Think about the quintessential rappers of our generation. Who comes to mind first? Now think about the greatest boxers of all time. Again, who comes to mind first?
Mike Tyson was probably at the top of your second list. But in another universe, he could have been on both lists.
Let me take you back to early 2017. Spray Tan Hitler had just entered the White House and we were still a year away from Drew Landry articles ruining DJBooth. But most importantly, Mike Tyson was a rapper for a week. One glorious week.
For reasons that still aren't clear, Chris Brown and Soulja Boy were engaged in one of the most awkward rap beefs of all time—a beef they publicly announced would be settled in a boxing match. Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather were appointed as their trainers. Tyson was Brown’s trainer, undoubtedly teaching him how to bite ears, get face tattoos, and buy pet tigers. Mayweather was Soulja Boy’s trainer, and there’s no pointing in adding a mean joke about Mayweather here since we all know damn well he can't read it.
I promise I’m not making this up.
What caused the beef? I don't know and I don't care. Rap beef can be started for any reason and I'll eat it up. Kendrick could release a diss track bashing Young Thug for allegedly saying A Star Is Born is overrated and I'd listen to it 47 times a day for at least two weeks.
The fight never happened, but that’s not important.
The important part of this story is Iron Mike recording a diss track aimed at Soulja Boy. It’s called “If You Show Up.” The music video is... unique. It doesn’t feature Mike himself, but it does have a hot dwarf woman and a random white lady eating Cap'n Crunch. I recommend you watch it right now before his PR guy remembers it exists.
Much like his fighting approach in the ring, Mike pulls no punches when he's on the mic. “If You Show Up” features ferocious bars like “I heard you talkin' shit on Instagram / But social media don't make a fucking man / Everybody talk shit behind the keys / I'ma sting like a venereal disease.” Say what you want about this bar, but out of ALL the rap songs released in 2017, this definitely wasn't the worst one.
Despite being mocked across social media, Mike allegedly wasn’t ready to leave music. As a matter of fact, he was planning on releasing an entire rap album. GRAMMY-winning producer Damon Elliot confirmed that he was in the studio cooking up multiple tunes with Tyson: “Damn right, we’re going to put some more singles out there and put a compilation together.”
Needless to say, the people rejoiced. And by “the people,” I mean me.
Could this really be true? Was Mike goddamn Tyson really recording a rap album?! I was paralyzed with obsessive curiosity. What would a Mike Tyson rap album even sound like? Would it be trap? Would it be conscious rap? Would it have guest verses from Travith Thcott or 21 Thavage?
Unfortunately, we were blue-balled. Mike Tyson was a rapper for only one week. His album never saw the light of day. But imagine if he really released that album. Imagine if it was a hit. It would have only been like the 379th weirdest thing to happen that year.
Imagine if it was critically acclaimed and hailed as a modern classic. Imagine if Pitchfork gave it a 9.7 with pretentious praise like “Michael’s expeditious incursion into mellifluous, soul-spilling diatribes of urban balladry is a scurrilous yet conspicuously euphoric and will undoubtedly morph the weary conventions of the modern rap landscape.” None of us know what that means but we know it must mean it's good.
Tyson’s rap debut could have been massive. Instead of Tyson’s legacy being “boxer” it could have been “rapper who apparently used to box.”
Imagine Mike Tyson’s name next to the Kendrick's and Drake's. Imagine him sweeping the GRAMMYs and dominating rap as he did with boxing back in the day. It’s possible. If 6ix9ine can have a career, anyone can.
Mike Tyson, the greatest rapper alive. The defining poet of his generation. We could have had that. But unfortunately, now all we can do is sit and imagine, and hope he turns down a role in The Hangover 4.