Originally posted on Around the Arc  |  Last updated 4/25/13
At this point in time, most people roll their eyes when they hear about an athlete or an entertainer moonlighting as a rapper. We’ve seen the shtick before and the output has been largely underwhelming. Shaq actually had some successful and somewhat decent songs back in the day (Shaq Diesel anyone?), but the list is short. “I got money, girls, clothes, and cars, and I’m better than you at basketball.’ Okay, we get it.Thus many of our favorite athlete’s forays into the rap game go largely ignored or unnoticed. Allen Iverson, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, and Ron Artest are among those who have released microphone material to little fanfare, and rap-addicted superstar Kevin Durant seems determined to add his name to the list.. Since many of these athletes share a similar background with rap artists, live a version of the hip-hop lifestyle, and have the means to make their own music, it is not surprising to see them give it a go.It is more surprising when an athlete is praised for his abilities on a microphone, and it becomes especially surprising when that athlete is superstar Kobe Bryant. Kobe doesn’t speak much of his rap roots these days, but an article that ran recently on Grantland written by Thomas Golianopoulos explores Kobe’s history with hip-hop, and illustrates that at one point, Kobe took his rap career very seriously. Photo credit: ballerwives.com“When he wasn't playing ball, he was recording at the Hit Factory with late-'90s producers par excellence the Trackmasters and their stable of artists, which included Nas, Noreaga, Punch and Words, Nature, and a young scrapper named 50 Cent. Bryant lived it up in New York. He routinely went clubbing with [hip-hop record executive] Steve Stoute and dined at Mr. Chow, the Chinese restaurant favored by the nouveau riche.”It sounds like hip-hop was more than a hobby, and by others’ accounts, it was something Kobe had a natural knack for. "Kobe was nice, man. He was lyrical,” testified an old associate of the superstar. "Kobe had a quality of lyrics. When he got into the cipher, you didn't look at him as just Kobe. You looked at him as a dude that could rhyme and if you sleep on him, you could get embarrassed,” added hip-hop artist, Words, who battled Bryant back in the day. No, Kobe probably was not going to be the next Nas, but it sounds like he at least had some skill. Grantland’s excellent and in-depth article goes on to explain that an oversaturation of athlete/artist crossovers hurt Kobe’s cause, and by the time he was trying to break into music’s mainstream people simply didn’t want to hear a rapping basketball player.The article even cited Shaq’s success, and following flame-out in the music business as one possibly reason why Bryant was never able to fully launch his rap career. The article also points out that record labels were not interested in an intellectual athlete/rapper, but rather something more relatable to the mainstream. They wanted a shiny, simple version of Kobe the rapper to offer to the audience, and like other underground rappers who try to make it big, Kobe struggled with the transition.  So for good or for bad, Kobe the rap star never came to be. It is safe to assume however that Bryant still has a strong appreciation of the craft, and at a point in past, he approached rap with the same competitive drive that has made him a legend with the Lakers.  
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