Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday's Weekly Rap-Up - November 7, 2014 - "Kobe Bryant On 'Em" - Sho Baraka

"Kobe Bryant On 'Em" - Sho Baraka - Lyrics

Kobe Bryant
Every Friday morning I get together with a group of guys to play basketball at 6:00 AM. It's an early start, but I look forward to Friday morning every week. It's a competitive outlet, a way to get some exercise, and a chance to still show that we've still got some game. Some of the guys who play are from our church, so that helps build community between us. Others are coworkers or neighbors, or random guys we invite to play who become friends. We've got different levels of skill too. Some of the guys have played at a college-level. Some played in high school, and some have never played organized basketball. It doesn't matter though.

Sometimes our frustration shows when we miss shots (and we miss many) or our teammates don't meet our expectations. We get mad when we miss layups or allow people to score on us. Some of us get angry at times. I'll admit, I can get upset when teammates don't play defense or switch which man we're defending, or don't call out screens; things I'd have expected to hear from college players I played with or coached over the years.

Sho Baraka's song "Kobe Bryant on 'Em" is actually a mixtape response to another song, "Air Jordan on 'Em" from rapper K-Drama. At first blush it may seem that these songs are simply about two of the best basketball players to have ever played the game. That'd be partially true. K-Drama thinks Michael Jordan is the best. Sho Baraka, thinking Kobe is the best, playfully responds with "Kobe Bryant on 'Em", noting that he's "a Cali man through and through." But, there's more here than two rappers creatively communicating their favorite basketball players. You may think, "what does it mean to 'Air Jordan on 'em?', or 'what does it mean to Kobe Bryant on 'em?'" Well, it has less to do with basketball, and more to do with biblical history and a Christian's steadfast witness of the Gospel in light of opposition and trial.

This K-Drama response is most helpful. K-Drama derives the term mostly from the scriptural account found in the book of Numbers, when God commanded Moses and the Israelites to possess the land of Canaan. After a survey, many of the men did not want to enter into the land, as they found the inhabitants to be much stronger than themselves. Joshua and Caleb did not see it that way and were undeterred, comforted by the strength of the Lord. Sho Baraka expands on this idea with lines like:

Sin and lust, no laughin’ matter
No joke on ‘em
That’s why I run from temptation
Usain Bolt on ‘em
But there I go celebrating before the finish line
I find myself repentin’ again for my pride
Got that 4x4 community
Pass the sticks on ‘em


I’m unashamed of the Gospel
116 on ‘em
Chosen to be in His presence
VIP list on ‘em
My God’s something like Kobe
Crazy and amazin’ on ‘em
Your's is always hurt
Tracy McGrady on ‘em

Essentially, "Air Jordan-ing" or "Kobe Bryant-ing" is a reflection of how we handle adversity through Christ, much like how Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were, and are, not afraid to drive the lane and throw it down on some big, tall defender (like Jordan did on Dikembe Mutombo). These guys don't settle for fade away jumpers when you have a path to the rim (Kobe did this just last week!). Much more, we should not be afraid or ashamed of the gospel, knowing how we are strengthened in Christ, in that he has overcome the world and is greater than anything in this world. In that, we can rest.

This "Identical Plays" comparison between Michael and Kobe is very well done.