Kobe Bryant often gets painted as a conservative type of brother who wouldn't engage himself in Hip-Hop wars, spitting freestyles or making references to guns and banging broads. But in 1998, Kobe let cats know that Shaq wasn't the only rapper with bars to blow.
As cultured, articulate and polished as Kobe is as a speaker of over five different languages, and one of the most intellectually sound NBA players to suit up, early in his career Kobe was on his rap game, appearing in several videos and even worked on an album.
Can't forget the Kobe feature on Hold Me, a collaborative effort with R&B star Brian McKnight, released in 1998 on Motown Records. Kobe spit a funk flow but he was his usual debonair self.
A Complex magazine piece in 2013 reflected on Kobe's brief rap career:
"For three weeks during the summer of 1998, Kobe Bryant lived in the New Jersey mansion of hip-hop record executive Steve Stoute. Bryant was there to try on the role of rap star, but since he was also training to be the next Michael Jordan, basketball consumed most of his time. Every morning, he'd drive to nearby Ramapo College and shoot 2,000 jump shots.
Sometimes, Stoute would shuttle in streetball players from New York to help Bryant brush up on his defense. By sundown every day, though, he was tasked with absorbing "the lifestyle," a kind of initiation into the late-'90s world of rap royalty."
Kobe's three-week hip-hop crash course produced a single called K.O.B.E., featuring former model and reality TV mogul Tyra Banks, which the duo debuted on NBA TV later that year.
Kobe showed his competitive spirit and refused to back down, further fueling the rivalry between him and Shaq, by responding to a Shaq freestyle diss.
Who can forget when Shaq said, "Kobe...you can't do it without me." Then had the whole crowd ask, "Kobe. Tell me how my ass tastes?"
Most heads thought Kobe didn't have the street swag to retaliate. However, Black Mamba (and a team of ghost writers no doubt) came with some verbal heat of his own in the diss song, L.O.S.E.R.
Another Kobe rap joint with gospel rapper J. Xavier surfaced shortly after his fifth chip in the 2009-10 season.
Kobe was no killer lyricist, but the fact that he ventured into that world shows you the type of competitor and multi-faceted person he was beyond the hardwood.
He felt that it was important to show that he was Shaq's equal on every level, including street-culturally. It also revealed a kid trying to find himself in his new celebrity, LA world. In the end, it was truly an all-encompassing journey.