Sunday, April 15, 2012

What's Poppin': Hip Hop and Basketball

Ever since I was kid, I have repeatedly seen instances of rappers who want to be in the NBA and players in the NBA who want to be rappers. But why? Is it the entertainment aspect? Is it because both professions are built around the art of performing? Is it an issue of race? Is it due to the fact that many of these individuals come from poor backgrounds?

What about the era before the emergence of the culture of hip hop? Back in the day, were guys like Wilt Chamberlain dreaming of playing with John Lennon and the Beatles? Did Bono ever think about putting down the mic and picking up a basketball?

I really can’t give you a concrete answer, but there is an undoubtedly interesting dichotomy between the two industries. I mean, in the real world, an accountant can’t genuinely believe he or she can just wake up one day and be a dentist -- it requires sufficient education, training, and experience.

A lot of hip hop’s growth into the mainstream can be attributed to the Michgan Fab 5. If you haven’t seen this ESPN documentary, I highly recommend it. In a nutshell, these five freshman basketball players exuded hip hop in their everyday lives -- their demeanor, their dress, their style, how they played the game of basketball, how they talked to the media, and just the way they carried themselves on and off the court. Ultimately, they were leading the charge with the next generation of kids without even knowing it. It obviously didn’t stop there, considering the fact that hip hop culture is now the new normal.

Back to the topic of rap artists thinking they can ball and ball players thinking they can flow -- throughout the years, we’ve seen so many failed attempts by both sides. Here are just a few NBA stars who thought they could go platinum:

Kenny Smith rap video (link): Kenny, there’s a reason why the guys on TNT show this video about once a year -- you’re horrible.

Tony Parker rap video (link): Tony, please don’t tell me that this was a hit in France.

Kobe Bryant rap video (link): Kobe, it’s pretty obvious why you haven’t come out with much music after this, but did you have to kill Brian McKnight’s career too?!

Thanks to the NBA All-Star weekend, we’ve been given the opportunity to see what type of skills rappers have. Guys like Nelly, Master P, Common, Pitbul, J.Cole, Bow Wow, and Chris Brown have all laced it up for our viewing pleasure, but these guys almost never play well. In fact, most of them are always leading their respective teams in double dribbles, traveling violations, and airballs. This year especially, the best player on the court by far was 47-year-old Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education. If you are getting dominated by the US secretary of anything, you should probably just focus on your day job.

With that being said, hip hop artists have come out with some amazing raps throughout the years when it comes to talking about the NBA. If I was allowed to, I would list my top-100 lyrics of all time, but not all of us can be Bill Simmons and write 10,000 word columns.

1. “As fate would have it, Jay’s status appears to be at an all-time high, perfect time to say good bye.
When I come back like Jordan, wearing the 4-5 -- it ain’t to play games with you, it’s to aim at you.” (Jay-Z’s “Encore” from The Black Album)

The brilliance behind these four bars are predicated on the fact that Jay-Z, at the time, was announcing his retirement from rapping. The Black Album was supposed to be his last hurrah. We all know he never really left, but that’s not the point. Not only was Jay referring to Jordan’s jersey number when he came out of retirement in 1995 (45), but he also had a play on words by turning it into a gun reference and attacking other rap artists. Whether he was condoning violence or not is unimportant -- that’s just how the hip hop music industry works -- but that he was clever enough to depict a double meaning with a number is pretty awesome.

2. “You know the best medicine go to people that’s paid. If Magic Johnson got a cure for AIDS. And all the broke motherf*ckers passed away. You telling me if my grandma was in the NBA, right now she’d be OK?” (Kanye West's "Roses" from Late Registration)

Hate him or love him, at the end of the day, you have to respect the depth of Kanye’s music. When he’s on his game, there is nobody in the business that can invoke the types of emotions he can stir up. He can make you pissed off, nod your head, question life’s meanings, or a combination of all three. In the “Roses” record, he talks about his grandmother in the hospital and how his emotions are overtaking him as he reminisces back to happier times with her. He gets frustrated about the notion of inequality in our country -- in this case our healthcare system specifically -- when it comes to the distinct differences in social classes. Obviously, he isn’t singling out the issue of race here, but alluding to something much bigger than that. Kanye, as we all know, is a complicated and eccentric individual who sometimes allows his mouth to get him into trouble. It’s great to see this side of him.

3. “Get me on the court and I’m trouble. Last week f*cked around and got a triple-double. Freaking niggas every way like MJ. I can’t believe, today was a good day.” (Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day” from The Predator)

If you’ve watched SportsCenter the last couple of months, you’ve probably heard the guys doing the highlights referring to this classic Ice Cube song whenever someone like Rajon Rondo gets a triple double in a game. Anyone who is a fan of hip hop music has this track on their iPod. It’s almost been 20 years since the song’s initial release, but it has remained timeless. Ice Cube does a beautiful job painting a picture of a perfect day amidst an imperfect life in South Central Los Angeles. Of course the definition of what is perfect varies from person to person, but the true greatness of this song, as seen at the end of the music video, is that perfection is fleeting.

I would love to know what hip hop songs have resonated with you throughout the years. So feel free to let me know what your favorite rap lines of all time are!

May's Haterade topic: The State of Boxing: Miguel Cotto v. Floyd Mayweather

Photo and video content courtesy of:,,, and


Too many Urkels on your team, that's why your wins low!

Jay-Z's Change Clothes

As much as hip-hop and basketball are intertwined, the hip-hop culture has itself changed its image.
Fashion would be a prime example. Look at artists nowadays, lilwayne rocking skinny jeans and basketball players are dressing nerd chic with bowties, glasses, and designer suits. I'd say there is more of a identity crisis now as the NBA moves to distance itself from the thug/rapper image that pervaded in the 90's, even though id guess that the demographics of people watching basketball hasn't changed all that much. It would be interesting to see if teenagers follow in the NBA's footsteps.

good article...

vicious - ball like kobe

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