Now that Kobe Bryant is 34 years old, it’s easy to forget the dude was once a young, bratty kid with a unique accent who struggled to find social acceptance because of his interesting upbringing. Now, he’s simply a basketball sociopath who swears all day because he doesn’t care anymore, a machine who could be slowly turning into Darth Vader. But back then? He was a wannabe Nas who also had commercials where he sat around historical monuments reading Italian poetry. (Remember that adidas commercial? Anyone have a link?)
Today, Grantland shed some light on a forgotten part of the Mamba’s history: his failed rap career. Back in 2011, we ran a similar story, reminiscing on one of the few available Visions records. That was Bryant’s debut album that was supposed to turn him into Will Smith. Instead, it failed. Miserably. Bryant got a bad rep for his horrific performance with Tyra Banks during the 2000 NBA All-Star Weekend, and like Allen Iverson‘s 40 Jewelz career, the evidence was tossed into someone’s basement.
This is where YouTube comes in, and while Bryant no longer wants to talk about this stuff, that won’t stop us from breaking down his surprising/forgettable verse/cameo in Brian McKnight‘s “Hold Me.” I know it’s easy to rip into Bryant’s talent on the mic, but seriously, that verse fits right in with the best NBA rappers. Not that we’re handing out awards for this thing, but if we’re going to show Iman Shumpert love, then you have to admit this is better than you expected for the Mamba.
Then there was that one time Shaq and Kobe hopped on the same record together. The best part about the whole song — which comes from O’Neal’s 1998 album Respect — is comparing the stylistic differences between the two NBA superstars. Both are exactly as you’d expect: O’Neal is all bravado and punchlines… Kobe is trying his best to be a technician, with words straight out of a dictionary.
Will we ever hear the full extent of Bryant’s rapping foray? I doubt it. And Kobe’s probably thankful for that.
Did Kobe have any talent on the mic?
Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.