NBA

The NBA’s Best Rappers Ranked 2.0

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Three years ago today, we lit a match that sparked a great deal of controversy among a handful of the NBA’s self-proclaimed rappers. “The NBA’s Best Rappers– Ranked” piece garnered feedback from the likes of Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond and J.J. Redick.

A lot has changed since January 2018. Drummond’s on the Cavs, Dwight’s on the Sixers, and a worldwide pandemic took the league by storm. What hasn’t changed, though, is NBA players getting behind the mic. The age-old adage “Rappers want to be ballers, and ballers want to be rappers” rings true now more than ever as Damian Lillard and Marvin Bagley pick up where Shaq and AI left off.

The sound of rap, like styles of NBA basketball, undergoes constant change and innovation, and this list encapsulates the evolution. While Lou Will and Dame’s style are a homage to classical hip-hop roots, the new kids on the block like Zo and Ant are hopping on a more contemporary wave. This proverbial dichotomy, between the old and the new, has fostered a competitive environment for NBA players who hop in the studio. From beef to battles, the guys on this list have forged both friendships and rivalries as they continue to bolster the bridge between basketball and hip-hop.

10. Mason Plumlee

While the song is satirical, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Plumlee’s feature here leaves much to be desired. While shooting prop money out of a gun, the former Duke standout lets out verbal vomit such as “It’s ya boy Plums, that’s my name” and “money gun, uh uh uh, I’m plum dog millionaire.” 

It’s not all bad for Plum though. After getting a hefty chunk of change from the Pistons this summer, expect to see more money-gun antics from Plumdog Millionaire as he shows off the new bag.

9. Marcus Smart

After signing a four-year, $52 million extension with the Celtics in 2018, Smart teamed up with his friend Trey Davis and rapper iAmCompton to celebrate securing the bag. According to Bleacher Report, the music video was “reportedly never supposed to be released, but they eventually reconsidered and decided to make it public.”

Smart drops some smooth, braggadocious bars over the classic trap beat:

“52 mil, that’s a new deal, 13 a year, (explicit), that’s how I live …
Penthouse suite, (explicit), that’s a new feel …
Bought the top floor because I need the room …
Walk-in closet for my Gucci and Lou”

While this appears to be a one-time celebratory occasion as opposed to a career, Smart can certainly hold his own on the mic.

8. Anthony Edwards

Anthony Edwards has had a hilariously controversial start to his NBA career. In a bizarre pre-draft interview, the No. 1 overall pick talked about not really liking basketball as well as leaving the NBA if he had the opportunity to play professional football. But of all the topics he covered, the most absurd was in regards to his rapping ability: “But I really can rap. Dame, talking about — I don’t know what he’s talking about. I’m rapping like Lil Baby.”

This shot at Dame, though unfounded, represents a fracture in the hip-hop world. The split is between new age and old, and Edward’s preference here is obvious. Though he hasn’t dropped any music yet, snippets like the one above depicts Edwards taking the melodic rap route, a sound that has dominated the hip-hop world in recent years as Future, Lil Baby and Gunna have ascended to superstar status. While Ant has a way to go on his own route to superstardom, his potential on the court and on the mic is undeniable.

Fun Sides to know

The sports world and hip-hop have always had a long and deep relationship. We see more and more NBA players involved in the rap game to show their creativity, express themselves and gain popularity on another stage. Whether you’re a loyal follower of basketball or hip-hop, showing your support for your favorite NBA rappers is sensible. Go with custom made enamel pins or PVC patches with basketball elements and players’ unique rap elements, supporting their second career and different basketball & rap cultures. 

7. Lonzo Ball

Zo is the “Madden Curse” of NBA Rappers, as it seems every time he gets behind the mic, things begin to turn south.

It all began in the summer of 2018, when Lonzo dropped a diss track on then-teammate Kyle Kuzma entitled “Kylie Kuzma”. In the days to follow, the Lakers organization told Zo and Kuz to tone down the beef, and Kuz’s mother Karri voiced her discontent for the song:

The dysfunction continued in 2019, as after dropping a track promoting Big Baller Brand, the company folded as a family friend embezzled over $1.5 million from the Ball family, including money from Lonzo’s personal bank account.

You’d think the series of unfortunate events would dissuade Zo from hopping back in the studio, but just a month later, he and Lance Stephenson hopped on a track together. A few months later, Zo would be wearing a Pelicans uniform and Lance Stephenson would go play ball in China after receiving zero calls in free agency.

Lonzo’s latest music venture dropped in June 2020: a full-length studio album titled “BBA (Bounce Back Album)”. While the album itself is Zo’s best work yet, his play that followed in Orlando left much to be desired. Zo put up just 5.6 points a game in the Bubble on an atrocious 26% from the field.

With the Pelicans off to an iffy start in 2020-21, let’s just hope Zo doesn’t compound the problem with his music misfortunes.

6. Andre Drummond

After the Cavs landed Jarrett Allen as their center of the future and Drummond’s name looming on the trade horizon, we feel obligated to make Dre’s 2021 just a little bit better.

https://twitter.com/AndreDrummond/status/954195900657733632?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E954195900657733632&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpublish.twitter.com%2F%3Fquery%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Ftwitter.com%252FAndreDrummond%252Fstatus%252F954195900657733632%26widget%3DTweet

In June of last year, Drummond dropped a hot verse over Tyga’s summer smash hit “Taste”. His rhymes aren’t anything special lyrically, but the Mount Vernon native sure knows how to catch a flow. Aside from this remix, he’s dropped a few freestyles in recent months on SoundCloud under the moniker “Drummxnd”, including a jam with a feature from Riff Raff. With the Cavs off to a respectable start this season, we’re hoping we can hear some new braggadocious Drummxnd bars in 2021. Congrats Dre, you’re better than Lonzo– for now.

5. Aaron Gordon

Aaron Gordon broke into the hip-hop limelight during quarantine, dropping a diss track on Dwyane Wade for snubbing him with a 9/10 in the final round of the 2020 dunk contest. Though the disses are largely in jest, AG puts together some buttery flows on the track to go along with some fantastic visuals.

Following the success of his debut diss track “9 out of 10”, Gordon dropped another single “LVL UP”, filming the video inside of a private jet. Gordon switches the flow up in his verse here, delivering a series of braggadocious bars detailing his come-up and his now-lavish lifestyle. While AG is new to the game, he’s quickly ascending the NBA rap ladder, as the production quality of both his music and visuals are impressive, to say the least.

(Gordon starts rapping at 2:06)

4. Lou Williams

Lou Will has been a staple in the NBA Rap game for years now. From his friendship with Meek Mill to his rumored appearance on 2 Chainz tracks, Lou’s presence in the hip-hop community is undeniable. He’s been name-dropped numerous times, but perhaps none more notable than on Drake’s song “6 Man”:

“Boomin’ out in South Gwinnett like Lou Will… 6 man like Lou Will…

2 girls and they get along like I’m… (Louuuu) Like I’m Lou Will, I just got the new deal.”

The 6th Man’s most recent work dropped in February 2020: a six-song EP entitled “Syx Piece”. This project included a heartfelt Tribute to former teammate and longtime friend Kobe Bryant, who passed away just weeks before the project’s release.

3. Marvin Bagley III

Anthony Edwards isn’t the only one on this list taking shots at Dame DOLLA. In June 2019, Bagley ignited a rap beef with Lillard after going on record on First Take saying that he is the best emcee in the NBA. Later that day, Dame dropped a diss track entitled “MARVINNNNN???”, an ode to Soulja Boy’s appearance on the Breakfast Club in which the infamous “DRAKEEE???” meme was born.

Bagley responded to Dame DOLLA’s diss with a track of his own, “Checkmate”, in which he delivered a number of scathing bars like, “Now I might ruffle up some feathers but I’m just telling the truth… Without that Wayne verse you just another n**ga in the booth”.

The back and forth was all in good fun, though I think most would concede that Dame won the battle. Nonetheless, Bagley no doubt entered the hip-hop limelight with some impressive bars and a distinct flow.

2. Iman Shumpert

While Shump is technically not an NBA player at the moment (he was waived by the Nets in December 2019), he is too iconic to leave off this list. From his appearance in Kanye’s “Fade” video alongside his wife Teyana Taylor to his freestyle on Hot 97, Iman is inexorably tied with the hip-hop world.

While the majority of guys on this list have only flirted with full songs and music videos, consistency is the name of the game for Shump. Over the last two years, he’s dropped over a dozen singles on YouTube, each with corresponding visuals (all of which are as quality as they are distinct). His most recent work, which dropped in September, is a freestyle over the beat of Kendrick Lamar’s “Hii Power”. In his most impressive lyrical performance to date, Iman’s bars express his discontent with racial injustice, gang violence, and oppressive hierarchical systems in America.

1. Damian Lillard (Dame D.O.L.L.A.)

Is there anything Dame can’t do?

What started as a hobby to flex his skills on the mic has evolved into a bonafide career. His 1+ million monthly listeners on Spotify are more than everyone else on this list– combined. Even more impressive, perhaps, is the 10+ million views on his Sway in the Morning freestyle, a video that put the world on notice of Dame DOLLA.

Dame doesn’t want to be seen as just a baller that raps. In an interview with Complex, Lillard said the following in regards to his place in the music world: “I’m not in competition with no player that’s rapping in the NBA. I’m literally as an artist trying to move myself into what the actual artists are doing.”

Some of his most recent work came in February 2020, where Dame linked up with hip-hop legends and fellow Adidas signees Pusha T and Pharell Williams to do an audiovisual promo for his new sneaker, the Dame 6. The song recounts Dame’s ascension to superstardom, capturing Dame’s uncompromising work ethic in lines like, “While y’all was out there clubbing, I ran suicides in the dungeon”. The uber-rare blend of talent, work ethic, and loyalty that propelled Lillard to the top of the basketball world are allowing him to make a real name for himself in the hip-hop world as well. While the young guys claw for ta spot at the top, Dame is here to stay.

About Logan Collien

From Madison, WI Twitter: @lcollien

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