Words by Patrick M.
First off that dunk was the sweetest thing to happen since I posterized Gotty on the Nashville street courts.
It’s NBA playoff time, meaning summer is here, and the jams are coming from both the men on the courts and on the charts. Basketball and hip-hop are two of my foremost loves, they are not, however, a package deal. I’ve had periods in life where I have been very into basketball while not listening to hip-hop music. I’ve had years I took off from playing ball where my knowledge and exploration of hip-hop grew extensively. While I consider both amongst my foremost loves, the connection between them only rests on that premise, nothing more nothing less. I’m just as likely to listening to hip-hop while at the driving range as when I am shooting around.
Of course in the public eye, nothing can be further from the truth. Basketball and Hip-hop are inevitably linked, and become more so all the time. The link is a simple one: they are the predominant forms of entertainment that shine the spotlight on young, rich, black males, living in what is still a society dominated by another color, green. And in the quest to make green, both hip-hop and basketball run into a similar question, how to sustain themselves as viable art forms while balancing another shared truth: they are trying to sell their product to predominantly white upper middle class males.
The NBA and record companies take different tactics. The NBA cracks down on vagabonds, runs advertisements highlighting the global nature of the game of basketball and charitable work done by the players. It tries to embody the principle of fan friendliness by sending reassuring messages to those who can afford to pay 200 hundred dollars to attend a basketball game. (these large tattooed black men will not mug you.)
Hip-hop record execs take the other tact; Rappers are portrayed as dangerous, the aura and appeal of violence is accentuated as a positive, vagabondism is encouraged and the large tattooed black men will most definitely mug you. Be it because it’s younger audiences they are reaching out to, or the shear hypocrisy of human beings, they have chosen another path. Which works better? Let me turn to a middle class white kid for some answers.
Our guest expert is of course, myself. Neither satisfies me. One attitude (the NBA’s) reeks of paternalism with regards to the way it views its players. The other (hip-hop) way is pure exploitation. Both strategies do no favors in improving race relations in the U.S., even though these should be two of the primary vehicles for doing so. NBA and hip-hop have that responsibility.
So what drew this middle-class white kid to basketball and hip-hop? Amazing feats of athleticism by Jordan, Barkley, Bird, and Shawn Kemp.. Masterful rhyming by Snoop and Biggie and the musical genius of Dre and Primo. As I played basketball and began to understand the nuances of the game they don’t tell you about on TV, my love grew. As I dug deeper into hip-hop, beyond what I could originally be exposed to from radio and MTV, my love grew.
To the NBA and hip-hop music, stop trying to get new fans and reach out to the ones who love you. We are the reason you are here, and if you lose us, it’s over. To everyone else, remember why you love what you love. And speaking ofâ€¦I love you Mom.
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