Review ·

Hip-Hop and hoops: The two have been joined at the hip for the past decade, from Jalen Rose's numerous video cameos to Allen Iverson's and Chris Webber's forays into emceeing. For some, though, the NBA game may have begun to feel too corporate toward the end of the twentieth century, in a league that is dominated by African-Americans yet owned mostly by Caucasians.

 

That's where And1 stepped in. From its trash-talking T-shirts to signing "street" players such as Stephon Marbury and Rafer Alston, the brand brought a hip-hop alternative to the Nikes and Adidases of the world. Soon after, almost the same way mixtapes have become the life force for underground rappers, And1 created its own basketball mixtapes with the best ballers who aren't having their checks signed by David Stern and company.

 

The focus of these tapes, the quality of which was no better than bootleg in the early days, was the behind-the-back dribbles and 360-degree dunks, but it was the beats and lyrics of the soundtrack that was the icing on the cake. From Kool G. Rap to the "Mighty" Mos Def, every "Skip" crossover and "Main Event" slam had the perfect mixture of rhymes and "rock." The players now sell out arenas across the country, and the company has gotten its own street-ball basketball video game. What would be more fitting than to have an exclusive soundtrack to accompany the release?

 

Featuring a bevy of production by Scram Jones and a countless number of artists from every region of the nation, the soundtrack is a nice complement to pounding the paint with Escalade and handling the rock with AO.

 

The Clipse and DMP open things up with "VA Streetz," proving that Malice and Pusha T may be among the most underrated duos in the game today. Other video game "veterans" who have appeared on soundtracks for games such as EA sports' NBA Live and the Madden and Fight Night series pop up here as well, including Stat Quo on "What's Next," Freeway on "Stand Up" and Peedi Crack on "It Don't Stop." Major names such as Bun B, B.G. and Devin the Dude are featured as well, but there are also newcomers such as Rhymefest and Smitty who are trying to capitalize on the same platform that made Papoose a household name for Madden gamers.

 

Many of the lyrics do contain basketball references and metaphors, and none of the songs are actual mainstream-single quality. But the soundtrack serves its purpose: You can nod your head to the music with the controller in your hand, but you wouldn't necessarily bump this on your way to the playground.

 

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