Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard announced on Twitter this morning that he’d be dropping his debut rap album The Letter O under his moniker Dame Dolla tonight at midnight Eastern time and 9 p.m. Pacific.
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) October 20, 2016
Lillard’s debut album will feature appearances from musical titans Lil’ Wayne, Raphael Saadiq and Jamie Foxx. Securing top-flight talent such as the aforementioned artists on Lillard’s first release speaks volumes for his capabilities as a rapper, and he’s validated this with multiple songs on his Soundcloud and a fiery freestyle on Sway in the Morning.
So to commerate Dame Dollas release, I’ve compiled a list of five NBA-ers who tried their hand at rap. I can’t promise you quality, but I can confidently ensure a chuckle or two.
Lou Williams: “I’m A Boss” Freestyle
Current Los Angeles Lakers guard Lou Williams used to get his buckets in a Philadelphia Sixers uniform, and Williams’ ascension in the NBA aligned perfectly with Philly rap star Meek Mill’s rise in rap. After a brief affiliation with T.I.’s record label Grand Hustle, Meek linked up with Rock Ross and signed to his Maybach Music Group, and officially dropped “I’m A Boss,” the banger from his Dreamchasers mixtape, as a single. The song peaked at #14 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs and made him a known name in rap circles.
Williams was known to mingle with Meek, so it was no surprise when he hopped on the “I’m A Boss” beat and spit a few bars. My two favorite parts…
- When he breaks down his salary: “Thank God all these games I done played/ay $60K a game/all this money I done made.”
- When he keeps it realer than real: “I had made my first million fore I ever got laid.”
Williams does the “Philadelphia flow” as I like to call it, justice. And I think the braggadocio subject matter from the then babyfaced Lou is awesome. I heard a rumor that he was contemplating dropping a mixtape called Crossover but that was several years ago and obviously never came to fruition. I wonder if he’d still consider releasing a project now that he’s advanced in age, but if he did he’d have a listener in me.
Allen Iverson aka Jewelz: “40 Bars”
Woooooo buddy. This one is definitely my favorite, and not for the violent and misogynistic lyrics that its peppered with, but rather for just the idea of it. Let’s trek down memory lane back into the year 2000.
Here we have Allen Iverson, star shooting guard of the Philadelphia Sixers, one of the most divisive professional athletes on the face of the Earth and a cultural icon capable of influencing and swaying millions of youth. One would’ve hoped that Iverson would’ve recognized his social leverage and used his stature to emit a positive message. Instead we got “40 Bars,” which included lyrics such as this:
“Snipers hitting n**as long distance for a rate/Sons and daughters/One order you’ll be floating in water.”
NBA commissioner at the time, David Stern, was incensed and summoned Iverson to a meeting with him in regards to the savage lyrics, and Iverson’s debut album was nixed.
I understand Iverson’s lyrics are an extension of his upbringing and the life he led, but I’m baffled that none of his homies told him this was a terrible idea. What’s even funnier is that Iverson was named the league’s MVP the following year. I guess winning and captivating an entire nation while doing so enabled us to gloss over a blunder like this. I just laugh trying to envision someone like Stephen Curry dropping something like this today. Imagine the outcry.
Kobe Bryant: “Hold Me” & “K.O.B.E.”
Kobe Bryant’s was the sonic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde during his brief rap career.
Here we have a 20-year-old Bryant spitting some sweet lines laced with love on the remix to Brian McKnight’s song “Hold Me” and his verse actually isn’t too shabby. Kobe is playing it safe here. His verse is quick-hitting and compliments McKnight’s efforts and TrackMasters’ instrumental nicely, and his stiff movements when the camera pans to him cracks me up.
This track resembles something you might spin at a cookout or when you’re cruising on a nice day with the windows down. If you watch the entire video you’ll even see a cameo from a young Derek Fisher. Nice work Mr. Mamba!
Then we have uh… goddamnit Kobe.
If you made it past the first few lines, I commend you. I really do. Drop your address in my email or something so I can send you an Edible Arrangements. Guy really got on a track and in the first line said “What I live for? Basketball, beats and broads.” EVEN ON THE TRACK KOBE PUT HOOPS FIRST. THE OBSESSION NEVER STOPS. Having Tyra Banks featured takes things to another comedic level, and with the tired beat and Kobe’s choppy flow I can feel the late-90’s oozing out of this one. I wonder if Kobe still knows the lyrics. I hope not.
Chris Webber: “Gangsta, Gangsta,” “Surviving The Times,” and “Blunt Ashes”
Chris Webber’s lead single from his 1999 album 2 Much Drama was “Gangsta Gangsta,” which featured the Dogg Pound’s Kurupt. The video lacks cohesion and the instrumental is a little bland, but you can kinda hear some rap promise from Webber. If his flow was tighter and he tinkered with his lyrical content we might’ve had an undercover spitter in the Association, but hey we’ve gotta give the man some credit for having this track reach #10 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles chart.
But just as in the NBA, Webber’s got some skills on the boards when it comes to production. He’s produced a few songs for Nas, most notably “Surviving the Times,” which in my opinion is one of The Don’s most underrated cuts, mostly due to the fact it was the first track on his Greatest Hits album. Webber also birthed the classic “Blunt Ashes” which appeared on Hip-Hop Is Dead. Webber’s definitely got some production prowess, and he’s got one of the greatest of all-time rapping on his beats to give credence to that notion.
Shaquille O’Neal: “No Hook,” “(I Know I Got) Skillz”
Shaquille O’Neal was a dope rapper to me because he embraced his true character in his songs and that translated into musical success for him. We all know Shaq off-the-court is a jovial jokester, and that was made even more evident through the lines in his songs. His flows could range from intricate to inviting, and his lyrics were funny. Nothing was feigned here.
His music, permeated with energy and good vibes, made others feel as if they could rap, and if they weren’t slick at reciting lyrics on the fly, they could jam to the often-groovy instrumentals. O’Neal’s first album “Shaq Deisel” was certified platinum, and his follow-up effort “Shaq Fu: Da Return” went gold. He inked a deal with Jive Records, and worked with some of the genre’s most iconic figures including: Phife Dawg, Erick Sermon, Redman, Method Man, RZA, DJ Quik, Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., Mobb Deep and Rakim.
Shaq was appreciated because he didn’t try to veer down an avenue in which he knew he wouldn’t be accepted. He stayed true to himself and was much more prosperous than his peers in this venture due to that fact.
Lastly: I love “No Hook” because RZA and Method didn’t take it easy on Shaq. RZA came with a grimy beat and an uncanny delivery that draws you in, and then Method comes in with the commanding flow and shuts the show down. That right there shows the respect they had for Shaq as an artist, even if his skills weren’t at their level.
Which one was your favorite and or made you laugh the most? Hit us on Twitter with your thoughts/comments.