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This story appeared in the April 2000 issue of VIBE, months before he won his first of five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. Written by Isaac Paris
Okay, Sherlock, we know Kobe Bryant is way past the verge of stardom. As an all-star shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, he gets thousands of fans screaming with excitement every other night. Bryant's baseline drives are as smooth as Nate Dogg's vocals, and his slam dunks bump like a gritty bass line from a DJ Premier track.
Now, with his debut rap album, Visions (Columbia), due in March, the 21-year-old is poised to follow in the footsteps of teammate Shaquille O'Neal (who he occasionally exchanges verses with in the locker room) and prove that his skills aren't limited to flying above the rim. Although Bryant realizes that being the man on the hardwood is no guarantee that you can actually hold it down in the studio (NBA stars/inept MCs like Gary Payton and Jason Kidd can attest to that), Visions proves his wordsmith capabilities are ample enough to allow him to play with the big dogs.
"People are gonna be surprised," Bryant says self-assuredly. "Toward the latter stages [of recording], I was real comfortable. I was like, 'I got this sh*t!'" In fact, tonight in his Milwaukee hotel room––on the eve of a game against the Bucks––Bryant's more pressed with defending the unproven mike skills of his homegirl that he is his own.
"Tyra can sing," he says of supermodel Tyra Banks, who makes her singing debut on Visions' first single, the buoyant "K.O.B.E." Destiny's Child, the Roots' Black Thought, 50 Cent, and Beanie Sigel also support the hoopster on the CD.
"The album is pretty hard. People expect me to come a little more commercial than I did," says Bryant. "At first it was all battle raps, but I really wanted to give the total picture of what was going on around me, like money, jewelry, women, and trust issues."
Nevertheless, money, hoes, and clothes aren't the only things this player knows. He also knows how to win. The following night, after No. 8 scores 22 points as the Lakers thrash the Bucks, he's convinced he'll be just as successful rapping as he is playing on his championship-contending team. "[On the mic] you want respect. If I want something I'm gonna get it. Just buy the album and see for yourself."
There are many factors that go into winning a Grammy, the most coveted music prize of the industry. It’s more than “is the song good?” Sometimes it’s based on campaigning, other times it’s based on what voters feel should be the industry standard. However, the fun doesn’t come until after the ceremony, where all the winners have been revealed and it’s time to process what it all means for the larger picture and the future of recording.
The 62nd Annual Grammy Awards was met with controversy this year thanks to a lawsuit against the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences from ousted CEO, Deborah Dugan. Through her explosive claims and allegations, the voting process has gotten even less transparent— and we’re left with more questions and mysteries than answers. Still, artists and media moved forward, and the focus has temporarily shifted back to the music and the awards.
Here are 11 takeaways from VIBE that capture the essence of key wins (and snubs) at the Grammy Awards.
Hours after Nipsey Hussle was posthumously awarded with his first Grammy, the awards ceremony honored him with a heartfelt performance by an all-star roster of John Legend, DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Roddy Rich, Kirk Franklin and YG.
Meek Mill began the performance with an emotive, unreleased verse that served as a letter to Nipsey, with Roddy Ricch singing a chorus. [Update: The song, "Letter To Nipsey," was released to streaming services later that night.] That led into a rousing performance of "Higher," the song that appeared on DJ Khaled's album Father of Asahd. John Legend played the piano and sang the chorus while backed by a choir, which was directed by an energetic, adlibbing Kirk Franklin, as a video of Nipsey rapping played on a big screen. YG joined the stage in a red suit, speaking to the gang unity between Crips and Bloods that Nipsey endorsed with his music and his life. The performance ended with an image of Los Angeles legends Nipsey Hussle and and the recently deceased Kobe Bryant, with Khaled paying tribute to them both.
Nipsey Hussle's debut studio album, Victory Lap (2018) came after an epic mixtape earned him a nomination for Best Rap Album at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. He died on March 31, 2019, after being gunned down on in the parking lot of his Marathon Clothing store in Los Angeles. The music and business worlds reeled from his loss, with his rap career on the upswing and his work as a businessman and community leader inspiring many.
Before Sunday's (Jan. 26) ceremony, Nipsey Hussle was awarded a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance for "Racks In The Middle," the last single that he released in his lifetime. The song features a guest appearance by Roddy Ricch, and is produced by Hit-Boy.