Hip-hop mourns Kobe Bryant — an icon in rap lyrics for decades originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
As the sudden death of Kobe Bryant on Sunday shook the sports and entertainment worlds to their core, Kanye West hosted a midnight post-Grammys Sunday Service in Burbank, California, where the hip-hop star honored the NBA legend with a soulful performance.
"When I was driving home, they was pinning your jersey on the freeway and I just broke down," West freestyled during the service. "Kobe it's too far. Shoot it from where you are. Remember that you're a star. You gotta do more, you gotta go hard. If Kobe was here, he'd maybe grab the mic. If Kobe was here … he here tonight," he added.
Kobe, We love you brother
We're praying for your family and appreciate the life you've lived and all the inspiration you gave pic.twitter.com/pxbgLOOmpY— ye (@kanyewest) January 26, 2020
The hip-hop artist's emotional performance was the latest addition to an archive made up of hundreds of hip-hop lyrics over the past two decades that hail the basketball legend, where his name is often used as a simile for greatness.
The 41-year-old icon was among nine people who died in a helicopter crash in the wealthy Southern California residential neighborhood of Calabasas on Sunday. His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, died alongside her father.
Videos of the early Monday performance were posted by those in attendance, including West's wife, Kim Kardashian West.
From hip-hop moguls like Jay-Z and Diddy, to stars like Drake and Kendrick Lamar, the five-time NBA champ was name-dropped in hundreds of verses over the years as a symbol of grit, greatness and the triumphant status of a baller who defies all odds.
Lamar famously paid tribute to the basketball star upon his retirement in 2016 in "Kobe Bryant: Fade to Black," where he reflects on Bryant's legacy and what he meant to Los Angeles. And in 2017, the Compton rapper sat down with Bryant for an interview with Complex magazine, where the two reflected on what greatness means to them.
Bryant said that people sometimes forget all the hardships that have to be overcome, adding that "there's a certain stubbornness that comes along with being great."
"It's the curiosity of it. The fear, the anxiety. It's the curiosity of knowing, damn, I can possibly overcome this," Lamar said in the interview. "And when you do and another one approaches, I wanna challenge that too. That's real greatness."
The phrase "Ballin' like Kobe" alone has been written in songs by tens of artists, including West, Lil Uzi Vert, G Herbo, Juice WRLD, Rae Sremmurd, Meek Mill and Gucci Mane.
We're never ready for this type of news RIP Kobe Bryant 🙏🏽— Swae Lee Lee Swae (@SwaeLee) January 26, 2020
Many other examples illustrate the wide range of shoutouts the self-dubbed "Black Mamba" got from hip-hop stars over the years:
In Chief Keef's 2012 track titled "Kobe," from the rapper's album, "Finally Rich," the Chicago artist celebrates his success in the rap game: "I been ballin' so damn hard, I swear I think that I'm Kobe (swish)."
Similarly, in his 2014 track, "Young Kobe," Compton rapper Tyga draws parallels with Bryant to boast about his baller status: "I'm king in LA, Young Kobe."
Atlanta artist Young Thug hails Bryant's perseverance in the 2015 song, "Check," rapping, "I promise I won't ever quit, b----, I'm Kobe."
And in his debut album in 2011, North Carolina rapper J. Cole gives Bryant a shout out in the song, "Cole World": "I ball, I ball, like Kobe in the fall/ Put trophies on wall, rather trophies on my mantle."
In his 2009 track, "Kobe Bryant," Lil Wayne raps about wanting to be the "best" in the rap game and dedicates the song to his favorite player.
"I want to be the best, simple and plain/ That's why I play the game/ And to be the best you have to win/ And that's what drives me," he raps before featuring audio from sports commentator Stephen A. Smith hailing Bryant as "the best player in the game" and the "most complete basketball player."
In a 2015 interview with L.A. Weekly, the Louisiana rapper reflected on how the Lakers became his favorite team when Bryant "came into the league straight from high school," and when asked about the bond between rappers and athletes, he said it's "youth."
"Nine times out of 10, we both accomplish big things at a young age. They're young. We're young," he added.
Bryant even made a brief foray into hip-hop as an artist himself in 1999, signing with Sony Records to release his only solo album, "K.O.B.E," and the self-named single that he debuted at the 2000 All-Star Game with supermodel Tyra Banks.
Wayne, who is not a prolific tweeter, shared a simple message on Sunday after learning of Bryant's death: "We lost a King. 824."
We lost a King. 824— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) January 26, 2020
"824" is a reference to Kobe Bryant Day in the city of Los Angeles, which is on Aug. 24 and was announced in 2016 after the Lakers star retired.
The date represents "8" and "24" -- the two jersey numbers Bryant wore during his career with the Lakers.
From Rapsody to 50 Cent, tributes to Bryant poured in from all corners of the hip-hop world after his death, including artists who have expressed admiration for Bryant in their lyrics over the years.
💔 Kobe. Gigi. Prayers to Vanessa, their children, family, friends and the world impacted.
Unbelievable. pic.twitter.com/y71ew2Nnv7— Rapsody (@rapsody) January 26, 2020
In ScHoolboy Q's 2016 song, "That Part," West gives a shoutout to Bryant, rapping, "Walkin', livin' legend, man I feel like Kobe (Kobe)."
After learning of Bryant's death, West tweeted a photo himself with Bryant and a heartfelt message: "Kobe, We love you brother We're praying for your family and appreciate the life you've lived and all the inspiration you gave."
2 Chainz, who name drops Bryant in the 2012 song "Money Machine," shared several tributes to the icon on Instagram and a photo of himself with Bryant and his daughter Gianna.
"Heart broken and speechless," he wrote. "If you know me you know this killing me right now Rest In Peace Bean and Gigi Bryant and prayers to Vanessa and the Bryant family and the rest of the families involved."
Drake, who apologized to Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, for referencing their later-canceled divorce in Rick Ross's 2012 song, "Stay Schemin," gave Bryant a shout out in the 2016 song, "Views," rapping, "Now me and Kobe doin' shots the night before the game."
Drake also wore a "Farewell Mamba" custom leather jacket to pay tribute to the NBA star at the Staples Center during his final All-Star Game on Feb. 14, 2016.
Amid news of Bryant's death, Drake shared a photo of himself wearing the jacket on Instagram and simply wrote, "it can't be."
Some of music's biggest stars paid tribute to Bryant during the Grammys on Sunday, acknowledging his cultural impact beyond sports.
Music's biggest night was held at the at the Staples Center in Los Angeles -- the home of the Los Angeles Lakers -- where for 20 years, Bryant broke records, inspired millions and became a cultural icon in America and abroad, before retiring in 2016.
"Earlier today, Los Angeles, America, and the whole wide world lost a hero. And we're literally standing here, heartbroken, in the house that Kobe Bryant built," Grammys host Alicia Keys said.