In my opinion, the only combination better than hip-hop and basketball is chicken and waffles.
Reach Records recording artist Andy Mineo and Miner League label partner Wordsplayed joined the superteam of hip-hop and basketball on Aug. 4, releasing a mixtape titled Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed Present Magic & Bird.
The new record from the longtime friends evokes the nostalgia of “Basketball,” a song by hip-hop legend Kurtis Blow released in 1984. That was the year the National Basketball Association cemented its place as a premiere sports league as Hall of Famers Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson faced off for the first time in the NBA Finals.
While Bird and Johnson are usually seen as rivals, Mineo and Wordsplayed embody the spirit of the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team,” joining forces and having fun on the summer mixtape. They wanted to make a record that was clean, fun and energetic, according to an interview with Forth District.
Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed Present Magic & Bird has a roster of 13 tracks, including the bonus single, “LAY UP.” Mixtapes are at times a discombobulation of songs that did not make an album, but the Miner League team created a project that sticks to its focus—the artists make over 50 references to “Magic and Bird,” according to the lyrics on Rap Genius.
Mineo and Wordsplayed have established themselves as talented rappers independently, and the two share the mic like Steve Nash on a fastbreak. There are tracks like “KIDZ,” “DUNK CONTEST (MAGIC BIRD)” and “SAY LESS” where both artists share the spotlight. Then there are moments where the rappers call for isolation and showcase their unique verbal skills. Two highlight moments are Wordsplayed’s verse on “JUDO” and Andy Mineo’s verse on “DANCE (You See It).” Mineo takes control of the game like Kevin Durant in the 2017 NBA Final, and shows why Sway Calloway thinks he is one of the most talented rappers in the game.
Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed Present Magic & Bird had an amazing production team. Producers such as 42 North, Alex Medina, BEAM, Daniel Jordan, Daniel Steele, GAWVI, !llmind and Young Sidechain worked together to create a project that is distinct yet relevant and fresh in its sound.
The biggest surprise on the Magic & Bird mixtape is the vocal contributions by BEAM, formally known as Tyshane. BEAM has produced and worked with artists such as Lecrae and 2 Chainz but, like Kawhi Leonard in those 2014 NBA Finals, he is here to let the world know he is a name to remember. His talent is highlighted on the tracks “BREAK BREAD” and “TEAM.” Other key players involved in the project are Jacob “Biz” Morris, who mixed the album, and Ray Neutron, who really captured the 1980s basketball vibe with cover photos for the album.
The Connection Between Hip-Hop and Basketball
To get a better understanding of how “Magic and Bird” influenced popular culture and birthed Blow’s iconic hip-hop song, one has to go back to the 1984 NBA Finals, also known as “Showdown ’84.”
The ’84 finals between Bird’s Boston Celtics and Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers lasted an intense seven games as the league’s rising stars battled it out. The Celtics won the series, and Bird was crowned the 1984 NBA Finals MVP. The NBA also emerged a winner, as the “Magic and Bird” rivalry helped the league grow to new heights. The 1984 NBA Draft also ushered in a new era of talent with players like Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley making their debut on the professional court.
Kurtis Blow, perhaps sensing the bright future that lay ahead for the then-38-year-old NBA, gave himself an assist and released “Basketball” in 1984 on his album Ego Trip. The simple yet infectious song declares “we love that basketball” and name-drops NBA legends Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Moses Malone and Bird and Johnson, of course.
The song, written by Blow and several others and reworked for various projects over the years, is a mix of early hip-hop rhyme schemes and go-go rhythms still played during NBA games today. Basketball and hip-hop culture would intertwine with its release, from Jordan’s becoming a staple in hip-hop fashion to hip-hop icon Jay-Z briefly owning the Brooklyn Nets and Drake hosting the first-ever NBA Awards in June.
With the league’s surprise trades and draft drama, Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed Present Magic & Bird perfectly compliments one of the hottest offseasons the NBA has had in recent history. Like their predecessor Blow, Mineo and Wordsplayed have hung their banner in the arena of successful hip-hop and basketball mashups. Their mixtape hit number two on iTunes the day of its release, and has been resting comfortably alongside Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN and Thi’sl’s Levitate on Amazon’s best-selling rap/hip-hop digital albums since it dropped.