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Those good memories have all but faded into oblivion and given way to a season of second-guesses for the Lakers' championship ambitions. The latest round of doubt came on the eve of the Staples Center-hosted NBA All-Star Game weekend. The the threepeat-seeking Lakers dropped a road game to the Cleveland Cavaliers - aka the lowliest squad in the league, a team that recently set an NBA record for most consecutive losses.
It wasn't a game 7, and the Lakers didn't bring home a trophy, so more than a few sportswriters pounced on Artest for tweeting after the game that he was releasing his new BALL'N hip-hop mixtape ahead of schedule. That same night he provides a link for the free download and asked his fans for feedback. Since Ron-Ron turned in an especially abysmal one-point performance against the Cavs, many newspaper sports sections, including the pages of The Los Angeles Times, wondered in print if the starting forward had his head in the game or was distracted by his musical side-project.
The drumbeat was so loud that Artest apologized earlier today tweeting "HEY HARDCORE LAKER FANS, SORRY ABOUT THE TWEET OF MY MIXTAPE RIGHT AFTER THE LOST. I WAS JUST PROCEEDING WITH MY PERSONAL BIZ. THANKS."
The mixtape is hosted by Power 106's DJ Felli Fel and only takes a few seconds into the first track to blare that annoying air-horn multi-shot sample, but it's anchored by enough solid tracks to make it worthwhile - auto-tune choruses aside. Artest takes a minimalist approach, appearing on songs with an assembled crew of MCs throughout including Nas, Chamillionaire, and even fellow teammates Joe Smith and rookie Derrick Caracter.
The Laker forward keeps himself to the intro only on "Who I Am?" allowing Nas to do his thing on the mixtape's standout song. W.C. drops a guest verse for "On that New Shit" with Artest over a beat that recalls what made "Champions" so listenable. As for the rapping merits of Artest himself? His flow has certainly improved since the 'Sit-ups keep my back strong' days of "Workout." There's still some lyrical 'wtf's' that make for a good chuckle like when he steps into his verse on "This is What it Sound Like" rhyming "Came from the mom's womb/ Pops caught a good nut!" but it's still much better than anything Kobe Bryant has done behind the mic.
Not including the Black Mamba on the mixtape was probably the smartest move Artest makes on BALL'N!
Ron Artest will be signing autographs Sunday at the Earloomz Store, 14514 Ventura Blvd. Sherman Oaks, 91403. 1-2 p.m.