Wack-Ass Wednesday: Yo! NBA Raps

06/08/2011


As sure as it’s hot as a bitch outside, DLT90s is still here, and this is another installment of Wack-Ass Wednesday. With the retirement of Shaquille O’Neal last week, and with the NBA Playoffs in effect, no time like this week to cover what became a disturbing trend throughout the last half of the ’90s. Yeah, you guessed it: the trend in which every basketball player who could freestyle a few bars in the locker room decided it was a great idea to make music.

It all started with Shaq. One night, he’s on Arsenio talkin’ about his love for his favorite rap group of the time, the Fu-Schnickens. Next thing you know, he’s on stage rappin’ with ’em. Then, he appears on a Fu-Schnickens single called “What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock)”, which for some odd reason was a hit. Long story short, this chain of events led to his big non-rappin’ ass dropping like five albums.

And this was no situation where some athlete just came out with a bunch of amateurish beats and lame raps. Shaq (and/or the label) knew that his shit was gonna need a LOTTA help… and that he got. As a true hip-hop fan at heart, Shaq worked with a laundry list of respected MCs and producers on his albums. This included Biggie, Erick Sermon, Redman, Method Man, RZA, Rakim, DJ Quik, Jay-Z, Trackmasters, Mobb Deep, Warren G, Easy Mo Bee, and more. Not the dumbest move in the world, although it was usually the only reason to listen to a Shaq record (unless, of course, you just wanted to have a good laugh).


Anyway, after the success of Shaq-Fu the rapper, shit went crazy for the remainder of the decade. I guess everyone figured “shit, if he could do it, why not me?”  The most flagrant violation was in ’94- a compilation album called B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret. It was like the Superbowl Shuffle, but with basketball players. Better yet, it was like my favorite wack-ass movie Rappin’, when EVERY-body in the fukkin’ movie rapped in the final scene. It was heavily promoted, and even had some OK production, but nobody (except for those who really wanted to know if Gary Payton could spit) went out and bought it. After the Best Kept Secret project flopped, the trend died down for a while, but came back strong by the late-’90s with equally awful music by the likes of Chris Webber, Kobe Bryant, and Allen Iverson. Jeesh.

You know how some people talk about back in the days, and how (insert lame new rap nigga here) woulda never been signed back then, because “you had to have skills to get on”? Yeah, well that’s bullshit, because if (insert lame new rap nigga here) was in the NBA, he coulda at least got to drop a single. But don’t let me force-feed you this line of thinking- listen for yourself. Below, I give you five incredible moments of lyrical exercise by some of the best MCs the NBA had to offer.


Shaquille O’Neal “I Know I Got Skillz” (1993): Oh, word? Yeap, this was the official beginning of Shaq’s illustrious solo career. Along with Def Jef, Shaq attempts to crush the critics by showing his “skillz” on the mic. The key points of this song include: A) he’ll punch a chick in the stomach and he don’t give a heck, and B) knick knack Shaq Attaq, give a dog a bone. Whether or not he had skillz still hasn’t been answered, but the real question now is: with his retirement, does this mean we get another Shaq-Fu album?

Cedric Ceballos “Flow On” (1994)
: And this was the piece-de-resistance of that Best Kept Secret album, video and all. I guess it should be a plus that Warren G only produced it and didn’t rap on it… but Ced is hopelessly corny all up and through this song. Imagine Warren’s lyrical wizardry (haaaa!) mixed with some Melle Mel-esque vocal inflections and some tiggity-tounge twistin’ shit thrown in. I dare you to get past the part where he says his rhymes are finger-lickin’.

Jason Kidd “What The Kidd Did” (1994): In an unbelievably wooden performance, Jason Kidd connects with Digital Underground‘s Money B. The message in this song is that Jason is paid and nice as all hell on the court. In a completely unenthusiastic tone, he even reminds us midway through that ain’t no party like a J. Kidd party, cause a J. Kidd party don’t stop. As true as that may be, nothing can save this from being possibly the most sleep-inducing party joint ever.

Chris Webber “2 Much Drama” (1998): Aight, he tried to create some kinda emotion here… but Tupac he was not. Here, C. Webb talks about his tough life as a highly-paid athlete- even the misery that is sitting at home lonely although lots of chicks wanna bone him. The pressure is mounting, and he can’t seem to find answers anywhere- not in church, not from his friends, and not even from sitting outside in the rain. Tear.

Kobe Bryant feat. Tyra Banks “K.O.B.E.” (1999): Two things are for sure: Tyra Banks is not a singer, and Kobe Bryant is not a rapper. But why should that stop ’em? KB was actually signed to Columbia Records and being produced by the Trackmasters, even appearing on a Brian McKnight single in ’99… but once this masterpiece here debuted, the unanimously poor reception killed any chance of him dropping an album. In a incredible display of quality control by a major label, Kobe was dropped from Columbia because his music sucked. By the way, what does K.O.B.E. stand for… Kobe On a Bitch Eatin’?

I doubt these dudes really cared, because rap wasn’t their first profession anyway, and they were likely just doin’ it for kicks. Still, damn near ALL these projects were evidence that there was a reason why them NBA niggas got paid to hoop… because music sure as shit wasn’t their calling.

-D!


Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

10/11/2010

You know what’s some wack shit? All these got-damn ’90s sequels.

If you’ve been following the hip-hop news and whatnot, you know what I mean… in the last two years or so, artists who made either their most-popular or most-acclaimed albums in the ’90s have fallen into somewhat of a trend. Apparently, they feel that by using the title and slappin’ “2” on it, that they’re gonna drop some new shit and recreate the energy from before. Artists used to do this with their classic songs, which often failed to be a tenth of the original… and now, we’ve moved on to milking the whole damn albums. Eh.

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Secret Wars

08/23/2010

“The people ain’t comin’ cause you grandiose muthafukkas don’t play shit that they like.”– Shadow, Mo’ Better Blues

“Crossover ain’t nothin’ but a double-cross. Once we lose our audience, we never gonna get them back!”– JT, The Five Heartbeats

“People gotta understand, we got in this to be stars. We didn’t get in this to walk around with bookbags on our backs, talkin’ bout we hip-hop”– Nas interview on MTV

“It’s a shame, niggas in the rap game, only for the money and the fame”– Xzibit, “Paparazzi”

In the past month or so, there’s been a few things I’ve seen around the internet that prompted me to drop this entry. First, there was the mini-fallout that started from Talib Kweli‘s collaboration with Gucci Mane, which to some defied the rules of all that is right in the world. Then, there were two excellent lists of late-’90s hip-hop- Complex’s 75 Greatest Tunnel Bangers and the Bloggerhouse spin-off, Backpack Bangers. The lists in particular threw me back to that time when the “commercial” and “underground” sides of hip-hop started splitting apart further than ever.

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What’s Beef?

03/09/2010

So it’s March 9th, most remembered in hip-hop as the date on which Bow Wow was born in 1987 The Notorious B.I.G. was murdered in 1997. As a fan of Big, and as a fan of hip-hop in general, it was just as major to me as Tupac‘s death was six months prior. You’ve prob’ly read a million times over how huge of a loss those deaths were, and you’ll prob’ly read it a million more, so I’ll spare y’all that. Matter fact, at the risk of bein’ a lil’ strange, I’d rather do my B.I.G. entry on his birthday than the death anniversary (make a note of May 21st). But if there is one good thing that came out of those events, it’s that the whole East Coast/West Coast shit started coming to a close.

I know people have since said that the “East Coast/West Coast War” was an isolated incident that was blown up by the media and hyped for the sake of controversy. There’s a good deal of truth in that statement, but let’s keep it one-hunnid: March 9, 1997 was the climax of some shit that had been quietly building up for years. Let’s talk about it…

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The Drug-Free Role Model vs. Shorty With The Big Mouth

08/27/2009

ll-cool-j-vs-canibus

You know the cliche: “Hip-hop is like wrestling”. And yeah, it is. For as far back as you can go, there’s been rivalries between different artists- some personal, some strictly lyrical. Of course, they eventually come to an end, with all the parties involved just moving on to other things, or sometimes even working together. But the way they end is usually not as interesting as the way they get started. Over the years, we’ve seen rap beefs begin over territorial conflict, severed ties, tattoos… wait a minute.

Yeah, tattoos. For those who don’t recall or didn’t know in the first place, let’s recap.

ll phenomenon

In late-’97, LL Cool J dropped a (turrible) album called Phenomenon. While it definitely wasn’t L’s finest hour, he had one or two bangers on there, one being a song called “4-3-2-1” which featured Method Man, Redman, DMX, and a new artist named Canibus. By this time, Canibus was bodying every track he rhymed on and developing a nice lil’ rep for himself. When he was included on this song, he met L in the studio and admired his arm-length tattoo of a microphone. In addition to his admiration, he even referenced it in his rhyme by saying “Yo L, is that a mic on your arm? Lemme borrow that.”

LL, while appearing to be humble and meek, has a notoriously huge ego (pause, no Beyonce) as an MC. Therefore, he relays a message to Canibus to either change that lyric or be removed from the song. ‘Bus takes that part out, but Cool James decides to further admonish him with his verse on the same track. And so, L goes in- the tattoo is off-limits, he is the ringmaster to Canibus’ tiger cub, and a battle between the two would be comparable to Jordan playing a pickup game with a kid. However, he doesn’t call out Canibus by name, so no one (except them and a few others) really knows for sure who this verse is specifically about.

LL Cool J feat. Method Man, Redman, Canibus, & DMX “4-3-2-1” (1997)

canibustattoo

But… lo and behold, Canibus is also a computer geek. In an era before blogs, vlogs, and unavoidable album leaks, most rappers didn’t give a fukk about an internet. But he did, and through his online travels, he finds out that the original track is floating around with the “mic on your arm” line still in- so of course, people now know that L is going at him. So they have a hilarious father/son phone convo, where ‘Bus clearly feels driven to respond, and L advises him to fall back. Somewhere after that, ‘Bus still feels that Cool J is tryin’ to play him, so he drops “2nd Round Knockout”.

Canibus “Second Round Knockout” (1998)

After this, shit goes crazy. If everybody else was like me, they taped it off the radio and ran it over and over, even playing it for friends who hadn’t heard it yet. And so, the feud was official, with everyone talking about how Canibus murdered this nigga. With Mike Tyson adding encouragement on the track, ‘Bus goes at L harder than anyone else had up to that point. Feeling pressured to respond, L first declines, but ends up doing it anyway with “The Ripper Strikes Back”. And for good measure, he also throws some jabs at Tyson and Canibus’ newfound BFF, Wyclef Jean of the Fugees.

LL Cool J “The Ripper Strikes Back” (1998)

WyclefJean

So now, there’s a debate which even hits the radar at MTV News: LL Cool J vs. Canibus. Would L’s experience be enough to take out the young tiger cub? Would ‘Bus be the one to finally sit L down, just like L sat Kool Moe Dee down some years prior? A lot of oldheads were NOT tryin’ to hear that shit, but it seemed like Canibus was kinda punching holes in LL’s reputation (not to mention, Phenomenon wasn’t exactly the hot new shit on the street). But it wasn’t over there: apparently feelin’ some kind of way about his being mentioned in the “Ripper” joint, Wyclef decided to add his own two cents, with the help of Naomi Campbell on the co-sign (???).

Wyclef Jean “What’s Clef Got To Do With It?” (1998)

The ‘Clef joint was pretty much the jump-the-shark moment for the battle, as he was clearly out of his league. Still, the debate went on through summer ’98, mostly with people wondering if Canibus was gonna come back at L on his forthcoming debut album, Can-I-Bus. He was highly anticipated by this point, even with a half-assed single leading the way. Ultimately, Cool J’s career wasn’t really in danger either. It wasn’t the first time he’d fallen out of favor with the fans, nor was it even the second, so it wasn’t like he couldn’t come back from this. But before he did, he decided to leave Wyclef with some choice words as well.

LL Cool J “Rasta Impasta” (1998)

LL Shhhh

So… after all of this, September ’98 arrived and Canibus’ debut album (mostly produced by Wyclef) was absolute ass. He and ‘Clef eventually had a falling-out of their own and made disses towards each other. Meanwhile, L was busy appearing in (turrible) movies and making (turrible) songs for the soundtracks of said movies. Believe it or not, this 3-way battle continued all the way into 2001, with songs that I don’t feel I should waste my time uploading, nor should you waste your time listening to.

The LL Cool J vs. Canibus & Friends battle ran way longer than it should have, but for a moment in early ’98, it was the hottest shit going. And all over a fukkin’ tattoo.

-D! (so who won?)