Thursday, December 29, 2011

World's Coolest Dude 1911-2011, (1991-2000)

We continue with the ninth installment of the World's Coolest Dude 1911-2011 list, which covers the years 1991-2000.

In case you missed it, here are the previous installments of the World's Coolest Dude 1911-2011 list:

1991 – Michael Jordan (3)

This selection was controversial at the time because there had never been one person who won the World’s Coolest Dude three years in a row. However, once again it was impossible to overlook Michael Jordan.  First of all, he won his first NBA Title in the 1991 Finals against Magic Johnson and the Lakers, which basically served as a passing of the torch of the 1980’s to the 1990’s or the era of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson to Michael Jordan. Jordan had finally embraced the complete team game while still acting as the best player on the planet who was capable of taking over a game at will. Instead of forcing that action, he let it flow out of the team game. This sort of accomplishment sounds cliched now, but it truly was a public fascination at the time as no one could understand why Jordan couldn’t win until he did. Throw in the “Be Like Mike” campaign starting for Gatorade and Jordan even furthered his status as a walking icon and money factory. Finally, as the 1991-1992 season started, Jordan led, what was probably the greatest of the 1990’s Chicago Bulls teams, to a blistering record through December. The next year they went on to win the title against Portland as Jordan completely vanquished the thought or idea that Clyde Drexler was his equal. That aspect didn’t factor into his 1991 win, though. The most impressive part of Jordan’s 1991, was that he was just as competitive as ever, that he never let up and that even after years of scrutiny and status as the perhaps the first modern global icon, he was never slowing down. He had literally become a symbol, but yet he wanted more, which made him human and still made him the World’s Coolest Dude.

1992 – Bill Clinton

After the Gulf War in 1991, George H.W. Bush was declared “invincible” in the upcoming 1992 election. Bush had a mind-boggling 80% approval rating. A year later, Bill Clinton was voted into the White House. How did this happen? Bush reneged on his “no new taxes” statement as the economy began to go south. American’s couldn’t trust him. Meanwhile, Clinton was on Arsenio blowing the sax, admitting to smoking marijuana but not “inhaling.” He focused on domestic matters, which is what Americans wanted after a war in the Middle East. Clinton was going to be the first “baby boomer” president, the first president to understand a new generation of young voters as well as the generation of baby boomers who made up the majority of the voting population. At 46, he was the third youngest man to be voted into the White House. Coming off of older presidents like Nixon, Ford, Carter, Regan and Bush, Clinton seemed to be a breath of fresh air. He was the first Democrat president in twelve years and only the second in twenty four years. He hadn’t fully mastered the “Clinton charisma” but you at the time you knew he could go there. When he entered a room, you wanted to be close to him, he changed the dynamic wherever he went. This magnetism, paired with Bush’s fall from grace led Clinton into the White House, made him the World’s Coolest Dude and marked the true beginning of the 1990’s.

1993 – Michael Jordan (4)

This was Michael’s final award (though he came close in 1996). Michael had reached the pinnacle of his physical abilities as he developed an extremely (for the time) disciplined and unparalleled workout and weightlifting routine to strengthen his body so that he could better withstand all the hard fouls he took driving to the basket and so he could outlast his opponents at the end of games. Michael’s stats from 1993 look like:

Season   G    GS    FG%   3P%   FT%  TRB    AST    STL    BLK    PTS 
’92-93    78    78     .495    .352     .837      6.7       5.5       2.8       0.8      32.6

Although he was at his physical peak, Michael was perhaps at his most spiritually low. He was under heavy scrutiny for gambling allegations and the book The Jordan Rules had brought to light the destructive side of his competitive spirit. In spite of this, Michael led the Bulls over a superior Phoenix Suns team in the 1993 NBA Finals in six game. Michael had perhaps his finest Playoff series in the 1993 Finals:

G    GS   MPG    FG%   3P%   FT%  TRB    AST    STL    BLK    PTS 
 6     6      45.7      .508     .400     694      8.5        6.3      1.7       0.67     41.0

The Bulls became the first team to win three championships in a row since the Celtics of the 1960’s and yes, Jordan averaged over forty points for the series. Just look at those numbers and I think you will immediatelycomprehened why they are insane. After the Finals, Jordan realized that his competitive fire was gone. He had no equal in the game of basketball, so he made the most mysterious decision in the history of  sports and walked away from the game. He was only 29 years old and at the height of his talents, yet he walked away because the passion wasn’t there. Walking away because the true inner passion is gone makes you cool in any normal situation; but walking away at the top of your game when you are a global icon because your heart tells you to do it, that makes  you the World’s Coolest Dude.

1994 – Notorious B.I.G.

Why was Notorious B.I.G. the World’s Coolest Dude in 1994? HE RELEASED READY TO DIE! It has one of the most iconic album covers of all-time in any genre, cleverly using the cover art with the title in a way that is rarely done. Plus it is easily in the Top 5 of most rap fan’s “Best Albums” list. I mean, it has “Juicy” on it. “JUICY!” It is the the most anthemic rap song ever! The album’s popularity as well as the “Big Poppa” video made B.I.G. a larger than life figure. He was like some kingpin, a modern day Orson Welles who told heartbreaking stories about urban life in song. You could argue that perhaps 1994 was the year of Kurt Cobain due to the fact that he killed himself while Nirvana were at their most popular, but The World's Coolest Dude committee could not factor in Cobain's suicide. The release of Ready to Die set the stage for the rap battles of the mid-90’s and everything that came after the fallout from Biggie’s and Tupac’s deaths. 1994 was B.I.G’s year.

1995 – Tupac Shakur

You could go either/or with Biggie and Tupac in 1994 and 1995, but all you have to do is read the following sentence from Wikipedia to know why Tupac was the World’s Coolest Dude in 1995:

Shakur became the first artist ever to have an album at number one on the Billboard 200 while serving a prison sentence.

Tupac spent nearly all of 1995 in jail but his influence was widespread in the world at large. Me Against the World is one of the classic rap albums of all-time and Tupac was responsible for much of the “West Coast” aesthetic that was starting to reach the peak of its popularity in the mid-90’s. The NWA had been popular and influential as West Coast rappers before Tupac, but they were seen as too dangerous. While Tupac contained an element of danger, there was also his flair for the dramatic and his intelligence that helped his expression of the “West Coast” catch on (that and the fact that more rap had been absorbed into culture at large for a longer time when Tupac released Me Against the World than when the NWA released their albums). In addition, you have the image of Tupac sitting in jail reading Machiavelli and The Art of War. It was during this time in prison that Tupac cultivated the image of rapper-as-philosopher, which was later taken to different extremes (see Black Star and the culture of  the “metaphysical rapper” that rose in the late 90’s and early 00’s). So, to recap: he released a double-platinum album while in jail, exported a lifestyle aesthetic that was palpable to the greater culture, and set up rap postures by reading ancient philosophy books in prison. Your World’s Coolest Dude 1995.

1996 – Jerry Seinfeld

Seinfeld dominated TV in the 1990’s. It was the most popular show of the decade and one of the most influential TV shows of all time. Now, while Jerry has receded into the realm of culture icon in the time since (i.e. only appearing when he wants to, living off tons of syndication revenue), he was everywhere in 1996. Seinfeld was the unquestioned king of of TV and the entire cast had reached a Beatles-level of fame. Meanwhile, Jerry was in a constant battle for funniest man on the planet with Chris Farley, Mike Meyers and Adam Sandler (Chris Rock’s rise to power came in the 1998 region). The “Seinfeld sensibility” effected our everyday lives as we took phrases and situations from the show and related them/inserted them into our own experiences. Plus, looking back, there is no one that seemed to embody the zeitgeist of the mid-90’s than Jerry Seinfeld in a weird sweater, casual jeans and bright white sneakers.

1997 – Puff Daddy

After Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. were both assassinated in 1996, the rap world had a gaping hole. Enter Puff Daddy. Puff had already been a well known celebrity as the founder of Bad Boy records and as Biggie’s producer/unofficial hype man/best friend. He had helped pioneer the blatant sampling/directly reusing of already successful pop songs from the 80’s and turning them into rap hits. So, without Tupac and Biggie making albums, Puffy took his turn as a rapper. In 1997, he released No Way Out, which was more or less a tribute to Notorious B.I.G. At the time of its release it was one of the best-selling albums of the year and has gone on to sell over seven million copies. No Way Out featured at least four memorable singles in “Victory,” “I’ll Be Missing You,” “All About the Benjamins,” and “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” as well as another popular secondary single in “Been Around the World.” In 1997, Puffy was at the helm of rap’s most successful label, had been the producer for one of the most legendary rappers of all-time and then released his own super-successful solo album. Oh yeah, and he also produced Ma$e’s Harlem World in the same year, another album that has gone multiplatinum. You could say that Puff Daddy was effectively ingrained in our everyday lives and subconsciousnesses in a huge way in 1997. He was the World’s Coolest Dude.

1998 – “Stone Cold” Steve Austin

The 1998 World’s Coolest Dude Award was one of the most controversial and debated World’s Coolest Dude Awards of all-time. You might be shocked that it was given to a wrestler, but you just have to remember how popular wrestling. and especially the WWE (then WWF), were in 1998. The wrestling industry had already been through the absolute fundamental upheaval that was the nWo in 1996. By using the “invasion” angle WCW put the WWF six feet under with all of their nWo storylines. However, by 1998 much of the writing had gotten stale and the WWF had caught some headlines with the Montreal Screwjob at the 1997 Survivor Series between Brett Hart and Shawn Michaels. In addition, they had the most popular wrestling star in “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Austin’s bad ass persona had won over the fans through much of 1997. Using a mix of beer-drinking, middle finger-pointing, excellent catchphrases, perhaps the best entrance music of all-time and the most pop-culture accessible finishing move in WWF history Austin had risen to the top of the WWF ranks. When he defeated Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XIV it ushered in the new “Attitude” era of the WWF. Austin spent much of 1998 feuding with Vince McMahon and holding the WWF Championship belt while basically filling all of the arenas the WWF travelled to and selling more t-shirts and hats and replica championship belts than any other wrestler in history. You can argue all you want, but “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was the World’s Coolest Dude in 1998.

1999 – Bill Gates

As each year passes and we become more reliant on the technology and products of Macintosh, it becomes more apparent that we will look back on the decade of the 1990’s as the decade of the PC. In the late 1990's, every family had either a Dell desktop or a Gateway desktop with an Intel II processor that ran Windows 1995 or 1998—there was simply no other alternative if you wanted to use a computer. Bill Gates was a public icon in the 90’s. He was associated with everything having to do with the “technological revolution,” Windows was the only way of life and he was richer than any of us could imagine. He’s still just as rich, but not as relevant. All you have to do is look at the “I’m a PC” commercials to know that. However, in 1999 Bill Gates was one of the main measuring sticks of our society. As we entered the Y2K scare, his power as the master of the PC and Windows was at its unquestioned peak. Early into the new millenium Mac would steal the torch and start running with it and now we are very much in a Mac society. But back in 1999, the bottom line on computers and technology was the name Bill Gates.

2000 – Bill Clinton (2)

2000 was Clinton’s last  year as president and as we entered a new decade and millenium it was comforting to have a familiar and friendly face leading us through the Y2K panic and into the “unknown.” As the Gore/Bush race took off during the year, it almost became like a farewell tour for Clinton as we got to look back on the prosperous wild ride of the 90’s that Clinton led us on. Clinton’s charisma was in full effect and we could even overlook his sex scandals and perceived weeks morals and say that he was one of the best presidents we ever had. Never underestimate the Clinton charisma  to change minds. It’s the second most powerful “force” behind the Force from Star Wars. The year 2000 was a vintage year for Clinton charisma on display.

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