“Shumpman” Got Us Like: Is This The Beginning Of The Era of NBA emcees?
A long way from the debut compilation album B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret (1994), it seems that NBA superstar spitters have reached new heights regarding their authenticity as emcees.
Rapletes are receiving coverage from not only major hip-hop platforms, but are also co-signed by credible tastemakers in the game. For instance, Lakers shooting guard Lou Williams obtained a guest feature from 2 Chainz and landed placement on a Meek Mill mixtape (or was it his girl’s mixtape?) Oklahoma City’s MVP, Kevin Durant, was named by Fabolous as “One athlete he’d love to work with.” In addition, Trail Blazer’s Damian Lillard appeared on Sway In The Morning, delivering one of the illest freestyles heard from a new-school hooper. And boom bap legend Pete Rock vouched for Cleveland’s shooting guard Iman Shumpert via Twitter.
Iman Shumpert can rap his ass off HahahahahHahaha! WOW!!! God bless da homie!! #realassdude
— PETEROCK.COM (@PeteRock) October 10, 2012
The only difference is, in this era, the shock factor is less of a selling point.
To outsiders, ballers rapping is viewed as a hobby, like golf—something to pursue during the off-season, or for Delonte West and Stephen Jackson, in the midst of NBA’s lockout back in 2011. Although, Metta World Peace said he prioritized rap over his ball career, after his 2004 brawl with Ben Wallace and Detroit Piston fans. Shockingly, his mic skills were rather impressive, especially “Champions,” which was released following the seven game NBA Finals bout where Lakers defeated the Celtics. And former Cavalier Daniel “Boobie” Gibson states that, for him, “It’s different.” While speaking to DJ Vlad, he claimed, “I’m addicted to the art of it. If I put music out, it would just be for them [the people] to feel me. I’m not even worried about trying to sell records.” He’s one of the few who have left the NBA to pursue a rap career, a bold move if you ask me.
Obviously, they experience difficulty being taken seriously. We can all name a baller who took their shot at rap, throwing up a brick. Out of respect, I won’t go into further detail. Others have respectable talent that’s overpowered by their ability to get baskets. But overall, hip-hop-hoopers are commonly asked the same question: Why not just stick to basketball and leave rap alone?
Iman Shumpert touched on the topic when remixing one of the more popular cuts off of Future and Drake’s What A Time To Be Alive: in “Shumpman” (originally “Jumpan”—get it?), he says “They said Shumpman stick to hooping, why you rapping? Same way we told Drizzy Drake to stick to acting.” With a valid point, Shump had me questioning the possibility of a basketball star touring the world off their bars and if it was even realistic.
Unsure of NBA obligations and if their schedules would allow promo tours, I could certainly picture fans purchasing tickets to stand behind their favorite ballers off-court talent. Imagine these stars performing in the same venues they earn triple doubles in, only this time the stands are filled with concert-goers who come dressed in jerseys.
What would established musicians think about it, though? Tip “T.I.” Harris took to Jimmy Kimmel Live a few months back for a PSA aimed at NBA players to stop rapping: “Players try to be playas.” Considering it was only a skit, I don’t hold T.I. to these quotes. But I’m sure some industry cats aren’t too fond of these players swerving into their lane. Memorably, Lil B crafted Kevin Durant diss record which set the Internet ablaze. Not only did the Based God challenge KD for a 1-vs-1, he called out the baller on NBATV.
When Harlem rapper Dave East, who once played AAU alongside Kevin Durant, was asked, “If you were getting a NBA multimillion dollar salary, would you give up your hooping career for the music?” he said, “Nah, I wouldn’t give that up. … If ball ever worked out, you all would never see me pursuing rap.” He says he chose to rap because it was a career in which he could “still be cool, still be fly and still be himself.”
With a little guidance from the gatekeepers, I wouldn’t be surprised if this hip-hop-hooper sub genre took shape sooner rather than later. Although it’ll take an extraordinary amount of talent to sell out arenas in two different games. That artist may yet happen.