All posts by jeromeb617

The Decade of Longevity: Where Hip-Hop & Football Align

Take Your Pick

Tupac or Biggie? Barcelona or Real Madrid?

Hip-hop and football (soccer) are two cultural spheres from which people form intimate relationships. One’s favorite rapper or footballer is formed based on a huge web of interconnected influences: where someone grew up, the values they were raised to hold, and the style of their favorite rapper or footballer, amongst others.


While everyone is entitled to having a favorite in anything, there is a collective understanding within any given cultural sphere of who is the best at what they do. The cream rises to the top, and those on top set the standard for everyone else to follow.

How Do We Know Who the Greatest Is?

Greatness consists of a powerful fusion of sentiment and statistics. Sentiment in hip-hop and football are measured based on subjectivity; the emotions evoked by someone’s ability, for example, are incalculable. Statistics in hip-hop and football, on the other hand, are strictly factual. In hip-hop, statistics can be how many streams, album sales, or Grammys a rapper has compiled. In football, statistics can be quantified by the number of goals, assists, or clean sheets a player has, as well as major titles or Ballon d’Ors a player has won.


While sentiment and statistics are polar opposites in nature, they combine to form a compelling argument about who the greats are, and in this case, who the greats in hip-hop and football are.

This Generation’s Greatest

We currently live in a unique cultural period, both in hip-hop and football. This era, which can be marked by the turn of the decade, can be defined by one word: longevity. The two greatest rappers of the 2010s are Kendrick Lamar and Drake, and the two greatest footballers of the 2010s are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. What makes these four individuals so special is how long they’ve been performing at the highest level. It has rarely been seen in either sphere, making this past decade a special one.


Interestingly enough, when you split the four men into groups of two, with the careers of Kendrick and Messi aligning in certain ways, as do those of Drake and Cristiano.

K Dot and La Pulga (The flea, Messi’s nickname)

Kendrick Lamar (Compton, California) and Lionel Messi (Rosario, Argentina) were born a week apart on June 17th and June 24th, 1987, respectively. Kendrick Lamar has lived in California his entire life, and Messi moved to Barcelona as a teenager, where he has lived for the majority of his life. Lamar and Messi are widely praised for their humility, coming from humble upbringings, letting their performances speak to their unparalleled talents.

They have taken on the occasional advertisement campaign or acting gig (Kendrick, briefly), but generally go unseen in the public eye or the tabloids. Perhaps this can be attributed in part to the fact that both men are in committed relationships to their high school sweethearts with whom they’ve had children. Regardless, the fact that folks can almost solely associate the two with their profession is a reflection of the dedication they’ve demonstrated in their careers.


Of course, Lamar and Messi’s abilities have evolved over time, but all of the magic they’ve produced has been executed with the same underlying grace that has won them so many faithful fans. Their seemingly innate talent is considered to have a permeating effect, making those around them perform at a higher level, be it in the studio or on the pitch. It is due to this “effortless” ability that they are considered amongst the very best, if not the best, in the history of their respective crafts.

Drizzy and CR7

Drake (Toronto, Canada) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Madeira, Portugal) were born over a year apart on October 24th, 1986 and February 5th, 1985, respectively. Drake lived in Canada for some time before moving to Los Angeles, California, and Ronaldo has moved about throughout his career, initially leaving Portugal for Manchester, England as a teenager. These two also had humble upbringings, Ronaldo from poverty, and they have gone on to be the most marketable individuals in their respective crafts, taking on the persona of global ambassadors of sorts.

Drake and Ronaldo are constantly making noise in the press for one thing or another. Drake has come to be seen as the face of streaming giant Apple Music, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s business team has built a museum, a hotel, and underwear line all under Cristiano’s name, just to name a few business ventures. Their often excessive self-adoration, especially Ronaldo’s, has fueled much criticism over the years. Both men have had children with unknown mothers, irking the purest of fans, and both men have been accused of sexual assault. Although neither accusation was deemed true, it (understandably) holds an asterisk over their heads for some, cemented by the fact that the accusers in both cases were paid off.


Despite the negative image bestowed upon them by the public, Drake and Cristiano Ronaldo are seen as two of the most hard-working professionals of all time in their respective industries. They have evolved on numerous occasions, which has been the key to maintaining their longevity at the top. Drake started out mainly as a rapper, but went on to become arguably the biggest pop artist in the world, much to the disapproval of his hardcore rap fans. Ronaldo started out as a flashy winger, and upon moving to Real Madrid became the best goal scorer in the world, causing some fans to call him a boring player without the flair. Both have been accused of depending on the talent around them in reaching the point that they are at, but this is simply petty and unfounded.

Not Everything Was The Same…

Obviously, the aforementioned comparisons are subject to all kinds of rebuttal.

First and foremost, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are objectively two of the ten best footballers of all time, and arguably in the top five of all time. On the other hand, while a large population of hip-hop fans would put Kendrick Lamar in their top 10 all-time list, Drake seems unlikely to appear on that list. He has produced countless hits and helped further the careers of dozens of artists, but he does not have a To Pimp a Butterfly or a Good Kid M.A.A.D City. Drake’s Take Care and Nothing Was The Same are amazing bodies of work, but some say they lack the depth that lifts most albums into the tier of classic. In all, his cultural impact has been immense, but his societal impact has been modest, whereas Kendrick’s singular ability to narrate the black experience in America has transcended the rap game.


Second, Messi’s story with Argentina remains a dismal one. Despite having reached the final in multiple tournaments with his national team (including in the 2014 World Cup), Messi has returned to his club duties empty handed after each of those occasions. Kendrick Lamar, on the other hand, was the first non-jazz or classical musician to win the Pulitzer Prize, which one could argue is even more impressive than winning the World Cup. A considerable crowd of football fans argue that it’s impossible for Messi to be the best ever because of his shortcomings with Argentina, but many say that Messi’s achievements at the club level balance his legacy out.

Third, I can imagine that many hip-hop fans could disagree with the notion that Kendrick Lamar and Drake are the two best hip-hop artists of this past decade. The only artist who fans can genuinely argue in favor of over one of those two is Kanye West, which is a valid argument. After all, many credit Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreaks as Drake’s inspiration in expanding his sound beyond the realm of rap, and Kanye’s most critically acclaimed album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, came out in late 2010. It’s important to note, though, that Kanye’s influence in hip-hop began as early as the 1990s when he started out as a producer for Roc-A-Fella Records before deciding to rap as well. Despite all of this, Drake’s musical success in the 2010s has been greater than Kanye’s.


Our world is interconnected in far more ways than we have been conditioned to perceive.


Being a massive fan of rap and football myself, it’s entertaining to think about the ways that these two massive cultural spheres overlap and bounce off of one another. Hip-hop and football are two entirely unique cultures, but they also have the power of creating community, both amongst like minded folks and amongst historically oppositional groups of people. These two art forms generate emotions, establish personalities, and set trends within our daily lives. Immortal memories and achievements have been made in both, and will continue to do so as long as we can figure out how to weather the impending climate catapult.

The more we push ourselves to recognize commonalities amidst more obvious differences, the more cohesive a global society we will live in.









From Three Champions Leagues to Three Managers

While a contingency of Dutch football fans did predict that Ajax would pull off a massive upset at the Bernabeu on Tuesday night, only your neighborhood’s deluded Barca fan would have foreseen Real Madrid being humbled by a shock scoreline of 4-1 last week in the Champions League Round of 16.


It may be the last thing that Madridistas want to hear right now, but my cousin, a die-hard Real Madrid fan, said it best: “Tuesday’s drubbing at the hands of Ajax is the best thing that’s happened to Los Merengues since becoming the first side in history to win the Champions League in three consecutive seasons.”

This season started off in Real ugly fashion for a number of reasons (see what I did there?), culminating at the Camp Nou stomping by Barcelona in October by a score of 5-1. That thrashing cost Julen Lopetegui his job, as he got the ax the following day after just three months in charge.

In came Santiago Solari.


Solari was a different story from Lopetegui. A former Madridista himself, the Argentine was a decent footballer in his playing days, notably sending Roberto Carlos down the line in the buildup to Zidane’s masterful volley in the 2002 Champions League Final. Fast forward some years, and Lopetegui began working as an academy coach at Real in 2013.

With such strong family ties, Solari was always going to be well-received by the Real Madrid faithful. A former Real player like Zidane, he had a higher set of expectations for the future of the club. Plus, having previously worked with the youth teams (also like Zidane), he immediately injected young blood into the first team, most notably through his inclusion of teenage Brasilian phenom Vinicius Jr.


Results were mixed: a 3-0 away defeat in the league to Eibar and a 3-0 home Champions League defeat to CSKA Moscow were contrasted by a successful Club World Cup. Four months in, Solari got an impressive away 1-1 draw at Barcelona and an even more impressive 3-1 away win against Atletico Madrid. Results aside, Los Blancos seemed to be rediscovering an identity that had gone missing during Lopetegui’s short tenure in charge.

That February form didn’t last too long though. In a matter of seven days from February 27th to March 5th, that “rediscovered identity” went out the window.

Three consecutive home defeats proved to be too much for the Real Madrid hierarchy to bear. Real lost 3-0 to Barcelona in the Copa del Rey, and then again to their arch nemesis 1-0 in the league. Their horrific week then culminated with Real’s shock loss to Ajax, effectively ending their chances of winning an incredible fourth straight Champions League.


Six days later, Solari was shown the door.

Welcome back, Zinedine Zidane.

The man needs no introduction. For those unfamiliar with the history of football, Zidane is the bald guy who headbutted an opponent in the biggest sports event in the world. To the football community, Zidane is one of the most talented and successful players in the history of the sport.

As of May 2018, Zidane is also the most successful coach in Champions League history, after winning three Champions League titles in less than three years as manager of Real Madrid. His re-hiring after only nine months away from the club came as a slight surprise, but nonetheless, it makes sense. Real Madrid needs silverware, and of the current coaches either in between teams or looking to start a new journey, Zidane is the most successful of the lot in the last five seasons.


World class players know that silverware goes a long way in cementing their legacy. Zidane knew what it took to win as a player, and he quickly demonstrated that same ability as a manager. The opportunity to play under someone with such a thoroughly-documented winning mentality is a difficult one to pass up, no matter the team that they’re currently a part of.

While Zidane would probably be capable of overperforming with this current squad, he knows that his roster is in need of new life.

Eden Hazard, who is entering the last year in his contract at Chelsea, seems like the most sensible major signing to make this summer. Hazard has made clear his interest in playing for Zidane at Real Madrid, and his success in England has made him worthy of running the show for Real. This would allow Gareth Bale, who has looked unhappy at various points throughout his time in Madrid, to finally leave.


Beyond Hazard, players like Kylian Mbappé, Neymar, Mauro Icardi, Milan Škriniar, and N’Golo Kanté are just a few names who Zidane could potentially sign. There is enough money in the bank for Florentino Perez to sign at least two players of the highest caliber. No matter who Real Madrid signs, they’ll be happy to have a winner at the helm.

At the end of the day, Real Madrid fans have Ajax to thank for Zinedine Zidane’s return to the Bernabeu.

Only time will tell what magic Zizou conjures up this time around.