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The 2013 NBA Rookie Mix-Tape: Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, Drake, A$AP Rocky & More

We had a chance to speak with some of the newest players in the NBA last week during the 2013 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot as part of the four-day Rookie Transition Program that wrapped last Friday. While we enjoyed some of the high-jinks during the all-day affair, we also had to talk over a thrumming bass line as hip hop blared in the background for most of the day.

The loud setting plus the incredible lyrical moment from Kendrick Lamar during the debut of the Big Sean track, “Control” last night — featuring a K. Dot verse where he goes after most of his peers in the rap game — synthesized around our rookie mix.

Here’s the part of Kendrick Lamar’s recent verse we’re talking about:

I’m usually homeboys with the same ni**as I’m rhymin’ with / But this is hip hop and them ni**as should know what time it is / And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale / Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake / Big Sean, Jay Electron’, Tyler, Mac Miller / I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you ni**as / Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you ni**as / They don’t wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you ni**as / What is competition? I’m tryna raise the bar high / Who tryna jump and get it? You better off tryna skydive

Yeah. Basketball Twitter exploded when this dropped and Kendrick “got a dream” that he’s battling all the top emcee’s in the game. A lot of the rappers K. Dot mentions in his highly acclaimed battle verse are also some of the favorite emcees / of the NBA’s newest rook-ies. Sorry, but hip hop was king at the NBA’s rookie photo shoot.

Then again, there were a few players we spoke to who also dig classic rock, country, or even some New Zealand tunes. But even those few who didn’t mention some of Lamar’s contemporaries admitted hip hop was the preferred locker-room soundtrack.

And K. Dot himself was one of the most frequently named artists, too.

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TRACK 1: DRAKE

The former DeGrassi: The Next Generation actor was mentioned by a host of rookies, specifically fellow Canadian, Anthony Bennett, who told us Drake was his “go-too.” The list of rookies who loved the plaintive rhymes of Canada’s Drizzy was extensive, and since he’s one of the biggest names in hip hop today, it makes sense.

PLAYERS WHO MENTIONED HIM
Michael Carter-Williams
Trey Burke
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Glen Rice Jr.
Ricky Ledo

Keep reading to see what players thought about the former minority owner of the Nets.

TRACK 2: JAY-Z

Like Drake, the HOVA was a huge hit among the rookies, especially his newest venture, Magna Carter Holy Grail. When we asked players whether they listened to any of his older work, a lot of them said yes, but provided mumbled responses we couldn’t quite make out. When we mentioned our affinity with Jay’s faster flow on Reasonable Doubt, most were pretty blasé.

One rook who really knew his hip hop though, was Jamaal Franklin of the Grizzlies, who mentioned The Black Album and The Blueprint. As you’ll read later, this is primarily because hip hop is in Franklin’s family.

Mason Plumlee was also a big fan of Jay, mentioning his album before we could even get the question out. Whether his answer was influenced by the fact he plays for the Brooklyn Nets, Mr. Carter’s team, is anybody’s guess. Plumlee hadn’t met Jay when we spoke, but he has met with Deron Williams and Jason Kidd. At the end of our brief chat, we asked Plumlee about whether he’ll get any playing time with all the amazing new players on the Nets’ roster, and Plumlee answered confidently, “Oh yeah. They’re going to need me to play, for sure.” That’s the answer HOV would have given, too.

Kentavious Caldwell Pope
Mason Plumlee
Jamaal Franklin
Otto Porter
Michael Carter-Williams
Trey Burke
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Glen Rice Jr.
Ricky Ledo

Oh, and just in case our readers don’t know Reasonable Doubt, here you go:

Keep reading to hear the next talented young musician the rookies really identified with.

Track 3: J. COLE

A startling number of players said J. Cole the moment we got done asking what they’re listening to right now, specifically his new album Born Sinner. The Fayetteville, NC rapper and producer had a second No. 1 album on the Billboard charts with Born Sinner, after his debut, Cole World: The Sideline Story debuted at No. 1 when it was released in September of 2011. But the NBA rooks love Born Sinner.

Otto Porter mentioned J. Cole and Jay-Z right off the back, and the triumvirate of Trey Burke, Glen Rice Jr. and Tim Hardaway Jr. broke out in unison when we asked them as a group who they were listening too. The No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft, Victor Oladipo, also acknowledged being a Cole fan, as well as a bunch of old school (to him) R & B acts, like New Edition, Dru Hill and Boyz 2 Men.

The 28-year-old Grammy winner for Best New Artist in 2012, Cole has a bunch of young ballers that love his tunes, so you can be sure it’ll be bumping in a locker-room near you.

Otto Porter
Ricky Ledo
Shabazz Muhammad
Victor Oladipo
Trey Burke
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Glen Rice Jr.

Find out who the next emcee on our list might be. You won’t be that surprised since he’s a household name in most hip hop circles.

Track 4: A$AP ROCKY

The acclaimed emcee behind Live.Love. ASAP and Long.Live. ASAP was mentioned along with the rappers we’ve already covered. He is part of the 2013 NBA Rookie group that signifies the penultimate NBA rookie listening experience. At least in the sample we spoke with.

Rocky’s official debut, Long.Live. ASAP, came on the heels of his successful mix-tape Live.Love. ASAP in 2011. The players included him as quickly as they had the previous artists mentioned, and he was one of the emcee’s who overlapped most of the rookies we spoke with. The 24-year-old Harlem born Rocky was originally named Rakim Mayers after the OG tandem Eric B & Rakim, so Rocky might be the only emcee named after a famous lyricist who then adopted another moniker.

One thing’s for sure, though, this year’s rookies are all tangentially members of ASAP Mob. The acronym that birthed A$AP Rocky to “Always Strive And Prosper,” makes a lot of sense for these youngsters looking to make a mark in the NBA next season. No wonder he was on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

Anthony Bennett
Jamaal Franklin
Trey Burke
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Glen Rice Jr.

While this isn’t the most popular song mentioned, it’s our favorite from his new album.

Keep reading as we head to Philly for the next portion of the mix-tape.

Track 5: MEEK MILL

Philadelphia’s Meek Mill wasn’t mentioned as glowingly as the other rappers on our mix so far, but “Meek” was uttered enough to convince us he deserves a place of his own. The Dreams and Nightmares rapper signed with Rick Ross‘ Maybach Music Group after a brief time with T.I. Meek signed in 2011 along with another rapper mentioned a couple times, Wale.

Detroit’s guard Kentavious Caldewell-Pope told us Mill and Lil’ Wayne were his two favorite emcee’s growing up in Georgia. Also, as regards K. Dot’s verse we mentioned earlier, Meek is ready to come back, and captions this IG upload today with “lol…Ya’ll know I love this s**t. #HipHop.” We agree, and so do these rookies. Now we’re just wondering what they think about the gauntlet Lamar threw down last night. We know Meek’s down.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Ricky Ledo
Shabazz Muhammad
Trey Burke
Tim Hardaway Jr.

And check out this VERY NSFW Meek freestyle from a week ago:

The next artist in our mix tape has done some jail time, and recently appeared in a feature film.

Track 6: GUCCI MANE

The rapper — turned actor for Spring Breakers — is older than a lot of the emcees we’ve already discussed, aside from the timeless Jay-Z. He was a favorite of the few rookies who were instrumental in putting this list together. The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted rapper might have been in the game longer than a lot of musicians on this list, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the favorites of the newest class of NBA rookies.

While Gucci Mane, real name Radric Davis, has been in-and-out of jail for a list of offenses that isn’t something to strive for, he’s a hit with the younger generation just coming into the NBA. We do hope the rookies forgo duplicating Davis’ less-than-desirable rap sheet, though. We don’t think the rookies enjoy the musical stylings of Mane’s co-star in Springbreakers, Selena Gomez. No one we spoke to even mentioned the film, so it’s safe to say Gucci Mane’s popularity is limited to his music and not his cannabis-infused performance in the Harmony Karine feature film.

Glen Rice Jr.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Trey Burke
Shabazz Muhammad

Keep reading because we’re heading to California.

Track 7: SChOOLBOY Q

We discovered ScHoolboy Q before Kendrick Lamar, but they’re both a part of the Black Hippy collective in Cali. Q, real name Quincy MattHew Hanley, was born in Germany, and his intricate wordplay was a fav of Grizzlies rookie, Jamaal Franklin. After Hanley moved around a bit with his Army father, he and his mother finally settled in Los Angeles, where he began his rap career.

Said Franklin of one of his favorite artist’s: “My guy is ScHoolboy. ScHoolboy Q that’s my dude. I’m from California, I’m from LA, so that plays a part. My cousin is Hit Boy, the producer. That’s how I know Jay-Z. My cousin’s big homies are Jay-Z and Kanye West.”

Franklin might be related to ScHoolboy Q’s some-time producer, Hit Boy, but he’s not the only one that digs Hanley’s rhymes. Whether it’s Habits & Contradictions or Oxymoron, this Cali emcee is in the same vein as our final single serving artist on the rookie mix-tape. Whenever a rookie mentioned Kendrick Lamar, we made sure they knew about ScHoolboy Q. They aren’t the same, but both rappers are bringing rap to another level with their dexterous rhymes and intoxicating cadence. Just like these rookies are hoping to do with a basketball as they head into their first year as NBA players.

The next guy on our list might have been the most popular.

Track 8: KENDRICK LAMAR

Here is a list of the BET Awards Kendrick Lamar won this year: Best Collaboration for “Problems”; Best Male Hip-Hop Artist; Best New Artist; and in 2012 he won Best Lyricist. That’s just the BET Awards. We haven’t even gotten to the accolades K. Dot is getting for that incredible flow on the new Big Sean joint.

Uproxx wrote of that verse today, “Yes, this is the verse of the year and one of those iconic moments in Hip-Hop — scratch that, all of music — that you want to be a part of.” So do the rookies, it appears, and we asked them about their favorite music before Kendrick Lamar’s new verse had seen the light of day.

Even if not every rookie we spoke with mentioned Kendrick Lamar, when we dropped his name most everyone nodded and said they knew of him. As Franklin — our go-to hip hop connoisseur — told us, “I love Kendrick Lamar. That’s my flow. That mellow vibe.” We couldn’t agree more.

Thunder rookie Andre Roberson mentioned some classic rock bands and was a little bit more eclectic than most of the rookies we spoke with, but even he listed Kendrick Lamar as one of the three albums he would bring with him to a deserted island.

Michael Carter-Williams
Andre Roberson
Jamaal Franklin
Ricky Ledo
Glen Rice Jr.
Trey Burke
Shabazz Muhammad
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Anthony Bennett

Here is Big Sean’s track “Control” from his upcoming Hall of Fame album, and also the launching pad for a thousand battle rhymes as all the rapper’s Lamar namechecks look to record an answer to his already-immortal verse.

And here is one of our favorite tracks from Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city release because “Control” is getting pulled from YouTube pretty fast.

Check out the rest of the hip hop artists mentioned and those rookies who preferred other genres of music.

Track 9: Hip Hop B-SIDES

Here are some other rappers who were alluded to during our Q & A with the rookies.

2 Chainz – We spent quite a bit of time with Kelly Olynyk, the Celtics’ first round pick. He couldn’t say enough about 2 Chainz after a childhood friend turned him on to the College Park, Georgia emcee that used to go by Tity Boi. 2 Chainz, real name Tauheed Epps, was a 6-5 basketball star in high school. He even attended Alabama State University on an athletic scholarship.

Fabolous – the Burke, Hardaway, Rice and Muhammad contingent all mentioned this Brooklyn emcee.

Lil’ Wayne – Kentavious agreed that Wayne has dropped off and is no longer the Best Rapper alive (that’s Kendrick now) since getting out of prison, but he had to give him props and so will we.

Rich Homie Quan – Ricky Ledo screamed this at us from across the gym after we forgot we’d already asked him about his favorite artists.

The Game – Burke, Hardaway, and Rice again as these three rookies name dropped so many emcees we’re surprised they were able to remember them all in the brief time we spent with them. They know their hip hop, that’s for sure, and Baron Davis‘ buddy, The Game isn’t a slouch when it comes to balling, either.

TupacIsaiah Canaan did not reveal any other musicians he enjoyed, except ‘Pac, and when we asked if he liked old or new Tupac recordings, he replied, “Early, late, all of it.” ‘Nuff said.

T.I., Ace Hood, Young Scooter, and some local ATL emcee’s we don’t have space to mention.

Track 10: THE OTHER ARTISTS

With such a hip hop heavy lineup, we were excited when a few non rap acts were discussed.

Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, Boston, Jimi Hendrix – these were all bands OKC’s Andre Roberson mentioned. He also loves Michael Jackson, naming him, Kendrick Lamar and rapper, Dom Kennedy as his three deserted island artists.

Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Tim McGrawCody Zeller likes country music, but when we mentioned how unique an answer this was he clarified. “I mean this song [hip hop song playing in the background] is playing in the locker-room, so I know that stuff too.” Despite not knowing a thing about country music, let’s throw some Kenny Chesney on here for Zeller. It wouldn’t be fair if we failed to include the only country picks.

Adeaze and Nesian Mystic – Another Oklahoma City Thunder pick, Steven Adams, provided the hardest answer, at least for us to find online. We had to rely on a more musically inclined writer to help track these bands down because Adams named two artists who we have never heard of. Even after listening to the audio of our conversation with him, it took some digging to find the bands Adams is listening to right now. Both hail from Adams’ native New Zealand, and the Kiwi performers were as far off the beaten path as you could get during our informal survey of NBA rookies.

Zedd & Pink – These were another couple of Olynyk’s picks, whose musical tastes are like Roberson’s: broad. The Celtics new forward said he’s been listening to the song “Charity,” and that he’d been listening to Pink a day earlier. At the mention of Pink we offered up Robyn for him to check out. At that point Kelly started humming the 1997 Robyn Carlsson hit, “Show Me Love.” Olynyk knows his tunes because we couldn’t place it. But he was right, it’s Robyn, just the earlier incarnation with the last name added.

Rookies are young, but they listen to some decent music. That is, as long as you’re a hip hop fan.

What do you think?

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