In honour of the Toronto Raptors’ 25th anniversary — and Vince Carter’s return to Canada for tonight’s game — we’ve plugged in our earbuds in search of the greatest hip-hop references to Canada’s basketball squad. Yes, the team’s global ambassador is well-represented here, but you might be surprised how many other artists have name-dropped the Raps.
Nick Grant – “Something to Say”
“Man, I’m on top of the game, just check the nosebleed/ Nobody hotter, Serge Ibaka, I’ll be back to the block”
Some nice wordplay here by the underrated South Carolina rapper reinforces the importance of defence.
The Game – “Daytona 500”
“When that R.E.D. drop, just prepare for the rapture/ Lock me out of Canada, balling like the Raptors”
As a convicted felon, The Game has had difficulty crossing the Canadian border to perform, once railing on immigration via his Twitter account.
Earl Sweatshirt – “Chum”
“His sins feeling hard as Vince Carter’s knee cartilage is”
This is my favourite line here, and it’s not even close.
Big Sean — “Overtime”
“With my team on each side, like ha-ha-ha-ha-ha/ With the last laugh like Kawhi”
The Detroit emcee gets a little extra as he tries to mimic Leonard’s infamously awkward press-conference chuckle.
Drake – “0 to 100 / The Catch Up”
“F— all that rap-to-pay-your-bill s—/ Yeah, I’m on some Raptors-pay-my-bills s—”
From partying on the team bus during the championship parade to bringing the Larry OB to OVO Fest, Drizzy fancies himself the closest thing to an actual member of the team.
Royce da 5’9” – “Streets at Night”
“All I need is five minutes, every style get augmented/ Well-endowed in God’s image, never smile, Kawhi Leonard”
Like the Finals MVP, Royce da 5’9” takes his craft dead seriously.
Wiley – “Send Me the Riddim”
“When you achieve, people gonna take shots/ That’s when I take flight like I’m T-Ross”
Hands up if you expected a Terrence Ross reference on this list.
Earl Sweatshirt – “Really Doe”
“You’ve been the same [expletive] since 2001/ Well it’s the left-handed shooter, Kyle Lowry the pump”
Fun fact: As Kyle Lowry recovered from a right wrist injury in 2017, the Raptors guard was spotted practising with getting shots off with his left hand.
Drake – “6 Man”
“Boomin’ out in South Gwinnett like Lou Will / 6 Man like Lou Will, two girls and they get along like I’m / Like I’m Lou Will, I just got the new deal”
Simultaneously endorsing open relationships and bench scoring, Drake shouts out then Raptors’ sixth man Lou Williams, noting that he, too, is a (41)6 Man.
Rapsody – “Gonna Miss You”
“Some days I feel like Three Stacks up at that altar/ International player like DeRozan, I can ball hard”
Here, Rapsody is referring to Andre 3000’s (a.k.a. Three Stacks) iconic verse on UGK’s “Int’l Players Anthem,” in which he gets cold feet at the altar thinking about all the options out there. Until his trade to San Antonio, Demar DeRozan was also an international player (of a kind).
Fabolous – “Rapture”
“Yeah, caught up in the rapture of love/ Rock the 7’s in Toronto, show the Raptors some love”
Even a New York emcee in Michael Jordan’s sneakers is willing to give props to another Eastern Conference power.
Drake – “Weston Road Flows”
“Been flowin’ stupid since Vince Carter/ Was on some through-the-legs, arm-in-the-hoop s—”
The 2000 Slam Dunk Contest changed our life.
Royce da 5’9” – “Second Place”
“You about to see how far that Paul Rosenberg will go/ The height of my game is like DeMar DeRozan, vertical”
Did you know? As a rookie, DeRozan’s running vertical jump reached 38.5 inches, ranking him among the NBA’s top 25 leapers ever.
Tony Yayo – “NYC Is Where I’m From”
“’Cause the kid big ballin’ like the Utah Jazz / Toronto Raptors style, Yay is a vet”
50 Cent’s running mate name-checks all 30 NBA franchises in this verse, but his Raptors line is kind of a brick.
Roy Woods – “Love You”
“Miss days of her laughter/ But I’ve turned another chapter/ In the 6 with my Raptors”
The Toronto upstart manages to wedge a Raps shoutout in an otherwise schmoopy song. Love and basketball.
Drake – “Charged Up”
“Come live all your dreams out at OVO/ We gon’ make sure you get your bread and you know the ropes/ I get a ring and I bring it home like I’m Corey Joe”
CanCon special! Canadian rapper big ups a Canadian basketball player who used to play for Canada’s team.
Wale – “Winter Schemes”
“Boy, I play with foreigns and I feel just like Kawhi Leonard”
Foreign cars, foreign(-ish) basketball country … same thing. Unfortunately, this Wale punch line expired after just one season.
Nicki Minaj – “Roman Reloaded”
“All you h— cryin’ – Christopher Bosh”
Ouch. Yes, Bosh’s weepy moment came with the Heat, but he’ll always be a Raptor in our minds. Is it just me, or does the fact Nicki uses Chris’s full first name make this diss sting even more?
Busta Rhymes – “We Put It Down for Y’all”
“Let me bang something hard on your head like Vince Carter”
Dungeon dragon dunk raps.
Drake – “30 for 30 Freestyle”
“I got a club in the Raptors arena/ Championships, celebrations during regular seasons”
He’s not lying. Drake’s swanky members-only Sher Club, which features a pianist and some rather delicious hors d’oeuvres, is named after his maternal grandparents and offers a posh escape from the popcorn-and-beer vibe of the rest of Scotiabank Arena.