Kawhi Leonard may be sidelined due to injury, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been keeping busy. The 30-year-old LA Clippers star, who appeared in the video to Drake’s Future and Young Thug-assisted “Way 2 Sexy,” produced an hip-hop album titled Culture Jam, Vol. 1.
Leonard didn’t pick up a mic for his first official foray into hip-hop. He did, however, assemble an All-Star roster of collaborators to help bring his vision to life.
Curated by the NBA champion, the compilation album features the singles “Everything Different” with YoungBoy Never Broke Again and Rod Wave and “Waves” featuring Gunna and Polo G, as well as other tracks from the likes of Yung Bleu, Lil Uzi Vert, Wale, Ty Dolla Sign and NLE Choppa.
According to the five-time All-Star, Culture Jam was created to celebrate the intersectionality between hip-hop and basketball. Hip-hop and basketball have always been seen as being closely related. Athletes and artists share a love for hip-hop and sports that runs deep. Rappers have long compared themselves to top-tier athletes and their crews to historic sport franchises.
For those of us who love hip-hop and basketball, it can often feel like a dream come true when the two worlds collide. We love when hip-hop and the NBA crossover. Check out a few of our favorite hip-hop and the NBA crossover moments below.
Rappers going pro
J. Cole is a big stepper with a solid mid-range jumper. The platinum rap star’s above average b-ball skills were on display during his brief stint as an aspiring pro athlete. He played overseas for Basketball Africa League’s Rwanda Patriots and even tried out with the Detroit Pistons.
The platinum artist followed in the footsteps of Master P; Just as his No Limit empire was peaking, he made his hoop dreams a reality with super short stints with the Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Hornets.
Ballers turned rappers
We often hear of professional athletes living out their rap dreams. That’s probably because there are so many examples. MVPs and All-Stars such as AI, Kobe Bryant, Iman Shumpert and so many others have made attempts at showcasing their rap skills.
Shaquille O’Neal, AKA Shaq Diesel, to this day, remains one of the most dominant players in NBA history. His rap career was kind of impressive too. The All-Star baller has gold and platinum plaques and has collaborated with the likes of Method Man, RZA, Warren G, The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z and Rakim.
Damian Lillard, whose rap alter ego is Dame D.O.L.L.A., is a more recent example of a ballplayer going hard on the court and in the booth. With four projects and multiple features with Lil Wayne under his belt, the 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year has earned his respect as an MC.
LeBron James A&Rs a 2 Chainz album
LeBron James, one of the most accomplished athletes of all-time, added “A&R” to his resume in 2019 when he served as A&R on 2 Chainz’s well-received Rap Or Go to the League album.
Ice Cube goes Big on 3
Who would’ve thought that 3-on-3 basketball would be a seriously respected sport? Ice Cube did! The legendary rapper and Hollywood producer established his Big 3 as the premier 3-on-3 league in 2017. Since then, dozens of former NBA All-Stars have participated in Cube’s league, which has secured partnerships with Fox, CBS Sports, CBS and Triller.
Jadakiss & Allen Iverson create legendary moment
Allen Iverson is considered by many as a forefather to the style of play and swag of many of this generation’s most popular ballplayers. The 2001 NBA MVP walked, talked and looked like a rap star.
To promote AI’s hotly anticipated Answer 5 sneaker, Reebok—with assistance from entertainment mogul Steve Stoute—commissioned Jadakiss and the hit-making production duo Trackmasters to help produce one of the most iconic sneaker commercials in history.
Jay-Z Rocs the sports world
Jay-Z is the G.O.A.T. He’s also an avid sports fan, so it made perfect sense that the billionaire star would launch his own sports agency. In 2013, almost a decade after investing in the then New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets franchise, Hov introduced Roc Nation Sports. Over the years, RNS’ roster has included Kevin Durant, Skylar Diggins, Jalen Rose (as a media personality), LaMelo Ball, and many others.
Drake becomes face of Toronto Raptors
While on his way to conquering the rap game and pop charts, Drake cemented his love for basketball with his partnership with Toronto Raptors. Back in 2013, Drake became his hometown team’s global ambassador and has been reppin’ hard for his squad and city ever since. The Certified Lover Boy has done everything from host “Drake Nights” to design team uniforms to beef with players from opposing squads for the Canadian team.
Photo via AP