Whatever happened to the hip-hop sports teams?

Wed, May 12

Ice Cube's "30 for 30" documentary "Straight Outta L.A." on ESPN was a nostalgic look back at two things I really miss: 1) Cube the bellicose villain; and 2) hip-hop teams.

These days, middle-age Cube stars in family films and produces laugh-track sitcoms. Can't be mad at him. It'd be a little trifling for a filthy-rich 40-year-old to keep rockin' a jheri curl, making albums like AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted. I do miss, however, the days of hip-hop squads.

"Straight Outta L.A." enlightened some and refreshed others' memories of how Cube, N.W.A. and the West Coact rap movement catapulted the Raiders -- at least for America's under-30 set -- from a regional team, to a national icon and a cultural touchstone.

The Raiders weren't the only hip-hop squad back then, though. We can't forget the Georgetown Hoyas, with big John Thompson and his Hoya Paranoia squads he sicced on opponents. UNLV was huge in every hood with Larry Johnson and his gold-tooth and Anderson Hunt's high-top fade. 2 Live Crew served as a hip-hop mascot for "The U," as a generation of college football and rap fans embraced the outlaw Miami Hurricanes. The roughneck, early-'90s Knicks were a favorite of many. Michigan's Fab Five pumped Public Enemy and EPMD before games, rocked black kicks and socks and will always live on in hip-hop cultural history, even though they never won a title. Neon Deion Sanders' "Dirty Bird" Atlanta Falcons had their run, too.

Hip-hop adopted teams, back then -- the connection was easy and natural. Hop was rogue-music with a rebel tone, created by artists that were sports fanatics (Kurtis Blow was making songs like "Basketball" in 1984, not Prince or Bruce Springsteen) and felt a kinship to teams with a defiant streak.

These days? Well, a lot of hip-hop is a little too emo and/or glossy. The Colts, Pats, Saints and Cowboys are about as hip hop as Kenny Chesney. Aside from that, rap stars, these days, usually align themselves with product brands (luxury cars, vodkas), as opposed to teams. Patron is more hip-hop than the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It was fun while it lasted, but hip-hop squads are probably gone forever.