There’s always been an obvious connection between the NBA and the world of hip-hop. The music is played in the arenas, the players have it on in their headphones pre-game, and Lebron James is out here singing Fetty Wap off key on the sidelines. After years of watching the NBA, and after years of wishing the And1 Mixtape Tour would come back to ESPN, I’ve noticed that there a lot of players in the NBA who actually remind me of some biggest names in hip-hop.
Steph Curry and E-40
Before anyone watches Step Curry or E-40 perform there needs to be some kind of “don’t try this at home” disclaimer. If someone says they model their game after Curry there’s a chance he takes and misses a lot of reckless three pointers while triple covered and stunts on you the one time he sinks a shot. (Shout out Josh Smith)
If a rapper says he models his sound after E-40, there’s a chance you’re not gonna understand a word he says on his mixtape. (Shout out to Young Thug)
But that’s why you gotta give them props, because even if you’re not a fan of the style, you have to acknowledge that what they do is really hard to pull off. E-40 raps like he’s trying to cross you up and break your ankles. Every time he starts a verse I actively wonder how the hell he’s gonna make this work and then I end up putting the song on repeat to try and figure out how he made something so dope. Basically, I look like Steve Kerr at the end of this clip:
A point guard should never stress out his coach like that. You can see Kerr thinking, “What the fuck? I didn’t call that play.” Then the shot went in and he had to take back everything bad he said about him.
When I write these comparisons, one of the things I check is how long we’ve been waiting for your next album. Making fun of artists like Dre and Jay Electronica for delayed projects is always easy. But that’s not a problem for E-40. He’s like Curry in the sense that you don’t have to wonder if he’s gonna find a way to make his presence felt. You don’t need to look to get him the ball in just the right spot. He’s just gonna take it, maybe make a meme out of Chris Paul, and take all the shots he’ll need to over the course of a game. You also don’t need to wonder when E-40’s next album is gonna drop or when his last one was. The answers to those questions are soon and just last week. Personally, I’m concerned about my boy 40 Water. He spends more time in the studio than anyone with a healthy personal life should. E-40 probably hasn’t seen his children in a minute since he’s out here dropping an album week. The only bedtime story they hear from their father is this one.
I’m not hating om him though. Because I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bumping this the whole off season:
Timofy Mozgov and Corey Gunz
How bittersweet is it when one of your greatest individual accomplishments come during a blow out loss in the NBA Finals? How bad is the taste in your mouth when you don’t even get a chance to build on your momentum because your own success came with a direct sacrifice of team success? How does it feel knowing an entire section of the Mixtape Tour is going to be dedicated to comparing you to one of the most easily forgotten rappers in the past 10 years? These are questions for Timofey Mozgov.
The acquisition of Mozgov was brushed off as a lateral move by the Cavilers front office when Anderson Varejao went down for the season. But Mozgov, with the entirety of Mother Russia backing him, decided that game 4 was gonna be his time to shine. The Warriors went with a small line up and no one over 6’6 was ever guarding him which allowed him to go off for 28 points. Mozgov was going to make it clear to Steve Kerr and company that if Golden State was going to leave its centers on the bench, Mozgov was going to score at will…the problem was the Cavs still lost by 21.
When David Blatt changed the starting line up and Mozgov played nine minutes the next game, I’d like to think Corey Gunz quietly shed a tear.
Corey Gunz came out of no where with one of the best guest verses of 2012 on Lil’ Wayne’s 6 Foot 7 Foot. To be real, that whole track caught me off guard. I’m not used to listening to Wayne verses and actually enjoying them. And then to follow it up, Corey Gunz gets his breakthrough feature verse and he spits like he had something to prove. He sounded hungry. He sounded like he wanted you to look out for his next record. And to this day I’m not sure if that record ever came out. Someone needs to ask Birdman what happened to that boy. Gunz came off the bench to drop a 28 point feature verse and then Cash Money Records did what Cash Money Records does: they keep your album from dropping and make you disappear. But, I’d still like to think we can find him. He may even be sitting next to Mozgov on the bench when the Cavs play the Warriors on Christmas.
But, while the national search for Corey Gunz continues, we need to keep an eye out for Chingy and J-Kwon. Chingy was last seen at a local Holiday Inn and J-Kwon is still at the club encouraging people to get to get tipsy.
DeMar DeRozan and Joey Badass
Both these guys need to be told that it’s not 1995 anymore. I’m sure both of these guys have been told that its not 1995 anymore. But, neither of them care it’s not 1995 anymore, because that old school stuff they do works, somehow.
Today’s NBA is predicated on efficiency. The ideal team would only dunk and take three pointers. The area of the court where mid range jumpers are taken have turned into the “sketchy” pre-gentrification neighborhoods that aren’t seen as valuable.
And DeMar Derozan is the last guy in that neighborhood who isn’t scared off by the crime rate and refuses to move because the hood ain’t that bad as long as you mind your business and avoid wearing certain colors.
Derozan sees your tough perimeter defense and says, “I bet you can’t stop me if I take this 18-footer with a hand in my face.” And he’s right. He’s the king of outdated, inefficient shot taking. I bet Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant swell with pride as their unofficially adopted son carries on their legacies.
And did you see his unnecessarily difficult and inefficient slaughter of the Celtics?
It was such a throwback game I thought I heard John Tesh playing in the background.
Joey Badass hasn’t quite picked up the efficiencies of the new rap game either. Hasn’t he heard? The hottest rappers out don’t waste time with inefficient things like words and enunciation. Autotune and mumbles is what’s hot in these streets. And you know what’s even more efficient than being the most popular mumble rapper in the game? Ripping off his style and using it to make a track that’s a spooky-sounding reference to an old Nickelodeon show. (I watched a lot of Fairly Odd Parents and I don’t think Timmy Turner would ever wish for this.)
But Joey really wants to do this the hard way. He wants all the boom and all the bap in his music. Without looking it up I bet the average age of the producers he works with is 79. Those jazz samples haven’t been popular since A Tribe Called Quest dropped the Low End Theory in 1947.
Since you can’t mumble your way through that Miles Davis sample, that means he has to actually say something. But, because Joey Badass is the master of that time capsule flow, he raps like he just bough Illmatic on cassette. And after using a pencil eraser to rewind it a few times he’s decided he wants to come after Nas’ crown.
The concept of this video is so 1990’s he’s even rocking a hockey jersey. (As someone who loves hockey and hip-hop equally, I need this trend to come back)
Their styles may be outdated, but they’ll always have a place in the hearts of old souls who miss long range two pointers and don’t understand why these young rappers don’t sound like they used to. DeRozan and Joey Badass are the perfect way to bridge the generation gap with your middle-aged uncle who takes that driveway basketball game way too seriously.