This story is part of our new Hip-Hop: ’73 Till Infinity series, a celebration of the genre’s 50th anniversary.
Hip-hop and the NBA have grown up together. The first generation that grew up with mainstream hip-hop landed in the league toward the end of the 90s and never looked back.
Since then, Jordan bobbing his head to Kenny Lattimore has been replaced by LeBron bragging about discovering Migos in 2010.
Hip-hop is more than just a marketing tool for shoe brands or corporate synergy. It permeates throughout the sport. At times, the NBA’s C-Suites have gotten uncomfortable with the cultural connection and even tried to institute a dress code for players, but even they couldn’t stop a runaway train. Above all though, one thing has remained consistent. Athletes aspire to spill lyrics on and hoopers want to be NBA stars.
Hip-hop is a unique expression of rhythm, brashness and a demonstration of individual prowess that rivals the heliocentricsm of the league’s top playmakers. Both are mediums where one talent can raise the entire entertainment quality. Unlike R&B, there are few background vocals and tuning mixers to support an artist’s mic skills. You either got it or you get exposed. The same thing goes for the NBA’s elite.
The intersection between rappers and athletes is replete with roadkill, but here are the interlopers who were most effective at bleeding the lines between the NBA and hip-hop for better or worse.