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LISTEN: Kobe (going by the name of K-Raw) out-raps Shaq on his own 1998 track


Kobe Bryant’s rap career is often joked about these days – Nick Young even had a laugh the other day when reminded of Bryant’s track with Tyra Banks – yet it seems that the Black Mamba was actually a better rapper than we all thought.

According to a Grantland article on Kobe’s rhyming career, he used to get into rap battles in Philadelphia and a lot of people thought he had the tools to make it in the industry.

In 1998, Bryant spent the summer in New Jersey, working out in the day and recording in the studio at night –  he was definitely serious about this rap thing. He even appeared on Shaquille O’Neal’s ’98 album “Respect”. Under the name of K-Raw, Kobe opened up the track “3 X’s Dope” and absolutely killed O’Neal on his own song (Kendrick Lamar style).

Here’s what Grantland had to say about the “secret” moment in Kobe’s rap career:

[pullquote]That song, which is called “3 X’s Dope,” appears on O’Neal’s 1998 album Respect. It features the female rapper Sonja Blade, who was writing for Shaq at the time, and a third rapper not listed in the credits who kicks off the track. Kobe Bryant is that rapper. Some say Bryant’s name wasn’t listed for label-clearance reasons (Shaq recorded for A&M). Others say the song was meant to be a surprise.

It was recorded in early 1998 in Los Angeles with legendary hip-hop producer Clark Kent. At first Bryant sat quietly while Kent finished composing the song. O’Neal kept the mood light, cracking jokes and talking trash to his little bro.

“You got to come with your A-game, son. You got to come with your A-game.”

Bryant didn’t back down.

“Nah, I’m ready, son. I got mines.”

Then he stepped into the booth. Bryant memorized his verse, but he rapped too fast, zooming past the tempo of the production. By the third take he’d nailed it. “When he laid that down, the whole studio erupted because it was like, ‘This guy is not playing.’ This was not A-B-C stuff,” Sonja Blade says, laughing. “I couldn’t listen to his verse for years.”

I recently played Bryant’s verse for Sonja Blade.

“You know what’s funny? He sounds dope,” she says afterward. “Compared to the rappers today, he’s dope. He sounds like an underground backpack rapper. It don’t even sound like Kobe Bryant. I would want to hear more from this kid if I didn’t know who he was. That’s funny. Nobody raps like that anymore. Yo, he came there to prove a point. He put thought into that. I couldn’t hear it for years when everyone joked about it. Now hearing it, he doesn’t sound bad.”[/pullquote]

Well, now you know the backstory, so here’s the track. Remember, Bryant’s verse is up first:

What do you think? Personally, I think Kobe sounds pretty damn good for a guy who often gets ridiculed for “trying” to rap. It seems that Kobe can actually rap, yet his music career was seemingly ruined by record labels looking for Bryant to make them lots of quick money by putting out pop singles.

What do you think?

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