Tonight the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James will go up against Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors for the first game of the NBA championship. To get revved up for the series, Music Times has assembled hip-hop songs about each of the respective teams, as few musicians get as amped for their local sports teams as rappers (the number of songs/mixtapes named "Beast Mode" after Marshawn Lynch is astounding). We'll start with the Eastern Conference and Cleveland, perhaps ground zero for the hip-hop-meets-harmony movement thanks to the city's much loved Bone Thugs.
"So Right" REMIX by Milford Jerome
You might expect that the best hip-hop songs surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers would mostly surround perhaps the most talented player in NBA history, LeBron James. But you would be incorrect. Although James is probably referenced offhand more than any other player in the game, the songs from Cavalier fans focus on the side players, and not stars such as James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. The best comes from R&B crooner Milford Jerome, who adapted his track "So Right" to describe J.R. Smith's place on the team since being traded from the Knicks earlier in the season (while giving brief shout-outs to the other stars). The song opens with the call "I'm bombing threes from every which angle" but goes deeper into Smith's biography, describing the trade process and why he left the Knicks, hilariously playing off of Outkast's "Ms. Jackson" and singing "I'm sorry Phil Jackson (the GM of the Knicks), I was for real."
"Hustle Like Delly" by Mizzery Jones
Another side player that has gotten his from the hip-hop world is Matthew Dellevadova, an Australian player nicknamed "Delly" and beloved by Cavaliers fans for his go-hard-or-go-home approach to the game. Mizzery Jones adopts Dellevadova as his spirit animal of sorts, comparing how the pair might not be superstars but they're both putting in the work, and soon enough it should pay off. Although many rapper just reference the go-to stars of the NBA in their raps—LeBron James or Kobe Bryant—one would think that a player such as "Delly" would appeal to more emcees. Some analysts (but mostly opposing fans) have accused him of being dirty for his physical play, while former NBA players lament the lack of physicality in the game today. Some old-school emcees also lament the current state of their game.
"The Offs" by Iman Shumpert
Oddly, Cleveland's collection of hip-hop artists don't seem to have shown as much love as their compatriots out West. Perhaps Kid Cudi and Del The Funky Homosapien might not watch sports as much, but not even any love from Bone Thugs-n-Harmony? The result of this petty travesty is that we have to rely on actual NBA players to rap about the Cavaliers' status more than we would like. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Better hip-hop does not suggest that one basketball team is better than the other). Forward Iman Shumpert took to the task at the onset of the playoffs this year, taking us on a brief and funky tour of the roster, where he assures us that, despite the song's title, "we're on that." What he means when he says "the only way to get up is to get your funky jazz down" is beyond us.
"I'm A Champion" by Shawn Marion, T-Pain, Dorrough and Young Cash
You know what would have helped Shumpert with his rap single? If you answered "a hook sung by T-Pain," you are 100 percent correct. Shawn Marion took that approach when he dropped "I'm A Champion" during 2014. Granted, he was part of an NBA-sponsored album called Full Court Press Vol. 1, and despite Marion's flows with words being less than that with a ball, the inclusion of rappers Dorrough and Young Cash made this track the official single from the album, complete with a music video. Uh, but there's a slight problem: Although the song was released during October of 2014, when Marion was a Cavalier, it was probably recorded while he was still with the Mavericks, somewhat explaining Dorrough's references to Dirk Nowitzski and Jason Terry. That doesn't necessarily hurt his chances however...let's see if he can repeat the championship feat with a new team.
"Notorious Cavs" by (mystery)
OK, so if any song can be used against the Cavs, it might be this one. Misuse of the word "notorious" aside, the entire layout of this six-minute demo is cringeworthy. It features what sounds like a whole bunch of Ohio State frat brothers from Cleveland layering vocals while attempting to explain how the "Notorious Cavs" will run through the Eastern Conference playoffs and win the franchise's first championship. Some context: This song was written during 2009, and posted in February before the playoffs had started...so these guys were pretty confident. As they should have been...Cleveland managed to grab the no. 1 seed and rise triumphantly...and lose the Conference championship to the Orlando Magic. That would be LeBron's last game before notoriously leaving for the Miami Heat. Can this song be to blame, in a Lil B-style curse? Probably not, but we're not ruling anything out.