When I was in third grade, my classmates and I were asked to do a book report on a legendary figure. Growing up in Kansas City, I was aware of Bo Jackson’s stint with the Royals, and I knew my dad had his iconic Nike poster hanging up in the basement, so I picked Bo.
After reading Bo Jackson: A Star For All Seasons, I was as blown away by his career just like the millions of fans that got to watch it unfold in real time. As an adult, I’m all the more intrigued by the man that was able to be the best at not one, but two incredibly demanding professional sports, and it seems I’m far from the only one.
Bo Jackson has been the focal point of countless books, documentaries and beer-swilling "G.O.A.T." conversationalists, but over the years he’s also been a go-to reference for emcees that want you to know just how great they are.
Today (November 30) marks Bo’s 54th birthday, and this year will be the 22nd since his retirement from the sporting realm, so why not commemorate today's festivities with five of the most memorable Bo Jackson references in hip-hop?
A Tribe Called Quest - “Scenario”
Line: "Heyo, Bo knows this, (What?) and Bo knows that (What?) / But Bo don't know jack, cause Bo can't rap / Well what do you know, the Di-Dawg, is first up to bat / No batteries included, and no strings attached"
If you didn’t grow up during Bo’s reign, then you probably aren’t familiar with Nike’s “Bo Knows” campaign that ran alongside their line of cross-training shoes in the early '90s. On “Scenario,” Phife Dawg (RIP) makes brilliant use of the “Bo Knows” line to express his lyrical prowess. Bo might be one of the most gifted human beings to ever to ever walk the earth, but he can’t touch Phife's level of greatness on the mic.
Meek Mill ft. Rick Ross - “I’ma Boss”
Line:"I'm a spazz on yo ass like I'm Mo'nique / Or a double stack better nigga double that / Jerry Jones money nigga you a running back / Herschel Walker, Bo Jack / Ricky Watters, better run that dope back"
Rick Ross is no stranger to sports references, and, in fact, this isn’t the first Bo Jackson reference of his career. While his last Bo reference was less than factual (shouts to Nathan for catching that inaccuracy), this line is in reference to Bo’s position of runningback during his three-year stint with the then-Los Angeles Raiders.
Master P - “Getaway Clean”
Line:"Now I'm getting at ya / movin by the police faster than Bo Jackson"
One of Bo Jackson’s most dangerous attributes in football was his speed. According to the sports legend, Bo holds the record for the fastest 40-yard dash in the history of football, at 4.12 seconds, although it was never actually recorded. Either way, Bo was known far and wide for his wheels, making him the perfect reference for Master P’s 1991 tale of escaping arrest.
Denzel Curry - “ULT”
Line:"Aftermath you can just do the math later, as a teenager / I was an underdog under the / Raiders, valuable player / Young Bo Jackson slammin' packs with a passion"
It’s crazy to me that 20-plus years after his retirement, a Bo Jackson reference is still relevant to a younger artist like Denzel Curry, who wasn’t even born before Bo retired. Denzel’s artistic collective is known as the Raider Klan, and Bo Jackson played for the Raiders so this line is relevant on multiple levels, especially considering Denzel has spent most of his career—previous to this year’s inclusion in XXL’s Freshman Class—dwelling in the underground.
Royce da 5'9" - "Gangsta (Remix)"
Line:"Airball like Ray Charles with no glasses / I'm playing everything, instinct like Bo Jackson / I make niggas bow to the game before Madden / But no passing, just flows and fours flashing"
Another one of Bo Jackson’s most celebrated attributes was his pure instinct. In biographies and documentaries, Bo is regarded as the natural to end all naturals. Of course, his hard work and dedication aided his rise to greatness, but many praised his base instincts as a key component of his most incredible achievements. Here, Royce is asserting that he’s naturally gifted at emceeing, much in the same ways that Bo was naturally gifted at nearly everything he touched.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
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