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The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hip hop connection to sports on full display in new 'Quest' film

Comedian and New York fanboy Michael Rapaport jumped behind the camera to produce the recent documentary about alt-rap pioneers A Tribe Called Quest. The group seems to be the only thing Rapaport supports more than his hometown Knicks and Yankees. Rapaport has appeared on ESPN's "The Next Round" to talk sports and he appeared at the end of the "Winning Time" 30 for 30 about Knick killer Reggie Miller.
Hip hop's link to sports culture is nothing new. It even inspired David Stern to call for a dress code in the NBA. Athletes have also been known to rap themselves.
Jalen Rose, himself an acknowledged hip hop fan, credits the art with inspiring the brash Fab Five in a recent ESPN documentary. Rose and the Fab Five starred at Michigan during hip hop's ascension to the forefront of public consciousness. Baggy shorts and swagger aren't alien anymore, thanks to Rose and Co. as well as hip hop.
Quest member Phife Dawg, the party responsible for some of hip hop's most notorious lyrics, routinely fused athletics into his rhymes, i.e. "Come up with more hits than the Braves and the Yankees" on Quest's 1993 hit "Award Tour."
Rapaport had the following to say to ESPN's Page 2 blog about the similarities between rapping and sports.
"I think hip-hop is not a sport, but it does have a sports mentality. In terms of being the best, kicking ass, it definitely has that mentality. Especially the golden era of hip-hop, the great MCs battling. L.L. (Cool J), you know, 'I wanna crush you.' Wanting to be the best. Michael Jordan to Joe Namath to Willie Mays to Joe DiMaggio to numerous other people, I think the similarity in mentality of it is the same."
In the new film "Beats, Rhymes and Life," Phife, in every scene, is decked out in athletic gear. Jerseys, hats, shorts, shoes, you name it. His fandom knows no allegiance to team, nor sport. In fact, the only time he wasn't matching between his hat and his shirt was the day he went to the hospital for a kidney transplant. That day, he wore a Pittsburgh Pirates hat with an Ohio State hoodie. The rest of the film, he's matched well, even when it comes to repping a prep basketball program he scouts for.
Certainly hip hop's influence on sports can be traced further and will likely continue to influence stars of tomorrow, from their fashions to headphones, but the "Quest" film highlights a key era in its rise.


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