EDITORIAL – The Bay Area in Northern California has been an arbiter of subcultural swagger, cultural diversity, pimp culture, funk and jam rock and political justice for over 50 years. Similar to the locale’s primal influence on rap music, the Bay Area’s pro sports teams also have a strong presence in the Hip Hop community.
Here are seven reasons why the Bay’s sports culture is influential to Hip Hop.
Oakland Athletics Put MC Hammer In The Limelight First
MC Hammer was Hip Hop’s biggest cash cow at the dawn of the 1990s. His love for rapping and dancing in his trendsetting parachute pants was comparable to his passion for the Bay Area pro sports teams, including the Golden State Warriors, former Oakland Raiders and Oakland Athletics.
His stage moniker Hammer dates back to his adolescence during the A’s three-peat MLB world championship dynasty between 1972 to 1974. His earliest dream job was to become a pro baseball player like his idol “Hammerin’” Hank Aaron, who broke Babe Ruth’s 39-year home run record the following year.
In 1973, the 11-year old Hammer — real name Stanley Burrell — was noticed by the A’s former owner Charlie Finley in the parking lot outside the team’s stadium Oakland Coliseum. Burrell earned a job as one of the team’s batboys. He was given the name “Hammer” by one of the team’s former players Pedro Garcia after telling Burrell he was his idol’s doppelganger.
Hammer confirmed this story when Action Network sports business reporter Darren Rovell tweeted this backstory of his name on Garcia’s 70th birthday in April.
“That is a FACT!” Hammer tweeted. “Pedro Garcia was the FIRST person to name me Hammer!!! He looked at me and said, ‘Damn!!! You look like the Hammer!!!”
That is a FACT !!!! Pedro Garcia was the FIRST person to name me Hammer !!! He looked at me and said, damn !!! You look like the Hammer !!! 😂 Happy Birthday Pedro 🎈🎂 🎊 https://t.co/uXmSAKPOS0
— MC HAMMER (@MCHammer) April 17, 2020
Hammer’s sophomore album Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em, which includes his chart-topping classic “U Can’t Touch This,” remains the biggest-selling rap album of all-time at 17 million copies purchased worldwide. Also, the memorable video for the title track from Hammer’s third album 2 Legit 2 Quit had several guest appearances from several Bay Area sports legends. This includes Roger Craig and Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott of the San Francisco 49ers, Basketball Hall of Famer Chris Mullin, former A’s Jose Canseco and Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, and Raiders Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen.
Colin Kaepernick Takes A Knee, Becomes Political Force In Hip Hop
Colin Kaepernick went from the NFL’s version of the character Willie Beamen from the Oliver Stone-directed film Any Given Sunday to one of the most polarizing athletes in sports history in five years.
Kaepernick was the 49ers backup quarterback who replaced injured starter Alex Smith and led the team to Super Bowl XVLII, its first world championship game appearance in 18 years. But Kaepernick took the biggest risk of his career and life on August 26, 2016 when he knelt during the National Anthem in a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at the Niners’ Levi Stadium.
He declared the protest during the National Anthem wasn’t meant to disrespect the American flag or the U.S. military. Rather, his decision to kneel was in lockstep with the Black Lives Matter movement that coalesced in response to several police shootings and murders by white police officers on African-Americans.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Through the end of the 2016 NFL aeason, Kaepernick’s knelt in every game which sent shockwaves through the sports and political worlds, including catching the ire of Donald Trump as many other NFL players followed suit. The 49ers backed his decision in a team statement, but didn’t re-sign him and hasn’t been signed to an NFL team since then.
Kaepernick’s longtime girlfriend is New York’s storied Hip Hop radio station Hot 97 personality Nessa Diab. Together, they founded the Know Your Rights Camp for disadvantaged youth. He’s received support from Hip Hop heavyweights including JAY-Z, Dr. Dre, J. Cole, Diddy, Bay Area icon Too Short, and several others. After the death of George Floyd in Minnesota in May, pro athletes in sports leagues around the world vindicated Kaepernick’s stance by kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner before their games played.
Oakland Athletics Brings Bay Area Underground Hip Hop To MLB
The Oakland Athletics are forerunners supporting local underground Hip Hop at Major League Baseball games.
According to Quannum MCs member and Solesides Records co-founder Lateef The Truth Speaker, the A’s play much of the Bay Area’s revered indie Hip Hop mainstays at their games over the past two decades.
“In the Bay Area there have been a few things I’ve seen that have direct impact, relevance to Hip Hop,” Lateef told HipHopDX.
Lateef said the origins of the A’s showing the Bay’s underground rap scene much love were from the late DJ Soloman. He worked for the Warriors before he passed away at age 34 in 2012.
“I’m not sure how, but somehow he changed the franchises orientation towards local music,” Lateef stated. “He used to reach out to local cats, all of Quannum, and played our music regularly at games. He is the one who put on (DJ) D Sharp, and that relationship has just blossomed.
“The A’s looked like they were going to try something similar. Bukue One and some other DJs were spinning at games for a minute, but I think they stopped. I don’t know why. Me and my lady would go to the games just for the food and the DJs. It was litty.”
Much 💚 to @phestohierosoul & @HieroImperium crew on #HieroDayVI in Oakland! Flashback to Phesto's first pitch. The throw clocked in at 93. pic.twitter.com/h7Y7HHkVR3
— Oakland A's (@Athletics) September 4, 2017
Also, Phesto D of Souls Of Mischief threw out the first pitch in September 2017 in honor of the Hieroglyphics annual Hiero Day festival on Labor Day Weekend.
Plus, Lateef claim National Independent Soccer Association team Oakland Roots are “doing something new and different, building with local artists in a direct and different way at A’s games.”
Lateef’s group Roots & Tings, his longtime Latryx rhyme partner Lyrics Born, Mista F.A.B., The Grouch and Murs of the Living Legends, Zion I, Fantastic Negrito have each gotten their music played at Oakland Roots matches since their inaugural season in 2019.
“Those are big names and high level local talent. And they seem committed to building it in a way that is communal, fair and supportive. They are a new approach that is, in my opinion, revolutionary from a sports team,” Lateef added.
Lil B Puts His Curse On James Harden
Indie rap’s beloved social media sensation of the 2010s and Warriors die-hard Lil B spread much love in his most political song to date, “No Black Person Is Ugly” in 2014. But The Based God didn’t like ugly when Houston Rockets perennial All-Star James Harden and performed Lil B’s “Cooking Dance” one year later and didn’t acknowledge the jig’s originator.
Whenever I get crunk about something, I have this habit of doing Jame Harden's cooking dance pic.twitter.com/uNUrNd9QeF
— Kendy (@kendyhuy24) November 15, 2016
When the three-time NBA scoring champion led his team into the 2015 NBA Playoffs, and continued doing the celebration dance after scoring without credit due, Lil B publicly warned Harden in a TMZ interview he’d cast his spell on him.
“If Harden doesn’t tell what he is doing, which is the Lil B cooking dance, he will be cursed. He needs to stop stealing Lil B swag without showing love,” Lil B said.
When Harden didn’t take heed to Lil B in May 2015 when the Warriors faced the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals, 4-1, Harden shot a meager 3-for-16 and 2-for-11 in Games 3 and 5.
The internet went wild with Based God memes clowning Harden’s shooting struggles.
BASED GOD WHY pic.twitter.com/SA5hQSvOjp
— SB Nation (@SBNation) May 22, 2015
— 2DOPEBOYZ (@2DopeBoyz) May 22, 2015
— Back To Winnipeg (@sandman_flute) May 22, 2015
In the following month, Harden continued to dismiss The Pack’s ex-member and his sorcery, to which Lil B expressed he was “extreme disappointed.” But after lifting his Based God curse after the Warriors won the NBA title, then putting it back on for an additional two years, Lil B permanently called off the curse on Harden in April 2018 after a meeting with the son of Rap-A-Lot Records founder and fearsome Houston impresario J. Prince.
Steph Curry Is An Easy Metaphor In Drake’s Biggest Hits
Drake’s love for the Bay Area is ubiquitous from his 2012 smash and visual for “The Motto” that was filmed near the Golden Gate bridge.
When the NBA’s two-time Steph Curry became the Warriors greatest player ever during their three-championship run in 2015, 2017 and 2018, Drake had a field day crafting some of his biggest hits.
On his 2015 staple “0 to 100/The Catch Up,” he shed his title as Toronto Raptors team ambassador and aligned his rap skills with Curry’s dominance on the hardwood.
Drake spits: “If I ain’t the greatest then I’m headed for it/ That mean I’m way up (way up)/Yeah, the 6 ain’t friendly but that’s where I lay up/ This shit a mothafuckin’ lay up/I been Steph Curry with the shot/Been cookin’ with the sauce, Chef Curry with the pot, boy.”
The following year, Drake bragged in his track “Summer Sixteen” about the true story of the Warriors practicing at his mansion (“Golden State running practice at my house”) which Curry verified to MTV.
Drake tripled down on his own Steph Curry comparison in “Still Here” by quipping: “I gotta talk to God even though he isn’t near me/Based on what I got, it’s hard to think that he don’t hear me/Hittin’ like that 30 on my jersey, man, I’m gifted.”
Rap music and the NBA will always been joined at the hip. But Drake shoots his Steph Curry-tagged bars from the heart to the bucket.
Hip Hop Popularized Raiders Merchandise
The Raiders’ longtime slogan is “Commitment To Excellence.” Known for their pirate logo and black and silver team colors, Hip Hop fashion was committed to the Raiders merchandise as it was to college basketball’s Georgetown Hoyas navy and blue during the 1980s and early 90s.
When the Oakland Raiders moved its franchise to Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994, the team became the most marketable in Hip Hop history.
During their seven-year span in Tinseltown, the Raiders’ power was resonant in Hip Hop’s most rebellious conscious and gangsta rap groups such as Public Enemy and NWA. For example, on P.E.’s sophomore magnum opus It Takes A Nation Millions To Hold Us Back, each side of the album’s cassette tape version was labeled “Side Black” and “Side Silver.”
Their Raiders merchandising sales were spoken about in the ESPN’s Ice Cube-directed 30 For 30 documentary Straight Outta L.A. about the formation of his former group N.W.A., the Raider’s impact on Hip Hop and sports culture overall.
“When I got to the NFL, at retail the business was about $300 million dollars. And when I left seven years and a half years later in 1993, it was close to $3 billion dollar,” former Vice President of NFL Properties Frank Vuono said.
E-40 Functions As Bay Area Teams’ Most Accessible Superfan
Whenever the Warriors, San Francisco Giants, Raiders, or 49ers games are aired on TV, best believe there will be a visible passing camera shot of E-40 in their respective arena’s or stadium’s front row.
The Black Fonzarelli is a proud son of Vallejo, California, which is in the outskirts of San Francisco. Therefore, he lived through the glory days of NFL icons Joe Montana during their 1980s heyday in which they won four Super Bowls. E-40 was a Bay Area rap luminary by the time his 1995 singles “1 Luv” and “Sprinkle Me” featuring Suga T when the Niners won their fifth Super Bowl.
Before the 2019 NFL Playoffs began in January, E-40 rallied his own and Niners fans around his home team with his song “Niner Gang.” The 808 bass-rattling track with his “Bang Bang Niner Gang” is simple in its presentation, but you gotta love the bounce and timeliness that comes with it en route to their eventual Super Bowl LIV appearance.