of owning the room. As soon as Wiggins stepped on the court, there was a new atmosphere in the gym. Maybe that was because grown men were giddy with excitement to see a 17-year old play basketball, but nevertheless, there was a special feel.

Wiggins is listed at 6’7″, but the man (yes, he’s already a man) looks a full 6’8″. He just screams athleticism, although he could certainly stand to add to his 205 pound frame. Even on a prep team with commits to Florida State, Arkansas, Baylor, and Tennessee, he stood out.

But during warmups, you could see the rawness of his game. The sort of rawness one would expect from a high schooler. Wiggins missed his first three jump shots, and that off-shooting continued into the actual game.

Wiggins started off the game against Quality Education Academy with a bang. Literally. Just minutes into the game, he threw down a jaw-dropping, pants-popping, heart-stopping dunk in traffic without regard for human life. Unfortunately it was mostly downhill after the highlight reel slam.

Here’s my video from the game. Sorry, no dunks.

I may have just picked the wrong game to watch him, but Andrew Wiggins’ shot was not all that impressive. The small forward only connected on one of his five three point shots, finishing 4-12 from the field. Interestingly enough, his only shots were from beyond the arc or at the rim.

More concerning than his lack of range was his inability to finish near the rim. Wiggins did rebound very well, but after offensive rebounds he would throw up wild put-backs that would inevitably miss. He was not a strong ball handler, often having to dump the ball off to a teammate when pressured. Even on fast breaks, he never dunked. Instead he tried laying in the ball before getting fouled. The good news is he got to the charity stripe 13 times, hitting eight of those shots.

I’m not sure if I ever remember his sprinting down the court in either game I saw him, but that’s not to say he wasn’t trying. Wiggins just ran so smoothly and made it down the court before most of the other players. One wonders how dominant he could be if he he could put out max effort on every play.

Defensively, Wiggins was nothing special. Part of that is to do with the fact that Huntington Prep was running a 2-3 zone the entire time, but he wasn’t playing as aggressively as his teammate and fellow Canadian Montaque Gill-Caesar, although Wiggins did finish with three blocks. Again, Wiggins looked a bit apathetic without the ball, but he is so athletic that he makes it look like he’s not even trying.

Overall Wiggins put on a show, but he certainly didn’t look like the next LeBron James. The man is an athletic beast, and if he can connect the dots on some details offensively, he can be really special. There’s no question why he’s ranked so highly.

I came to the Charlotte Hoops Challenge hoping to be blown away by Andrew Wiggins. That sort of thinking can be dangerous, since you can sell yourself on a player if you look hard enough for silver linings and want the player to be good. But instead of getting impressed by Wiggins, I was really fascinated by Montaque Gill-Caesar.

A 6’5″ sophomore, Gill-Caesar is not nearly as high on the prospect radar (16th in the Class of 2015 by Scout.com) as Wiggins. The wing scorer led Huntington with 21 points in their 70-39 beatdown of Kennedy Charter. Gill-Caesar showed great athleticism, the sweetest shooting stroke on the floor, and deep three point range. Defensively, he flashed plus lateral quickness. Montaque was even impressive driving, where Wiggins was a tad disappointing. He already has offers from Baylor and Ohio State, and he’s also being pursued by Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Montaque Gill-Caesar will have a better pro career than Andrew Wiggins, but Gill-Caesar’s offensive game is more refined, and he’s two years younger. It’s not out of the question for Teki–as he teammates call him–to grow a couple more inches and be closer to Wiggins’ massive size.

In a way, Wiggins reminded me of Harrison Barnes–for better or for worse. Two of Barnes’ bigger knocks coming into this year were a lack of consistent motor along with not being able to create his own shot, since he was an average ball handler at best. All of that matches up with Wiggins, and they share one more thing in common.

Wiggins effectively plays on a high school All-Star team. He plays with big men ranked #39 and #62 for the Class of 2013 as well as Gill-Caesar and #28th overall Xavier Rathan-Mayes at shooting guard. Wiggins doesn’t have to be the man, like he would if he were playing on any other team in West Virginia. The coach can stick him on the perimeter, since Huntington Prep already has an interior presence from Dominic Woodson and Moses Kingsley. Plus he doesn’t need to be a distributor with plenty of other guards. Being on such a great team limits how much he can impact the game.

The same was true for Harrison Barnes at Carolina, where they didn’t need him to rebound with John Henson, Tyler Zeller, and James Michael McAdoo manning the middle. They didn’t even need him to be a ball handler with Kendall Marshall and an array of shooting guards. Barnes didn’t get to stand out as much as Doug McDermott did at Creighton, since he was the team’s only NBA prospect. Nevertheless, scouts still gave Barnes high marks, and he was drafted 7th overall last June.

Part of me wonders if Wiggins was rated so high before he reclassified into the Class of 2013 because the athleticism was there and the raw offensive game was more impressive from a junior with an extra year to iron things out. But all criticisms aside, Wiggins will be great. Maybe he’ll even be going up against LeBron James and Harrison Barnes in two years. It’ll be fascinating to see where his trajectory leads him.

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A Brief Thank You

I’ve been blogging now for over three years–1240 days.

I’ve been writing an annual baseball preview since the winter of 2006–over 2000 days.

I’ve known I want to be a sportswriter since the end of my freshman year in high school–over 1000 days ago.

And now that I’m starting my freshman year at Vanderbilt University, I think it’s time to thank a few people that have helped me get to this point.

First and foremost, I need to thank my parents. They’ve supported me through and through and, you know, I really wouldn’t be here without them.

Next we have my brother, Michael. We’ve had more than our fair share of brotherly love, but he’s always there for me.

I can’t forget the rest of my family. To my grandparents Mike and Louisa and my great-grandma Hermine, thanks for sharing your love of baseball with me. To my Uncle Dan, thanks for helping edit my baseball previews and all the conversations–baseball and more. To cousins Claire and Jack plus Uncle Stephen and Aunts Lynne, Karen, Sara, and Kim thank you all for the support, love, and encouragement.

To my teachers, thank you for pushing me to learn more and do more. To Mr. Scully, who pushed me to start blogging and answered every last one of my questions about technology, thank you. To Mr. Kutner, who made me a much better writer even if it meant writing such encouraging comments as “Ugh,” “Blah,” “Barf,” and “Gross,” thank you. To Mr. Lucia, for pushing my mind in math, helping me create a baseball player ranking system, and carrying on long-lasting debates, thank you. To Mr. Jon Downs for helping me off the bat with my journalistic writing and Mr. Jesse Downs for encouraging me to go to Vanderbilt, thank you.

And to my Providence Day School lower school teachers–Mrs. Cook, Warwick, Schultz, Highfield, Akbari, Lambeth, Pleasant, Cook, and Blackwell–and my Providence Day School middle school teachers–Mrs. English, Bynum, Parker, Bard, Pierce, Villegas, Fisher, Edelman, Osborne, Barlow, and White, and Mr. Harper, Sienkowski, Burgess, Borcich, Field, Burnam, Hawk, and Henry–and the rest of my Providence Day School upper school teachers–Mrs. Coley, Whelan, Caldwell, Sivy, and Hinson, and Mr. Tappy, Hedinger, Welsh, Taylor, Reeder, Turner, Boyer, Bynum, Garrison, Dickson, Grabenstetter, Werner, Nichols, Finneyfrock, Erb, Hough, and Kashatus–thank you for everything.

To my baseball coaches: thank you Coach Cerbie for pushing me harder than I’d like in practice, thank you Coach Smith for helping me appreciate the intricacies of pitching, and thank you Coaches Wallace and Bibby for keeping things fun in JV. And my teammates? Thanks for seven great years.

I was blessed to be able to work with the Charlotte Observer this summer, thanks to Providence Day School. I got to work with some really great people–with whom I will hopefully be able to work again in the future–Corey Inscoe, Jim Walser, Mike Persinger, Scott Fowler, Harry Pickett, and more.

Thanks to the guys from Bobcats Baseline–Adam Sakoonserksadee and Dr. Ethan Musgrove–for giving me a chance to write for another great website and helping out my writing.

Thank you my great friends from school, baseball, and beyond–specifically my friend Ben Hinson, with whom I played baseball since tee-ball, and my six fellow Providence Day Chargers headed to Vanderbilt: Andy Marx, Chris Nash, Emily Stewart, John Cambern, Katie Metzger, and Tommy O’Gorman (and here’s to four more great years).

Thank you to my amazing family on Twitter; I’ve made some incredible friends over my three years and nearly 36,000 tweets. I’m talking about you, @SydDaKid17, @CardboardGerald, @jmiller112, @atjared, @bmb21, @JayMaalD, and more. (Tweet at me @benweinrib if I forgot about you).

Thank you to the writers on The Charger, and even more recently the secret society of cunning linguists at Charging Backwards–Holy Broman Empire, The Broletariat, Edgar Allen Bro, Broseph Stalin, Broseiden King of the Brocean, and Brosiah Wedgwood–for making writing so much fun.

Thank you to the pro athletes I’ve been lucky enough to interview with during my time in high school: Delino DeShields Jr., Joe Borchard, Ty Buttrey, Brad Stone.

I wouldn’t be here right outside my dorm room in Stambaugh House if not for the admissions crew at Vandy, and I wouldn’t be nearly as happy if it were not for the TRA, who helped award me the Fred Russell-Grantland Rice Sports Writing Scholarship. I can’t thank those guys enough.

I’ve had so many great opportunities and so many people to thank.

Hopefully I can look back and say this is the beginning of great things. And I wouldn’t be here without all this help.

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