Rap, which originates from the Bronx, in New York, has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Today this music also referred to as hip-hop, which describes a wider movement that includes rap, DJing, break dancing and graffiti, is a real phenomenon. In 2023, music streaming service Spotify reported in August 2023 that nearly a quarter of all streams on the platform that year so far had been hip hop music. By the time the article was published, more than 400 million people from around the world had streamed hip-hop music on the platform.

What you might not know is that some artists are (or once were) as athletic in the sporting arena as they are vocally or behind a turntable. Below is a look at famous rappers who played sport or had sporting ambitions before they turned their hands to music.

Tinchy Stryder

Tinchy Stryder stormed the UK charts with hits such as “Never Leave You,” “Number 1” and the fan favorite “Game Over,” but before then, the Ghanian-born East Londoner served as a striker or second striker for Wimbledon and, later, Leyton Orient. The short, slim former MC had excellent movement, a good eye for goal and gave fullbacks some difficult days at the office.

Despite being a Londoner, Stryder is a die-hard Manchester United fan and, surprisingly, has revealed a love for Scottish soccer club (Glasgow) Rangers. He’s reported to have developed a love of the Glaswegian club due to a liking of some of the players that played for the club. Not even the most successful sports betting fans could have predicted that!

2 Chainz

Tauheed K. “2 Chainz” Epps, or just “2 Chainz,” was born and raised in College Park, Georgia. Big hits include “Talk Dirty,” which he recorded with Jason Derulo and reached number three. Before turning pro as a rapper, however, the six-foot-fiver was a basketballer in the NCAA. Epps had been the sixth star man in the 10 th grade on the basketball team at North Clayton High, in his home city, and was a Division 1 recruit by his senior year. Following his graduation, he played a full season (1996-97) for Alabama State University. He was a versatile player with good ball handling and dribbling skills and was difficult to play against.

50 Cent

Curtis Jackson aka 50 Cent grew up in Queens, New York, and before discovering a talent for rapping he was a very good amateur boxer. Jackson was renowned for his athleticism and was dedicated to the sport. He won some amateur tournaments — he’s thought to have been a junior Olympian when he was 14 —and even considered going pro at one point.

Some have doubted Jackson’s past as a boxer, but the rapper has a long friendship with Floyd Mayweather Jr (which at one pointed broke down in a falling out over money) and, through his career as a boxing promoter, has maintained strong links with the sport.


Rapper Nelly had big hits with “Ride Wit’ Me” and “Hot in Here,” but this famous hip hopper from St Louis, Missouri, could well have taken a different career path. In his younger years, he was forced to live with a string of relatives after his parents divorced, and he found comfort in baseball. There he discovered (as did the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St Louis Cardinals, who both scouted him) he had a talent on the diamond. At high school, he received MVP of the St Louis Amateur Baseball All Star Game.

It was around the time of winning MVP that Nelly started his first rap group, the St Lunatics. The group even had a regional hit with “Gimme What U Got.” Nelly himself was handy on a football grid as well, but despite his talent for this and his even greater one for baseball, his main interest was in music and pursed this path instead.

MC Hammer

Stanley Burrell achieved fame as parachute-panted, one-hit wonder MC Hammer when he burst into the charts with “U Can’t Touch This.” The rapper and ordained minister also has a lesser-known background in baseball though and served the Oakland As as a bat boy and clubhouse assistant during the 1970s. Burrell grew up in the Bay Area and played high school baseball, becoming handy enough on the diamond to earn a trial with the San Francisco Giants. Sadly, for Burrell, the Giants didn’t take him on, so he joined the Navy instead before becoming MC Hammer.

The rappers above made a big name for themselves in the rap world, but they might well have been sports stars. Instead, they pursued their love of rap and entered the music industry. It’s a decision their millions of fans certainly will have certainly applauded.