A look back at Kobe Bryant’s brief stint as a rapper
As the world comes to terms with the loss of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, we wanted to look back at his own music career, and the many times Mamba played the role of muse for the hip-hop community.
In the midst of his illustrious 20 season NBA career, Kobe carved out some time to work on music, something he’d always been very passionate about. As Grantland reported in 2013, “for three weeks during the summer of 1998, Kobe Bryant lived in the New Jersey mansion of hip-hop record executive Steve Stoute.”
Signed to Sony Records at the time—back in 2000—Kobe made his official solo debut during the 2000 NBA All-Star game with supermodel Tyra Banks. He performed his first and only official studio release. “K.O.B.E.” The B-side, “Thug Poet,” featured Broady Boy from Kobe’s rap crew, CHEIZAW, and a young Queens, NY rapper on the rise, 50 Cent.
After the release of “K.O.B.E.,” the five time NBA champion was famously enlisted for a official “Say My Name” remix by his then Sony labelmates, Destiny’s Child.
Kobe was also featured on a remix of the Brian McKnight single, “Hold Me,” which was produced by Trackmasters and released via Motown Records in 1998.
Along with his own very limited catalogue, Kobe also teamed up with another basketball star moonlighting as a rapper, Shaquille O’Neal. Kobe appeared alongside Sonja Blade on Shaq’s 1998 Clark Kent-produced single “3X’s Dope,” and the song was featured on Shaq’s fourth studio album, Respect.
The album peaked at #58 on the Billboard 200. Respect also reached the No. 8 spot on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
Aside from releasing his own music, Kobe Bryant played the role of muse for several hip-hop artists and musicians. One quick search on Spotify for “Kobe Bryant” will produce dozens—if not hundreds—of results with his name as the song title (or part of the song title.)
Here’s some of our favourites from the list (and some others that aren’t available on the streaming platform):
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