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The Top 15 Utah Jazz Hip-hop References

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Mac Miller performs on the Camp Stage during day 1 of Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival 2017 at Exposition Park on October 28, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)
WARNING: Some of the following music is explicit and may not be suitable for children, although we have not included any explicit content with the article.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA and hip-hop just go together like french fries and fry sauce. This got me thinking – how many Utah Jazz references are there in hip-hop?  There are a lot more than you would think.

I compiled a top 15 list, with honorable mentions, as well as a short history of each track.

In my top 15 I only included artists that are on Spotify, songs whose titles contain no profanity (song lyrics most likely contain profanity), and finally, songs I would actually listen to and songs where the Utah Jazz reference is less than 20 seconds long… alright, here we go…

15. “Basketball” – Kurtis Blow

“Basketball is my favorite sport
I like the way they dribble up and down the court
Just like I’m the king on the microphone
So is Dr. J and Moses Malone…”

Ok, this song is whack… but Kurtis Blow is iconic and references Moses Malone, which is enough to barely make it on the list. Moses Malone didn’t play for the Utah Jazz, but did play for the ABA championship-winning Utah Stars from 1973 to 1974.

14. “She Gonna Already Know” – Chamillionaire

“I was born a mack, keep it blacker than Bernie Mac (Mac)
Control schedules, take a clock and I turn it back (back)
Why you talk, I’m in Utah like Hornacek (Hornacek)
Doin’ real estate, tryna get another corner shack (whoa)…”

Chamillionaire’s hey-day was in the mid-2000’s and this record dropped 2006, six years after Jeff Hornecek retired with the Utah Jazz.

13. “Platinum Plus” – Big L, Big Daddy Kane

I’ma put it in your chest like a Stockton pass…”

John Stockton by far is one of the most, if not the most referenced white NBA players of all time. He is referenced five times in this list, the same as the Mailman. Even in music references, these two are intertwined forever.

12.”Knotty Head” – Denzel Curry

“Opposition we made obsolete when aimin’ and targetin’
Monday to Sunday … we slangin’ like Pistol Pete…”

This is probably the reference with the largest amount of time between the song’s release, and the referenced player’s last game. “Pistol” Pete Maravich played his last basketball game in 1980, Denzel Curry dropped this record in 2016.

11. “Sub Me In” – Futuristic x Devvon Terrell

“Yeah, you call it, I walk to the top like woohah
I’m on then you … Groupon
Utah, Stockton and Malone cause we do ball…”

Futuristic dropped this Stockton to Malone reference in 2015. Whether you think it’s whack or not, I think it’s a good song and I’m just happy that today rappers are still dropping the names of the duo whose statues sit south of the Viv.

10. “I Got A Story to Tell” – The Notorious B.I.G.

“While he playing ‘gainst the Utah Jazz…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6Q_X2NzEB4

Biggie Smalls released this in 1997, off the Life After Death album. According to producer Buckwild from Genius’ Deconstructed “The one thing I know is [Biggie] being the rap Alfred Hitchcock because he’s able to paint them pictures and them stories..”

It’s a small detail, but using the Utah Jazz as a reference makes for a very colorful picture, even if you aren’t a Jazz fan.  Everyone knows the Bulls, the Knicks and Lakers but to use the Jazz makes the storytelling that much more vivid and real.

9. “Move!” – Public Enemy

“Wit’ no complaints, givin’ uppin’ I ain’t
On the mic, like Karl Malone in the paint…”

Public Enemy was the first socially-conscious hip-hop group, they dropped Move! in 1991. That same year, the Mailman scored 16 points, 11 rebounds in the ’91 All-Star game, his fourth consecutive all-star appearance. Malone would finish the season with his fourth all-NBA first-team award.

8. “NBA” – Joe Budden, Wiz Khalifa and French Montana

“Hold up, your chick traded postgame
And it’s no shame she felt your man
She probably on Joe Johnson…”

“Iso Joe” Johnson played for the Utah Jazz from 2016-2018, three years after Joe Budden released this record. Budden also has a great podcast and even gave the Jazz some love:

Since Johnson left the Jazz he had been tearing it up in the BIG 3 basketball tournament a league started by none other than Ice Cube who was on our Sportsbeat Afterhours podcast here.

7. “A Lie” – French Montana Feat. The Weeknd

“I, I’m the head, rockin’ bet it’s re-up in the sock
Me and Max hit the block like Karl Malone, Stockton…”

In 2017, French Montana dropped this Stockton to Malone reference in his song A Lie. Montana, his real name Karim Kharbouch, was born in 1984 in Morocco. Montana moved to the Bronx in 1997, just in time to watch the infamous Flu Game.

6. “Stroke of Death” – Ghostface Killah, RZA

“Smack the jail bails bondsman strength of eighteen bronze men
Tall like Karl Malone “Mailman”, frame of Larry Johnson…”

 

This one is my favorite use of Karl Malone. Wu-Tang clan members Ghostface Killah and RZA dropped this album in 2000. Both rappers drop Utah Jazz references with Salt Lake City as well as using both Karl Malone AND Mailman… and that’s why I love it. The Jazz went 55-27 in ‘99-’00 and 53-29 in ’00-’01 during the height of the purple mountain jersey’s which would also be the closing end of the Stockton to Malone era.

5. “I Remember” – Takeoff

“Reminiscing ’bout that purp …  just like the Lakers
I’m a jazz musician, came from Utah, Derrick Favors…”

Takeoff, the third member of Migos is from Atlanta, Georgia. Derrick Favors, also an Atlanta native, joined the Jazz in 2011 as part of the infamous Deron Williams trade. Until getting traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in 2019, he had been with the Jazz for almost a decade and is one of the most popular new-era Jazz players. Many Jazz fans remember every time he absolutely destroyed people under the rim. What I remember most was his desire to stay with the Jazz before that 2018-19 offseason.

4. “Bring It On” – Jay-Z

“I make moves that remove pebbles out of shoes

John Stockton couldn’t assist you…”

Another John Stockton reference, this time by Hova himself, off the Reasonable Doubt album released in 1996. That was the apex of hip-hop as well as the height of NBA basketball and we were lucky enough to have our dynamic duo as our all-stars. The Jazz lost to the Supersonics in the Western Conference finals, which was long before KSL Sports producer Zak Hicken was born.

3. “Trade It All” – Fabolous feat. Jagged Edge

“Uh, don’t front ma’, you know the way I ball’s to pick and roll
Like Stockton and Malone when we play the mall

I be goin’ out my way to call…”

This song was my jam. I was all about Jagged Edge back in the day, I even had bedazzled bandanas to go with my dickies and timbs (I’m being absolutely serious, class of ’05) …anyways, Fabolous frequently used Karl Malone references in his raps but dropped a Stockton to Malone reference in this gem. This song is an absolute banger, made better because of the Utah Jazz reference but let’s be honest, Trade It All part 2 was way better.

2. “Hot” – Roscoe P. Coldchain, Pusha T, The Neptunes

“Now I’m somewhere in Utah relaxing to Jazz with a broad
Quarter mill in a stash, avoiding the law from afar…”

The Neptunes were very important to me growing up, Chad Hugo and Pharrell produced not only this hit but many others from my youth including Frontin’ (The Neptunes Pressent… Clones is one the most creative Hip-hop fusion albums ever).

The year was 2003 and Salt Lake City had just come off the Olympics the year prior, John Stockton retired, Karl Malone was on his way to the Lakers, but I guess this was the best verse Roscoe could come up with.

AND NOW for my number 1 Utah Jazz, hip-hop reference:

1. “What’s Poppin’” – Jack Harlow

“What’s poppin’?
Brand new whip just hopped in (just hopped in)
I got options, I could pass that … like Stockton…”

 

Donovan Mitchell took to twitter during quarantine season to defend Louisville rapper Jack Harlow, who has seen a meteoric rise in popularity, especially after the track What’s Poppin’ off his latest EP released earlier this year.

I’ve been listening to this song on repeat since it dropped… it’s a bop. Donovan Mitchell is the best thing from Lousiville* that has happened to this state, since that KFC on State Street and i-80. The song is fresh, it absolutely slaps and Harlow brings together Jazz past and future together, unknowingly, into one song. What’s Poppin’ peaked at #74 on the Billboard Hot 100, but hopefully put Harlow on the map enough to eventually drop a Donovan Mitchell reference.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Consider these the Rickey Green‘s or Bryon Russell‘s of Utah Jazz rap references. I really what these songs bring to the table, but for one reason or another, I just couldn’t add it to the list.

4. “Staying In” – Lil Dicky

“I’m playing … in NBA 2k12
And I’m beatin that … wit the Utah Jazz…”

Lil Dicky is a comedy rapper ala Lonely Island, but don’t let that deceive you because he’s got bars. If you don’t know, check out his most recent Sway in the Morning freestyle, he goes off. This song was off his mixtape in 2013 but never was released because the track is actually Amen by Meek Mill and Drake. This track was one of his first Youtube hits, which is actually the entire premise of his 2020 FX TV series DAVE.

3. “Voyou” – Gradur

“Ils m’ont pas doublé, ils sont trop pétés
J’vais tous les contrer comme Rudy Gobert…”

I welcome you to my first Rudy Gobert reference from French rapper Gradur. I don’t know anything about this song, or who this rapper is but I stan Rudy Gobert.

2. “Bloodsport Freestyle” – K. Dot (Kendrick Lamar)

“I’m equivalent to a Earl Boykins, Spud Webb, Muggsy Bogues
I suppose I handle the rock well

I … like Stockton and Malone: make my pick then roll…”

Long before Kendrick Lamar re-energized the rap game, long before seventeen Grammy wins and a Pulitzer prize, K. Dot was slanging mixtapes in Compton trying to get into the game. The mixtape was never commercially released by Kendrick Lamar, but it can be found on the internet to be consumed as rap history.

1.“Rap Diablo” – Mac Miller

“I never miss a beat I’m Charlie Conway, triple deke
Gordon Bombay in these streets
Ballin’ like I’m Pistol Pete…”

This track also dropped as an EP in 2014, his eleventh mixtape, his references both the Mighty Ducks and the Utah Jazz ala Pistol Pete Maravich. Mac Miller and Pete Maravich both Pennsylvania natives, both passed away in Los Angeles but 30 years apart.

Check out the entire Spotify playlist of the top 15 Utah Jazz references by Hema Heimuli Jr. 

Listen to the Sportsbeat Afterhours Podcast

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