|Photo via Dreamville/Columbia|
|J. Cole wore an Alife hockey jersey for his 2014 Forest Hills Drive cover shoot.|
Rap and hockey are two worlds that rarely collide. When it comes to punch lines, Gretzky, Lemieux and Ovechkin all get less love than Jordan, Bird and James. Shit, even Drake, the world's foremost Canadian rapper, is more liable to be seen on the Raptors sidelines than cheering on the Maple Leafs.
Rhymers are digging into NHL rosters, though. When they do, it's worth taking a few moments to celebrate. Here are our ten favorite rap lyrics about hockey players. Call it two minutes for name-checking.
10) J. Cole - "Can't Get Enough"
"Won't brag, but the boy been blessed mane / Let you play with the stick -- Ovechkin"
While it'd be pretty remarkable if a rapper were to work, say, Zemgus Girgensons or Mariusz Czerkawski into their verbiage, we acknowledge that it takes some creativity to put together a rhyme for Washington Capitals dynamo Alex Ovechkin. J. Cole uses a generous amount of poetic license to juxtapose "blessed mane" with the Russian superstar's surname. Of all the shout outs to Alexander the Great (and there are quite a few, surprisingly), Cole's is the most notable just for the panache of his delivery. He drops the Ovi reference ostentatiously to brag about his (in this case, sexual) prowess, much like most rappers would lean on Michael Jordan or Julius Erving, thus putting the two sports on equal footing for the first time in the canon of hip-hop.
9) Bodega Bamz - "El-Rey"
"Chinchilla in the summer, how you fade / Don't turn into a mark for the ice like Messier"
8) Hoodie Allen - "Long Island Iced Tea"
"And you eating salad, but we will be skating through / I am Sidney Crosby, you probably ain't made it dude"
Though bro rap anagram (and Pittsburgh native) Mac Miller is more liable than any other rapper to drop a line about the Next One, Hoodie Allen's Sidney Crosby name-check deserves to be recognized. The lyric, which comes from Allen's 2009 Bagels and Beats EP, co-opts Sid the Kid to talk about the Long Island rapper's prodigious rise. You'd have a tough time arguing that the hokey millennial rhymer is an equitable talent to No. 87, but he's certainly got the swagger to go beyond the typical stable of professional athletes to make his claim.
7) Lil' Wayne - "Upgrade U Freestyle"
"Put a motherfucker on ice like the Maple Leafs / That's a hockey team,
and I ain't on no hockey team / But I'm a champion, where's the fuckin' Rocky theme?"
Lil' Wayne's seminal Da Drought 3 mixtape is full of matter-of-fact declarations like this one that references the pride of Toronto. On one song, he confesses that his favorite childhood movie was Gremlins, and it's this sort of earnest divulgence that makes his homage to hockey such goofy fun. Of course the Maples Leafs are a hockey team, and of course Weezy isn't on their roster -- and if he were, he wouldn't be a champion -- but it helps to have the clarification. Plus the Leafs have been the NHL's most profitable franchise for a decade, so it's fitting that the Young Money Millionaire finds some fellowship with the storied Canadian club, even if he has never donned the eleven-point leaf.
6) Fabolous - "Ghetto"
"They tried to put two nines on me just like Gretzky / But my lawyer saw through it just like wet tees"
Unsurprisingly, the Great One gets tabbed by rappers pretty often in their rhymes. Most of the time, when emcees evoke Gretzky, it's a pretty lazy effort (see Cam'Ron's "Horse & Carriage" or Lil' B's "Do My Job"), but few are as slick on the mic as Fabolous. On "Ghetto," one of Real Talk's better tracks, Fab dispenses with cliché to holler out Gretzky's jersey number in a sequence that contains the greatest shoutout to Pepsi Blue in hip-hop history. The verse is one small example of just how lyrical mid-2000s Fabolous was, and it's by far the best Gretzky nod ever laid to wax.Continue to page two.
5) Lightborn - "Divine Arrival"
"Avalanche advantage tactic, hat trick like Joe Sakic"
This is the most esoteric song on our list (thus the lack of a YouTube embed), and though we're loath to endorse any song that includes a disgusting slur, we have to give shine to Philly's Lightborn for name-dropping longtime Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic. The song, from 2004's Angel of Def (listen here), is overtly Christian and not at all good, which makes this bar stand out even more. Now, Sakic's fifteen career three-goal games doesn't even crack the top ten all time (Gretzky, of course, leads the way at an astonishing 50), but he holds an NHL record for having the name most closely resembling "hat trick," and Lightborn is the only rapper to ever take advantage of that.
4) Cutty Kirby - "Led A Charmed Life"
"Stand-up guy, man call me Marty Brodeur / They want the the psychedelics, hit 'em with the Cure"
Finally, a keeper gets some love. Portland's Cutty Kirby isn't the only rapper to call out Marty's name (the other being human facepalm Kosha Dillz), but his pun referencing the recently retired goalie's outdated style of play is the best use of double entendre on this list. Despite the fact that Cutty's flow is garbled and awkward, this is a one-liner that respects Fatso's nearly untouchable legacy with its cleverness. It's a damn shame there are no rappers out there championing butterfly style -- maybe Patrick Roy's son (a.k.a., J.O.E. Daking) should get on that.
3) A Tribe Called Quest - "Keep It Rollin'"
"Large Professor in the house, you know how we do / I skate on your crew like Mario Lemieux"
In his prime, Mario Lemieux was comparable, skill-wise, with Wayne Gretzky, though the rap world has largely overlooked Super Mario's talents. However, Queens hip-hop outfit A Tribe Called Quest saw fit to homage the Québécois legend on its 1993 comebacker Midnight Marauders. Phife Dawg's assertion is in line with Lemieux's relentlessness on skates -- no amount of hooking and holding could keep the dude from nosing it to the net. It's good to see the Tribe giving some reverence to the grit in the famous Penguin's game.
2) Wale - "The Feature Heavy Song"
"Do it for the capital / Wale Ovechkin / SB hundreds, yes dear, I'm on that venison / More or less Lindros, Flyer than the rest of them / Mind my intentions, they ain't nothing similar / Sideways talk'll get your neck like Zednik"
OK, there's a lot here. This song -- also known as "Back in the Go Go" -- from Wale's landmark mixtape The Mixtape About Nothing, name-checks three separate NHLers. Obviously, being from D.C., Wale needs to get his obligatory Ovi reference, and he furthers the hockey motif by working Philadelphia Flyers concussion magnet Eric Lindros into a promo for his single "Nike Boots." But then he takes things all the way to the second line to hat-tip Slovak winger Richard Zednik, who famously got his carotid artery slashed by a falling teammate. The reference is so obscure in the realm of hip-hop that Genius has no idea the dude just uncorked the greatest sequence of hockey references in the history of the genre.
1) Open Mike Eagle - "Qualifiers"
"I ain't played Call of Duty, smoke you in GoldenEye / RPG, roll the die / JPG Kobe Tai / PG13 Cobra Kai / PPG, Luc Robitaille"
Luc Robitaille potted 247 power play goals in his career, good for fifth all-time in the league's history. He scored 210 of those PPGs during his fourteen years with the Los Angeles Kings. LA avant rapper Open Mike Eagle takes note of Lucky Luc's prowess with the man advantage in his 2014 Dark Comedy lead single "Qualifiers," stringing in a citation of the Hall of Famer in what stands as rap's best hockey-centric lyric. Now, given the GoldenEye 007 mention, it seems like the Hellfyre Club associate is referring to the N64 iteration of the NHL's endlessly playable video game franchise, but regardless, this rapid-fire rhyme sequence is lyrical mastery. With haiku-like precision, Eagle lays down a nostalgia-ridden series that culminates in the Robitaille shoutout -- a perfect exclamation point before the chorus kicks in.
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