One of the unfortunate thing that happens to people when they are rich and famous is that they no longer have anyone who is able to tell them no. One of the blessings of wealth and power is the way that one can bend one’s gravity in one’s immediate situation to lead people to orbit around you whose well-being depends on your good pleasure, and who often know better than to reveal to such a person their doubts and concerns about the wisdom of a decided course of action. People who live in a sheltered world where they are cossetted by people who make good money to make them feel good about themselves are often not prepared for the harshness of reality. Let us take as our case study today one NFL running back by the name of Le’Veon Bell.
Le’Veon Bell is currently a backup running back for the Kansas City Chiefs, as I write this. Previously, he had been a running back for the New York Jets, and before that for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yesterday night I had the chance to listen to his debut rap album as a result of a “punishment” received by a notable Pittsburgh-area yinzer sports vlogger who goes by the name Urinating Tree. Since he received the most money in their weekly stream, his punishment was to listen to and give live reaction commentary and review to a rap album by a running back who had formerly been a Pittsburgh player and whose departure from the Steelers was occasioned by a good deal of ugly drama, much of which seemed to result from the player’s own immaturity.
Having listened to the rap album myself, I was distinctly unimpressed. While it was by no means the worst rap album I had ever heard, the problems were pretty obvious. The beats were competent, but by no means stellar. The production was professional–likely Le’Veon paid a great deal of money for them, so he did get his money’s worth at least–but not enough to elevate the pedestrian nature of the material itself. The real issue was with the rapper himself. With a boring and monotonous flow that was only tolerable when it was sped up, and with a depressingly repetitive discussion of themes about his own player status as both a football player (who insists that he could never be overrated) as well as an expert in playing the field, his empty flexing about his greatness, it is obvious that he believed himself capable of making a name in the rap scene.
Ideally, someone should have had a conversation with Bell in which there was a realistic discussion of the likely reception to such an album. Bell is by far the first athlete to think that he is capable of being a world-beating emcee, and a great many of those products have been either consigned to the dustbin of history and mercifully forgotten or have become legendary examples of terrible rapping. One would think that the negative experience of Shaquille O’Neal’s efforts at rapping (which culminated in the sales and ridicule that became attached to his Shaq Diesel project) might have discouraged some would-be rappers, but no, Bell, became one of a series of athletes who have released a full length album to general puzzlement. One gets the feeling that despite his considerable success and wealth as an athlete, that he will be disappointed by the critical response to this particular alblum release.