In honor of tonight’s Chicago Bulls season opener against the NBA’s defending champs, the Miami Heat, I thought I’d give a listen to My World, the debut album by former Bull Ron Artest. (It came out today.) Artest now plays for the Sacramento Kings, and while I was initially bummed when the Bulls traded him for Jalen Rose back in 2002, it’s been hard to identify with the guy given his erratic behavior — most famously the moment in 2004 when he climbed into the stands during a Pacers-Pistons game, prompting a brawl.
My World is a pretty ho-hum album, with production just as run of the mill as the Artest’s flow; a few hip-hop stars like Juvenile and Mike Jones have cameos, and they upstage Artest without breaking a sweat. But it’s tempting to spend hours dissecting “Haters,” the lead track on the album (following an intro by Diddy) and an epic of pathological self-loathing and self-delusion. The track focuses on the fallout of the brawl, interrupted by its chorus (though I’m being kind in calling it that): “You, you, you, and you, why you hating me? / I don’t know but a lot of people hating me.” If we’re to believe his synth-dappled jam, Artest is simply misunderstood, and folks too often obsess over the negative bits of his past without looking at what’s good about him. He equates smoking weed before games and drinking booze at the half as “rebel” behavior, and then he calls out Today’s Matt Lauer for being mean during an interview: “You look like a girl, don’t talk to me / We did the interview, you automatically hated me / Talked about the brawl, but didn’t ask about family.” At the end of the song, he compares himself to Jesus.
I have no idea if Andres Nocioni or Luol Deng are good rappers, but I’m happy to know that I’ll probably never find out. I’d rather watch them play basketball.