Name-dropping others is one of the longest-running trends in hip-hop culture. Be it high-end fashion brands, celebrities or fellow rappers, generations of spitters have woven famous entertainers and big-name brands into their rhymes.
The current crop of 2000-era rappers are massive fans of this trend and have a special affinity for mentioning athletes in their raps. This isn’t a huge shock when you consider the similarities between hip-hop and sport - rappers and athletes thrive on competition, battling it out in their chosen field in hopes of being crowned the greatest of all time. Many in the hip-hop world show their respect by shouting out sports stars in their raps, with some going one step further and paying tribute by naming entire songs after their most admired athlete. To highlight this trend, here are 10 songs named after athletes from our favourite rappers.
Jack Harlow – Tyler Herro
It’s been a big year for rising rapper Jack Harlow. Off the back of his XXL Freshman nomination and high charting remix of hit WHATS POPPIN, the 22-year-old’s latest single is a tribute to his day ones, including good friend and Miami Heat baller Tyler Herro. Along with shouting out his homeboy, Harlow name-checks *NSYNC, Iman Shumpert and Louisville rap group The Homies on this cracking tune.
Meek Mill – Derrick Rose
Philly rapper Meek Mill doesn’t just name-drop Derrick Rose but compares himself to the current Detroit Piston. At the time of the song’s release, Rose was dominating for the Chicago Bulls and went on to be crowned the 2011 NBA MVP, with Mill believing he was running the rap game at that time too thus Rose’s hip-hop equivalent.
Lil Wayne – Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is an ode to Lil Wayne’s favourite basketball player. Kicking off with a sample of NBA analyst Stephen A. Smith discussing Kobe Bryant’s greatness, the track is a celebration of Bryant’s incredible talent, with Wayne in peak form. Although never officially released after first leaking online in 2009, Wayne performed a new version of the song at the BET awards after Bryant’s death and included it on the recent re-release of his acclaimed mixtape No Ceilings.
Rapsody - Serena
Serena Williams is arguably the GOAT of international tennis. Not only has she won 23 Grand Slam titles (the most of any tennis player), but her powerful displays on the court and recent activism work off it have made her a role model for young women around the globe. She's also been immortalised in song on Rapsody's Serena. Paying tribute to Williams' trailblazing ways, this motivational rap song also finds Rapsody likening her own career to Kobe Bryant's and comparing Williams' to Wonder Woman.
Action Bronson – Mike Vick
Michael Vick was a former quarterback who did jail time after being involved in illegal dogfights. Naming a song after him might sound strange, but Action Bronson uses Vick’s name as a warning to his foes not to step to him otherwise they’re likely to meet a violent end like the dogs in Vick’s underground fights. Threats aside, the rest of the track is a Bronson masterclass in clever wordplay and one of the highlights from his Rare Chandeliers mixtape.
A$AP Ferg ft. Tyga – Dennis Rodman
A lot of young basketball fans gained a newfound respect for Dennis Rodman after watching The Last Dance, with Harlem rapper A$AP Ferg dedicating an entire track to the b-ball enigma. Along with Tyga, the duo drop rhymes about Rodman’s on-court prowess while comparing their lives to his colourful off-court party persona.
Post Malone – White Iverson
The song that propelled Post Malone from unknown SoundCloud rapper to chart-topping hitmaker, White Iverson is a certified banger. Chock full of basketball metaphors and a clever reference to Allen Iverson’s infamous “practice speech,” White Iverson finds Malone comparing himself to the 76ers legend as he raps about his hunger to get paper and be the best in the game.
Lil B – Fuck KD
Indie rapper Lil B and future NBA Hall of Famer Kevin Durant were involved in a long-running feud throughout the mid-00s. After Durant trash-talked Lil B’s raps and refused to settle their dispute with a one on one match, The Based God unleashed his fury with this hilarious diss track. Not only did he come at Durant through rap, but he also placed a curse on the power forward. The curse was finally lifted when Durant joined Lil B’s team The Golden State Warriors, who would go on to win the championship soon after.
Offset & Metro Boomin – Ric Flair Drip
Some might not consider wrestling a sport but its impact on hip-hop culture looms large. Offset is one rapper who’s a big wrestling fan, particularly of 16 time WWE champion Ric Flair. Not only does he use Flair’s famous “Whoo!” catchphrase, but he also named a song after him. Ric Flair Drip finds Offset rapping about his lavish lifestyle while paying homage to the outlandish Flair, with the “stylin’, profilin’, limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin’ and dealin’ son of a gun” making a funny cameo in the music video.
Kanye West ft. Lil Wayne – Barry Bonds
Listening to Barry Bonds it’s unclear whether Kanye West or Lil Wayne actually appreciate the incredible achievements of the 14-time All-Star MLB slugger, as they spend the entire song boasting about their own greatness. The duo name checks the controversial hitter to illustrate how every track they drop is a home run, despite this tune never making an impact on the charts.
Kendrick Lamar ft. ScHoolboy Q – Michael Jordan
GOAT hails GOAT in this cut from Top Dawg Entertainment’s 2010 Overly Dedicated mixtape. Released as Kendrick Lamar was on the cusp of superstardom, the track finds the Compton MC going hard over a brooding beat as he references Michael Jordan’s famous jersey number 23 and brags about his greatness. ScHoolboy Q shows up for a verse about smoking weed and getting laid, but this one is all about Lamar’s lyrical flex.