Sports and music are more intertwined than ever before. Besides rappers like Drake and Jay-Z taking stakes in team franchises, and A-list celebrities (athletes and rappers) buzzing in the Twitter-sphere, the daily grind to get better, and the struggle to make yourself known are the same in both realms. Here are 15 athlete references in rap lyrics from this year.
15. “Walkin’ On Air” – Rick Ross ft. Meek Mill
Throwing curveballs in the field get you hit like Derek Jeter
Double M, yeah that’s the team, I know they see us, yeah
Meek Mill pays tribute to Derek Jeter’s exceptional hitting skills, while announcing his ability to handle life’s “curveballs” (either throw them or fend them off), and pronouncing his loyalty to the “Double M” (his label, Maybach Music).
RELATED: Everyone from Jay-Z to Red Sox Fans Salutes Derek Jeter in New Jordan Brand Vid
14. “Los Awesome” – Schoolboy Q
Toe tag ’em, false flagging like it’s all good
Tell n***** tee off like Tiger Woods, where you from?
“False flagging”—or repping a gang or a hood that you’re not really from—might, apparently cause somebody to take a swing at you and verify where you’re from. No pretenders or bandwagoners allowed.
13. “I Don’t Know” – Slaughterhouse
May kick it like Pelé on the stair ’round a way day
Or wake up and say hey, spontaneous vaycay
Instead of a mere “kick” like Pelé, Slaughterhouse’s wordplay is too much fun to ignore, as well as the ultimate rhyming “vaycay” with Pelé.
12. “Twact” – Ab -Soul
…mind travelling, getting
Throwed like a javelin
H-Town slang I done poured up a Matt Schaub
Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Schaub used to play for the Houston Texans, where he currently holds all of the franchise’s passing records. “Twact” is about letting loose a little bit, but that’s no reason not to stay sharp. Or, on the contrary, maybe he’s referring to this move:
11. “Yasss Bish” – Nicki Minaj
I am the dream, on the dream team
I am Olajuwon I am Hakeem
Dul Jabbar, I am Kareem
Nicki fits two basketball greats (Hakeem Olajuwon & Kareem Abdul Jabbar) into two lines (and they happen to rhyme.)
10. Who Do You Love? (Remix) – Young Jeezy ft. The Game
35 million, how to make it? Come and see how?
Ballin’ in the club, money tall as Boris Diaw
Currently with the San Antonio Spurs, 32-year old Boris Diaw is listed as 6-foot-8. Diaw played for the Atlanta Hawks, Jeezy’s hometowm, from 2003 to 2005.
9. “Draft Day” – Drake
See whatever I say goes, I play like I’m on ‘roids, no Canseco
No Oakland A’s though, shout out to the Bay though
I think I’m on my eighth flow, just watch me paint flow
Former MLB player Jose Canseco admitted to using steroids throughout his career, but Drake dedicates Draft Day to the 2014 draft class, and to those with raw talent, namely Johnny Manziel and Andrew Wiggins. Just like rising stars Wiggins and Manziel, Drake’s skills are “all-natural.”
8. “Jungle (Remix)” – X Ambassadors ft. Jamie N Commons & Jay-Z
Don’t box me into the corner, I
Float like a butterfly, sting like Muhammad A
On training day I go too hard, ask Antoine Fuqua
Jay-Z put down this verse for the Beats by Dre commercial leading up to the World Cup in Brazil. Besides referencing the tournament and the sport of soccer itself, Jay-Z raps about the road to the top (“there’s records to break, medals to take…”), hardships that cities like Rio endure, and the loyalty people feel towards their city. Jay-Z plays on boxer Muhammad Ali’s famous line, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” rhyming “fly” with “A.” Staying light on your feet until it’s time to strike is one thing; making it all look easy on a corner kick is another.
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7. “Flute” – Buckshot ft. CJ Fly & Joey BADA$$
Just to think, these rappers like fighters
The Mike Tyson I acquire is not retired
To attract ends is required
And I don’t punchlines, I punch liars
Along the same lines as Jay-Z, Young Joey Bada$$ compares rapping to boxing. Joey is on the rise (rather than old and washed up) and ready for battle, or else he’s good enough to coax Mike Tyson out of retirement. Joey needn’t deal with typical rap “punchlines”—his are so powerful that they literally pack a “punch.”
6. “0 to 100/The Catch Up” – Drake
The 6 ain’t friendly but its where I lay up
This s*** a mother f****** lay-up
I been with Steph Curry with the shot
Been cookin’ with the sauce, chef, curry with the pot boy
“0 to 100…real quick” is all about staying grounded in spite of the crazy speed at which Drake’s career blew up, an experience that many professional athletes can relate to. In the basketball context, “6” could be a sly reference to LeBron. “6” is also short for the area codes of Toronto (416/647). Whatever circus the media may bring, Drake reps hard for his hometown. His game comes as easy as a lay-up, at the level of Stephen Curry, who currently holds the NBA record for 3-pointers in a regular season.
5. “New Agenda” – Big KRIT ft. Rick Ross
Hatin’ n****** so petty, all I chase is that lettuce
Top down on my fitted, Pittsburgh like Bettis
Smilin’ like I’m William “The Refrigerator” Perry
6 mili’ for the condo that extra 2 for that terrace
In Rick Ross’s verse, he’s apparently rocking a Pittsburgh Steelers hat (like Jerome Bettis). Not only is defensive tackle William Perry another former big-body football player, but he got a “smile makeover” following his time in the NFL to replace several teeth that were knocked out. “The Fridge” also has his own music video:
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4. “1st Quarter Freestyle” – Big Sean
Hop on a song and kill with n*****, who just own all the trophies
I ain’t playin’ no more like D.Rose or Kobe, its Kobe the beef
And it’s shrimp ravioli
Rather than giving ups to NBA-ers Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant, Big Sean actually seems to be referring to the fact that they have been out of the game lately (due to injuries)—unlike himself, dining on expensive “Kobe beef.” Other than that, points to Big Sean for rhyming “trophies” with “ravioli.”
3. “Diamonds” – Common
Benz leaning like we biased
I’ve seen Len Bias, that s*** scared me
You can go pro and blow everything in a flash
The moment is to live it like your last
In this track, Common points out that it’s good to take your “diamonds off for the day” every once in a while. Len Bias was the No. 2 NBA Draft pick in 1986 out of Maryland who died a couple days later from a cocaine overdose (“blow everything in a flash”). Common reminds us not only that time is precious, that “time is money,” but also to recognize other values, like your own potential to, yes, indeed “shine” on your own.
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2. “New Faces” – Mac Miller ft. Da$h & Earl Sweatshirt
Who you know that’s out that’s harder than this?
Chargin’ n***** like a Tomlinson win
Slight frown on the brow on the brim, color brown
Runnin’ wild on the route that was picked
Earl Sweatshirt asserts his aggressiveness, comparing himself to former NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who played the majority of his career with the San Diego Chargers and remains second in all-time rushing touchdowns.
1. “Diablo” – Mac Miller
I never miss a beat, I’m Charlie Conway, triple deke
Gordon Bombay in these streets
Ballin’ like I’m Pistol Pete
Three Mighty Ducks references: what more do you need? Throw in the late LSU basketball star “Pistol” Pete Maravich? Game over.