Score. More. Points: Rap Music Is Turning Into America’s Favorite Sport
A recent final score from a Giants vs. Saints game totaled 101 points, the third-highest in NFL history. Even though the World Series also took place that Sunday night, ESPN’s pundits spent much of the next morning debating whether high-powered offense is good for football instead.
It’s a reflection of the way the American sports paradigm has shifted to something quite simple in recent years: Score. More. Points. I think we have arrived at a similar point in rap, especially Southern rap. Consider how Oracle Arena gasps in unison whenever Steph Curry shoots a three-pointer, ready to erupt when it goes in. Comparably, Rap Twitter clutches its chest whenever Future teases a new project. And what’s his project count for this year at now, anyway? What about Young Thug?
The rap game requires you to run a lot of offense to stay relevant, unless you’re already one of the immortalized few. Fetty Wap (albeit it from New Jersey) epitomizes the method. There was the commercial success of “Trap Queen,” closely followed by the club favorite “My Way,” and then the 4-peat struck with “679” and “Again” – but scrolling through Fetty’s Soundcloud pre-Taylor-Swift-endorsement became an event in itself. Like standing in the gym and watching a really good rookie run shooting drills, some shots bricked, but most went in (even after rattling around the rim a bit). It felt like I was always hearing a new Fetty demo somewhere, which made me excited about any official release.
From Gucci Mane’s legendary mixtape run to now, Southern rap holds one of the most prolific bloodlines, measured best by how quickly its artists are able to master a certain technique and scale it as hip-hop’s dominant sound. That’s why when I first came across the HipHopDX article asking if Southern rap killed hip-hop, it smelled fishy. After all, these are the artists most concerned with setting the pace of the game while other regions simply follow suit. But after reading the piece, I realized the writer was making an inquiry similar to the Giants vs. Saints discussion: Is a faster, quicker, more offensive pace really better for the sport (music) in the long run? As someone who prefers basketball to football, I do tend to enjoy NFL games better when they’re higher scoring. The energy attracts periphery fans, but the undergirding fear, in both sports and music, is that it will destroy the best players in time.
Offense attracts more eyes, which means more money and packed arenas, for sporting events and concerts. At Powerhouse 2015, a concert held at Barclays Center, Kendrick Lamar was reportedly met by a half-empty arena once a large portion of the crowd left following Future’s performance. Although Kendrick had the final set, if we’re being honest, playing a bunch of Kendrick after Future might feel a bit like hack-a-Shaq-ing the turn up at a party, so just imagine a live show.
The run-and-gun style of today’s rap scene – specifically the Atlanta scene – might seem glib compared to the lyric-heavy stuff at times, but I remember feeling the same about fantasy sports before actually giving them a try. You can sit and argue that a system built around fast-trigger offense neglects the ”blood, sweat and tears” that go into a sport you’ve probably never played, that every “Skrrt!” ad-lib contributes to hip-hop’s collective soullessness, or you revel in the fact that America’s favorite pastime is determined to score more hits than ever before.
Image: Greg Mesina