Mike Tyson's Top Ten Rap Cameos
Reggie Rock Bythewood's One Night in Vegas, airing on ESPN tonight as part of the network's "30 for 30" documentary series, shines a light on the little known friendship and many parallels between tortured souls Mike Tyson and Tupac Shakur. The title of Bythewood's documentary is a reference to Sept. 7, 1996, when Shakur was fatally wounded on the Las Vegas Strip after taking in what would be Tyson's last successful title defense, against Bruce Seldon. 'Pac, who'd recorded music specifically for Tyson to use during his entrance that night (something he'd done previously for Tyson's rematch against Frank Bruno earlier that year), wasn't the only rapper to take inspiration from the champ. The most feared and virile black athlete of his day, Tyson's name has been an ubiquitous lyrical reference point for more than 20 years (see '99's Ego Trip's Book of Rap Lists for a rundown of classic Tyson-centric one-liners), and the subject of more than a few full-on tributes. The respect was mutual: a longtime rap fan, Mike was a regular presence at NYC nightspots like the Latin Quarter during rap's golden era, hobnobbing with the likes of Eric B. and Rakim and LL Cool J, and turning up in numerous videos over the years. Here's a look at some of his more notable cameos, both literal and in spirit, in chronological order of appearance.
Spoonie Gee, "Mighty Mike Tyson" (1987)
The pioneering Harlem MC (of "Love Rap" fame) was probably the first rapper to pay tribute to the then-rising star, on this Marley Marl-produced track from his '87 comeback LP, The Godfather of Rap.
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, "I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson" (1989)
The lead single from Jeff and Will's lackluster third LP, ...And In This Corner, is probably the best-known lyrical testament to Tyson-induced fear. With its Don King and Alfonso Ribeiro cameos, and the pricless victory dance Iron Mike does after KOing the future box-office king, the video is as entertaining today as it was back then.
Breeze, "T.Y.S.O.N" (1989)
Dubbing himself "The young son of no one," L.A. rapper Breeze (not to be confused with Philly's MC Breeze) named his first and only LP T.Y.S.O.N.. The title track, which attempts to make a case for the comparison with lines like "Ain't nobody hitting like Tyson/I'm going the length/I'm the young son of no one in rap/Like the man I mentioned two lines back," confusingly samples lines from Muhammad Ali, not Mike.
Ice-T, "New Jack Hustler (Nino's Theme)" (1991)
Probably the earliest example of what you might call the "Mike-as-street-cred-accessory" genre, the clip for Ice's contribution to the New Jack City soundtrack finds Mike chatting on a bulky carphone and politicking with members of the Rhyme Syndicate.