Yesterday (Jan. 26), the world lost a basketball icon when Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other individuals were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA. There are far too many words to share about Bryant’s impact as a ballplayer and a father but he was a man of the world. In his early 20s, the devout hip-hop head would try his hand at being an artist. No, seriously.
On social media, clips of Kobe rapping alongside Brian McKnight have long circulated as moments of either jokes of fond remembrance of how much Bryant lived. But the stories go far deeper than that.
Destiny’s Child – “Say My Name (Remix)”
In 1999, right in the middle of his third season in the league and a year after he had his coming out party at the All-Star Game in Madison Square Garden, Kobe jumped on the remix of Destiny’s Child massive “Say My Name” to offer his own remix. He’d be really tight with Beyoncé, Kelly, Latoya, and Latavia over that period – challenging Mathew Knowles to a game of 1-on-1 (and probably going easy on him) and even making a cameo appearance in the “Bug A Boo” video.
Brian McKnight – “Hold Me”
Ah yes, this one. In the late ’90s, back when he wore the #8, Kobe fashioned himself as a rapper who loved metaphors and being dope that way. He’d freestyle at Lower Merion High School and considered himself nice. He even released a debut album, K.O.B.E. with the lead single featuring Tyra Banks.
But the “Hold Me” video is extra special just for Kobe’s opening bars alone: “Your love’s a sword slicing gently through my body/ Burn so sweet, blood boils when you speak”
Kobe Bryant feat. Nas, 50 Cent & Broady Boy – “Thug Poet”
Kobe Bryant feat. Tyra Banks – “Kobe”
K.O.B.E. has a rather interesting distinction. For starters, it’s an album from an athlete turned rapper featuring the likes of Nas and a young 50 Cent. In the late ’90s, it’s Kobe following the blueprint his teammate Shaquille O’Neal laid with his album and getting The Notorious B.I.G. for “You Can’t Stop The Reign”. Kobe’s one and only album didn’t have the same success of Shaq’s but the work ethic remained clear – Kobe was determined to succeed at whatever.
It was Mamba Mentality before we even knew what the term meant.