On the deluxe version of his posthumous album, Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke name-drops San Antonio Spurs legend Manu Ginobili, adding to his legend.
If I had a nickel for every time someone shouted out San Antonio Spurs star shooting guard Manu Ginobili, I’d be a very wealthy man. The latest to name-drop the Argentinian legend is the late-great Pop Smoke, whose posthumous album “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon” is ranked No. 1 in the country, according to the Billboard Top 200.
There’s been a long line of great rappers to shout Ginobili out in their songs — most of which reference him in conjunction with the Eurostep or his stint in Italy before coming to the States. Drake mentioned the Spurs legend eloquently in a song called “Jumpman” on his 2015 collab tape with Future, referring to Manu’s dominant left hand.
Others, like Playboi Carti (No Time, 2018) and Lil Uzi Vert (Baby Are You Home, 2016) refer to the one trait that seems to stick out the most with Ginobili — the balding head he sported late in his career. I can’t blame them to be honest, seeing a man who’s clearly balding dominate the best competition in the world is a sight for sore eyes. If there’s one thing younger people will remember from Manu’s career, it’s that a balding dude cooked their favorite player and they couldn’t say anything about it.
Now, Pop Smoke contributes to a long line of great references to a worldwide fan favorite. It’s just unfortunate that it had to come under the circumstances that it did.
2020’s taken its toll on all of us and this went unnoticed by many outside of New York City, but Pop Smoke was one of the thousands of people taken from us this year. At only 20 years old, Pop Smoke (Bashar Barakah Jackson) was shot and killed during a home invasion in Hollywood Hills, CA. He had moved there recently to pursue a greater opportunity for himself and his music after growing up in Canarsie, Brooklyn.
For reference, this took place just 24 days after Kobe Bryant died in that fatal helicopter crash. Pop Smoke’s album was released posthumously by 50 Cent — an NYC legend and one of the most influential hip hop artists of all-time. When he first emerged, Pop Smoke was renowned in Brooklyn for embodying the sound of the city and bringing a hard, gritty style that combined with creative rhyme schemes and witty wordplay. Now that his album is complete, we got to see different sides of Pop Smoke that dived into his many talents as a singer and R&B artist.
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The world got robbed of seeing Pop Smoke grow, just like the basketball community got robbed of seeing Kobe’s Hall of Fame speech and watching him grow old. 2020 has not been kind to any of us, but people are truly rallying around Pop Smoke’s sound and his family is going to be taken care of because of it.
Pop Smoke was a pretty good basketball player, too! I have little doubt in my mind that if he got to see all of the success his music inspired, he’d have ended up in the NBA Celebrity All-Star game one day playing alongside one of his closest collaborators, 2018 MVP Quavo.
Rap and sports are an intersection of culture that tend to overlap. Rappers are inspired by ballplayers and ballplayers get inspired by rappers, which is why you see people like DeMar DeRozan linking up with Kendrick Lamar to represent their communities and stand up for what they believe in. If you’re interested in basketball, chances are you’re exposed to at least a bit of rap as well. We’re going to hear quite a bit of Pop Smoke at basketball games and other sporting events for a long time.
This isn’t necessarily a Spurs-related tangent, but Pop Smoke obviously was inspired by Ginobili enough to make lyrics out of his legacy. If you’re a fan of Hip Hop, you know how exciting it is to hear your favorite player’s name called out in the middle of a verse. This one struck home for me as both a Brooklynite and a Spurs fan since my youth.
Rest in peace to Pop Smoke, Kobe, Gianna and the countless people taken too soon this year.