Kendrick Lamar was born in Compton on June 17, 1987 — three days after the Showtime Lakers defeated the Celtics for their 10th NBA championship. So by the astrological and geographical circumstances of his birth, the Grammy-nominated rapper is bound to the purple and gold.
A self-professed “huge basketball fan,” Lamar’s lyrics incorporate hoops culture as well as any rapper in recent memory. An early breakout song was named “Michael Jordan,” where he admits, “I used to want to be like Michael Jordan/Figure I would make the NBA and make me a fortune.”
“Black Boy Fly” details a teenaged Lamar’s mix of jealously and pride for his Compton Centennial classmate, future NBA star Arron Afflalo. It’s basically the rap American Pastoral, only the Swede ends up averaging 16 points a game for the Orlando Magic instead of manufacturing women’s gloves in Newark.
Lamar’s most infamous intersection with basketball came on “Control,” where the artist took shots like Kobe Bryant surrounded by four Smush Parkers. A playful barb was directed at former Lakers sage-coach, Phil Jackson: “if Phil Jackson came back, still no coaching me.” To which the Zen Grandmaster responded on Twitter: “it’s okay to be cocky and sure, but we all need somebody to lean on. Let’s just call it mentoring.”
If you’re keeping score, that means that Jackson has responded to more rap songs from Lamar than from Shaquille O’ Neal, and the latter won him three championships and had DJ Quik production. Even Kobe gave a nod of approval, tweeting that “[Lamar] threw down the gauntlet. #challengesgiven #challengestaken #everythingscompetition.”
Over the last 18 months, Lamar has been on a streak so hot that he probably could resuscitate Kobe’s rap career. When he’s not in the studio or on-tour, Lamar is a serious NBA fan. So last month, LAWeekly asked him a few questions about his fandom, the connection between sports and music, and why they need to bring back the Rock N’ Roll Jock B-Ball Jam.
Was Kobe always your favorite player on the Lakers?
Definitely. My pops was from Chicago so he was a huge Bulls fan. So growing up, I was always battling my pops, but I was always a big Bulls fan too. I was a diehard. You follow your pops. You wanna’ be just like him and so I rooted for the bulls. But at the same time, I was from L.A. so I had to like the Lakers. And then Kobe came and it was a wrap.
Visit LAWeekly to read the full interview.