This past Thursday, NBA superstar LeBron James finally answered the question that media had been asking for years on end. James chose to leave the harsh winters of his home state of Ohio and the Cleveland Cavaliers organization for the blazing sun, Ferraris and tanned bodies of South Beach and the Miami Heat Basketball Club. For the longest, James said that his decision would largely be based on the best opportunity to win multiple championships, but what about hip-hop? All of the major regions that were interested in LeBron James all have their own hip hop culture and one can't help but wonder how much of an influence it had on his decision. Let's examine them.
Cleveland - Almost without any thought, hip-hop legends Bone Thugs-N-Harmony come to mind. They recently released their latest comeback album Uni5: The World's Enemy, and it didn't do too well on the charts. Outside of BTNH, the City of Cleveland's biggest hip-hop stars are Kid Cudi, Ray Cash and the up & coming Chip Tha Ripper. Overall, the State of Ohio has a bubbling underground scene. Columbus-based emcee Debonair even released a tribute song called "LeBron James" which ended up getting a rather large amount of plays on YouTube.
New York/New Jersey - For a long time, the birthplace of hip-hop was considered a frontrunner in the bidding for James' services, but just as the Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five song goes: "Everything in New York ain't always what it seems." Sure the Big Apple has the brightest lights and biggest stages, but perhaps the concrete jungle of the Empire State proved to be a bit more than what LBJ was looking for. With New Jersey, of course there's LeBron's strong friendship with Nets minority owner Jay-Z, but maybe James doesn't get down with legends like Redman and the re-emerging Naughty By Nature or newcomers like Ian Wellz. Then again, perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the Nets only won 12 games this past season.
Chicago - The City of Wind, another city that at one time appeared to be in the running in the LeBron sweepstakes. As expected, Chicago's biggest hip-hop asset is Kanye West (who just happened to be in attendance at LBJ's press conference dubbed "The Decision"), but there are other attractive stars in the form of Lupe Fiasco and Common. Lesser known, but still quality acts include Rhymefest and Kidz in the Hall. With all of the talent in the town, one has to wonder why LBJ wouldn't choose Chicago. Some sources have hinted at a certain person's so-called legacy and shadow just being too much of a burden for the young star to handle. That certain person--R. Kelly.
Miami - With all due respect to the great E-40, Dade County has been doing its thing in a major way for the past few years. There's one of the top heavyweights, aka the Teflon Don Rick Ross and also Plies, Trina, Pitbull, Trick Daddy and Brisco. No one (with maybe the exception of Lil Jon) is louder on the mic than Def Jam South head honcho DJ Khaled, and despite attempts by some to eradicate it, T-Pain, his iTunes app and Auto-Tune are still alive. Miami has an exciting underground scene to it as well with artists like Blood Type and SERUM spearheading the movement. It doesn't hurt that artists from the aforementioned Chicago and New York often come TO Miami to party. People like Diddy and Fat Joe come to mind here.
Basketball aside, perhaps all the glitz and glam of Miami without the cold winters of the northern cities was the reason for the move LBJ made. Maybe it was the lack of a personal income tax that turned out to be the deciding factor. One thing that is for certain, hip-hop is a pretty big deal to LeBron James. He would always make appearances at the biggest shows in Cleveland (usually alongside Jay-Z, but others as well). With the move to Miami...the city is larger, the limelight is stronger and the stage is certainly bigger. Rappers have more than likely started writing their LeBron James punchlines already. Expect to hear an influx of references to the LBJ situation with lines that might mention bringing more heat than Wade, Bosh and James or being a king in Miami like LeBron and so forth.
Things should be quite interesting from here moving forward, but LeBron James craves this type of attention. We'll have to wait and see what he does with it all.
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