A Nickel and a Nail
A few weeks back, Shoals posted this item on the fanhouse, a 1994 remix of Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray” with cameos ranging from Tom Gugliotta to Larry Johnson.
It was then proposed that Billups and I should discuss—philosophically—whether the NBA is now more or less intertwined with hip-hop than it was in 1994.
In the interest of full disclosure, I first met Billups back in the summer of 2002. I mentioned to him I did not own Showbiz & A.G.’s Runaway Slave, and he made fun of me. I’m not sure if that means that either of us are qualified to discuss this topic, but we did our best.
[I still don't own Runaway Slave.]
Dr. Lawyer IndianChief: explosion!
Dr. LIC: (cool) so the jumpoff for this conversation is really that naughty by nature video
Dr. LIC: and really, NBN is the perfect place to start
Dr. LIC: because they embodied that new jack swing aesthetic of the early 90s but still had respect
Billups: east orange thug and b
Dr. LIC: right
Dr. LIC: the nba needed dope choruses
Dr. LIC: naughty provided it
Dr. LIC: i have no idea what was played at nba games before bobby brown was around
Billups: i think it was generally that kinda funky, Go West, upbeat shit best exemplified by the White Men Can't Jump Soundtrack
Billups: Go West of "King of Wishful Thinking" fame
Billups: but like...more soulful
Dr. LIC: exactly. all-star game 1993, you had kid n play kicking it with urkel kicking it with xscape and mark curry
Dr. LIC: which sort of inherently answers the question of whether the nba is "more hip-hop" now
Billups: i say yes
Dr. LIC: with the odd exception being that ultramagnetic mcs "all stars" song
Dr. LIC: that could have NEVER happened now
Dr. LIC: keith shouts out randy pfund
Billups: (ps a little research on the INTERNET reveals that Jesse Johnson's "Jump For It" is the jam of the White Men Can't Jump ost that I was thinking of)
Billups: that shit stayed getting rewinded
Dr. LIC: holy shit
Dr. LIC: see
Dr. LIC: this is the thing
Dr. LIC: main source + jesse johnson on one album?
Dr. LIC: that shit is impossible nowadays
Billups: Go West WAS ON THIS SHIT TOO!
Billups: "DON'T EVER LET EM SEE YOU SWEAT"
Dr. LIC: wait a second. i just checked amazon. main source isn't on this shit?
Dr. LIC: i thought "faking the funk" was on WMCJ
Billups: i don't remember that!
Dr. LIC: wait, i'm researching this shit really quickly
Billups: i think there might have been a "more music from the film" disc
Dr. LIC: yup
Dr. LIC: it's revealed there was some 12" "white men can't rap/fakin the funk"
Billups: rosie perez + "careless love"
Dr. LIC: !!!!
Billups: (golf clap)
Dr. LIC: crazy
Dr. LIC: so, check this thesis
Dr. LIC: pre-1994 there was a greater opportunity for good rappers (ultramag, main source, PE) to show up in the same spheres as popular celebrities (sinbad et al.) + the nba
Dr. LIC: but now the nba is somehow more hip-hop?
Dr. LIC: despite the fact you would never catch, say, mf doom (modern day keith) involved in anything nba related
Billups: well, i think the main thing there is that rap is more popular than basketball now, for one thing.
Dr. LIC: i feel like AI ruins everything in a lot of ways
Dr. LIC: the AI era is completely the "scowl era"
Billups: i don't think it's ruined, doggy!
Billups: i mean, i know you're not saying it's ruined the way a korean war vet says its ruined
Dr. LIC: that's the complete transition from humpty hump in the nike/barkley commercial to...styles p doing the lame kg commercial
Dr. LIC: mad scowls
Dr. LIC: i mean, i actually kind of like those AND1 commercials, but you know
Billups: what about jada's AI commercial? or the Just Blaze/Juelz AF1's?
Dr. LIC: thats my point though
Dr. LIC: juelz and jada are not this age's humpty hump
Dr. LIC: humpty was an underdog
Dr. LIC: juelz and jada are overlords
Billups: styles is an UNDERDOG
Dr. LIC: true
Dr. LIC: actually, sheek moreso
Billups: nah, styles is the tragic man of the people there.
Dr. LIC: wow, APPROPRIATE THAT HE DID THE KG COMMERCIAL
Billups: i think you gotta look at it like this
Billups: what you're really in a twist about is a time when THERE WAS A HUMPTY HUMP
Billups: there are no more jesters dude
Billups: ODB is dead
Dr. LIC: i just had the strange epiphany that the weird earrrrrly 2000s era was marked by that "freestyle" commercial where jason williams and baron davis and sheed and odom were messing with the afrika bambatta beat. and bobbito was in there
Dr. LIC: (no idea why i'm chronicling the connection of nba/rap by sneaker commercials)
Billups: because the af1 commerical is about building some kind of mega-brand out of an idea of a new generation of cylons playing pick up in an airplane hanger
Billups: with just blaze
Billups: we're dealing with myths now
Billups: we're not tryna get to know the real lebron
Billups: the man behind amare
Billups: not the way mars blackmon made jordan human
Dr. LIC: i guess it's boring to say then it's the same thing with rap too
Dr. LIC: everybody is deified
Billups: the life and times of y dot jeezy: the innovation
Billups: let's get back on track tho
Dr. LIC: word
Billups: fucking jesse johnson took us off the path
Billups: i think hip-hop and the nba of today pose the same challenges and offer the same kind of rewards
Billups: i mean, like, what they offer as entertainment and beyond
Dr. LIC: oh ok
Dr. LIC: so you mean, myth
Billups: you can say that rap ain't like it was during 88/low end theory/illmmatic etc
Billups: just like you could say the game done changed since mj/magic/bird/mark price
Dr. LIC: right
Dr. LIC: the standards changed
Dr. LIC: like michael smith was on around the horn yesterday "defending rap" from people saying that imus/rap were related
Billups: so, for casual fans, young jeezy and...gilbert arenas
Dr. LIC: he was like, "listen to the roots, common, talb kweli"
Dr. LIC: ucch
Billups: all that bullshit
Billups: i'm saying, you can lament the death of ball movement and mid-range jumpers the same way you can lament the lack of depth in lyrics or whatever
Dr. LIC: it's like, the game doesn't suck! watch avery. he coaches his players REALLY HARD
Billups: but to me, the pleasure is right below the surface
Billups: the stories, the characters, the skill, the moments, they're all there
Dr. LIC: damn, i just got depressed thinking that the phoenix suns might be the jurassic 5 of this whole shit
Billups: NO THEY ARE NOT
Billups: WE'RE MOVING FORWARD IN TIME
Billups: AL HARRINGTON IS A STARTING CENTER
Billups: HE IS NOT IN DILATED PEOPLES
Billups: i think people just need to embrace the change
Billups: fuck oden
Billups: fuck franchise centers
Billups: fuck tribe getting back together
Billups: play durant at point guard
Billups: let andre 3000 rap over whatever the fuck he wants
Billups: there's a lot to love in rap and the nba
Billups: but you can't do it by just listening to hot97 anymore than you can do it by watching 10 minutes of a game on nbc
Dr. LIC: true...the lack of non-suns/cavs/heat/dallas games on national tv this year really fucks shit up
Dr. LIC: people forget (AND WILL REMEMBER IN THE PLAYOFFS) that watching vince and j-kidd play together is dope
Billups: but just like people are like WHEN JAY/NAS/KANYE/RAKIM/DRE/TIM DOG drops it's all gonna be ok
Dr. LIC: just like, i forgot i enjoyed prodigy
Billups: people get all jacked for SUNS/MAVS
Billups: or even worse, people like me think the NUGS will take out SAN AN
Billups: and you can't hang your hat on a fantasy
Dr. LIC: right
Billups: you gotta just enjoy it for what it is
Dr. LIC: prodigy 'return of the mac' will never outsell (insert your least favorite rapper)
Billups: NOTHING WILL EVER OUTSELL ANYTHING EVER AGAIN
Billups: i see the soundscans!
Dr. LIC: haha
Billups: nobody is caking, people are psyched to go gold, THE SHINS OUTSOLD CLIPSE
Dr. LIC: YouTube montages of Ricky Davis dunking to a 2Pac soundtrack = NAPSTER!!!!!!!
Dr. LIC: holy shit
Dr. LIC: i feel so liberated
Billups: ME SEARCHING FOR GERALD GREEN SUMMER LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS ON YOU TUBE = SEARCHING FOR FRESCHO & MIZ "WE DON'T PLAY"
Billups: GUESS WHAT
Dr. LIC: ?
Billups: DOESN'T REALLY HOLD UP!!
Billups: david stern = iovine
Dr. LIC: haha
Dr. LIC: antonio daniels = tru life
Billups: Durant =
Billups: Picture of Nas next to the Source review of Illmatic
Dr. LIC: OR
Billups: i put that up on gabesaid yesterday
Billups: that pic
Dr. LIC: Durant = Saigon. I feel like dude is just gonna snap in half --> GET SHELVED
Billups: you need jesus in yr life, bro
Dr. LIC: ok...back on track though. we should somehow tie this into the playoffs. and we need the nba analogy to koch
Billups: i see where you're going
Billups: but isn't it more like nba=def jam?
Billups: like the nba had icons the way def jam had jay, x, meth, etc
Billups: and now they're both stuck between trying to produce new stars while still producing the same product
Dr. LIC: rap really isn't producing any new "stars" though
Dr. LIC: just new one-offs
Dr. LIC: i see what you're saying though
Dr. LIC: because still, everyone who comes in the L is compared to the jordan/magic/bird era
Billups: i think people fetishize that shit the same way people fetishize anything else from that era
Billups: i mean, have you actually gone back and listened to some of those stretch and bob shows from the early 90s?
Billups: some of them really suck!
Dr. LIC: haha
Billups: just like vernon maxwell!
Dr. LIC: i only have the freestyle compilations (e.g. nba entertainment videos showing that kevin johnson dunk X 32!!!!)
Dr. LIC: why that era though for BOTH nba and rap?
Dr. LIC: because you had things like 'do the right thing' pulling it all together?
Dr. LIC: because bill clinton was just running shit?
Billups: well there's the obvious
Dr. LIC: because of the dream team + illmatic just coinciding by chance?
Billups: social/race shit
Billups: rap and ball will be intertwined until the league is 80% argentinian
Billups: and in the 90s i think there was a feeling of naive, humorous self-confidence in both camps
Billups: like, oh shit this is really happening!
Billups: people who watch espn classic and clock adrian dantley making lay ups
Billups: probably spend a lot of time downloading artifakts b-sides
Billups: on blogs
Dr. LIC: haha
Billups: i should know
Dr. LIC: i might actually go back to the clinton hypothesis really quickly. i was trying to think about whether that was a good period in my life and if that's why i fetishize it...but no
Dr. LIC: that period in my life sucked
Dr. LIC: it's just that the state of the world was good
Dr. LIC: except baseball fucking sucked
Dr. LIC: and now baseball is reggaeton, which is awesome
Billups: i don't really know if my life was any better or worse under clinton
Billups: than it is now
Billups: i think the sort of cynicism and shrugging acceptance people have of bad basketball and bad rap is consistent with how things are today
Dr. LIC: "is consistent with how things are today" explain what that means
Billups: well the fact that we're living in a time when our government regularly and brazenly commits crimes that make watergate look like littering and the public outrage is limited to commenting on talking points memo
Dr. LIC: that's what i thought you meant.
[At this moment, Billups decides to call me, tells me he has it all figured out. While dowloading “The Best of Pharaohe Monch,” he realizes that everyone is waiting for the next Stress: The Extinction Agenda or whatever Monch’s next move is. But really, all it amounts to is a Clinton Sparks mixtape, which is a mess of good verses = The Golden State Warriors, which we really should just all shut up and embrace.]