Rakim's Games of Death & Life

In 1996, Shaquille O'Neal released his third rap album, You Can't Stop the Reign. Say what you will about Shaq's rap career; the album included a song with Rakim. And while Ra is technically the featured artist on "Game of Death," he essentially runs point, turning in not just a 16, but also a second eight-bar verse as well as the song's hook. Basketball-reference-laced "Punisher"-era bars abound — e.g., "Thoughts of torture terrify your team in the tournament" — as Rakim and Shaq execute a hip-hop tribute to Bruce Lee and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's famous fight from the 1978 film of the same title. Ironically, if not self-referentially, Rakim also used a basketball metaphor nine years later in his last lines on a song called "Game of Life." The track, also featuring Ice-T and Chilly Mac, appeared on the soundtrack of 2005 documentary Slippin': Ten Years with the Bloods. The film was co-produced by pioneering MC Kurtis Blow; hence Rakim's line, "First let me bust another verse for my man Kurtis Blow."

Bonus materials: Rakim's song "Welcome to the NBA" from the videogame NBA 07 (now retroactively included in LIRR's Rakim Soundtrack Work playlist) and a clip of Bobbito Garcia recalling a pickup game with Rakim and his friends from Long Island.

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