The worlds of sports and Hip Hop are known for being parallel. Athletes and rappers like to hang out together. Proof of that: Drake was a kid in a candy store while hosting the ESPY Awards in July. Rappers like to drop sports references, often because they seek to associate themselves to the glory of winning a championship. Top Dawg Entertainment aka TDE isn’t as obvious in its sports ties as Drake or J. Cole — who has three projects inspired by basketball. However, Kendrick Lamar teamed up with Chris Paul to represent Los Angeles for the ESPN The Magazine’s Music Issue. There sports ties are deeper than that though. Here are ten TDE songs that have notable sports references.
“Ronald Reagan Era” Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick compares his haters to NBA center Marcus Camby who bounced around the league. He won the defensive player of the year award in 2007, but played well past his prime.
“God’s Reign” Ab-Soul
In the opening track off These Days…, Ab-Soul says that his team is made up of ballers, but not the basketball kind.
“We ain’t shootin’ no jumpshots / But we ballin’/ We ballin’”
“Dub Sac” Ab-Soul
Soulo references Donovan McNabb, former quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.
“Smoke weed, I got plenty/ Take your quarter back like McNabb”
Ab-Soul compares his greatness to that of Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan. Soul then has some fancy word play as he checks his microphone. Bow Wow (now Shad Moss) also starred in a film dedicated to the sports icon called Like Mike.
“Greatest of all time like Mike / Check mine, one, two”
In a hidden battle rap, Ab-Soul faces off against Daylyt. In his response to Soul’s rap, Daylyt says that he tried to teach people a lesson like NBA coach Phil Jackson, who led the Chicago Bulls to six championships.
“New approach Bull coach / I tried to give ‘em the Phil”
“Soliloquy” Isaiah Rashad
In this track, Isaiah Rashad describes how smooth he is with women. He compares his game to that of San Antonio Spurs star and 2005 Finals MVP Tim Duncan.
“I finesse it like I’m Timmy Duncan / Win you something”
“Black Boy Fly” Kendrick Lamar
The first verse of this song is dedicated to Kendrick Lamar’s former high school classmate, Arron Afflalo, who is now a guard for the Denver Nuggets. K.Dot recalls admiring the basketball player’s work ethic and wanting to chase his dreams like him.
“I used to be jealous of Arron Afflalo / He was the one to follow / He was the only leader for seeing brighter tomorrows”
“Michael Jordan” Kendrick Lamar f. ScHoolboy Q
Kendrick turns Lil Wayne’s line into a song honoring Michael Jordan, saying they’ll be as great as Mike.
“I’m 2 much for these niggas / I’m 3 much for these hoes / Wayne told me that / and that’s just how it goes / Michael Jordan”
“Control” Big Sean f. Kendrick Lamar
Not only did K.Dot challenge practically every rapper in the game, he also called out Phil Jackson, saying that he wouldn’t even submit to the coaching legend.
“If Phil Jackson came back, still no coaching me / I’m uncoachable”
In this ambitious track, Ab-Soul ponders many conspiracy theories. He laughs at petty discussions like who’s the best basketball player, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. He says there are more important things to worry about.
“They was debating ‘bout Kobe and LeBron / The Bible or the Quran / They shoulda been taking cover”