Hip-Hop’s influence on basketball culture: How ‘cool’ mixes with ‘hoops’

Lil Wayne attends a basketball game (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images,)
Lil Wayne attends a basketball game (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images,) /

Hip-hop and basketball: Cool mixes with hoops

Walking down the street, grooving, while holding a boom box on your shoulder with one hand.

It’s time to party! It’s time to JAM!

That was the initial meaning of “COOL” in the 1970s. Rap. Rhymes. Poetry. Graffiti. Break-dancing. Twisting. Scratching on turntables. All of those commonalities had a ubiquitous influence on what’s deemed as hip-hop culture.

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DJ Kool Herc, a Jamaican-born DJ from the Bronx, has been credited as the founder of Hip-Hop. He embellished the meaning of COOL with his “Back-to-School Jam” on Sedgwick Avenue, a street where Herc threw his first parties in the 70s and 80s. A hero in the Bronx. But a game-changer on turntables.

Herc developed an unprecedented style for hip-hop music. By extending instrumental beats to longer sequences, Herc created the “break” using two record players switching melody after melody. This allowed partygoers to dance for longer periods. Break-dancing began to emerge, and consequently, emceeing or “rapping” came into existence.

One common misconception about hip-hop culture is the embodiment of morality and ethical principles. Egregious stigmas have permeated society about the genre due to profanity, and other assumptions. But what other components does hip-hop represent? Fashion is obviously atop the list. That’s a no-brainer. The usual perception is rhyming, spitting bars, etc. It’s more of an art form. Expression. A unique expression that’s sometimes misconstrued as criminal language. Rapping is storytelling. Every story is different.

Hip-Hop’s background traces farther back than most would believe. Scratching records became the norm for many young African-Americans growing up in the inner-city neighborhoods of New York. Not just hip-hop, but basketball intervened in the culture. How?

Shaquille O’Neal released his anticipated hip-hop album in the 1990s. The era of baggy shorts, snap-back hats, and starter jackets. In terms of hip-hop fashion, groups like Kris Kross, Run DMC, and several others created their own unique styles of COOL.

In the early 2000s, the “AND 1 Mixtape Tour” took precedence across the country. It was the beginning of hip-hop and basketball mingling together in the same cultural setting. The popular ESPN show “Streetball” attracted millions of viewers with highlights of packed open runs, with tricks, dunks, and of course instrumentals and rhymes.

From 2002-08, the Streetball tours were televised LIVE on ESPN each week showcasing players from the NBA, and international players. It was once rated one of the most popular basketball shows on network television.

The AND 1 Mixtape Tour exemplifies what many would view as a basketball/hip-hop relationship. Hip-Hop fans remember when rapper Lil Wayne recorded a song honoring the late Kobe Bryant on an old mix-tape. And, even mix-tapes circulated around basketball culture. I can remember in high school seeing players having discussions about new songs.

Prior to that; high school gyms, stadiums, and other basketball facilities had already introduced hip-hop as warm-up music before sporting events. It’s heard at games, practices, inside of locker rooms, and anywhere else possible.

That definition of COOL is mixing with HOOPS a little more in 2020.

The Detroit Pistons invited rapper J. Cole to tryout for the team after it was reported that Cole was considering an attempt to make an NBA roster.

Rap mogul Master P influenced J. Cole to take a shot. He told TMZ Sports, that Cole contacted him by phone asking for advice on making an NBA roster. Master P signed two NBA contracts with the Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors in 1998 and 1999. Although he played in the preseason, he never made it to regular season play. Yet another example of hip-hop and basketball collaborating as one culture.

Today, current NBA star Damian Lillard shows flashes of lyrical talent, in addition to Lonzo Ball.

Next. NBA: Utah Jazz’s decision on Rudy Gobert could shape future of the center position. dark

Last question. Why does hip-hop and basketball mix so well? If you dribble to the beat, with a fresh New Era snap-back on, you won’t miss a shot.

That’s the true definition of COOL.