I’d like to start off by saying that, obviously, this list isn’t conclusive. It’s the favorites of myself and my friend and hip-hop consultant Asher Young. We both came up with a bunch. I picked my favorite 7 out of those. We both ranked them. If you disagree or feel we made a mistake, don’t get all pissy, just leave a comment on here or the Facebook link.
Now to the guidelines that I just made up. They are fairly simple:
- The song title or theme can’t be about an athlete. For example “Barry Bonds” by Kanye or “Jumpman” by Drake are out. What I’m looking for are one or two line bits in which an athlete is given a shoutout, used for a simile or metaphor, or as I already stated, simply referenced.
- The more famous the athlete is, the less impressive I find the reference. For example, it’s easy to draw comparisons to Jordan, Tiger, Lebron, Ali, etc. because they’re some of the GOATs and therefore we hear their names more frequently. It doesn’t necessarily disqualify references to them, it just means the line needs to stick out that much more. In other words an average written line about MJ doesn’t stick out in my head (or this list) nearly as much as a hypothetical average written line about, say, Danny Woodhead.
- Why 7? Because I like 7. It’s my favorite number.
Let’s get under way:
“There’s more to me than you’ll ever know
And I got more hits than Sadaharu Oh”
Beastie Boys – “Hey Ladies”
The line is at :25
This is exactly what I’m talking about when I say the more obscure the reference, the better it is. The actual line isn’t super great. Shadaharu Oh is more famous for being the professional baseball Home Run king with 868 homers than having a lot of hits, but it doesn’t really matter. Just the fact that the Beastie Boys tossed his name out there is good enough for the number 7 spot.
Since Kanye was a three-old
Down the street from D. Rose, was practicing his free-throws”
Chance The Rapper — “Hey Ma”
The line is at :45
The main reason that this line makes it is because it sort of hits you with some nostalgia. Especially since D-Rose is (hopefully not still) a shadow of what he was when this was written. Chance is a Chicago guy, so is Kanye, so is D-Rose. The idea of a young Kanye growing up in Chicago and Derrick Rose practicing at a court down the street years later just makes me kind of happy. I don’t know if anyone else gets that, but for me, it gets the 6 spot.
“Stunt hard on these bitches, I ain’t promise tomorrow
Now when they kicking it wit me, like Nomar Garciaparra”
Lil’ Wayne – “Swag Surfin”
The line is at 1:47
Weezy comes in here at the 5 spot. He’s been known to drop a sports reference or two, as he’s a well known Packers fan, and he even wrote a column or at least few articles for ESPN.com a while back. Anyway, what gets this line a spot on this list is a reference you may not pick up at first glance. I didn’t and Asher had to point it out to me. Obviously he tosses out Nomaah’s name, which is a plus, but it wouldn’t really make sense if he hadn’t said “now they kicking it wit me” directly before. As most of you probably know, Nomar is married to quite possibly the best US women’s soccer player of all time (my personal favorite is Alex Morgan), Mia Hamm. Get it? “Kicking it wit me”. Kick. Soccer. Mia Hamm. Nomar. Get it? Two references in one line with only one name drop. That Wayne, he’s a clever Lil guy.
“I can’t do one thing, I’m just too good
I can’t do one thing, I am Tiger Woods”
Childish Gambino – “Bitch, Look At Me Now”
The line is at 1:39
It was hard for me not to put this at number 3. The line is amazing, and the Tiger reference makes it hilarious too. Childish Gambino, for those that don’t know, is Donald Glover’s stage name as a rapper. Donald Glover, not to be confused with Danny Glover (Angles in the Outfield), is a rapper, an actor (Community, The Martian, Magic Mike XXL), a writer (30 Rock, Community), and a comedian. In his own words, he can’t choose and just “do one thing” because he’s “just too good” at all of the above professions. Tiger Woods as it turns out, can’t do just one thing either. “Do” as in have sex with and “thing” as in woman. Get it? Because he was a sex addict. His wife found out and attacked him with a golf club (allegedly). Childish let his comedy slip into his rapping here and the result got him the #3 spot on this important list, which I’m sure he cares about.
“I father, I Brooklyn Dodger them
I jack, I rob, I sin
Amen, I’m Jackie Robinson
‘Cept when I run base, I dodge the pen
Lucky me, luckily, they didn’t get me
Now when I bring the Nets, I’m the black Branch Rickey”
Jay-Z — “Brooklyn (Go Hard)”
The line is at 1:35
I couldn’t give Childish the #3 spot because this line by Jay-Z is potentially the most clever use of an athlete’s name, history, and sport in any hip-hop song I’ve come across. There’s not much to say that you can’t pick up by just looking at and listening to the words. He breaks down Jackie’s name. He compares running bases to running base (selling crack). He says he dodged the pen (avoided jail). This actually makes very little sense in terms of baseball considering you try to knock a team’s starter out and get to their (bull)pen, not avoid it. He used baseball terminology though, so whatever. To finish it off, he gives the comparison of himself, as he helped bring the Nets to Brooklyn, to Branch Rickey, the Dodger’s executive that brought Jackie Robinson to Brooklyn. A song about Brooklyn, a reference to Brooklyn’s first team, its most notable player (arguably), and the man that brought him there. It’s one thing to just name drop, it’s another to do what Jay-Z did here, which gets him into the top 3.
“I used to run base like Juan Pierre
Now I run the bass, hi-hat, and the snare”
Beyoncé (ft. Jay-Z) – “Déjà Vu”
The line is at :20
I know I literally just wrote “it’s one thing to just name drop,” and that’s basically all Jay-Z does here, but using Juan Pierre’s a different story. I don’t think there was a baseball video game from 2003 to 2008 that Juan Pierre wasn’t on my franchise team. I dominated with him in MVP 05. Juan Pierre sprinting in from center field after winning the 2003 World Series is the first thing I think of whenever someone brings up joy in sports. So I guess I’m pretty bias here, and the line is just okay, even though Pierre was filthy at stealing bases (and also bunting for that matter). He uses the same analogy with running base as we saw before, but it’s not the creativity of the writing that gets this spot, it’s just the fact that it exists. Who doesn’t like Juan Pierre? Who would have ever thought he’d get a shoutout from Jay-Z in the very first line of a Beyoncé song? Only made sense that he’s in the first line of the song too, considering his best years were in the leadoff spot. Juan gets Jay-Z back-to-back spots.
“Spit ‘em, polish,
Look how they shine
Glitter, glisten, gloss, floss
I catch a beat runnin’ like Randy Moss”
Outkast (Ft. Killer Mike) – “The Whole World”
The line is at 2:20
One of my favorite songs though if you want to listen to the whole thing.
This is my favorite hip-hop line of all time. This line was purposely my Facebook status for a whole summer in high school. You know, back when people made Facebook statuses? I couldn’t even really tell you why I love it so much to be completely honest, but it just feels so right. “Glitter, glisten, gloss, floss.” Is there even an another option after that besides “I catch a beat runnin’ like Randy Moss”? No. There’s nothing. Try to think of something. If you think you got something, you’re wrong. Nothing else works. Plus, if you threw something to Randy Moss back in the day, he was going to catch it. So plus one for realistic metaphors. The guy was a freak. I mean, in the subsequent years after the Vikings, I came to root strongly against him. When this song came out though, he may have been my favorite player in the NFL. Culpepper and Moss were a combo and a half. Just heave it as far as you can, Dante, and Randy’s gonna run under it and snag it. That being said, Andre 3000 and Big Boi were also a combo and a half. I know this line isn’t actually rapped by either of them, but still. Nothing gets the juices flowing like some Outkast. So yeah, Killer Mike, Randy Moss, and to some extent, Outkast and Dante Culpepper, earn the top spot on this list for dropping my favorite line in hip-hop history.