Ranking the Best NBA Rap Singles of All-Time

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2012

Ranking the Best NBA Rap Singles of All-Time

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    From now until the time one of them becomes extinct (which isn't likely to happen in this lifetime or the next), NBA players will rap and rappers will play basketball. It's a fact of life.

    There are plenty of basketball players out there who drop a single here and there or end up featured on somebody else's album, but very few basketball players actually make definitive, listenable singles, let alone complete albums.

    Of course, Shaq is the go-to rapper of reference, especially since he put up a gold and a platinum album, but to call Shaq's rapping career a success beyond the money-making aspect is a bit—well, completely out of line.

    The newest wave of NBA rappers are coming in as guys like Metta World Peace and Stephen Jackson start to get older and become "veteran" NBA rappers (if such a thing can exist), and a few of them aren't bad.

    Iman Shumpert is doing a few songs here and there, as is Kevin Durant and hopefully Nikola Pekovic, but for now, the guy everybody seems to be talking about is Lou Williams.

    Sweet Lou isn't bad; the only problem is that he's spent his rap "career" as a featured guy and has yet to put out a legitimate single. The closest thing he's had is him rapping for a minute-and-a-half over Meek Mill's "Imma Bosstrack.

    Like I said, he's not bad, but the fact that he hasn't put out a single of his own keeps him off this list for now.

    While we wait for Lou to drop something of his own, we can take a look at some of the other basketball players who have dipped their beaks in the rapping world.

    Word of warning: A handful of these are not safe for work. Listen carefully.

10. Stak 5: Lonely at the Top

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    This is the single that dropped over the summer that sent everybody into a frenzy. Not necessarily because of any content, but because it is the one that features Kevin Durant.

    On the surface, it's pretty good as far as NBA rapping standards go. Stephen Jackson knows what he's doing, and there's a fun little novelty in hearing Durant come in and flop out a few bars in the middle of the song.

    Durant isn't terrible, but there's some obviously forced lines that don't really flow well, but Jackson comes in and cleans it up along the way.

    If you're a fan of the "haters gonna hate, but we gonna celebrate" style of rap that circulates today, then this is for you. There isn't much-old school in it, but there's enough good throughout to be recognized.

    Really, the only thing I know about Jackson's rap career is that he keeps it "trill." The only problem with that is I'm far too white to be allowed to know what that means.

    Either way, continue keeping it trill, Stak 5; just lay off Serge Ibaka a bit.

9. Iman Shumpert: Knicks Anthem

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    With a handful of videos coming out over the past year or so, Iman Shumpert has really popped up as one of the most exciting and fun young NBA rappers.

    He's got a nice, steady flow and a fun way of stretching words out and making them feel right in any situation.

    I've got two favorite parts in this short song.

    First, the fact that he incorporates Pablo Prigioni's name almost flawlessly is downright impressive, but simultaneously hilarious. I can't put my finger on it, but it's probably due to the fact that the only guy I expected to be mentioned in a rap song this year less than Prigioni was Chris Kaman.

    Second, was there ever a better eight-word description of J.R. Smith's career in the thousands of times bloggers have lamented the way he plays?

    "He just steppin' back and put it up."

    Yep, that's J.R. Smith.

8. Gary Payton: Livin' Legal and Large

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    Yep, The Glove laid down a smooth rap/R&B track back in the day, and I can't say it's a terrible piece of music.

    The bass line laid down in the background completely makes it for me based solely on the fact that it sounds like every early '90s synth bass line ever, but people still found it to be funky.

    Gary Payton doesn't try to overreach at all throughout the entire track; he's very safe and "Fresh Prince-ish" about the way he raps, reminding people that he is living large, but he's also legal while going about said large living.

    It's very clean, albeit kind of soulless after a while, as it turns into him just strictly rapping rather than putting some cadence on his words. 

7. Suni Blac: Ballin (NSFW)

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    If you're like me you'll be asking yourself, "Who is Suni Blac, and what team did he play for?"

    Well, Suni Black is actually Rashad McCants, the guy that spent all of four years in the NBA for some of the most depressing Minnesota Timberwolves teams in the past decade, and that's saying something.

    As Rashad McCants, he was an unimpressive basketball player. As Suni Blac, he's a halfway decent new-school rapper.

    It's a very boastful track where he brags about dunking like Amar'e Stoudemire (perhaps he means the Amar'e that's been out with a surgically-repaired knee) and rolling around in a Bugatti, which seems fiscally irresponsible.

    Also, I find it hilarious that the hook to the song is "Ballin' is my hobby," because it sure as hell isn't his job anymore.

    Regardless, his flow is smooth and hard, and I don't hate it as much as a lot of the other stuff I hear today.

6. Joe Beast: Murda Kapital

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    After a solid NBA career to avoid being called a complete bust as a No. 1 overall pick, Joe Smith picked up the microphone and decided to lay down a track or two.

    Whether it's because the name Joe Smith was too dull and uninventive to be a rapper or just because he fancied himself a beast both on and off the court, he adopted the monicker Joe Beast and laid out "The Beginning."

    The album itself is pretty good as far as NBA players go. He doesn't constantly rely on reminding us that he was a basketball player or that he spent his days shooting jumpers (although he mentions it in this track), but he doesn't completely avoid it either.

    The single from the album, "Murda Kapital," is emphatic and smooth, just like Smith was in his days in the league, and in the end, it's got a cool, yet hard feel to it all.

5. Shaquille O'Neal: (You Know I Got) Skillz

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    When you talk about rap and Shaq, it's easy to jump on the bandwagon that Shaq was a terrible rapper, and if we're talking in the context of 1995, then he was. However, looking back, he gains a bit of support after years of hit-and-miss rap from the rest of the world.

    One thing we can't take away from Shaq no matter how much we bag on his rap career is that he's got a gold and platinum album to go along with two gold singles, something no other NBA player can say.

    Shaq's flow isn't admirable, and his lyrics aren't deep and insightful, but he's fun.

    Basically, he's a seven-foot, 300-pound homeless man's Biz Markie.

4. Cedric Ceballos: Flow on

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    Somehow, when everybody talks about NBA rappers, Shaq is always mentioned as the go-to early '90s example, while Cedric Ceballos is completely ignored.

    Ceballos is a throwback to one of my favorite styles of rappers of yesteryear, the modest, methodical, deep-voiced guy who has a voice like an upright bass.

    In terms of deep-voiced rappers, he's got a baritone that's just a step below Chali 2na and Big Daddy Kane, but he's still got the dulcet tones and the deep, stretched-out voice that lets him get by with having the line "back the funk up," which is hard to pull off and still be serious.

    Ceballos' "Flow On" is certainly an example of when NBA rappers can go oh so very right, and if he were to have put out an entire album, I'm sure there would have been quite a few people to enjoy what they heard.

3. Dana Barros: Check It

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    The only guy that could top Ceballos in the early '90s was Dana Barros, the Nas to Ceballos' Jay-Z.

    I've always heard Barros rap and thought it sounded like Busta Rhymes, only at about a third of the speed, which is a really cool sound.

    He's got the emphatic enunciation on strange syllables keeping in perfect flow with the beat, holding up an intensity throughout the song that gives the whole thing a really hard feeling.

    One of my favorite thing about the entire single is that he, unlike almost every other NBA rapper ever, avoids hanging a basketball reference on the end of every bar possible. He gets by writing and rapping a legitimate song, something very few ballers turned rappers can say.

2. Allen Iverson A.K.A. Jewelz: 40 Bars (NSFW)

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    There have been some controversial singles to come out in rap history, and in terms of the NBA, this is definitely the most controversial.

    Allen Iverson came out with the single "40 Bars," and NBA Commissioner David Stern tried to get him to change the lyrics. Instead of folding to the pressure of "the man," Iverson stopped rapping and stuck with basketball, probably so he could get more practice.

    The song is legitimately foul, laden with profanity (surprise) and lyrics about gunplay, so naturally Stern wouldn't want one of the league's most visible (and controversial) players go to such lengths to make him more controversial.

    While there's a lot to dislike about it, especially since it seems overly dependent on shock value, profanity and downright hatred, it shows that Iverson can legitimately rap. He has a flow that few NBA players have had before.

1. Cedric Ceballos and Dana Barros: Ya Don't Stop

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    I've professed my love for the deep-voiced Ceballos and the choppy-flowed Barros, so naturally, the two of them would come together to create the most beautiful NBA single of all-time.

    They're the NBA's version of Phife Dawg and Q-Tip, only a lot taller.

    Now, I know I've said that NBA players' songs being too basketball-reference heavy seem a bit cheap and creatively weak, but this song has my head bobbing too hard to give a damn.

    "Ya Don't Stop" features a dark, yet smooth old-school beat, stripped down to its elements and covered with the smooth lyricism of Ceballos and Barros.

    Of course, it doesn't hurt that they get a little bit of help from Brand Nubian's Grand Puba and Sadat X, along with a little bit of AG and Diamond D.

    Everybody sit back and just let this one flow over you, because it's the best you can get from an NBA rap duo.