Sports References in Hip-Hop: A Sundial Curated Playlist

Kayla Fernandez

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Rappers have spit bars on money, drugs, violence, girls and sports. The MCs have dropped references to sports stars out of admiration of their memorable plays in the field. Other times rappers diss sports players, highlighting the downfalls in their career. The music world tends to have a sport-like nature, especially in a genre like hip-hop with its rap battles to claim the top title. Here are some of the best songs featuring sports stars:

“Sicko Mode” – Travis Scott (ft. Drake)

Reference: Devin Booker

Starting with one of the biggest songs from 2018, Drake’s rap verse in this instant classic goes: “See the shots that I took (ayy) / wet like I’m Book (ayy).” The line references young NBA player Devin Booker, a 22- year-old shooting guard playing for the Arizona Phoenix Suns. Booker is an absolute beast killing the game, dropping 70 points during the Sun’s loss against the Boston Celtics in 2017. From the looks of it, he will be a memorable player for years to come.

“Waybach” – Gucci Mane

Reference: Hakeem Olajuwon

“Keep a rocket in my pocket like my name was Hakeem / Somebody had the picture, she thought it was a dream.” Gucci Mane mentions Houston Rockets NBA star Hakeem Olajuwon, who was also called “The Dream.” Mane’s wordplay highlights the famous sports player while putting a double meaning to the lyrics.

“Reel It In” – Aminé

Reference: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Kobe Bryant

“You Jordan or Pippen (true) / I’m Kobe, I’m never gon’ dish it / or miss it.” Throughout his career Kobe Bryant was the man to always take shots; even if he was wide open, he would risk it. The NBA star never stressed about being triple-teamed by other players because it motivated him to be better. On the other hand, Scottie Pippen was known to “dish it” (assist by passing the ball to another player). Michael Jordan was quite similar to Pippen, setting up with other players to make a pivotal shot. You would never see Bryant do that, as he was a player that bled confidence and power.

“Black Effect” – The Carters

Reference: Carmelo Anthony

“Black Effect” by The Carters is an unrepentant power jam celebrating love and black culture. In this track, the line “Mobbin’ in a hoodie like Melo” refers to NBA all-star Carmelo Anthony, also known as “Melo.” During the offseason, Anthony was seen working out and conditioning constantly wearing a hoodie. Once the 2017-2018 season rolled around, fans noticed the improvement in his performance and hence coined the nickname “Hoodie Melo.”

“Nonstop” – Drake

Reference: LeBron James

“How I go from six to 23 like I’m LeBron.” When LeBron James played for the Cleveland Cavaliers his jersey number was 23, but when he switched over to play for the Miami Heat he wore a jersey with the number six as the Heat retired 23 to honor Michael Jordan. Drake is basically placing himself on the same high-status level as James. It is no secret that the player is one of the most memorable of our time. This line also allows Drake to mention his hometown of Toronto, also known as “the six.” Aside from that, Drake also landed a sneaker deal with the Jordan brand, making another connection to the number 23.

“That Part” – ScHoolboy Q ft. Kanye West

Reference: Kobe Bryant

ScHoolboy Q’s track shines a light on the culture of living in California, boasting about how independent his ladies are and that he doesn’t tolerate fake people. Then Kanye West takes over and says, “Walkin’, livin’ legend man I feel like Kobe.” In West’s rap verse he is comparing himself to the living legend Kobe Bryant. West feels as if he holds the same status of respect in the music industry as the NBA player did.

“It Ain’t Hard to Tell” – Nas

Reference: Iron Sheik

“I freak beats, slam it, like Iron Sheik.” Nas is claiming that the beats he creates are so powerful and innovative, he slams them just like famous wrestler Iron Sheik destroys his opponents. Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, or the Iron Sheik, was an Iranian-American pro wrestler who was a staple to the WWF. Together with his wrestling partner Nikolai Volkoff, the duo would tag team against other foes and created a facade that they despised America.

“Ego” – A Tribe Called Quest

Reference: Carl Lewis

“The ego makes you do it, it makes you face the music / or run away from life so fast that you’ll outsprint Carl Lewis.” Rapper Q-Tip shows the dark side of vanity and where it can take someone when everything is not going right. You either use it as a source of inspiration to flip your life around or hide away from your fears and run for the hills so fast you’ll outrun Carl Lewis, former track and field American Olympic athlete who won over nine gold medals in his career.

“Victory” – Diddy ft. Busta Rhymes & The Notorious B.I.G.

Reference: Mike Tyson

“Real sick, brawl nights, I perform like Mike anyone — Tyson, Jordan, Jackson.” In Biggie’s verse, he shouts out all the famous Mikes in the sports and entertainment industry. By putting respect to their names, he is insinuating that he is just as great as these iconic men. Staying on top of the world, no one can touch the legendary rapper because he is not afraid to take you out.

“Going Bad” – Meek Mill

Reference: Jason Terry

“Put some bands all on your head like Jason Terry.” Putting bands on your head can mean one of two things: paying someone with a huge amount of cash to commit a murder for you, or a reference to NBA athlete Jason Terry. During Terry’s 18-year career, he was spotted wearing headbands for 13 seasons straight. It’s hard for fans to imagine Terry not sporting a headband as it was his signature look.