Comparing All 32 Starting NFL Quarterbacks to Hip-Hop Artists
It might surprise many that the same qualities that create a good quarterback also can make a good hip-hop artist.
It all comes down to one word: timing
Good quarterbacks can read opposing defenses, make adjustments on the fly and find the open man in a matter of moments.
Good rappers can create complex rhyme schemes and maintain their flow on a beat where lesser rappers might lose their train of thought.
Hear me out: There are a lot of similarities to the biggest quarterbacks in the NFL and the biggest names in hip-hop.
If you don't believe me, here are all 32 NFL starting quarterbacks and their hip-hop comparisons.
Tom Brady: Jay-Z
Both Tom Brady and Jay-Z have risen from major underdogs in their respective backgrounds to rise to the top of the food chain.
Brady, a full-time back-up for most of his college and the early stages of his pro career, turned his opportunity to play into one of the winningest careers in NFL history.
Jay-Z managed to turn his upstart Rocafella Records into an empire that has him as one of the most critically acclaimed and lucrative artists in music.
While both had their own down years (Tom Brady with his 2008 season-ending injury and Jay-Z with the lackluster Kingdom Come), the pair have returned to the upper echelon of the game.
Both also have some of the hottest wives in the world of sports and music, with Tom Brady currently wed to model Gisele Bundchen and Jay-Z with singer/actress Beyonce Knowles.
Peyton Manning: Nas
In both hip-hop and sports, it's all about the head-to-head rivalry.
One NFL fan says they prefer Tom Brady, the other says they prefer Peyton Manning.
One hip-hop fan says Jay-Z is better, while the other will vouch for Nas.
Manning has established himself as one of the best performing and most prepared quarterbacks in the NFL, while also serving as a popular face of the league.
While Nas has definitely been a lightning rod of controversy (a major contrast to Manning), he has also remained one of the most compelling lyricists in hip-hop today (even if Streets Disciple was a less than stellar album).
The pair also continue a family tradition in their fields. Peyton Manning's father, Archie, had a statistically successful NFL career, while Nas' father, jazz musician Olu Dara, had a successful music career of his own (the two have collaborated on several songs).
Aaron Rodgers: Drake
Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers is at the top of the game right now. He holds the championship belt, and his Green Bay Packers are the major contenders to hold onto it again in 2011.
Likewise, Drake has risen from childhood TV stardom to second fiddle behind Lil Wayne to becoming a superstar in his own right. His mixtape So Far Gone was sensational, and Thank Me Later received mostly positive reviews.
While both are criticized for portions of the way they work (some are not thrilled with Rodgers' consistent rushing, while hip-hop fans would prefer to hear less of Drake singing), they both should be dominating the discussion in their fields for a good while.
Philip Rivers: Kanye West
Both San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and hip-hop artist/producer Kanye West are great at what they do.
But if there's anybody who considers themselves kings of speaking out publicly, they may want to watch their throne.
Both Rivers and West also have no issues being candid and speak boldly. They say what is on their minds, but some of the things they say get them in trouble.
Likewise, West has sparked controversy by speaking out against George W. Bush for the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina, stealing the stage ("That video cost a million dollars fam!") at several award shows and even comparing himself to Hitler based on negative public feedback.
Again, they're both very talented, but their outspoken natures will continue to get them in trouble down the road.
Michael Vick: T.I. or Lil Wayne
This comparison will come down to how Philadelphia Eagles quarterback acts in the near future.
Michael Vick, at the top of his game before his arrest for dogfighting, has slowly regained his status as one of the NFL's top-flight quarterbacks.
Similarly, both rappers Lil Wayne and T.I. were at the top of their games before their incarcerations in 2010 and 2009, respectively. However, since being released, both MCs have taken much different directions.
Lil Wayne has come back with a vengeance, creating several top-charting hits building hype for his upcoming The Carter IV. T.I., on the other hand, saw his first post-incarceration works fizzled, and will be returning for another jail sentence on drug charges.
While it seems Vick is moving more in the career trajectory of Wayne after his release, only time will tell if the Eagles quarterback can stay out of trouble and return once again to the general public's good graces.
Matt Ryan: B.o.B.
The Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan and B.o.B. are both talented individuals.
Matt Ryan distinguished himself at Boston College before emerging as one of the top young QBs in the game. Likewise, B.o.B. emerged from the crowded Atlanta hip-hop music scene to rise to the top of the pop charts.
However, it appears each of their successes hinges largely on their surrounding talent.
B.o.B., while a talented rapper, singer and musician, reached his biggest success when paired with other big pop sensations (like Bruno Mars, Paramore's Hayley Williams and Weezer's Rivers Cuomo). His debut album, B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray, debuted at No. 1 on the US Billboard 200 chart.
Ryan had his best season in 2010, after recovering from injury and getting his first full year with Tony Gonzalez (not to mention the work of wide receiver Roddy White and running back Michael Turner). Ryan's 2010 numbers, particularly his touchdown-to-interception ratio, were his best yet.
Matt Schaub: Q-Tip
Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub has done well, especially comparing him to the output of former starter David Carr.
However, his play has been hugely benefited by pairing with wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster.
In the same way, Q-Tip has had a pretty solid career by himself, releasing three solo albums (his album Amplified was way underrated).
But I don't think it'd be a huge surprise to hear most hip-hop fans say they'd prefer to hear him paired up with Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammed and Jarobi as a part of A Tribe Called Quest. The group has one album remaining on its original contract with Jive Records from 1989.
Drew Brees: Eminem
It's tough to knock Drew Brees. Even when his teams haven't had the greatest amount of success, Brees has proven himself to be an incredibly dynamic passer. He's won a Super Bowl (in which he was named MVP) and been named the AP's NFL Offensive Player of the Year, along with almost every other award possible at his position.
All this after being labeled as too short and weak to compete on the big stage. He's shown himself to be much bigger than his criticism.
Likewise, how can you knock the work of Eminem? After more a decade, he's still one of the most energetic and dynamic lyricists in music , and his sales are through the roof. His most recent album, a collaboration with Royce da 5'9", debuted at No. 1.
This success came even though as a white rapper many initially wrote him off as a gimmick. He's proven himself to be much more than that.
Ben Roethlisberger: Ludacris
Rapper Ludacris has been nearly perfect with his album releases, sold more records than Elvis and somehow doesn't enter the conversation of top rappers in hip-hop today. Is it because he's a Southern rapper? Did that Pepsi fiasco turn everybody off?
In the same way, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowls and is one of the top performers in the league, but is never in the conversation of the best quarterbacks in the league. Is it Roethlisberger's unorthodox playing style? His off-the-field troubles?
With that said, some of Roethlisberger's decision making over the past few years (such as riding a motorcycle without a helmet) are certifiably ludicrous.
(Had to go for it.)
Mark Sanchez: Nicki Minaj
Mark Sanchez has done well in his first two seasons with the New York Jets. While the team has worked to slowly develop the young quarterback, Sanchez has exceeded expectations with his rising progress and his winning ways.
Similarly, Nicki Minaj has managed to be one of the few successful pieces to the Young Money record label roster (along with Lil Wayne and Drake). While her initial entry into fame was through her rapping ability, she was able to quickly reach mainstream approval by adding more singing-style tracks to her debut album, Pink Friday.
While both have seen meteoric rises to the big stage, it will be interesting to see how their styles develop in the next few years/seasons.
Matt Stafford: Jay Electronica
It could be argued that based on the small samples we've seen of Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford, he could be in the discussion as a Pro Bowl passer. But injuries have derailed his progress, leaving many fans anxiously waiting.
Jay Electronica has put out some great mixtape work, and if he could finish his album he might enter into a discussion of best lyricists in hip-hop. But until Jay can organize and put out his debut, many of his fans will be left waiting.
Seriously Jay, put out an album.
Jay Cutler: Tyler the Creator
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has produced well since moving to the Windy City from the Denver Broncos. However, he hasn't done himself any favors with his eccentric ways with the media.
That media relationship bit him in a major way when he was criticized for leaving the NFC Championship Game after suffering an early injury.
His icy relationship with fans and fellow players can make him a polarizing member of the league. If he even cares.
Likewise, Tyler the Creator (and his group Odd Future) has confused many with his hyper-aggressive and sexual lyrics. While he's a solid rapper and has built a fervent following, one can only wonder whether he may be coming off as too polarizing to be taken seriously on a mainstream level.
With that said, mainstream acclaim probably wasn't the end goal for his music anyway.
Sam Bradford: The Game
The stakes are high for both of these two.
St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford impressed in his first season in the NFL, but faces huge expectations as he enters Year 2. In addition to being one of the game's highest-paid quarterbacks from his rookie contract, the Rams are looking to take the NFC West after falling short late last season. While Bradford still has a lot of learning left to do, the fans may not be patient enough to wait another year to taste the postseason.
Compton-based rapper The Game also has big expectations stemming from the new release of The R.E.D. Album. While he has performed well in previous years (boosted partially with his association then feud with G-Unit Records), this record could play a big part on whether or not he will continue to get big label support for his project.
While both have done well so far, they both hope their next move will be their best move.
Tony Romo: Lupe Fiasco
These two both have great bodies of work that have been diminished by their latest works.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has done well since taking over the starting role in 2006. He earned himself three Pro Bowl appearances, along with the All-Iron Award in 2009. However, a broken left clavicle ended an already lackluster 2010 season in only Week 6.
Lupe Fiasco's in a similar way had a blazing career start of his own. In addition to several strong mixtapes, he boosted his reputation on the weight of albums like Food and Liquor and The Cool.
However, that run was diminished with the release of the album Lasers. The album was a disappointment for many fans and was crowded with pop-friendly radio hits.
However, even his weakest album artistically was a sales hit, selling over 200,000 copies in its first week.
I'm pretty sure most fans of Lupe and Romo are hoping to a return to form.
Josh Freeman: Wiz Khalifa
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman surprised many with a strong 2010, which should make him one of the players to look out for in 2011.
Similarly, Wiz Khalifa rose up with solid mixtape work, leading to his smash hit, "Black and Yellow," and its never-ending number of team-themed remixes. He led that up with the high-selling Rolling Papers album.
These two have done pretty well so far, but have created mammoth expectations for the next work.
Joe Flacco: Jadakiss
Not every player gets to be in the upper echelon, but they can still be recognized for the contribution they bring to the overall effort.
Joe Flacco has performed well with the Baltimore Ravens, but his play will most likely never get himself labeled as a top-five quarterback. He's a fringe top-10 quarterback at best, at least for a few more years.
The truth is Flacco doesn't have to be the main option for the Ravens. His running game, led by Ray Rice, can move the ball well, and the defense has been steady for years. If Flacco can continue putting up decent numbers (and not have T.J. Houshmanzadeh drop passes), it's only a matter of time until the Ravens can hop the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC pecking order.
In the same way, it doesn't seem likely that New York rapper Jadakiss has much of a solo career left down the road. With that said, it seems he can put away great guest verses at will, and in all likelihood he can go this route for the foreseeable future. And why not?
It doesn't matter who gets the credit, as long as you're a part of the win.
Donovan McNabb: Common
Trailblazer in their field who while a target of right-wing commentators have seen their background become ignored. He also has plans to improve their standing with a big move.
Wait...who am I talking about again?
Kyle Orton: Black Eyed Peas
Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton continues to put up half-decent numbers and, despite being near the median of starting quarterbacks, is treated like he gift-wraps passes to opposing defenses.
Similarly, The Black Eyed Peas continue to sell tons of records and hold the top of the charts, but are treated as though their music consists entirely of the frightened screams of small children.
They're far from great, but they're probably a little bit better than you think.
Eli Manning: DJ Khaled
The New York Giants' Eli Manning surprised many by declaring his status as an upper-level quarterback, with many scoffing at the idea (even though he's won a lot of games in his first few years in the league).
In a same way, nobody is fooled when Miami-based DJ Khaled informs audiences to "Lissteennn," or hypes himself and his collaborators, proclaiming "We the best!"
Spoiler alert: He is in fact not the best.
I think the lesson to take from this is that while self-confidence is great, the best praise comes from mentors, peers and audiences. "You're the best" beats "We the best" any day of the week.
Alex Smith: Memphis Bleek
He may not be the best rapper (or even that good at all), but Memphis Bleek's loyalty to Jay-Z will most likely keep him a millionaire for a long time (Jay-Z even said that himself).
In this same way, the San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith may not have been all that impressive since being drafted No. 1 in 2005, but his loyalty to the organization has been rewarded. After shuffling through several coaches and offensive coordinators, the team has kept with him (even with loud protests of disapproval from fans).
While this season may be the last by the Bay for Smith, it still would be a surprise to see him leave town.
Matt Hasselbeck: Snoop Dogg
Matt Hasselbeck, who was recently traded to the Tennessee Titans, will leave many fans wondering why he is still playing in the league at all. He isn't getting younger, and while his Super Bowl run isn't that far away, his performance in recent years hasn't been of the same caliber.
In the same way, rapper Snoop Dogg has been one of the most dynamic and entertaining rappers in hip-hop (both on and off the track). While it may be tough to see hip-hop without Snoop, it's getting tougher to imagine how Snoop can continue to stay relevant through new music (even if he is a master of building a following on Twitter).
I'm sure these two hope that old dogs can pick up a few new tricks.
Jason Campbell: Any Artist Signed with Bad Boy Records
The Oakland Raiders in recent years has become a wasteland of mid-level to even promising quarterback talent. While some have found limited success, it's been a long time (since Rich Gannon led the team in 2003) that the team has had a real leader under center.
Meanwhile, Bad Boy Records has also been a wasteland of mid-level to promising rap and singing talent. While there have been a few hits, the label hasn't produced a major contributor since the Notorious B.I.G.
What I think I'm trying to say is, while I know things are promising for Jason Campbell now, I think the record of the Raiders will drag Campbell in like so many before him.
Matt Cassel: Lloyd Banks
Rapper Lloyd Banks has struggled for most of the past seven or eight years to get out of the shadow of collaborator and G-Unit Records label head, 50 Cent. While one would think a guy who has done enough as many solid tracks as Banks has would finally get some mainstream shine of his own, he's still on the fringes for most casual listeners.
Similarly, Matt Cassel toiled in obscurity as backup to the New England Patriots' Tom Brady. Finally getting a shot to play, Cassel impressed while putting up very solid numbers.
Now as the Kansas City Chiefs' starter, Cassel has not received the mainstream light he might have expected, even though the Chiefs won the AFC West division crown for the first time since 2003.
Looks like Cassel might be a few more edgy K-Swiss ads from really hitting the big time (warning: not safe for work).
Ryan Fitzpatrick: Freeway
It's surprisingly tough to make a hip-hop comparison to one of the most quiet quarterbacks in the league who plies his trade with the Buffalo Bills. So instead of going with a personality comparison, this is a beard comparison.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, up until he shaved it off this past offseason, had one of the best beards in the NFL. Likewise, Philadelphia-based rapper Freeway (best known for his single, "What We Do") stood out for having a great beard of his own.
Great minds think alike (or at the very least have similar facial hair).
Colt McCoy: Wale
While Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy excelled in college at the University of Texas, that success did not immediately transition to the pro level. He struggled with injuries and keeping up with the pace of the game. However, things look to be improving for McCoy, as the team adjusts to a new West Coast passing attack that appears to be a better fit for his skill set.
In a similar way, DC-based rapper Wale had limited regional success based on his mixtapes and album, including a pair based of tapes based on the hit sitcom, Seinfeld. However, his national name recognition has improved after signing with Rick Ross to his Maybach Music Group. Wale shined immediately on the label's debut record "Maybach Music Group: Self Made." With access to more pop-friendly production, Wale appears to be in a situation that fits better for his skill set.
Kevin Kolb: Kreayshawn
"Gucci Gucci" (video included) is an infectious debut from up-and-coming Oakland rapper Kreayshawn. It's hard not to like. However, the rest of her catalog hasn't exactly captured that same magic. Adding to that pressure is the million dollar contract she signed with Columbia Records.
In the same way, Kevin Kolb had a great first few games with the Philadelphia Eagles, before losing his starting role to Michael Vick. Now starting for the Arizona Cardinals, he will be under huge pressure to play the lead under center the franchise has lacked since the departure of Kurt Warner.
I have a feeling these two won't match the expectations laid upon them.
Tarvaris Jackson: Waka Flocka Flame
You'd think a rapper would need to actually rap to have some success.
You'd think a quarterback would need to be able to pass accurately to have a starting job, especially in a West Coast offense.
Very confusing stuff indeed.
John Beck: Rick Ross
Rick Ross has convinced himself and the rest of us that he's the second coming of Scarface (or "Freeway" Ricky Ross) while previously living a life closer to the law enforcement those two went against.
Similarly, the Washington Redskins' John Beck trumpeted himself as the starter even while the NFL lockout was ongoing. Currently, 'Skins head coach Mike Shanahan says he hasn't picked a starter yet between Beck and Rex Grossman (after previously stating he never insinuated Beck would start).
If there's any lesson to be learned, sometimes you just have to fake it til you make it.
David Garrard: Fabolous
While Jaguars quarterback David Garrard exploded onto highlight reels last season with a Hail Mary pass (narrated by the one and only, Gus Johnson), his time as starter may be running thin. While he has won plenty of games, his window of time to lead his team to a playoff run may be running out.
In a similar way, while Fabolous has made some tremendous tracks in his career (my personal favorite is "Breathe"), he always seems to be a few steps behind some of the other big New York artists. While his new album Loso's Way 2 is an opportunity to affirm his track record, his window of opportunity to keep up with other New York artists of the 2000s may be running out too.
Time is not on either of these two's sides.
Cam Newton: Big Sean
These two are similar in talking a bigger game than they can back up very soon.
Big Sean, while affiliated with the successful label G.O.O.D. Music, may have been a bit premature in calling his debut album Finally Famous. That title may be a slight misnomer, depending on one's definition of famous.
On the other hand, rookie Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton may have jumped the gun by proclaiming himself as an "entertainer" and an "icon."
There's no doubt Newton has talent, as demonstrated by his Heisman Trophy win and his national title run with Auburn. However, the statement may have been just a little bit premature, especially since he hasn't played a regular-season down yet.
Chad Henne: Pitbull
Rapper Pitbull has made a career of being the second fiddle/feature artist for upbeat party anthems.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne will most likely see a future of playing second fiddle while riding the pine.
Based on the loud rumblings of the Miami Dolphins faithful (who are calling for Kyle Orton, of all quarterbacks), there's no doubt Henne's near future with the team is in real danger.
Andy Dalton: Kid Cudi
I don't really know what to make of Cincinnati Bengals rookie Andy Dalton. He was great at TCU, but I've been bored watching highlights of his two preseason starts.
In the same way, I feel like I should like Kid Cudi. He's trying different things with his music and pushing boundaries, but I just feel bored listening to most of his work. I was able to see him live, and it was not much better.
I hope for Bengals fans' sake they aren't yawning when they see Dalton line up under center.
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