IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve always been fascinated how hearing a song can bring you directly back to how things were during a particular time in your life. When Nas performed Ã¢â‚¬Å“One MicÃ¢â‚¬Â to finish out his set at the MLB Fan Cave last Wednesday, I was brought back to January 2005: It was 11:30 at night, I had just woken up, and I was listening to Nas in the living room of my new apartment while mentally gearing up to get on the 12:30 a.m. bus from New Jersey to New York City.
When I was a freshman at Duke, Alex Rodriguez showed up at a basketball game out of nowhere and sat a couple rows in front of me to watch Trajan Langdon, with whom heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d played Minor League ball. A-Rod had already had a couple of really good seasons for the Mariners, though nothing like the Bondsian numbers heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d put up a few years later. That day, he hung out with students, joked around with Dick Vitale and enjoyed the game like the rest of us.
Three years later, A-Rod signed a $250 million contract with the Rangers and steadily became warped by fame and money, destined to become an enormously talented and eccentric caricature of a superstar. Far gone were any vestiges of the kid who jumped up and down when Shane Battier took a charge.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve long been fascinated by the change that takes place when someone reaches levels of fame and wealth that most people only dream about. Does Michael Jordan ever look at pictures of himself inexplicably brandishing an umbrella in his dorm room and become a bit overwhelmed by what he has become? Or is he simply too preoccupied with cursing his imaginary adversaries, getting drunk off expensive liquors, running a terrible basketball team and wearing hideous outfits?
Over the years, Kanye West has crossed over into that rarified air. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard to imagine as recently as 2007, when he went head-to-head in record sales with a seemingly more popular 50 Cent and won, Kanye was actually something of an underdog. Last Friday night, during his solo show at Revel in Atlantic City, I marveled at the superstar Kanye West has become, at the expense of a decent chunk of his previous persona and humanity.