Growing up, I had lots of different interests. But two things I loved as a kid, youth, and continue to love as an adult, are basketball and rap. To this point, I know I’m not unique…
In fact, basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world, with an estimated global following of 825 million fans, which continues to grow as the sport becomes more popular internationally. And what’s not to love? Lots of scoring; amazing highlight dunks, shots, and dribble moves; and charismatic superstars at the professional level.
And then there’s rap music, which has also become one of the most popular music genres internationally. In fact, in 2017, hip hop music surpassed rock and roll as the most popular music genre in the United States. And again, what’s not to love? Rappers are the poets of this generation, crafting amazing flows and rhyme schemes to create powerful stories and messages that resonate with the masses, particularly the youth of the world.
In addition, basketball and rap have always had a close relationship. Many rappers are big fans of the sport of basketball, and many basketball players are die hard rap fans. There are also several examples of people who have succeeded at a high level in both industries. Both basketball and rap were, and continue to be, predominantly led and popularized by the African American community at the highest levels of each craft. However, with the growing popularity and resonance of each, more and more people of diverse backgrounds are pursuing basketball and rap and achieving high levels of success, especially at the international level.
With that said, I thought I’d make a playlist of some of my personal favorite rap songs about basketball. Including one of my own at the start of the list… :). I give you: Hoops and Hip Hop: The Best Rap Songs about Basketball.
1) Colby Jeffers – “NBA”
My new single “NBA” mixes my two passions of rap and basketball with a third: spirituality. I explore living a life of nobility through a series of hoops-themed metaphors and similes. Hope you find it both dope and inspiring!
2) Andy Mineo (ft. Wordsplayed) – “Lay Up”
Christian-inspired rappers Andy Mindo and Wordsplayed also explore some spiritual themes in their song “Lay Up”, which is a play on one of the easiest shots in basketball, the lay up. As they rap in the chorus, “one thing that you don’t miss: that’s a layup”.
3) Derek Minor & Canon – “It’s Not A Game”
Reflection Music Group rappers Derek Minor & Canon use basketball references to show they mean business in their track “It’s Not A Game”. Comparing their rap collaboration to “MJ with the six rings” and “Lebron James coming through the lane”, they go hard on this track.
4) Lil Wayne – “Kobe Bryant”
This track is one of the most prolific rappers making an ode about one of the greatest basketball players of all time. While many rappers may make a reference to famous basketball players in their verses, in this song, Lil Wayne created a whole track about the greatness of his favorite basketball player: Kobe Bryant. In Weezy’s words, Bryant is the “Black Mamba, attack conquer, basketball beast.”
5) The Game – “Champion”
This was the theme song to one of my favorite video games as a youth. I remember hearing The Game’s “Champion” when I first popped in NBA 2K10 into my XBox 360. Making reference to the various teams in the NBA, The Game raps about what it takes to be a champ.
6) R.O.C. – “2K2”
Another NBA 2K theme song, this track was featured when basketball great, Allen Iverson, was in his prime and was featured on the game cover. Out of all the NBA 2K theme songs, this one definitely has the sound that most closely resembles classic, golden era hip hop. Loaded with braggadocious basketball rhymes, rapper R.O.C. spits, “you can’t guard me… you can’t hold… no, all day my Jay is on and all day my game is on”.
7) Nelly – “Heart of Champion”
Sampling the classic “NBA on NBC” theme song, St. Louis rapper Nelly created a classic pump up track called “Heart of a Champion”, loaded with several references to basketball, as well as football to inspire the listener to strive for greatness.
8) Lil Bow Wow – “Basketball”
As the theme song to the movie “Like Mike”, Lil Bow Wow remixed an old school hip hop classic, “Basketball” by Kurtis Blow. In the remake, Lil Bow Wow is accompanied by big name rappers Jermaine Dupri and Fabolous to create another hit that gives props to the great sport of basketball.
9) Shaquille O’Neal – “Shoot, Pass, Slam”
One of the greatest NBA players of all time, big man Shaquille O’Neal also had much success on the mic as his alter ego “Shaq Diesel”. Known as the most powerful dunker in basketball history, Shaq asks his listeners in the hook of this track “Do you want me to shoot it (No!), Do you want me to pass it (No!), do you want me to slam it? (Slam!)”
10) Dame D.O.L.L.A (ft Dupre) – “Shot Clock”
Currently one of the NBA’s most prolific point guards, Damian Lillard is another professional basketball player who shares a passion for rap and hip hop. Known by the alias “Dame D.O.L.L.A.”, Lillard raps about a variety of topics in his music, but one of his most basketball centered tracks is “Shot Clock”, featuring rapper Dupre.
So what do you think of my playlist? Hope you thought it was a swish! Any songs that I missed? Leave your suggestions in the comments below! 👇
If you’d like to listen to more basketball-themed rap songs, you can listen to an extended playlist I created below on Spotify.