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Hip Hop and NBA 2K: A Love Story

How the gaming franchise has deepened its relationship with the community that gave basketball a soundtrack.

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The relationship between hip hop and the NBA goes back decades. The rise of hip hop’s mainstream appeal gave the legendary rivalry between Bird’s Celtics and Magic’s Lakers in the 80s a distinctive soundtrack, while players like Allen Iverson brought a swagger that blended music, fashion, and athletics in a way that hadn’t been seen before. NBA players have even attempted the crossover from baller to MC, with everyone from Shaq to Stephen Jackson to Damian Lillard recording tracks with varying levels of skill.

You can see that a similarly deep relationship exists between the hip hop community and the NBA 2K game franchise. The NBA video game series has given rappers and producers a new way to express themselves, with everyone from Kurtis Blow to Jay Z getting involved with the game’s music programming. NBA 2K16’s soundtrack was handpicked by DJ Premier, DJ Mustard, and DJ Khaled, all of whom produced original tracks for the game itself. (Legendary director and New York Knicks diehard Spike Lee took on directing NBA 2K16, his first time directing a video game.)

Players have also used the game as an opportunity to tighten their bond with hip hop. Megastar LeBron James curated the soundtrack for NBA 2K14 and worked with Travis Scott to choose the music for this year’s iteration.

The link between hip hop and the NBA runs deep, and NBA 2K19 is another superb entry in their interwoven histories. We dive into the intertwined history of the NBA and hip hop with NBA 2K aficionados J. Scott, A$AP Lou, and A$AP Twelvvy, three members of iconic hip hop crew A$AP Mob.

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