Photo by Keith Allison

Photo by Keith Allis­on

In hon­our of what has pos­sibly been one of the most anti­cip­ated singles of the dec­ade finally drop­ping (yes, that 2011 col­lab between LeBron James and Kev­in Dur­ant) this art­icle will focus on one half of the duo behind this excit­ing new release. LeBron James is not just an MVP on the bas­ket­ball court, the icon­ic main­stream sport­ing legend is a ver­it­able MVP in the US Urb­an scene, too.

Friends at the top

Future, Drake, Lil’ Wayne, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem…a list of names you’ll find in any urb­an fan’s record col­lec­tion, right? In LeBron James’ world, these num­ber 1 artists are just a few of the crew that make up his huge fol­low­ing with­in hip hop and rap music circles. He’s prac­tic­ally best friends with Jay Z, even going on tour with the legendary pro­du­cer and artist back in 2003 with­in just one month of being draf­ted to the Clev­e­land Cava­liers.

LeBron & Jay‑Z on the tour bus in ‘03


Hold­ing two Olympic Gold medals, four NBA Most Valu­able Play­er Awards, three NBA Cham­pi­on­ships, three NBA Finals MVP Awards and count­less oth­er titles and accol­ades to his name, LeBron James’ impact on urb­an music and cul­ture is just as monu­ment­al as his sport­ing career. There’s a reas­on why he’s been ref­er­enced in over 50 rap and hip hop songs — a feat which he mod­estly refers to as “hum­bling” — and that’s the deep con­nec­tion between the lead­ing lights of the urb­an music scene and star NBA play­ers.

It’s a cul­tur­al thing….

It doesn’t take a music theo­lo­gist to fig­ure out that male com­pet­i­tion, par­tic­u­larly amongst black males, is at the heart of rap, hip hop and urb­an music. The same can be said for major sport­ing leagues like the NBA, with the major­ity of play­ers hail­ing from those same towns and cit­ies that spawn crafty word­smiths and slick lyr­i­cists.

Drake him­self has even com­men­ted on this unusu­al con­nec­tion in the 2010 song “Thank Me Now” — “sports and music are so syn­onym­ous. Cause we wanna be them and they wanna be us”. But what makes James stand out in a roster of sim­il­arly tal­en­ted and cul­tur­ally appre­ci­at­ive ath­letes?

No doubt that friend­ship with Jay Z has gone some way towards his integ­ra­tion into urb­an music, but LeBron James has been put­ting a stamp on hip hop and rap cul­ture since the early 2000s. He isn’t just drop­ping his own singles, or being men­tioned in tracks like Jay‑Z and Kanye West’s “Gotta Have It”, Big Sean’s “Deserve It”, “LeBron James” by Yo Gotti and Trav­is Barker’s “Can a Drum­mer Get Some?”, he’s also been the sub­ject of a couple of music videos and even show­cases the hot­test artists and releases via his social media pro­files.

One of the many NBA play­ers and ath­letes with a deep con­nec­tion to the dis­cip­line of poker, legendary foot­age of James per­fect­ing his online game appeared in Drake’s “Forever” and “Best I Ever Had Videos”. Stand­ing apart from his friend­ship with Jay‑Z, James’ bond with Drake is per­haps the most talked about. Ever since the Cana­dian artist emerged into pub­lic con­scious­ness back in 2009, the pair have con­tinu­ally been com­pared to each oth­er in terms of both tal­ent and suc­cess. With Drake now pos­sess­ing a net worth of $100 mil­lion and only being topped by The Beatles in terms of the num­ber of singles named on the Bill­board Hot 100, both men have clearly reached the stra­to­sphere in terms of their respect­ive careers.

Photo by The Come Up Show

Photo by The Come Up Show

Mutu­al appre­ci­ation

Sport­ing stars will always have cross-over appeal in the world of enter­tain­ment, but there’s a clear sense of mutu­al appre­ci­ation between LeBron James and the artists who form his unof­fi­cial crew. It goes without say­ing that the admir­a­tion for the NBA legend felt by artists like Drake and Jay‑Z is evid­ent, how­ever that admir­a­tion and appre­ci­ation is equally felt and shown by James him­self.

Wheth­er it’s rap­ping along on-court to songs like Jay‑Z & Kanye’s “Nig­gas in Par­is” before nail­ing half-court shots (Octo­ber 2011), stream­ing hil­ari­ous unof­fi­cial ‘listen­ing parties’ of releases like Future’s “Mask Off” (which he mem­or­ably did last year, along with a cape and a bottle of Rosé), or tak­ing to social media to show his sup­port for rising stars (Kendrick Lamar, 2016) the mutu­al appre­ci­ation that flows between these urb­an titans and the king of the bas­ket­ball court shows no sign of slow­ing down.


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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rishma Dhali­w­al has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.