November 10, 2015

DENSON | NBA Rappers

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This isn’t the world of Lil Wayne, Lil Jon or even Lil Dickey. It’s the NBA. Life is good for most NBA stars. With money, talent and fame, what else is there? It’s more money, talent and fame. “Let me try rapping because why not,” he said. “How hard can it be,” he said.

Just like any fad, NBA rappers will soon enough fade from memory, only to exist as mere entries in the deepest annals of Wikipedia. Everyone will remember Metta World Peace — formerly Ron Artest — for being crazy and fighting anyone who stands in his way, not for his 2006 rap album “My World.” Allen Iverson, Shaq, Chris Webber, Kevin Durant and even the sultry Frenchman Tony Parker are just some who have played basketball while trying to rap on the side — who knew?

Almost definitely the greatest player-rapper of all-time, just what do you remember about Kobe Bryant? Do you remember Bryant before he was an accused rapist? Back when he had an afro and before he won a championship? All the way back to when he wore number eight? Before we knew that he was a narcissistic, egocentric ball hog who has a fierce determination to win — along with an uncanny ability to score? Before ESPN more recently said that Bryant is the reason the Lakers are “dying?”

This is when Kobe Bryant released his debut album, Visions, in January 2000. Highlighted by the single “K.O.B.E.” featuring the gorgeous Tyra Banks, the song tells a tale about how Bryant is the best player ever, about how he can get any woman he wants. He also rhymes “whitcha” with “hitcha” and “splitcha.” Sung by Bryant himself, of course, Tyra Banks providing an interlude where she confesses her love for Bryant and promises to be with him forever, if he lets her. Bryant lives for “basketball, beats and broads.”

However, Bryant’s rap game is far from his actual game. Released to dismal reviews, “K.O.B.E.,” along with the rest of his album, instantly ended his music career. This didn’t stop him from winning three consecutive championships, but it seems like the NBA should have some sort of penalty set up for players who release awful rap albums, much like the NFL has policies on personal conduct.

Undoubtedly, Allen Iverson would have benefitted from such a policy a few months later. In June 2000 he released his single 40 Bars, during which he told people to stay fly and get money while sprinkling in some slurs towards pretty much everyone. Although then-commissioner David Stern didn’t specify an exact penalty, he demanded that Iverson change the offensive lyrics and that if he didn’t, “He, along with the 76ers and the NBA, will merit whatever criticism may be leveled at us.”

It was a stunning blow to the entire music industry when Iverson decided not to release his album due to the ensuing controversy. At least Bryant was able to release an album.

Now remember not too long ago, when former Knicks combo guard Iman Shumpert released a surprisingly superb single that sounded like Shump’s vocals gifted with the smoothness of Kendrick Lamar’s and the absurdity of Rick Ross. He did all this with a torn ACL. Imagine what he could do if he retired from basketball and rapped full time? The sky is the limit for Shump’s music career, while his basketball skills seem stunted.

Next time you see an elderly Bryant air balling an off-kilter fade away shot, next time you see Iverson kvetching over how he wasted all his money on blackjack and next time you feel sorry for a struggling NBA “has been,” just remember that you’re wasting your precious brain cells on them. The AARP section of the NBA can always release a talentless, heavily produced rap album just to remind us that they are still relevant. None are dropping any shots, so maybe they can still entertain us by dropping beats?