NBA Lockouts On Wax: The Music That Defined 2 Labor Disputes

It doesn’t look like the NBA will be back anytime soon, as the lockout continues in the wake of the players deciding to dissolve the union. With games already officially cancelled through December 15th, it seems likely more of the same will be soon to follow.

Unfortunately, we’ve been in this position before when the 1998-99 season was locked out through mid-January and the schedule was shortened to 50 games. So what better way to pass the time than by looking at the best albums from each of the two (relatively non-existent) NBA seasons?

Interestingly enough, the state of the music industry and professional basketball have switched places in a sense since the last work stoppage. During late ’98 to early ’99, music and album sales were thriving. Napster had yet to be released, and going to the store and actually purchasing a new album was the norm as opposed to some ridiculous proposition. Songs and albums weren’t leaking weeks in advance, and you couldn’t just go on YouTube to stream any song you wanted. The NBA, on the other hand, was just entering the post-MJ era, unsure of what direction the sport’s popularity would take with the world’s most popular athlete no longer on the hardwood.

Fast-forward to 2011. The music industry is struggling; no one is paying for music anymore. If they do, it’s in $0.99, single song increments. Record labels are constantly making cuts, and selling a million albums in your opening week is next to impossible. But the NBA has changed, too. The game has survived scandals, brawls and boring Finals match-ups (San Antonio/Cleveland???) to reach what is arguably an all-time high in terms of popularity and exposure. A large portion of America’s most marketable superstars are NBA players (LeBron, Wade, Kobe, Durant, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin) and the league has done a great job of continually improving its image and fan experience… until now, of course. I guess as much as things change, the more they stay the same.


Top 5 Albums of 1998-99
Californication – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Long before it was a Showtime series starring David Duchovny, everyone and their brother was jamming to Californication and pantomiming the guitar solo on “Scar Tissue.”

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – Lauryn Hill
Hill was to music what Bobby Simmons was to the NBA, with Hill practically disappearing after her monster debut album dropped in August of 1998. But regardless of how much she fell off, the release still earned her five Grammys, including Album of the Year and Best New Artist. Ok, I take back the Bobby Simmons comment.

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea – Neutral Milk Hotel
Before the hipster scene became mainstream, Neutral Milk Hotel was the cream of the crop. What many have labeled as the quintessential “indie” album, Aeroplane has lived on as somewhat of a cult classic, continuing to rack up sizeable CD and vinyl sales even today.

Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life – Jay-Z
Won the Grammy for Best Rap Album and kicked off a string of nine straight solo releases to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for HOVA. Enough said.

Hello Nasty – Beastie Boys
If for no other reason than the fact that it spawned the ridiculous “Intergalactic” music video.

(Honorable Mention) The Slim Shady LP – Eminem: Shady changed the game up, and this album started it all.

(The People’s Choice) Millennium – Backstreet Boys: Nearly 9.5 million copies sold in 1999 alone.

Top 5 Albums of 2011… so far
The King is Dead – The Decemberists
This album is probably my personal favorite of the year to this point, and spawned a pretty impressive David Foster Wallace-inspired music video of its own for “Calamity Song.”

House of Balloons – The Weeknd
The best mixtape of 2011 by far… and that doesn’t even do it justice.

Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes
The album is defined by its narrative, rawness and honesty, and is somehow made greater by the small oddities and imperfections along the way, as if they were left in on purpose.

Watch the Throne – Jay-Z and Kanye West
It’s no mistake that Jay-Z’s name appears on both of these lockout lists. And “gravy” or not, at least the Nets won’t be going 0 for 82 this year.

Dye it Blonde – Smith Westerns
This indie band hasn’t quite hit it big yet, but after listening to this album, it should be pretty obvious that it won’t be too long before they do.

(Honorable Mention) Take Care – Drake: “I’m a descendent of either Marley or Hendrix / I haven’t figured it out cause my story is far from finished” is probably the smartest line from Drake on his sophomore studio album, but “All drinks on the house like Snoopy” is definitely the best one.

(The People’s Choice) 21 – Adele: Projections have this record selling close to 4.5 million by years end, making it the top seller of 2011 by a comfortable margin.

In a perfect world, we would already be a couple weeks deep into the new NBA season. But even in a world that isn’t completely cruel and twisted, there will actually be some professional basketball to watch before winter hits in full force. One can only hope. Until then, I guess we’ll just keep Rolling in the Deep.

Has our musical taste changed for the better or worse?

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