Rap and Basketball: A History
On Sunday, Wale, Fabolous, and Big Sean performed at the Barclays Center as part of the celebrity basketball challenge. With the three performing in a venue that a rap artist help build, it's a reminder of the long and storied history rap and basketball have had together -- hip-hop and hoops have proven to be quite the slam dunk of a dynasty. With that in mind, here's our history of Rap and Basketball.
YouTube Screen Capture Doctor, Shaq would like to know if he can Roc.
See also: The 10 Best Male Rappers of All Time
While there's been basketball references in rap going back to a New York Knicks shout-out in "Rapper's Delight," the second rap song ever released, the first time the subject took center stage court was in Kurtis Blow's 1984 classic "Basketball." You can tell Blow had a blast recording the track, utilizing the litany of untapped rhymes for basketball plays, and the sheer zeal he brings to rapping about dribbling. Hip-hop and modern basketball both grew-up very quickly in the '80s with the occasional moments of intersecting like Chuck D's Charles Barkley reference in "Rebel Without a Pause" and the Chris Webber and Jalen Rose lead University of Michigan Wolverines basketball team allegedly ending their huddles not by yelling "Defense!" but quoting Geto Boys' Scarface with "Let Your Nuts Hang."
The turn of the decade saw rappers re-writing their own signature songs to get some playing time on the court. The most bizarre being Kool Keith and The Ultramagnetic MCs' rapping the players' introductions at the 1989 NBA All Star Game. There's also Wreckx-N-Effect rechristening their chart-topper "Rump Shaker" as "Rim Shaker." Such creations eventually lead to the compilation CD NBA Jam Session that included the Heavy D/Notorious B.I.G. collaboration "Jam Session."
With the '90s came the biggest business both hip-hop and the NBA had ever seen. Of course, this lead to the inevitable rapsketball crossovers. Shaq is widely credited with kicking the phenomenon off by rapping along the Fu-Schnickens, most notably on "What's Up Doc? (Can We Rock)" where he brags about being the #1 pick ("not a Christian Laettner, not Alonzo Mourning"). Shaq had a few minor hits of his own, including "(I Know I Got) Skillz" and the autobiographical "Biological Didn't Bother," where Shaq's rap prowess is somehow strong enough to successfully rhyme "Want" and "Front." We sadly haven't had a proper Shaq single since his 2001 single "Connected" with Nate Dogg and WC from his scrapped double-disc album Shaq Presents...His Supafriendz Vol. 1. In fact, the last time we really heard Shaq get nasty on the mic was in 2008 with a battle rap tirade against Kobe, briefly popularizing the phrase "Kobe, tell me how my ass taste?"
While the debate of Kobe vs. Shaq is a tale as old as time (or at least more well known than Shaq vs. Aaron Carter) it's hard not to acknowledge that Shaq has Bryant beat on the mix. Even with Tyra Banks on the hook an an interpolation of the classic "8th Wonder" break, "K.O.B.E." is notoriously underwhelming, even by basketball players with jacked '90s Cam'ron flows standards. Yet, while Shaq faired well against Kobe, he needed a few years to recover from his absolutely puzzling beef with notorious rap ghostwriter and underground hero Skillz. When Shaq, for reasons still unknown, called out Skillz in one line on a mixtape track in 2004, Skillz's notoriously diligent work ethic kicked in, and he responded to Shaq with an entire mixtape worth of diss tracks, including the still funny Jay-Z remake "99 Freethrows."
But before the Bryant conflict with MC Shaq, around the time Rasheed Wallace dissed E-40, record execs realized there might be something to this rap and basketball connection and released B-Ball's Best Kept Secrets, a compilation record of basketball players rapping.