When Cultures Connect: Hip-Hop & the W

Exploring the powerful ways that rappers like NLE Choppa are amplifying the WNBA. 

There’s a longstanding connection between hip-hop and basketball, but this year marked a historic season where more rappers tuned into the WNBA. Throughout the season, the WNBA players have shared their love for rap music through interviews where they discuss their pre-game playlists, TikToks of teams lip-syncing to Gucci Mane, and selfies, with huge smiles, taken with halftime performers. Spotting rappers seated at games is more important than the average celebrity sighting, and it’s an opportunity to invite their fan bases to discover the WNBA.

The most recent WNBA season included halftime performances by Waka Flocka Flame, Fivio Foreign, and Lil Jon, who were curated to match the energies of Atlanta, New York, and Las Vegas. Beyond league-sanctioned performances, rappers like NLE Choppa are also advocating for the WNBA on Twitter. Although it might seem playful for rappers like Lil B to shout out the Dallas Wings, there’s nothing more special than getting support from your favorite musician. As viewership for the league continues to grow, rappers who love basketball can understand their role in supporting the WNBA in digital and physical spaces. 

NLE Choppa 

An outspoken advocate for the WNBA across social media, NLE Choppa, watched the warm-up session for the Chicago Sky and Phoenix Mercury game on May 31. Although he couldn’t watch the game, as the Memphis-based rapper had to perform that night, NLE Choppa shared on Twitter that he still wanted to find a way to support the WNBA as much as he could. “I couldn’t stay for the game, but watching the team warm up was cool,” says NLE Choppa. While watching his first WNBA game, he also noticed that “the energy was fantastic” and “seeing women live out their dreams is as important as NBA.”

Keeping up with the latest news in the league, he also adds, “I can’t wait till we are able to bring Brittney home. Free BG. We are all ready to see her back home and on the court where she belongs.” Proving that he’s not a new fan of the league, NLE Choppa has even Tweeted that “WNBA Players fasho should get paid more ‼️💯” in 2020. 

Waka Flocka Flame 

Waka Flocka Flame performed the halftime show for the Atlanta Dream versus the Indiana Fever on August 3. Aligning the Dream with Atlanta’s strongest cultural figures, the Dream’s Senior Director of Fan Experience, Dan Goldberger, says that his team was trying to create “a special Atlanta-driven vibe” to boost audience attendance. Known for his enthusiastic personality, Waka took photos and videos with several Dream players before the game. Declaring that the “WNBA needs more attention!!!!!!” in a Tweet from 2013 and that “WNBA go hard” in a Tweet from 2020, it was a genius move to invite him to perform on-court. 

Fivio Foreign 

Celebrating the New York Liberty’s win against the Phoenix Mercury on July 31, Fivio Foreign shared courtside content and posed for selfies with Ellie the Elephant. Sitting with his girlfriend, Mellow Rackz, the pair had bright smiles as they sat and supported the WNBA players. The Brooklyn native rapper returned to the Barclays Center on August 23 to perform at halftime during a WNBA Playoffs game. Surrounded by backup dancers wearing seafoam green jerseys, Fivio rapped an assortment of his top hits, including a censored version of “Big Drip.” 

Lil Jon 

To amplify the excitement of the WNBA 2022 Finals that took place in Las Vegas, Lil Jon performed at halftime during the Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun game on September 13. Rocking an A’ja Wilson jersey, Lil Jon brought iconic tracks like “Aww Skeet Skeet” to hype up the court. It’s fitting for a rapper as energetic as Lil Jon to play during Game 2 of the Finals and foreshadow the celebrations that happened after winning the Championship. Although Lil Jon matches Las Vegas’ party-ready vibe, he’s a certified player favorite across the league– he’s even featured in Lexie Brown’s Draft Day playlist from 2018. 

The WNBA — The Coldest Name Drop in Rap

While we saw the culture of hip-hop and the W as connected as ever on the hardwood, we saw this same connection continue to unfold lyrically. Throughout this past season, WNBA players were consistently name-dropped in clever, double entendres, signifying their importance to the culture. Over this past month alone, a pair of WNBA stars were alluded to in the London-born and New York Native Rome Streetz of Griselda Records album titled “Kiss the Ring.” In the album, feature artist Benny the Butcher pens, “I’m a fit shopper, brick locker, a whip Copper, WNBA, score on them and then block ’em.” Through a flurry of intricate bars and encoded rhyme schemes penned by Benny, it was Kahleah Copper who stole the show on the track, with the witty double-entendre between copping (copping = to purchase) and the former Finals MVP and explosive Sky Guard, Kahleah Copper.

Later in the album, it was the German-born two-way talent Satou Sabally who was name-dropped in the album. In the track, Rome Streetz raps, “I’m God’s favorite, I do amazing when I Wing it, I need my pockets socked too (Satou) and my ring kissed.” Upon hearing this clever double-entendre between the Dallas Wings and Satou, my excitement reached new levels and my imagination compounded into a surreal feeling of knowing my two worlds: The WNBA & Hip-Hop were colliding.

Finding the so called “hidden Easter eggs” in rap was always a hobby of mine, that often correlated or foreshadowed who or what was most relevant in the culture and what we define as quote on quote “cool.” And quite frankly, it’d be quite difficult to rattle off names of people cooler than Kahleah Copper and Satou Sabally. In candor, that’s what makes the W so special. It’s the 144. Where someone like a Kah can utilize her creativity to make a contested layup look like a work of art, and then in the same vein have a literal work of art in the form of a mural created for her, inspiring hope in thousands of little kids, all from being #akidfromnorthphilly; symbolizing resilience and constant growth, both on and off the court. That’s purpose. That same purpose transcends to the previously alluded to Satou Sabally, who just finished helping the Jordan brand build a basketball court in her hometown Germany for young girls looking for another positive outlet. When understanding how pivotal the players that make up the W are to society as a whole, it makes it that much cooler when seeing them name dropped in my favorite artists’ bars over soul samples and jazz-infused production.

When confirming my priors about the WNBA/lyrics correlation, I reached out to the Grammy Award Winning Producer of both tracks, Conductor Williams, who in fact is a devoted WNBA fan himself, speaking towards the league’s history as his origin story— “Cynthia Cooper was the excitement that drew me to the league. She was electric, creative, and a bucket! My current favorite player is Kelsey Plum for much of the same reasons. The combination of toughness and organic creativity is a lot of fun to watch. The future is bright for the W and I’m thankful to witness it.” While Conductor has produced for Tyler the Creator and Westside Gunn over the past year, it was him getting to talk W that really drew his excitement. Unironically, hearing his excitement, is what accentuated my very own. Cultures are colliding in the very most organic way possible, and it’s being led by the athletes of the W.